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There's a lot riding on Josh McRoberts's surgically repaired back. The 6'10" forward, who underwent a lumbar discectomy on Aug. 3, is the first sophomore co-captain in Duke history--an honor he shares with point guard Greg Paulus, who injured his left foot on the second day of practice and missed most of the preseason. While Paulus heals, McRoberts (left) will not only have to lead a team that has no seniors and only one junior but also to fill the shoes of two-time national player of the year J.J. Redick and All-America forward Shelden Williams, both first-round NBA draft picks last June.
An athletic 240-pounder with a 19-foot range on his jumper as well as back-to-the-basket ability, McRoberts could have been a lottery pick himself had he left school early. Instead he returned to campus last July to work on his mobility, ball-handling and leadership skills under the guidance of the Blue Devils' coaching staff. "Josh needed to develop a new mind-set during the off-season," says assistant coach Steve Wojciechowski. "Last year he took a backseat to J.J. and Shelden. This year he's the guy for us."
The Blue Devils will deploy a point guard by committee until Paulus returns, with McRoberts assuming some playmaking duties as well as the mantle of motivator. "I learned a lot last season watching J.J. lead by example and from Shelden's professionalism," says McRoberts. "But Shelden wasn't the most vocal guy. I'm comfortable telling my teammates what I think needs to get done."
RETURNING STARTER *HIGH SCHOOL STATS
Nov. 12 Columbia*
Nov. 16 UNC Greensboro
Nov. 25 Davidson
Nov. 28 Indiana