Nolan Smith Believes Duke, Even Without Kyrie Irving, Is Comparable To Last Year’s Title Team
January 24, 2011 – 7:00 am by Eric Schmoldt
The Duke Blue Devils were dealt a blow during the past week when coach Mike Krzyzewski said that it doesn’t appear the team will get freshman standout Kyrie Irving back from his toe injury. Duke senior Nolan Smith, however, says he still believes this year’s team compares favorably with last year’s NCAA Tournament-winning team.
It’s pretty hard to argue with Smith at this point. No, it’s not because this team is clearly a dominant team even without Irving, it’s that the Blue Devils aren’t really going to play anyone soon that is going to give us an indication of whether that’s true or not.
The ACC is clearly in the midst of one of its biggest down years in a long time, with Duke being the only ranked team. So we’re pretty much just going to have to wait until the Big Dance rolls around again and Duke makes its run at a repeat.
Nolan Smith joined WFNZ in Charlotte with The Mac Attack to discuss how the Blue Devils are faring without Irving, his personal adjustment with having to play more as a point guard, the status of Irving’s injury, if he can play point guard at the next level, how this year’s Duke team compares to last year’s group and the down year in the ACC.
On the impact of the team’s role players with Kyrie Irving out:
“They’re very important to our success. We can’t win with just myself and Kyle [Singler] scoring and doing dirty work and making most of the plays. In practice the last couple weeks, we’ve just been trying to boost our whole team’s egos.”
How hard of an adjustment it has been for him:
“It’s not hard at all. I think once you become a senior, it’s basically your time to take on all those responsibilities if it happens. With the Kyrie Irving injury happening, which was very unexpected, the coaches said … ‘Nolan, here’s the ball.’ … It’s just something you’re expected to do as a senior and I’m fully embracing it.”
If he thinks Irving will be back:
“Really, all we know is he gets his cast off on the 4th. After that, who knows? Who knows if it’s fully healed or nothing like that? We’re just waiting on the doctors to let us know something. We’ve been practicing and preparing for if he doesn’t come back.”
On Irving keeping his spirits up and trying to lead:
“He’s a very intelligent basketball player and just all-around person. He really knows the game. For me, as a senior, to just listen to him when I come out … he tells me some things to do that he’s seeing from the bench. He’s really helped me at the point guard spot because he’s obviously one of the top point guards in the country as a freshman.”
How this team compares to last year’s title team:
“I think [it is on the same level]. This year’s team, still perimeter-scoring oriented. We still have me and Kyle and we need to have more guys on the perimeter that can score. … With the big guys, they were late bloomers last year and this year, with that being our focus a little earlier … it’s been great for us.”
On how his game will translate to the next level:
“I definitely could play the point at the next level. I’m confident with the ball. I can play off ball screens, which is what the NBA is about, a lot of ball screens and making plays. I’m very confident with whatever position they would put me at.”
On the down year in the ACC:
“If you look on paper, you can kind of think there’s a huge gap between us and the next team, but, as players, when we take the court, there’s no such thing as a gap in the ACC. … We have to always be ready to play. In the ACC, road games are tough, fans are always ready, teams are ready. I think there’s still a lot of good teams in this conference.”
Listen to Nolan Smith on WFNZ in Charlotte here (Interview begins at 27:30)
Tags: College Basketball, Duke Blue Devils, Kyrie Irving, Kyrie Irving injury, Mike Krzyzewski, NCAA Basketball, NCAA Championship, Nolan Smith