- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 17, 2002

They have one true big man, a bunch of perimeter players and a short bench. They are the defending national champions and again the country's top-ranked team. Duke does not have the size or depth generally associated with such a dominant squad. But what it lacks in numbers, it makes up for in talent.
"If you look at Duke, you could take [Carlos] Boozer, [Mike] Dunleavy and Jason Williams and put them on the All-America team and not be criticized," said Maryland coach Gary Williams.
Point guard Jason Williams is the favorite for National Player of the Year honors. The 6-foot-9, 280-pound Boozer is one of the nation's best post players, and his effectiveness forces defenses to play honest and not cheat on the wings, where Duke makes 37 percent of its 3-pointers. But the most significant development is Dunleavy, whose rise from being merely an effective role player has allowed the Blue Devils to maintain their lofty status.
Duke, which visits the No.3 Terrapins today, was supposed to undergo a transition after losing National Player of the Year Shane Battier, an NBA lottery pick who plays for the Memphis Grizzlies. Although coach Mike Krzyzewski has been much more assertive after deferring to Battier last season, it is Dunleavy who has picked up the on-court slack.
The son of a former NBA coach, Dunleavy has grown about three inches and put on 30 pounds since arriving on campus as a swingman. The 6-foot-9, 220-pound junior is now one of the toughest matchups in the country with his developing inside game to go with his ballhandling and excellent outside shooting.
"He is the most versatile player in the country," said Boozer, who is averaging 18.3 points and shooting 63 percent. "Every team is going to have a mismatch with Mike. He will drive by bigger guys and shoot over smaller ones."
Dunleavy, who is averaging 17.9 points and 7.1 rebounds, showed his versatility with 19 second-half points against the Terps last month as he posted up smaller defenders, nailed outside jumpers and helped Duke turn a close game into a 99-78 rout.
Much of what Boozer and Dunleavy do is because there is so much focus on Williams, who had 34 points and eight assists against Maryland and is averaging 21.5 points and making 39 percent of his 3-pointers. Against the Terps, the playmaker took advantage of an overpursuing defense designed to take away 3-pointers. The 6-2 junior adjusted either by slashing down the lane for a score or setting up teammates for easy baskets.
"Jason Williams must have shot like 20 layups," said Maryland small forward Byron Mouton, who expects Williams to be physically challenged in the lane today. "That can't happen. I know it won't happen. We'll do whatever it takes to stop him from penetrating this time."
Of course, playing back would allow Williams to get more outside shots and create inside for teammates like Boozer. The Terps will attempt to get Boozer in foul trouble so they can concentrate on Duke's outside game. The Blue Devils average an ACC-high 91.8 points, and some believe the best defense is a good offense.
"Sometimes your best defense doesn't always stop them, so you have to continue to score," Gary Williams said. "I have always felt that's a big thing against Duke you have to score."
The good news for Duke foes is that juniors Boozer and Williams have announced plans to leave for the NBA after this season, although Dunleavy plans to return for his senior season. Boozer should be a lottery pick, and Williams likely will be the top pick overall.
"I like Jason Williams' shot," said Gary Williams, before catching himself. "I mean I don't like Jason Williams' shot. I'll like it in the NBA next year."

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide