- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 18, 2003

The name evokes regality, and for years the college basketball world treated coach Mike Krzyzewski's Blue Devils like royalty. Collectively, it pointed to the program and said, "That's the way to do it."
Players were polite and articulate. They stayed four years and graduated. And rarely did a player get into trouble off the court.
That all started to change a few years ago, and last year the program took one of its biggest PR hits.
Mike Dunleavy Jr., anointed as the next player to carry on in the glorious tradition of Danny Ferry, Grant Hill, Christian Laettner and Shane Battier as great four-year players, made himself eligible for the NBA Draft after his junior season. All the loyal subjects in college basketball's Camelot (a k a Cameron Indoor Stadium) mourned.
Dunleavy didn't hire an agent and left open the possibility of returning to Duke. But when that deadline passed, the expected cornerstone of this season's Blue Devils quietly put his college days behind him.
"That was the final chapter in the evolution of the college game," CBS analyst Billy Packer said of the increasing number of underclassmen going professional. "He had every reason to come back."
But in 1999, so did sophomores Elton Brand and William Avery and freshman Corey Maggette all of whom entered the draft after Duke lost to Connecticut in the NCAA title game. Before last season, juniors Jason Williams and Carlos Boozer announced or implied they would leave after the season.
Dunleavy's departure, though, was perhaps the worst blow. The model program, often considered the proper blend of athletics and academics, was starting to deal with problems more common to flawed big-time programs.
An ESPN "Outside the Lines" program questioned the academics and suggested the school bends entry requirements for basketball recruits. Krzyzewski dismissed the report as "bogus" and "lies."
Blue Devils and potential Blue Devils also had several run-ins with the law, including a top recruit being dismissed from his high school team after being accused of rape. And Duke suffered public humiliation when one of its players got into a physical confrontation with an official after its NCAA tournament loss.
Dunleavy, the son of former NBA player and coach Mike Dunleavy, was a good student who was expected to be the focus of Duke's title run this season. Instead, the versatile 6-foot-9 forward became the draft's third overall selection and now averages 4.4 points playing 14.3 minutes a game for the Golden State Warriors. He was the sixth underclassman to exit Duke early in the last four seasons.
"Here is a player that had finances and didn't need to leave for that," Packer said. "He had access to articulate information more than any other. He had a chance to lead his team to conference and national championships and be the national player of the year. Ten years ago, had some guy been in that position, there is no way shape or form it happens for a player like that to leave and become a nondescript rookie in the NBA."
It also was one of the final installments of a difficult season at Duke. Despite a 31-4 record, the Blue Devils were upset by Indiana in the third round of the NCAA tournament. And their five-season run of claiming at least a share of the ACC regular-season title was snapped by eventual national champion Maryland.
Nonetheless, Duke finds itself today in a situation familiar since Krzyzewski took over the program and built it into a national power again in the mid-1980s. The Blue Devils are ranked No.1 heading into their game against 17th-ranked Maryland at Comcast Center. They are the nation's only undefeated Division I team and have a heralded six-man freshmen class designed to retain the status. But despite the quick start, it's too early to tell if Duke has recovered from last season's talent drain and from its smudged reputation.
The ESPN show suggested some players are taking "easy" classes and majors to get their degrees and noted that an unusually high number of players are studying sociology, which is considered a light course taken by only a small percentage of the student body.
According to this season's media guide, three of the seven players who have decided on majors chose sociology. Williams, the second overall pick by the Chicago Bulls, graduated in three years with a sociology degree. Boozer, a second-round pick by Cleveland, also was a sociology major.
The segment also claimed Duke accepted basketball players whose high school grades and standardized test scores were dramatically lower than the rest of the incoming class and used freshman Sean Dockery as an example. Krzyzewski fired back before this season.
"That [program] was bogus," said Krzyzewski, who refused to be interviewed for the show.
"Our kids graduate. If you are in the spotlight with the Internet, talk shows and people looking for stories, you are going to take shots. We have had no adversity
"That's the fan intellect and the media intellect, in some respects. That's just sports. When they tell lies about what you're doing, that's different. Like that one show that was lies."
The team also had to deal with Reggie Love, a walk-on who is no longer with the team, being arrested for DUI and then pleading guilty to a lesser charge. Casey Sanders, a senior center, was charged with assaulting his girlfriend and admitted guilt in an agreement that gave him probation.
Shelden Williams was accused of sexual assault while traveling with his high school team. The 6-foot-9 forward was never charged in the incident, which included four teammates in a hotel room at 2 a.m., although he was suspended from school and thrown off the team.
"It was settled to everybody's satisfaction," said Krzyzewski, who was clearly offended by the question. "He's a great kid, and all those things have been resolved. I think that is enough said. Obviously, I talked to all my players about everything."
The most public embarrassment came immediately following Indiana's 74-73 upset over then-No.1 Duke in a South Region semifinal, when Matt Christensen blocked official Bruce Benedict from leaving the court following the Blue Devils' loss. Christensen stood in Benedict's way and yelled, "Call the foul!" after Boozer missed a potential game-winning shot.
The NCAA said Christensen was guilty of "verbally assaulting and making physical contact" with an official. Duke was given a slap on the wrist for the violation: Christensen was required to write an apology to the official, and Duke was not reimbursed a few hundred dollars by the NCAA for the player's food and lodging. Had Duke won, Christenson would have been suspended for the next tournament game. The ugly incident was the latest black eye in a difficult season.
"Trent Lott did a lot of good things too," said Packer, comparing the Blue Devils' situation to the former Senate Majority Leader from Mississippi. "It's a lot of things. The press decides if you don't get a pass on that one. Had this been another program, maybe that would be the case. I don't see it that way."
The series of off-court problems likely will be forgotten unless incidents continue, but what isn't likely to be forgotten is the fact that the Blue Devils' top stars are leaving early. Dunleavy's departure suggests that situation isn't going to stop even at hallowed Duke.
"It hurts a little bit," said Laettner, the Washington Wizards forward who led Duke to back-to-back national titles before graduating in 1992. "But they have been the most prestigious [program] for the longest. Duke was the last big school that had kids leave early. It tarnishes the prestige a little bit. But in today's day and age, that's just what happens."

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