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Duke's Singler must trust his game
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass.Kyle Singler was understandably ecstatic when he was informed by Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski prior to this season that he’d be moving to the small forward position, one that would have him spending the majority of his time on the perimeter.
You see, over the past two years, the 6-foot-8, 225-pound Singler has taken one for the team and logged most of his minutes in the post due to the Blue Devils’ lack of quality size.
After playing the power forward spot last season, Kyle Singler has had to focus on his perimeter game much more in 2009-10.
He’s had to give up length and plenty of bulk when having to defend opposing centers.
Now, with a shortage of perimeter players on the team, Singler would finally get the opportunity to showcase his versatility.
In doing so, Singler has tried to become something that he’s not.
“I need to be a guy who’s coming off screens,” Singler said after Duke’s 66-63 road win at Boston College. “I’ve tried to beat guys off the dribble too much. I’ve got to start playing to my strengths.”
That means moving well without the ball, cutting hard and not consistently attempting to get past quicker, smaller and more athletic defenders with the ball in his hands.
Krzyzewski implemented an increase in motion offense following last weekend’s loss at Georgetown in part to make certain that his role players weren’t just standing and watching the Big Three of Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith and Singler.
And also to make life easier for Singler.
“What we’re doing motion offense-wise will help him,” Coach K said. “He’s not a one-on-one player, and that’s what he’s been trying to be.”
Singler thrived earlier in the week in a rout over Georgia Tech. He scored a season-high 30 points and was 8-for-10 from beyond the arc despite re-injuring his right wrist, which first began bothering him in mid-January.
He thought maybe his shooting troubles, the ones that have him shooting less than 40 percent from the field since the second game of the season, might be history.
Then, he came out and went 4-for-14 from the field, 1-for-5 from deep and finished with just 12 points and three rebounds in Saturday’ win over the Eagles.
“He did some really good things today, but he fell back into the fact that he held the ball,” Krzyzewski said. “It’s hard to change. Our game is instinctively habitual.”
“I’m not going to lose my confidence,” Singler added. “I know I’m going to have ups and downs, and hopefully I’ve already had my downs.”
Singler is used to being able to beat defenders off the bounce. He’s done it against guys that have commonly been bigger and slower over his first two seasons in Durham.
But this season it’s been more difficult when commonly matched up with quick, athletic wings.
Singler, despite what is unanimously considered a sub-par season, is still averaging 16.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game for a team that is 19-4 overall, leads the ACC at 7-2 and is ranked in the Top 10 in the nation.
“I’ll admit that I’m frustrated, but as long as we’re winning I could care less,” Singler said.
Coach K is still waiting for his scoring trio of Kyle Singler, Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith to click this season.
Duke has a résumé that compares to just about anyone in the nation not named Kansas, Kentucky or Syracuse these days. Three of its four losses have come on the road against ranked teams.
And the Blue Devils have yet to get Scheyer, Smith and Singler clicking at the same time.
“It would be scary if and when it happens,” Smith said.
Smith, who has been moved to shooting guard, has been terrific and is having a more efficient season than Gerald Henderson Jr., a year ago. Smith, who tied Scheyer for game-high honors with 21 points apiece, is averaging 18.1 points and is shooting 34 percent from 3-point land.
Scheyer has settled into his role as the team’s point guard, has thrived with a terrific assist-to-turnover ratio and is also leading the team in scoring at nearly 19 points per game.
Singler is the key to the Blue Devils.
He’s not going to be the First Team All-American at the conclusion of the season and may not be able to come out for the NBA Draft a year early, as he had hoped entering the season, but he’s still one of the elite players in the country.
As long as he doesn’t keep trying to be someone he’s not.
“He needs to fall in love with the player he needs to be,” Krzyzewski said.
That’s a pretty darn good player.
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