Blue Devils unveil fourth title banner
Duke threw one last party to celebrate last season’s national championship. Then the Blue Devils went to work on trying to win another one.
Duke unveiled its fourth and most recent title banner Friday night during a ceremony as part of the school’s ”Countdown to Craziness” event to mark the start of preseason practice.
Two of the key seniors from last spring’s run — Jon Scheyer and Lance Thomas — came back for the festivities, which began with the players receiving their championship rings. As a dark sheet was dropped to reveal the new banner, hanging behind one basket and illuminated by a spotlight, a grinning Kyle Singler was embraced by Thomas while guard Nolan Smith pumped his fist to the beat of the Queen classic ”We Are The Champions.”
All the while, talented freshman Kyrie Irving soaked it in, calling the moment ”kind of motivating.”
”It was a special moment for me to see them get their rings, but I want it to be even more special when I get my own, if I can get one this year,” Irving said.
Then, the Cameron Crazies got their first peek at a crew that some have anointed as a favorite to contend for a fifth title. One of the fans held a sign that read ”Hungry + Humble (equals) No. 5” – and coach Mike Krzyzewski took notice.
”It’s a lot easier for fans not to be hungry than the team, I think,” Krzyzewski said. ”I’m hungry. I stay hungry all the time. In other words, (a team can’t) assume that something is going to happen.
”Winning a national title is not an easy thing. It’s not like, ‘OK, we’re going to win four of them.’ It’s a very, very difficult thing – it’s one of the toughest things in sport to win, because it’s one-and-done,” he added. ”Having depth and having guys who play together gives you a greater opportunity to do that, but this team has the capability of developing into (somebody) that is worthy of winning.”
Singler and Smith are the only returning starters from the team that finished 35-5 and won 10 straight to close the season, winning the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament for the 18th time before beating Butler 61-59 for the NCAA title.
All eyes on this night, however, were on Irving, the new point guard who provided more than a few highlight-reel moments during his unofficial debut.
He scored six points during one 12-minute intrasquad scrimmage while playing with what figures to be the rest of the starting five: Singler, Smith and brothers Mason and Miles Plumlee. That group claimed a 26-20 win over the team led by Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly.
Then, the teams switched up, with Irving joining freshmen Tyler Thornton and Josh Hairston on the Blue. With Irving getting them the ball with regularity, Hairston scored 18 points and Thornton had eight, and they beat the White team led by Singler and Smith, 36-29.
”I know Josh and Tyler were as nervous as I was,” Irving said. ”I know basically where they like to be, and where they like the ball. … Get the jitters out, and get (Hairston) on the board.”
The clear focus of the night was on hamming it up and celebrating last year’s title run one last time before the focus shifts solely to chasing another one.
The school’s improv troupe joined the players and coaches to produce another series of comic videos for the scoreboard. One featured the Blue Devils’ mischievous mascot, who stole Kelly’s clothes as he showered, blew up assistant Steve Wojciechowski’s car – and is revealed to be a cackling Smith.
”It was a really fun night, one, a celebration of last year but also in anticipation of this year,” Krzyzewski said.