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The Hoop Doctors

Does Kyrie Irving’s Decision to Enter the NBA Draft Harm Duke’s Image?

April 7, 2011 – Kevin Burke

Certain things don’t belong together. Oil and water, mid-majors and national championships, and one-and-dones and Duke.

Duke freshman point guard, Kyrie Irving has entered the NBA draft and plans to hire an agent, which will end his collegiate eligibility. So just like that, Kyrie is done at Duke. One-and-dones have over time become more the rule than the exception in college basketball so if this were pertaining to any other school, it wouldn’t be a big deal to me. But this isn’t any other school. This is Duke, who holds themselves to a higher standard. Any time a player leaves after their junior year from Duke, it still sounds funny to me, let alone a freshman.

Kyrie played in only 11 games this season due to a big right toe injury that sidelined him for much of the season. Therefore, we have a very small sample by which to assess his aptitude on the next level. Anyone who professes to have a true measure of his projected prowess in the NBA isn’t being completely honest because we haven’t seen enough of Kyrie on the court in order to fully gauge that. What we do know, however is that his 31 points against Michigan State earlier in the season was only the fourth time in school history a freshman scored at least 30. We also know that he’s silky smooth on the court with the ball in his hands and probably had the most talent on the roster this past season. That’s about all we know. So is he ready for the NBA? Who knows. But is he ready for the NBA draft? Most definitely. Those are two completely different questions if you catch my drift.

The fact that he only played 11 games isn’t really what compelled me to touch on this topic because Jamal Crawford only played 16 games as a freshman at Michigan before he decided to leave, so this isn’t unheard of. The list of early entrants from Duke is short compared to any other program. In fact, there have only been 10 early entrants ever from Duke with the last freshman being Luol Deng in 2004. Make that 11 now.

I get the feeling that if he still had the option to, Kyrie would’ve entered the NBA draft right after finishing up at St. Patrick High School in New Jersey. Why do I feel that way? Because he only played 11 games of college ball. But since he had to be one year removed from high school first, he decided to kill time at Duke. Coach K can usually spot an obvious one-and-done a mile away and steers clear of them so that they don’t harm Duke’s legacy and image, but I guess he let one slip through the cracks. Because of this, for the first time Duke seems just like any other school to me now. Just about every institution, except for Duke, would recruit guys even if there was the prospect of them leaving after a year. By Coach K’s own admission, he’s never been in favor of doing that. So was Kyrie Irving just an isolated incident or has Coach K loosened his grip on that notion?

If you’re looking for your everyday, predictable basketball talk, then go somewhere else, because Kevin Burke of The Kevin Burke Project brings provocative, thought provoking content about basketball as only he can. Kevin also hosts The Hoop Doctors weekly podcast show, which you can subscribe to for free on iTunes. Follow Kevin on Twitter and Facebook

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