Jun 14, 2011, 4:32 PM EDT
Here’s news that’ll make Duke fans shake their heads: Kyrie Irving would’ve returned for his sophomore season if he hadn’t played in the NCAA tournament.
The 6-1 point guard played just eight games of his freshman season before suffering a serious toe injury. By the time the Big Dance rolled around in March, Irving estimates the toe was about 70 percent healed, so he played in three of the Devils’ tourney games.
And that ability to bounce back from injury was enough to cement his spot in the draft, he told FOXSports.com’s Sam Amico.
“Those eight games (before the injury) just weren’t enough,” Irving told Amico. “But playing in the tournament gave me a chance to prove something to all the naysayers about my durability.”
In all, Irving missed 26 games but flashed more than enough in those first eight games – he averaged 17.4 points per outing – to woo NBA teams. Now, he’s expected to be the top pick in next week’s draft.
It’s somewhat hard to believe those three games made that much of a difference. Irving was touted as the possible top pick before he returned. And when guys like Harrison Barnes, Perry Jones and others stayed in school, it only strengthened his position as the top player.
Still. That kind of comment is enough to make Duke wonder what might’ve been next season. As if, they’ll hope Austin Rivers is as good as advertised.
“It was difficult to handle once the injury occurred. I was really scared,” he told Amico. “It was the best news of my life when I learned I could play in the NCAA tournament. I just think God put me in a good position.”
You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.
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