published Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Successful switch

By Joedy McCreary

DURHAM, N.C. — From the day he stepped foot on campus, Jon Scheyer was a dependable member of Mike Krzyzewski’s rotation.

Then he took over at point guard, and Duke started being Duke again.

  • photo
    Duke's Lance Thomas (42), Kyle Singler, Jon Scheyer (30), and Nolan Smith (2) high-five each other during the second half of the NCAA South Regional college basketball championship game in Houston, Sunday, March 28, 2010. At right is Baylor's Quincy Acy. Duke won 78-71. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

With Scheyer running the show, the Blue Devils (33-5) claimed two straight Atlantic Coast Conference tournament titles, a league regular-season crown and their first Final Four berth since 2004.

Duke plays West Virginia (31-6) on Saturday night in Indianapolis in the national semifinals, but the senior wants to wait until well after that before he even considers the end of his career, saying “I can’t go there.”

“It’s exciting, but for us, the goal’s not complete,” he said Tuesday. “That’s the way all of us feel. As much as you want to enjoy the Final Four and there’s going to be a lot of people wanting to hang out and celebrate with you. That’s not what we’re going down there for. (Focusing) will be easy for us.”

Scheyer led the team with 104 3-pointers and an average of 18.2 points this season.

Those are numbers he always hoped for when he was the starter at shooting guard in 2006-07. He shifted to become the Blue Devils’ sixth man as a sophomore and last year found himself back in the starting lineup.

But it wasn’t until Krzyzewski’s tactical shifting of Scheyer to the point and insertion of Elliot Williams at shooting guard that the Blue Devils really took off. The switch stabilized the Blue Devils and put them on their path back to prominence.

It also brought back a swagger that never waned throughout this season, even as Williams transferred to Memphis.

“Just going through those experiences I had as a freshman and sophomore, I feel I’ve just learned a lot (and) I’m more confident on the court,” Scheyer said. In the South Regional final, “Baylor made some runs at us and I was confident the whole way. I never had a doubt we were going to win. So for me, I didn’t have that the whole time as a freshman. It’s your first time in an NCAA tournament or a big game. I’ve been through a lot of games. ... Your confidence and just being through it is the biggest thing.”

Meanwhile, the availability of West Virginia’s No. 1 point guard, Darryl “Truck” Bryant, remains a mystery. Bryant, who broke his right foot at practice on March 23, sat out practice Tuesday.

He was fitted for a specially designed shoe that would shift weight away from his fractured fifth metatarsal.

Bryant was optimistic the shoe could help him return, but coach Bob Huggins said if Bryant doesn’t practice this week, he isn’t going to play Saturday night when the Mountaineers face Duke.

Part of that confidence has come from the incremental steps forward that he and his fellow seniors have taken in the tournament, from a one-and-done as freshmen to last year’s appearance in the round of 16 to the 11th Final Four trip in Krzyzewski’s three decades at Duke.

“We’ve gone through a lot and experienced a lot,” forward Kyle Singler said. “With that, you have a closer bond with each other and it’s tougher to break us apart.”

Instead, it’s given Scheyer plenty of resolute determination to wrap up his career with two more victories.

“It didn’t start off the best,” he said of his experiences in the NCAA tournament. “We’ve grown and gone a step farther each of our years, and winning some more games as we went along. It says a lot for our group to get to this point, but we really want to finish it off.”

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