Battle scars indicators of Singler’s energy, play
AP Sports Writer
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) – If it’s the NCAA tournament, then it must be time for Duke star Kyle Singler to collect a few more scars.
His latest badge of honor: Six stitches below his eye, courtesy of an errant elbow from a teammate this week during practice.
The injury isn’t expected to bother him Friday night when the top-seeded Blue Devils (31-5) face the No. 4 seed Purdue Boilermakers in the South Regional semifinals in Houston.
But it has led to some good-natured ribbing from his teammates.
“I think he tries to do it,” guard Nolan Smith said with a laugh. “I think he thinks he looks tough with stitches or a black eye.”
Those battle scars also are painfully visible indicators of the energy and relentless drive Singler has brought to the postseason.
First, he emerged from the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament two weeks ago with a couple of noteworthy souvenirs: A slice of the Greensboro Coliseum net, and a 4-inch gash on the back of his right shoulder – the result of a spill over a courtside table during which he landed on ESPN play-by-play man Dan Shulman and nearly took out Dick Vitale, too.
Teammates say Singler slashed down the lane during practice and caught an elbow from Andre Dawkins below his right eye. That required six stitches, and prevented him from participating in the Blue Devils’ only media session before their Wednesday trip to Houston for the regional semifinals.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski says Singler will be “ready to go” to face Purdue.
Jon Scheyer, whose long list of superficial wounds includes the lasting scar he picked up in 2007 during the Blue Devils’ one-and-done NCAA loss to Virginia Commonwealth, admitted that Singler has outdone even him.
“I thought I was in the lead my freshman and sophomore year, by far,” Scheyer quipped, “but he caught me pretty quickly.”
Those bumps and bruises don’t seem to affect Singler’s productivity.
He played through the slice on his shoulder to score 20 points – most coming from the foul line – in the ACC title game to claim tournament MVP honors. He’s averaging 19 1/2 points in the NCAA tournament, hitting a combined 13 of 24 shots in wins against Arkansas-Pine Bluff and California while finding ways to create shots, both inside and out, in the framework of a motion offense that was tweaked to free him up more often after a late January loss to Georgetown.
“It gives him a chance to play outside, go back inside where he played the first two years at (power forward),” Smith said. “People can’t match up with him inside. Then, he goes outside and guys can’t guard him out there, either. He really gets to move and get shots wherever he wants.”
In turn, that has led to more productivity for each of the Blue Devils’ “Big Three.” Scheyer, Smith and Singler are trying to become the third trio in Duke history to average at least 17 points apiece, and they’re the highest-scoring threesome in the nation. Their combined average of 53 points accounts for 68 percent of the team’s scoring.
At least two of them have scored in double figures in every game but one: Georgia Tech held Singler and Smith to nine points apiece in a 71-67 win over the Blue Devils two months ago in their ACC road opener.
“They’re unselfish. They’re not hunting their own points; they’re hunting our points,” Krzyzewski said. “And for guys who have to put up points, that’s really good because everybody has different game plans, and the game plan might be to take Jon out or whatever you’re going to do with Kyle or two of them. It’s tough to take three of them out.
“So what they’ve done a good job of is adapting to whatever game plan is thrown against them,” he added. “One of them usually has maybe a little bit more going for him that day, the matchup or the way they decide to play defense on those three guys. And they’ve been really good about that. None of them have been selfish at all. They’re all averaging about 18 points a game. I think it’s very unusual, but they’re unusually good kids.”