By Mark Carroll - Blog Coordinator
Duke lost two of the best guards in the country after its Sweet 16 loss in March, as Nolan Smith wrapped up his senior year and Kyrie Irving declared for the NBA Draft.
If Thursday night was any indication, the Blue Devils will be just fine with the next wave of talent at the guard position. Andre Dawkins made his presence known with 16 points, helping Sheraton Imperial to a victory over Hendrick of Durham.
Although their team came up on the losing end, a couple other Duke guards kept the game from getting out of hand. Junior Seth Curry (17 points) dialed in from long range several times to establish himself as a perimeter threat, while incoming freshman Austin Rivers (15 points) showed off incredible athleticism with three crowd-pleasing dunks and three trey balls.
Smith, now a Portland Trail Blazer, demonstrated the tremendous scoring ability that made him such an excellent collegiate player as he contributed 29 points in the losing effort. Despite his departure, the remaining Duke guards will have no trouble running up and down the floor with anyone, and will definitely be a threat to score quickly this season.
Several Tar Heel fans were in the crowd at McDougald-McLendon Gymnasium, and had great reason for optimism after the showings from Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald. The two juniors teamed up with Dawkins in Sheraton Imperial's win.
McDonald had a game-high 30 points, and while deadly from 3-point range, the Memphis native also put on a show with an impressive floor game. Strickland (24 points) was also instrumental, pushing the ball up the court and finishing strong through contact. Rivers may have been the flashiest player in the gym with the highlight dunks, but his Tar Heel rivals didn't hold back from running with him.
With the upcoming college basketball season still months away, it is already clear that fans on Tobacco Road can look forward to some up-tempo basketball. Duke will reload the back court with depth and talent, but they only need to look eight miles down the road to find another elite program with guards who can score, as North Carolina could be this year's favorite to win a national title.