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October 27, 2006

Duke looking to replace legendary duo

Preseason Top 25
Media Days Central
The College Basketball Wire
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Rivals.com selected the top 25 storylines for the upcoming 2006-07 college basketball season and will be releasing articles daily, counting down from No. 25 to No. 1. The No. 12 storyline focuses on Duke trying to replace J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams.

No more J.J. and no more Landlord. Welcome to the new and unfamiliar world at Duke, where the Blue Devils are trying to learn how to move on without one of the top tandems in college basketball history.

J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams, both four-year starters, had grown to be the face and the backbone of the tradition-rich program.

Redick owns dozens of records, including the most 3-pointers made in NCAA history (457).

Williams was named the 2005 and 2006 National Defensive Player of Year he's only the fifth player to ever win the award twice and holds the all-time records at Duke for blocks (422) and rebounds (1,217).

How do the Blue Devils replace that type of production? Where do they find the type of leadership the veteran duo provided?

It starts with a pair of sophomores. Point guard Greg Paulus and power forward Josh McRoberts, who were both McDonald's All-Americans like Redick and Williams, were named the first sophomore captains in school history.

Both started nearly every game last season, but they were used mainly as role players. Paulus focused almost solely on running the offense and passing the ball he did a solid job as evidenced by his ACC-high 5.2 assists per game. McRoberts provided pivotal frontcourt depth and an inside presence when Williams was gone, averaging eight points and five rebounds per game.

Both are expected to carry the team now. Well, actually just one is at the outset.

Paulus broke the fifth metatarsal in his foot in the first practice of the season on Oct. 13 and is out indefinitely. Coach Mike Krzyzewski recently said Paulus will be out for "weeks and not months."

Without another point guard on the roster, even more responsibilities fall on McRoberts. Coach K has even talked about having the 6-foot-10, 230-pound big man from Carmel, Ind., bring the ball up the court.

McRoberts might not have to be the Blue Devils' main scorer though - at least not by midseason.

Duke landed the nation's No. 5 recruiting class, a four-man group led by five star shooting guard Gerald Henderson.

The Blue Devils have lacked an athletic wing for years, and Henderson might be the most athletic player the program has had since Corey Maggette. Quick and armed with an explosive first step, Henderson will provide an offensive spark immediately.

Four-star guard John Scheyer, a great outside shooter, may play a key role as well. Scheyer is the top candidate to play point guard if Paulus can't get healthy soon.

Small forward Lance Thomas, another McDonald's All-American, will also add athleticism. Five-star center Brian Zoubek will add depth on the inside.

Still, while the freshmen will help, the key to getting the Blue Devils to a remarkable 10th consecutive trip to the Sweet 16 will be how much and how quickly Paulus and McRoberts can improve.

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