LAHAINA, Maui - A senior who started all but three games last year and earned a spot on the U.S. World University Team this past summer would not be too likely to worry about his starting spot entering this season.
Roshown McLeod may not be starting now, but he's still not worried. Instead, the senior is taking the role as Duke's spark off the bench, a role he parlayed into 41 points in three games and subsequent all-tournament honors at the Maui Invitational.
McLeod, William Avery and Mike Chappell helped confirm a widely-held suspicion in Duke's 95-87 win over top-ranked Arizona in the finals at Maui Wednesday.
The trio proved that when its big guns are faltering on offense, Duke has others who can fill in and win a close game.
That wasn't always the case last year, when the Blue Devils relied on Steve Wojciechowski, Trajan Langdon and Jeff Capel during their seven-game winning streak in February. When the trio wore down in March, the team went with them.
On Wednesday, Wojciechowski and Langdon played great defense but were a combined 4-of-20 from long distance and shot
Instead, McLeod, Avery and Chappell filled in the void and proved that right now the Blue Devils have too many guns to lose to anyone, even the defending national champions.
Those three players combined to knock down 52 percent of their shots, including 8-of-11 threes. McLeod and Chappell were instrumental in Duke building its lead, Avery in the Blue Devils holding on late.
For McLeod, this tournament showed the senior can contribute just as effectively coming off the bench.
"With the guys we have this year, my role is not the same," he said. "Last year I played a lot inside, and I was always the biggest guy on the floor for a majority of the game. I see that my role has changed, and I've come to accept that. Whatever I can do to help this team win, that's what I'll do."
Coach Mike Krzyzewski sees McLeod's position as virtually the same as it was a year ago.
"We don't have a set starting lineup," Krzyzewski said. "Roshown could start at any time. It's not a matter of any kind of demotion, or stuff like that. The lineup we had for a lot of the first half had Roshown, Steve and Trajan. The flexibility there is good, and I think these guys all identify with one team effort so that's good."
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Avery, in just his fifth collegiate game, showed poise most freshmen don't find all year, hitting several big threes throughout the game and five free throws to close out Arizona at the end. Duke's third guard is the team's second-leading scorer behind Elton Brand, also a freshman, at just under 14 points per game.
Chappell continued to prove why he deserves to start, hitting 7-of-10 threes in the tournament and scoring five quick points during Duke's 10-2 run that put the Wildcats in a quick 13-6 hole from which they never dug themselves out.
"I thought Mike Chappell had a great tournament," Krzyzewski said. "Whether he starts or doesn't start, I thought it was just really good for him."
The entire tournament was good for the rest of the squad as well.
Most teams don't have freshmen as their two-leading scorers and a player like McLeod coming off the bench.
Most teams, though, aren't as good as Duke.