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Blue Devils expect Stingers' best shot

Duke held practice as usual Wednesday afternoon in Cameron Indoor Stadium in preparation for its first exhibition game. Just across the sidewalk in Card Gymnasium, the Blue Devils' opponent, Concordia, held a shoot-around.

It might as well have been a world away.

Though the Stingers made it to the Canadian intercollegiate championship game last season, they will be the clear underdog when Duke's season begins tonight at 7 p.m.

"Here we are a Canadian university coming down here to play," Concordia head coach John Dore said. "It's pretty special. I just hope we're ready to compete and don't get overwhelmed by everything around us."

Another Canadian team was invited to be Duke's first victim last year. A rule change that came into full effect before last season barred Division I teams from playing squads sponsored by video game or shoe companies in the preseason. Inviting those professional teams-like the EA Sports All-Stars or Nike Elite-had been common practice previously. Now, the Blue Devils are allowed to play two exhibition games-one against a non-Division I American team and one against an international opponent.

The Blue Devils beat St. Francis-Xavier by 51 points in their first match after the rule changed last year. Before the game, X-men players were spotted perusing the Duke store for apparel.

Dore said he would not be sponsoring a similar trip for his team, but his players are similarly awed by the trip to Durham.

"I've always been watching university ball on TV, and Duke is one of my favorite teams," freshman forward Patrick Perrotte said. "I got a shirt at home with a big 'D' and a Blue Devil on it."

The game in Durham will be the highlight of a two-week trip the Canadian runner-ups are taking to play colleges in the United States. They lost 90-69 Nov. 1 at Rhode Island and will play Davidson, Georgia, Connecticut, Virginia and Vermont after their game at Duke.

The Stingers also come into Durham having already played a full slate of non-conference games in Canada. The Canadian season starts earlier so that the teams can take off the month of December for exams.

Concordia receives some money from the American universities to take the trip, but the primary motivation is to give the players the chance to play teams they usually only see on television.

"What is great is we're going to play against NBA prospects," Perrotte said. "I might have a chance to say I competed against those guys-the best guys in the country."

For the Duke players, the first game of the year has a much different meaning. It is the first time this year's Duke team takes the court as one unit, and the players said they would approach the exhibition game against Concordia with the same mindset as any regular season matchup.

"It's very exciting," senior forward Shelden Williams said. "It's something that we've been looking forward to. The last couple months we've just been practicing against each other, doing a lot of drills, weights, everything like that. Going against someone else is going to be refreshing for our team."

Williams said that the lineup used for the white team in the first half of the Blue-White Scrimmage will start tonight. Williams will begin the game alongside Josh McRoberts, DeMarcus Nelson, J.J. Redick and Sean Dockery. Duke will use the game to begin to develop roles on a team that is much deeper this year than it was last.

Blue Devil players said they would be ready for Concordia's best shot.

"It's something the older players are used to," Williams said of playing teams like Concordia in the preseason. "We're going to expect everyone's best. That's one thing we already know putting on a Duke jersey."

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