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Duke frosh still adjusting to winning culture

When a player puts on a Duke jersey and steps out onto Coach K Court, he expects to win and to have a chance to compete for a national title.

Understanding exactly what it takes to win, however, is something much different.

For the Blue Devils' five freshmen, learning to grasp the concept of Duke's winning culture is something to which they are still adjusting.

"They have to have time to develop, and in our program sometimes people don't allow that to happen for kids because they just expect them to win," head coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

Since the 1997-1998 season, the Blue Devils have spent at least one week as the nation's top-ranked team in every year with the exception of last season, when they ascended as high as No. 2 in the AP Poll.

Duke has also been ranked in the top 25 for 171 consecutive weeks, the third-longest streak in history. The Blue Devils will move into a second-place tie with North Carolina after next week's poll is released.

Just eight games into their collegiate careers, the freshmen have quickly realized that Duke's remarkable success has not come without hard work. The Blue Devils have been tested in almost every one of their games this season by teams that Krzyzewski said have established winning cultures within their respective programs.

Krzyzewski said Duke's weaknesses have been exposed because his team has been challenged by a tough out-of-conference schedule.

"A lot of times in our program because we've had such great success-and [the freshmen are] good kids don't get me wrong, these kids have worked hard-but there's still a little bit about them that feels like gold dust is going to be sprinkled on them and you just win," Krzyzewski said after the Blue Devils' first game of the season.

With the unique combination of four seniors and five freshmen comprising Duke's current rotation, freshmen Josh McRoberts and Greg Paulus have been forced to play significant minutes in every game this season.

At times the two players, both of whom were McDonald's All-Americans as high school seniors, have looked every bit as good as their hype.

At others, they have fallen victim to freshmen mistakes.

In the first half of Wednesday night's game against the University of Pennsylvania, McRoberts missed the first of two free throws, and senior J.J. Redick immediately got in his teammate's face and screamed at him to start focusing.

"We have a ways to go," Paulus said of the freshmen. "Sometimes you see bits and pieces, flashes of what we all can do, and then other times we're kind of nonexistent. We're just trying to be more consistent, and I think that's what the difference is between the freshmen and the upperclassmen."

Paulus, who has started the last four games at point guard, struggled in Wednesday's game, turning the ball over five times. But Krzyzewski said Paulus, who led winning basketball and football programs in high school, is going through the same transition that former Duke greats went through as freshmen.

"The responsibility of running our team will help him get through that process quicker than if he just was off the ball or coming off the bench," Krzyzewski said. "Jason Williams, Bobby Hurley, all those kids got knocked back at times.  Someone else stepped in, and then all of a sudden something hit. It's the process, and he's going through that right now."


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