It was a week of departures and new beginnings for the men's basketball team.
Saturday night in Cameron Indoor Stadium, Blue Devil fans wished J.J. Redick, Shelden Williams and the rest of Duke's seniors a final goodbye at the team's annual awards banquet. The official conclusion to the season-and to the run of one of the best recruiting classes in Duke history-came just three days after head coach Mike Krzyzewski announced some news that might help ease fans' concerns about the team's future.
Freshman Josh McRoberts, who some had thought might leave for the NBA after just one season, will return for his sophomore year, the forward said in a statement released by Duke Wednesday.
"I am very excited about my decision to return to Duke to continue my academic and athletic career," McRoberts said. "I love the atmosphere at Duke and the support the University receives from the community. There is no place better to play college basketball."
McRoberts came to Duke as one of the top recruits in the country, but he was inconsistent during his first campaign as a Blue Devil. On the season, McRoberts averaged 8.7 points and 5.3 rebounds and led the Blue Devils in field goal percentage. His thunderous dunks and ball-handling ability made him an immediate fan-favorite, but he struggled at times playing as the second big man alongside Williams.
Still, many scouts tabbed him as a lottery pick, even after the announcements that other underclassmen such as Tyrus Thomas, Rudy Gay and LaMarcus Aldridge would leave school early.
McRoberts' mother, Jennifer, said her son's decision whether or not to return to Duke was not about the potential to cash in for millions at the June 28 NBA Draft.
"I don't think NBA status has ever been important to Josh," Jennifer McRoberts said. "It was about becoming the best player and the best person and the best place for him to do that is Duke."
Jennifer McRoberts said her son consulted with Duke's coaching staff and his AAU coach, Mike Connelly. Ultimately, though, the decision was left up to the 6-foot-10 freshmen.
"This has been a 100 percent decision for Josh," Jennifer McRoberts said. "That's why it's so good."
After emerging during the final two months of this season, McRoberts' continued improvement will be key to the Blue Devils' success next season with Redick and Williams gone.
"I am looking forward to working with the coaching staff to further develop my skills as a player," McRoberts said. "The relationships that I have in place here played a major role in my decision."
Duke will not have any recruited seniors for the 2006-07 season, with McRoberts, sophomore DeMarcus Nelson and freshman Greg Paulus leading the way.
After a red-shirt season, sophomore Dave McClure is also expected to return to the rotation in the fall. Duke also awaits a top recruiting class, which includes Gerald Henderson, Jon Scheyer and Brian Zoubek.
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