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Future Blue Devils help win gold for Team USA

With his role as head coach of the Senior National Team, head coach Mike Krzyzewski may be Duke's most prominent link to USA Basketball, but he wasn't the only Blue Devil donning red, white and blue this summer and leaving his mark on the global stage.

Three future Duke players-Lance Thomas, a cornerstone of the 2006 recruiting class, and Talyor King and Nolan Smith, who both have verbally committed-were members of the prestigious Under-18 National Team that won the gold medal July 2 at the 2006 FIBA Americas U18 Championship in San Antonio, Texas.

A fourth potential future Blue Devil, Kyle Singler-who Duke is actively recruiting and hopes will commit soon to round out the recruiting class of 2007-also played on the team.

After a disappointing third place finish in 2002, the resurgent American squad went undefeated in tournament play, dominating Uruguay, Brazil, Canada and Argentina by an average of 29.7 points per game.

And the future Blue Devils were key contributors to Team USA's historic success-in records, in games and in attitude.

Statistically, King's 47.6 three-point field goal percentage was the third highest in U.S. event history. He was also the team's third-leading scorer with 12 points per contest. Yet, his impact in games extended far beyond his ability to shoot, said the head coach of the team, Washington's Lorenzo Romar.

"He's obviously a great shooter, but he didn't just provide instant energy on offense. He rebounded and played great defense," Romar said. "He helped us in just about every game."

Smith also etched his name into the American record books, ranking 10th in assists with 3.5 per game.

Romar, who coached recent NBA first-round backcourt picks Nate Robinson and Brandon Roy at Washington, was impressed with Smith's play at guard.

"Nolan Smith has one of the best attitudes and outlooks of anyone I've ever dealt with," Romar said. "He's extremely coachable, plays very hard, and he's a great teammate."

While Smith and King saw significant playing time, their future teammate Thomas only clocked 4.5 minutes per game behind Kansas State commit Michael Beasley and Washington commit Spencer Hawes.

All of the Duke players held their own in practices and games, Romar said, but because of how the numbers worked out, Thomas had to spend most of his time on the bench.

"When you have 12 players on a team and all of them can play, somebody's not going to play as much," Romar said. "It wasn't a reflection on Lance as much as it was on the other guys."

Playing time is hard to come by when a team is filled with eight All-Americans and five USA Today Class of 2007 honorees. But, surprisingly, ego was just as hard to find. Smith and King were two of the most liked players on the team and everyone loved playing with them, Romar said.

Learning to share time with the best players in the nation while playing against the most talented competition in the world could prove to be one of the most valuable experiences for these future Blue Devils when they come to Durham and play alongside fellow All-Americans in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

"They're not perfect. They're not going to come into the ACC and immediately be leading scorers," Romar said. "But they can be great complementary players and I think that's an important quality for them to have."


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