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Farewell, Nolan Smith: Duke Wins the ACC Tournament

March 13, 2011

I remember when Nolan Smith was nothing to fear, when he came off the bench and it was unclear what his position or future at Duke would be. I'm a UNC fan, so I focused on his weaknesses; how he wasn't as quick as Ty Lawson, couldn't shoot like Wayne Ellington, probably wouldn't have cracked UNC's 2008 rotation of the aforementioned guys, plus Bobby Frasor, Marcus Ginyard, and Quentin Thomas. As a freshman, Nolan Smith didn't impress me much, but four years later he does.




I don't know if a Duke fan would be as surprised by the rise of Nolan Smith as a non-Duke fan, watching a team's every game always gives one an edge in predicting a player's future success. But I can honestly say I didn't see it coming--maybe I didn't want to see it coming--but, regardless of how I felt, his ascension happened. His freshman year he only averaged 5.9 ppg, and he didn't get into double digits until last year, when Duke won a national title, putting up 17.4 ppg. And this year, he was the most consistent star player in the ACC, as well as the heart and soul of the Blue Devils--they don't survive Kyrie Irving's injury without Nolan Smith.

One of the most interesting things about Smith as a player is that he always got better, evolved, and became the player that Duke needed him to be in any given year. Kyle Singler was better than him as a freshman and sophomore, and Jon Scheyer carried the leadership mantle, but when Singler's progress flatlined, Smith surpassed him by leaps and bounds; and when Scheyer graduated, Smith was there to fill the void. I don't know what kind of a pro he'll be. I didn't know what kind of an adversary he would be four years ago, when I first underestimated him, but because of the intangibles and flexibility of spirit he brings, I would assume he'll be just fine, that he will become whatever his team needs him to become--I imagine some sort of a cross between Toney Douglass and George Hill. Anyway, it's rare that I can even pretend to like a Dukie, but Nolan Smith was different.

1 comments:

Iceman, AD said...

Well played sir.

March 13, 2011 at 9:34 PM

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