Williams, Boozer and Dunleavy left for the NBA after the 2002 season and Jones became the team’s star. It wasn’t just a default promotion. Jones worked hard to improve his skills. He shot 23 percent on 3s as a junior, 40 percent as a senior. He improved his foul shooting from 72 percent to 75 percent. He moved out of position to power forward at mid-season and thrived. Jones led Duke with 17.7 points per game, while adding 5.2 rebounds per game.
He averaged almost 25 points per game in Duke’s three 2003 NCAA-Tournament games.
He was voted first-team All-ACC in 2003 and made the ACC’s All-Defensive Team in 2002 and 2003. Jones was AP honorable mention All-America. And we’ll always have that monster dunk against Virginia.
Jones was a first-round NBA draft pick and played 624 games in the NBA, rarely playing more than 20 minutes per game. His best season was 2010, when he averaged 10.2 points per game for the Pacers. He even got a title ring with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016.
The pattern changed a bit the next time around. McLeod and Jones both came to Duke with two years of eligibility remaining.
Duke lost Elliott Williams after the 2009 season when he transferred back home to Memphis, in large part to be near his ailing mother.
Williams was an athletic 6-5 wing. Krzyzewski replaced him with a 6-2 shooter, a shooter from perhaps basketball’s greatest family of shooters.
Seth Curry is a little more than four years younger than famous brother Stephen. Stephen was already a star at Davidson when Seth graduated from Charlotte Christian High School in 2008. Yet, like his older brother, Seth got no love from the major hoops powers and ended up at mid-major Liberty. He averaged 20.2 points per game in 2009, the NCAA’s leading freshman scorer.
Williams was gone and Jon Scheyer and Gerald Henderson were scheduled to be seniors in 2010; Henderson of course left for the NBA after the 2009 season. Curry announced he was leaving Liberty for a higher caliber of ball. Duke had the need and Curry jumped at the opportunity.
“Coach K kept telling him the timing couldn’t be better,” Dell Curry told the media at the time. “There’ll be plenty of opportunities to contribute.”
Like Jones, Curry sat out his required year for an NCAA title team, 2010. Unlike Jones and McLeod, Curry came to Duke with three years of eligibility remaining. He averaged a modest 9.0 points per game for a 2011 team dominated by seniors Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler. But he scored 22 points in a come-from-behind win at home against the Tar Heels, giving a hint of better things to come.
Duke tried to turn him into a point guard in 2012, hoping to replicate the move Scheyer made a few years earlier. It didn’t work. Still, he led Duke with 2.4 assists per game, averaged 13.2 points per game and was voted third-team All-ACC.
It all came together in 2013. Sophomore Quinn Cook had matured into a top-tier point guard, which let Curry play off the ball. Curry played all season with a mysterious and nagging lower leg injury, perhaps shin splints, perhaps a stress fracture. He rarely practiced.
But he played in all but one of Duke’s 36 games and led the 30-6 Blue Devils with 17.5 points per game. That included a 43.8 percentage on 3-pointers, second in the ACC to NC State’s Scott Wood. . He hit five 3-pointers in a game five times and hit six 3-pointers twice, the last time a Sweet Sixteen win over Michigan State in which he scored 29 points.
He ended his Duke career shooting 42.0 percent on 3-pointers, still third in school history, behind J.J. Redick and Trajan Langdon.
Curry just missed making first-team All-ACC and was named second-team All-America by The Sporting News.
Despite the accolades and the obvious shooting skill, Curry went undrafted. He worked his way up through the G-League, making his NBA debut January 5, 2014 and currently is a member of the Dallas Mavericks. His NBA career average is 10.1 points per game and he has made 44.3 percent of his 3-pointers, second in NBA history, trailing only Steve Kerr.
Not bad for an undrafted afterthought.
To be continued...