It is hard to imagine a freshman having a better start to his career than Kyrie Irving. The Duke point guard has already held preseason All-America Jacob Pullen to 1-of-12 shooting, dished off nine assists in a game twice and had a 31-point explosion against the then-No. 6 team in the country that practically had Dick Vitale at a loss for words.
Through eight games, the 6-2 Irving is averaging more points (17.4) and assists (5.1) than both Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans did in their first year, and is shooting a sizzling 53 percent from the field, 45 from three, and 90 from the line – a feat no Duke player has ever accomplished.
But when Irving was seven years old, his dad instilled in him a motto that he still abides by, no matter how many All-Americans he locks up or SportsCenter highlights he’s featured in: “Hungry and Humble.”
We got up with the best diaper dandy in the nation to discuss his blazing start to the season, playing for Coach K and what he needs to do to lead No. 1 Duke to back-to-back national championships.
Dime: You’ve been about as impressive as any player in college basketball this season. What do you attribute that to?
Kyrie Irving: My teammates. They’ve really helped me a lot. It’s still early in the season right now, but I give them a lot of credit for me really playing well. My teammates have a lot of confidence in me, so I attribute my success to them.
Dime: Have you even surprised yourself at all with how much success you’ve had so far?
KI: Well, my success comes with Duke’s success. When I’m out there playing, it’s about Duke winning games. It’s not about me myself taking over or anything like that. It’s not an individual thing, so my success comes with the team’s.
Dime: What is it like to step out on the floor at Cameron?
KI: My first game was really exhilarating. It was kind of shocking to be in that atmosphere and actually playing on the court. But in terms of expectations, when you’re in Cameron, you really block out everything that’s going on on the court. When you step out onto the court, you’re on Coach K’s court, so you better play hard because other teams are going to come in and try to give you their best punch. You really got to be prepared.
Dime: You’ve already matched up with (and really outplayed) two of the best seniors in the country in Jacob Pullen (Kansas State) and Kalin Lucas (Michigan State). How much of that is confidence?
KI: It’s just playing my game, and like I said, my teammates are confident in me, so when they show their confidence in me, I’m at the top of my game. And when I’m at the top of my game and I’m playing within the team, then I don’t think anybody can stop us.
Dime: Even as a freshman, you lead a lot of the huddles. At what age did you really become a leader?
KI: Throughout my high school years and from my dad, who played my position. But coming here, the coaches told me to be confident and communicate with my teammates if I have something to say, and I have their respect. Like I said, they trust in me to be another leader out there on the floor.
Dime: What do you have to work on individually to maintain the success you’ve had?
KI: Perfecting the point guard role and being consistent. Those are the two main things I have to improve on.
Dime: Some scouting services ranked point guard Josh Selby (Kansas) ahead of you in the high school rankings last year, and Harrison Barnes (North Carolina) was a preseason All-American. Do you feel you were slept on at all, or do you not even think about that?
KI: I don’t really think about it. My whole life I’ve been slept on, so it’s something I’m kind of used to. But every time I step out there, I think I have something to prove.
Dime: How has the transition to school itself been?
KI: The transition was difficult at first, but once you start to develop relationships on a day-to-day basis with people on campus, and your teammates and the coaching staff, they become like family. This is like my second home now.
Dime: What is it going to take for this team to win back-to-back national championships?
KI: It’s going to take a lot of hard work and dedication to what Coach K wants from us. But as long as we follow Coach K and he’s leading us, I think we can be the best team in the country.
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