Kyrie Irving entering NBA draft
DURHAM, N.C. -- Point guard Kyrie Irving is leaving Duke after one season to enter the NBA draft.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a statement issued Wednesday by the school that Irving plans to hire an agent, ending his college career.
"Our whole program is overjoyed with having Kyrie here for one year and that he has the chance now to pursue a dream of being a high draft pick and a great player in the NBA," Krzyzewski said. "We are totally supportive of Kyrie, his family and his decision. We look forward to continuing to work with him during the upcoming months leading to his entry into the NBA and afterwards while he is an NBA player."
Irving played only 11 games and missed roughly two-thirds of the season with an injured big toe on his right foot. The 6-foot-2 guard averaged 17.5 points, 3.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists for top-seeded Duke, which was upset by Arizona in the West regional semifinals.
"It was a great experience playing for Coach K," Irving said. "He taught me a lot about the game. Even when I was hurt, I learned a lot. Also a special thanks goes to the medical staff for getting me back on the court for the NCAA Tournament and my teammates for sticking with me throughout the entire year. Duke offered me an experience I could never have imagined."
When Irving was healthy, he was electrifying. His 31-point performance against then-No. 6 Michigan State marked just the fourth time in school history that a freshman scored 30 points in a game. He was the MVP of the CBE Classic after averaging 14.5 points and six assists.
But his only season at Duke ultimately might be defined by the 26 games he missed after he jammed his toe during a win over Butler on Dec. 4, and the lingering subplot surrounding the Blue Devils was when -- or even if -- he would return.
He worked out in full public view before an Atlantic Coast Conference tournament game in uniform shorts and sneakers, told reporters after the championship game win over North Carolina that he could return and wound up coming off the bench for Duke's NCAA tournament opener against Hampton. He reached double figures in scoring in each of his three tournament games, capped by a 28-point showing in the loss to Arizona.
After that game, he said he didn't want to take off his No. 1 jersey and could see himself wearing it again as a sophomore, but wanted to consult with his coaches, family and friends before coming to a final decision on his future.
"This was a special year for me. I love everything about Duke and I'm going to miss it," added Irving. "Duke has a special place in my heart. Even though I'm leaving this year, Duke will always be in my mind and my heart. I'm going to miss putting on that No. 1 jersey."
Irving's departure leaves another hole in the Duke lineup that will be missing graduated seniors Nolan Smith , the ACC's player of the year, and Kyle Singler, the most outstanding player at last year's Final Four. Among the Blue Devils' incoming freshmen is guard Austin Rivers, the son of Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers and one of the nation's highest-rated recruits.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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