- Andy Katz, ESPN Senior Writer
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Duke freshman point guard Kyrie Irving, an early favorite for national freshman of the year, could miss the rest of the season with a right toe injury suffered in the second half of Saturday's win against Butler.
No timetable has been set for his return. According to a source with knowledge of the situation, Irving didn't break a bone in his toe, but the injury involves ligaments.
The source said Duke is not going to rush Irving back, with his health and long-term future as a likely top-five NBA draft pick in the balance.
"Kyrie's injury is a serious one," coach Mike Krzyzewski said after Duke beat Bradley on Wednesday night. "It's being evaluated by our medical team here at Duke and with medical people from different parts of the country who are experts in foot injuries. Some type of analysis should be done hopefully by a week to 10 days and a course of action will be taken based on that analysis.
"It's a serious injury. I can't say anything more because we are learning information but it is serious and whatever final decision is made will obviously what's in his best interest and his career. Not to save him for any period of time or whatever, but he could be out or a long time."
Asked if Irving will be out the rest of the year, Krzyzewski said: "He could be, he could be."
Irving told ESPN.com after the game Saturday that he had sprained his toe, and was noticeably limping when he left the locker room. This came after Irving scored 17 of his 21 points in the second half.
Irving injured the toe on a drive to the basket opposite Duke's bench during the 82-70 win. He hobbled and grimaced as he went to the bench. He did return, but only briefly.
Krzyzewski said in a statement: "Kyrie is going to miss an undetermined amount of time with the toe injury. Our medical staff will continue to monitor the recovery process and he will return to action once it has sufficiently healed. Kyrie is an outstanding player and we are confident that he will bounce back from this setback."
Irving was ESPN.com's national player of the week Monday after he scored 31 points last week in an ACC-Big Ten Challenge win over Michigan State.
Irving has been named ACC rookie of the week three times. He is the nation's top freshman scorer with 17.4 points a game and is in the top 10 in six ACC statistical categories (scoring, assists, field goal percentage, free throw percentage, steals and assist-to-turnover ratio).
Irving's absence means the Blue Devils likely will start Andre Dawkins, who is much more of a shooting guard. They will lean more on senior Nolan Smith as a creator and penetrator. Their strength has been their depth with a four-guard rotation. Now it's down to three, with Seth Curry the top guard coming off the bench.
The top-ranked Blue Devils (8-0) are done with the toughest part of their nonconference schedule. Duke hosts Bradley (Wednesday), Saint Louis (Saturday) and Elon (Monday) before a Dec. 29 game at UNC Greensboro at Greensboro Coliseum (home of the ACC tournament in March).
The ACC season begins at home Jan. 2 against Miami, with a nonconference game against UAB on Jan. 5 interrupting the calendar, followed by Maryland visiting Cameron on Jan. 9.
Duke's first true road game is Jan. 12 at Florida State.
Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com.