Kyrie Irving runs drills but won't play

Updated: March 11, 2011, 11:47 PM ET
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Injured Duke freshman point guard Kyrie Irving created quite a stir an hour before the Blue Devils were to play Maryland in the ACC quarterfinals.

He was in game shorts and a game undershirt going through shooting and running drills on the Greensboro Coliseum court. It was the first public viewing of him practicing since he tore a ligament in his right toe on Dec. 4 against Butler.

Irving did slide drills, jogged and took shots off passes from his trainer while his teammates were warmed up around him.

Duke associate head coaches Chris Collins and Steve Wojciechowski said Irving wouldn't play Friday night. A Duke spokesperson said Irving had practiced Thursday in five-on-zero situations.

Irving moved without any issues and made shots. But it's still too early to judge whether he would be cleared to play in the NCAA tournament.

The Duke training and coaching staff is going to tread lightly with Irving. Irving is projected to be a top-two pick in the June NBA draft, and, according to multiple sources, Irving would likely go pro since he is projected to go so high in the draft.

Irving scored 31 points against Michigan State on Dec. 1 and looked to be on his way to a stellar freshman season when he suffered the freak toe injury while driving to the basket against Butler. Irving frayed the ligament that stretches underneath the big toe. Surgery was avoided while Irving's foot remained in a boot. Irving got the boot off recently. He has been in intensive rehab with pool work, stretching and most recently on-court drills.

The Blue Devils were the prohibitive favorite with Irving on the team joining Nolan Smith in the backcourt. Duke is in contention for a No. 1 seed without Irving but would become a favorite again if he were to join the team for the NCAA tournament.

Now that Irving has made a public appearance in game attire there will be more speculation that he might return to the team in the postseason. Duke officials remain mum on an exact date, saying this is another step in the rehab process.

The NCAA tournament selection committee is unlikely to use any of this information because Irving's status remains unknown.

Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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