Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Duke seniors still have big goals

Junior guard Martynas Pocius said Monday that he is leaving Duke with fond memories but is ready to move on with his life after playing sparingly for three seasons and missing most of a fourth with an ankle injury.

He has another year of eligibility remaining, but will graduate with his degree in International Comparative Studies and hopes to play overseas next season. Pocius, who’s from Lithuania, is averaging 1.5 points in 19 games this season and has totaled just six minutes over the past 10 games.

“Of course it’s hard,” Pocius said. “It’s hard to leave a place like Duke. But it’s just time.”

Pocius and senior guard Greg Paulus are the last holdovers from a Duke recruiting class that was ranked No. 1 in the nation and will be honored when the Blue Devils play host to Florida State at 8 p.m. today on senior night.

Their class also included post players Josh McRoberts and Eric Boateng, plus forward Jamal Boykin, and didn’t live up to its billing.

McRoberts turned pro after two seasons, averaging 13.0 points and 7.9 rebounds as a sophomore. Boateng (Arizona State) and Boykin (California) transferred to Pac-10 schools.
Paulus is the only player who’s had a consistent, four-season impact with more than 1,100 career points. But even he has been mostly a backup in his senior season.

“It’s been a little bit different,” Paulus acknowledged. “. . .That doesn’t take away from the things we’ve been through, the special bonds we’ve had.”

Dave McClure, a fifth-year senior who also will be honored tonight, was not a member of that recruiting class. His time at Duke dates back to the 2004, when he was in summer school preparing for his freshman season with the Blue Devils.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski kept everybody on edge in July as he contemplated the possibility of accepting the head coaching job with the Los Angeles Lakers.

“It was a long time ago,” McClure said. “I remember that was a really rocky time for everybody.”

McClure said the players put their faith in Krzyzewski, and everything turned out all right. Still, by Duke standards, there have been some rocky times since. The Blue Devils haven’t advanced past the regional semifinals in the last four years and didn’t survive the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament in the last two years.

Meanwhile, rival North Carolina has played in two Final Fours and captured the 2005 NCAA title. Tyler Hansbrough and Danny Green, who were in the same recruiting class as Paulus, McRoberts and Co., have had a tremendous impact on the Tar Heels over four seasons.

But the ever-determined Paulus isn’t finished yet. Duke has won four in a row and is ranked No. 7 in the nation, and still has a shot at finishing in at least a tie for first place in the ACC this season.

“I wanted to make a positive difference,” Paulus said. “This season isn’t over yet.”

He said playing at Duke has been a “tremendous experience,” even if the results have been different from what he has expected. – Ken Tysiac


David said...

Go 'Noles!

FSU - time for another ACC team to ruin yet another Duke senior night. This is your task make the ACC proud and send Paulus cryying home like Psycho T did to JJ a few years ago...

Anonymous said...

The Criminoles will be lucky to stay within 10 points tonight.

Anonymous said...

Was the above comment left by one of the referees who'll be officiating tonight's game??

Anonymous said...

Complaining about the refs is weaksauce.

Anonymous said...

Uh oh...I know you feel it Heels fans (aka the city of Charlotte). Duke's getting hot again just in time to spoil Tyler's Senior Night.

Can't wait till the Dukie's snatch the ACC crown from the much-ballyhooed "Greatest Team of All-Time" (please).

Anonymous said...