Friday, April 2, 2010

Duke's Kelly savoring the moment

INDIANAPOLIS - Raleigh's Ryan Kelly didn't play at all in Duke's South Regional-clinching win over Baylor.

He played just one minute in the Blue Devils' win over Purdue in the regional semifinals. Nonetheless, as Duke prepares for Saturday's NCAA semifinal game against West Virginia at the Final Four, the freshman and Ravenscroft School graduate is pleased to be a part of this team.

"At this point I do whatever Coach [Mike Krzyzewski] asks of me, like I've done all season," Kelly said. "Everybody wants to be the guy that hits the game-winning shot in the national championship game. But that's not my role right now, and I accept that completely. That's what pushes me to get better every day in practice, to work hard, to push my teammates in any way I can and just be ready to get on the floor whenever that opportunity comes."

That opportunity could come next season. Kelly is the fifth man in a four-player rotation for two low-post positions on this team. But the departure of current seniors Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas will cut into Duke's depth in the post.

Miles and Mason Plumlee would appear likely to move into the starting lineup. Behind them, Duke would have only Kelly and incoming freshman Josh Hairston.

"That opens up some opportunities, but I'm not worried about that right now" Kelly said. "When the season is over we can talk about stuff like that. But right now I'm enjoying the ride. Not many people get the opportunity to be in the Final Four and that's certainly going to be a goal for years to come. But as we've seen, even at Duke, guys that are seniors now had never gotten to this point. So you never know what's going to happen. You've got to take advantage of the opportunity."

Kelly, who was a McDonald's All-American but is averaging just 1.2 points and 1.1 rebounds per game, hasn't had many personal highlights this season. But that doesn't seem to bother him.

"All I know is that I've become a much better player," he said. "I don't think back to specific moments in games. I know I've become a lot better player than I was a year ago. I know I have a bright future ahead of myself and I'm going to become an even better player. Right now I'm enjoying the moment being here in the Final Four and ready to do anything the coach asks."

Ken Tysiac