DURHAM — Coach Mike Krzyzewski took Duke on a four-game exhibition trip to China and Dubai in late August hoping to find a player Duke could count on all the time.
Krzyzewski found one in junior Seth Curry, who is taking over the point guard duties. Curry scored at least 10 points in each game and averaged 13.5 points per game.
Curry helped the Blue Devils defeat the Chinese Olympic Team three times and the United Arab Emirates National Team once.
"He was very poised," Krzyzewski said Wednesday afternoon during his post-tour media briefing. "He can really handle the ball. I think he's made a big improvement in his quickness, shape. He doesn't get tired. He made pretty good decisions."
After going 32-5 with a regional semifinal loss to Arizona last season, Duke must replace first-team All-ACC seniors Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler plus No. 1 overall NBA draft pick Kyrie Irving.
Curry, a returning starter, demonstrated his ability to handle a larger role on the overseas trip.
"Seth's good," Krzyzewski said. "He's just really good. I think he'll be one of the better point guards in the country, especially if he learns to be the leader and not just a scorer. And I think he can do that."
Junior forward and former Ravenscroft player Ryan Kelly also emerged in a much bigger role, averaging 15 points per game and improving his ability to score on the drive and in the low post. Krzyzewski said Kelly has the ability to make his teammates better.
"Ryan, that's a good position for us, because that second big, matchup wise, when you can do the things he does, creates some really good situations for us in spacing, in mismatches," Krzyzewski said.
Krzyzewski entered the trip uncertain of what to expect from the team because the three leaders from last season - Smith, Singler and No. 1 draft choice Irving - are gone. During the trip, which ended last week, a six-player foundation separated itself from the pack.
Kelly, senior Miles Plumlee and junior Mason Plumlee demonstrated that they can be a strength of the team as they share minutes at the two forward positions. Curry, junior Andre Dawkins and freshman Austin Rivers solidified their status as the top players in the backcourt.
As was the case last season, scoring appears to be a strength of this team, according to Krzyzewski. He said the perimeter shooting ability of those top six players helps spread the floor and leave the big guys open in the post.
"We can really score the ball," Krzyzewski said. "With the group that was starting, or if Mason's in there, you can score from all five positions."
The trip wasn't all about basketball. Krzyzewski marveled at the players' enthusiasm for bartering in the markets in Chinese cities and climbing 1,600 steps to stand on the Great Wall of China.
Kelly, during an interview with reporters, laughed about a panda hat he purchased and said he enjoyed negotiating prices with Chinese merchants.
"It was a fabulous tour on and off the court," Krzyzewski said. "For basketball. For education. For bonding. And for representing our university."
Notes: Asked about the NCAA's finding on a possible impermissible phone call to a recruit, Krzyzewski said: "It still hasn't been resolved. It's one of the mysteries in life we deal with." In July, CBSSports.com reported that Krzyzewski may have broken an NCAA rule by contacting Class of 2012 forward Alex Poythress of Clarksville, Tenn., before Poythress was finished playing in a tournament in Orlando ... Krzyzewski hasn't decided whether to redshirt freshman center Marshall Plumlee. "Anything's possible," Krzyzewski said. Plumlee's brothers, Miles and Mason, team with Kelly to form a frontcourt that will make it difficult for Marshall to get meaningful playing time.
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