DURHAM Duke will begin basketball the season with its most athletic roster in years, two legitimate all-America candidates and a preseason No. 4 ranking.
What could possibly slow the Blue Devils?
“Health is always the main issue,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “Because you can’t trade or get guys on 10-day contracts.”
The Duke team that will take on Davidson on Friday at 7 p.m. (ESPNU) will be healthy (Rasheed Sulaimon’s illness from last week has passed), and that will be a first since the 2011-12 season.
Last season’s team dealt with Seth Curry’s shin and Ryan Kelly’s foot. That foot also kept Kelly out of the postseason in 2012, and, going back another year, there was Kyrie Irving’s toe injury that derailed a group that, in Krzyzewski’s eyes, had a chance to run the table and finish with a perfect season and back-to-back national championships.
This year’s squad, though, hasn’t been without a major scare.
It was June 26 and Rodney Hood was in Colorado Springs, Colo., at a USA Basketball training camp for the Men’s World University Games team. Hood jumped, and when he came down, he felt a tingling in the back of his right leg.
“But I didn’t feel it until I took a step, and I couldn’t put any pressure on it,” Hood said. “I just went down. It was weird for me. It’s not like when you twist your ankle and you know it’s hurt. When you hurt that, it’s like, ‘what is this feeling?’ It was painful, though.”
The feeling was a strained right Achilles tendon, but Hood didn’t know the severity at the time. He was terrified, he said. As fate would have it, he had recently watched a replay of Kobe Bryant tearing his Achilles. Hood immediately began thinking worst-case scenario, and he left the gym on crutches. The idea that he might miss more time after sitting out all of last year because of transfer rules lingered in his mind.
When he got back to Duke, though, doctors told him it was a tough strain, not a rupture. He nearly cried with joy and relief.
“If I had jumped a little higher and came down a little harder, it probably would have ruptured,” Hood said. “But hopefully I can’t jump that high.”
Hood recovered in time to go through summer workouts, and he is 100 percent healthy now, he said. Still, the scare put everything in perspective.
“At any given moment, especially the experience I went through this past summer with my Achilles, it can be taken away,” he said, reflecting. “Everybody loves me now, I could easily be another person. I’ve got to take it all in stride and enjoy the moment I’m in right now.”
Scoring, team chemistry, all of that can be improved over the course of the season. There’s no substitute for good health. And right now, for the first time in a long time, Duke is at full strength.
“I just hope we stay healthy,” Krzyzewski said. “That’s hurt us, obviously, no pun intended.”
Keeley: 919-829-4556; Twitter: @laurakeeley