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Duke’s Marques Bolden back to practice, aiming for return for NCAA tournament

Coach K discusses Bolden’s injury immediately after regular season loss to UNC

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski discusses the knee injury to Marques Bolden immediately after the loss to UNC in the final game of the regular season March 9, 2019.
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Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski discusses the knee injury to Marques Bolden immediately after the loss to UNC in the final game of the regular season March 9, 2019.

Marques Bolden missed Duke’s ACC tournament championship run last week but is inching closer to returning for the NCAA tournament.

Duke’s 6-11 junior center, out with a sprained knee, practiced on Tuesday, raising hopes he’ll be available for the Blue Devils this weekend.

The No. 1 overall seed, the Blue Devils (29-5) will play Friday night against either N.C. Central or North Dakota State. Those 16th-seeded East Region teams play at First Four game in Dayton, Ohio Wednesday night at 6:40 p.m.

Seeded No. 1 in the East, Duke plays the winner on Friday at 7:10 p.m. in Columbia, S.C. A win would advance the Blue Devils to Sunday’s second round against the winner of Friday’s game between No. 8 seed Virginia Commonwealth and No. 9 Central Florida.

Bolden isn’t far enough in his rehabilitation for Duke to make a definitive decision on his availability for Friday’s game.

Bolden hasn’t played since suffering a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee early in Duke’s 79-70 loss at North Carolina on March 9.

He was with the Blue Devils in Charlotte during the ACC tournament, moving around without the use of crutches or a knee brace. But he sat out all three games and wasn’t in uniform.

Prior to the injury, Bolden started 21 of Duke’s first 31 games, compiling a team-leading 55 blocked shots. He averages 5.8 points and 4.7 rebounds per game, making 60.4 percent of his field goal attempts.

Duke center Marques Bolden (20) and Louisville forward Jordan Nwora (33) vie for a rebound during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Louisville, Ky., Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley) Timothy D. Easley AP

With Bolden out during the ACC tournament, 6-10 junior Javin DeLaurier took his place in the starting lineup along Duke’s four freshmen -- Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish and Tre Jones.

Averaging 15.8 minutes per game for the season, DeLaurier played 22.6 minutes per game in the ACC tournament. Including the March 9 game at UNC when Bolden played only three minutes to injury, DeLaurier has averaged 7.9 rebounds per game over Duke’s last four games.

Bolden’s return to practice, and eventually to an NCAA tournament game, will only bolster Duke’s rebounding and defense as it seeks the program’s sixth NCAA championship.

“`Ques coming back now, which is good,” DeLaurier said after Tuesday’s practice. “So I’ll be able to get a breather more frequently.”

When Bolden returns, either Friday or, if Duke advances, Sunday, it will be the first time the Blue Devils will have their entire starting lineup available since the Feb. 20 game against UNC at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Williamson sprained his right knee and left 36 seconds into that game, missing Duke’s final five regular-season games before returning to lead the Blue Devils to the ACC tournament title.

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An Illinois native, Steve Wiseman has covered Duke athletics since 2010 for the Durham Herald-Sun and Raleigh News & Observer. Prior to his arrival in Durham, he worked for newspapers in Columbia and Spartanburg, S.C., Biloxi, Miss., and Charlotte covering beats including the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, University of South Carolina athletics and the S.C. General Assembly.