Ryan Kelly, Duke's most effective offensive option over the last three games, will be sidelined until further notice. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY
Duke forward Ryan Kelly will be sidelined indefinitely with a right foot injury, the school announced in a statement. He will not play Saturday against N.C. State.
“We feel very badly for Ryan,” Mike Krzyzewski said in the statement. “He is playing the best basketball of his career and this is a tough setback for him. We’re hoping for a good recovery and we are optimistic about his return.”
It’s the same foot that kept Kelly out of the ACC and NCAA Tournaments at the end of last season. Kelly had surgery late last March and started this season completely healthy. Krzyzewski announced after the Wake Forest game that Kelly had tweaked his right foot during the holidays, and at that point he was thought to be back to full strength.
Kelly has been Duke’s most effective offensive weapon of late, as he is averaging 17.3 points per game in the Blue Devils last three games, despite playing an average of 24 minutes. Kelly scored a season-high 22 points in 18 minutes against Wake Forest, as foul trouble kept him out the majority of the game, and he put up 12 points in 19 minutes against Clemson. Kelly did not play in the second half.
Kelly, who was last week’s ACC player of he week, leads Duke in 3-point shooting percentage (.521) and is 15-of-20 (75 percent) from behind the arc in Duke’s last six games. For the season, Kelly is averaging 13.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.7 blocks per game and is on pace to set career highs in those four categories.
Josh Hairston, Amile Jefferson and Alex Murphy will likely all see increased minutes as a result of Kelly’s absence. Hairston averages 11.3 minutes per game, the most out of the trio, but averages just 1.7 points and 2.1 rebounds per game, a far cry from Kelly’s 13.4 and 5.4, respectively. Jefferson averages 3.1 points and 1.9 rebounds per game in just under nine minutes, and Murphy posts an average of 2.2 points in 5.6 minutes per contest.
The bench, by design, has not been overly deep this season. With three seniors in Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry and Kelly, Krzyzewski preferred to play them, his best players, as much as possible.
“With a senior really good player, there’s more separation, especially when the other guys are freshmen,” Krzyzewski said after the Clemson game. “There’s separation of talent and experience, whereas when you have a team that doesn’t have that, there’s more of a chance of equal minutes and stuff like that. You just have to manage the team differently.
“The main thing is that our guys are practicing well and they came through with good minutes tonight.”
For Duke to continue to be successful, those practice habits will have to transfer to the game floor.