Duke is now 1-1 without Ryan Kelly. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY.
Every Saturday, the News & Observer takes a look around the ACC. That also provides an opportunity to check in with the Blue Devils and look for any emerging trends.
Duke was eager to take the floor against Georgia Tech. As assistant coach Steve Wojciechowski said earlier in the week, the Blue Devils were 0-1 without injured starter Ryan Kelly, and they had something to prove.
“A lot of people outside the gym think that we can’t be successful without Ryan,” Tyler Thornton said before the game against the Yellow Jackets. “Ryan is a big piece of our team, but we have other guys that our coaching staff recruited here for a reason. We’re all excited just to be able to come in and show what we can do.”
Flash back to the 2009-10 season. Who would have guessed Kelly would become an integral part of a No. 1-ranked team by his senior year? Kelly played an average of 6.5 minutes per game his first year and contributed an average of 1.2 points and 1.1 rebounds per contest. But he’s steadily developed, and as of this week, his offensive rating (a measure of points produced by possession) was fifth-best in the ACC. And there’s no way to measure his defensive impact, which, by all accounts, is where he’s most valuable.
“He always had the IQ for the game and the skill set, but it was about his getting experience and his body catching up,” assistant coach Chris Collins said. “He came in not psychically capable of playing at this level. But he’s worked hard, and his body has caught up to his IQ and skills, and it’s been great to watch his development.”