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February 13, 2008
Singler strengthens Duke's hand
Duke freshman forward Kyle Singler enjoys card tricks.
What do he and the Blue Devils have up their sleeves for the rest of the season?
Singler hopes more of the same. Singler, a former five-star prospect, is Rivals.com's National Freshman of the Week for the week ending Feb. 10 after posting double-doubles in victories over North Carolina and Boston College.
He had 14 points and 10 rebounds in Duke's 89-78 triumph in Chapel Hill, and he followed with an ACC-high 24 points, 10 rebounds and three steals in a 90-80 win over the Eagles.
Singler earned high marks for battling with Tar Heels forward Tyler Hansbrough, who had 28 points (on 12-of-21 shooting) and 18 rebounds.
"It was definitely an exciting game," Singler told Rivals.com. "He's a great player. He's very physical. He brings a lot to the table. He's a very good competitor."
What Hansbrough can't do is step out and hit the "3" like Singler, which makes him a perfect fit for Duke. Singler, from Medford, Ore., has hit at least one 3-pointer in 10 consecutive games, and he has drained three in each of the past three games.
"Players at this level are a lot stronger and quicker, but we have a great strength and conditioning coach," he said. "I've gotten bigger and stronger, and I feel like I was always pretty quick."
Singler had one of his best games of the season against Boston College, and it came at a critical time. There was some malaise after the big win at UNC, and even coach Mike Krzyzewski was worried about it having a lingering effect.
"Coach was a little bit worried, and there were signs throughout the week that we maybe weren't as focused," Singler said. "You can have a hangover from a big game like that. We came out a little slow in the first half. I wouldn't say we're good enough to do that. But we played well in the second half."
Duke trailed 42-41 at the break, but scored 49 points in the second half to push its winning streak to 11.
Between basketball and his course load, Singler said he doesn't have much time to check on the rest of an ultra-talented freshman class. But he does occasionally look for UCLA scores. Bruins center Kevin Love is another Oregon native, and the two played on the same AAU team for a while.
"Kevin and I are good friends," Singler said. "His high school team won state as a junior, and mine won it when I was a senior. We've had our share of battles."
Their next battle could be this March – or maybe even in April.
"Kevin is having a great year," Singler said. "UCLA has had a couple of bumps, but they could get it going. They're going to be dangerous in March."
No less dangerous than the Blue Devils.
"We have to keep healthy, keep competing, keep improving," Singler said. "We're a good team but not a great one. We have to keep doing the little things, the uncommon things that make us different, that separate us from the pack.
"We're playing well right now, but we can't take a step back."
Bob McClellan is the college basketball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.