Duke could make history Wednesday night during the NBA draft at MCI Center by becoming the first school to have four players chosen in the first round.
Three of the four players are underclassmen -- Elton Brand and William Avery, who left after their sophomore seasons, and Corey Maggette, who spent only one season here. Senior Trajan Langdon is the fourth player in the group.
The four players already helped make history once this year when they led the Blue Devils to the first 16-0 record in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Duke was 37-2 for the season and prompted discussion that it might be among the greatest college teams of all time leading up to the NCAA title game. In that contest, the Blue Devils lost to Connecticut, 77-74.
However, the three underclassmen's pro potential has been debated. Brand, the 1999 consensus NCAA player of the year, has been high on everyone's draft list, but even Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski questioned the decisions of Avery and Maggette to leave school early.
Krzyzewski said seniors should be the most coveted players in the draft because they are the most polished, particularly at a program such as Duke, which had no one leave early prior to this year. Then again, no former Duke player, with the exception of Detroit's Grant Hill, has become an NBA star in recent years.
Six times previously a school has had three first-round picks in the same year, the most recent being 1996, when former Kentucky players Antoine Walker, Tony Delk and Walter McCarty went sixth (to Boston), 16th (to Charlotte) and 19th (to New York), respectively. Last year, three schools had two first-round picks.
In some ways, four first-round picks could produce positive publicity. But Krzyzewski does not see it as a positive precedent.
There are 39 early entries in Wednesday's draft. Nearly all of the first 13 picks are expected to be non-seniors. The 1996 record of 17 non-seniors selected in the first 29 picks could fall Wednesday.
"You cannot just constantly keep losing players early where it doesn't have an impact on where they've left and where they are going," Krzyzewski said.
Krzyzewski said that, even though he didn't agree with all of his underclassmen's decisions to leave school, he will be very supportive of them and will do whatever he can to help them succeed as pros. He'll also be happy to see his school so well-represented in the draft.
"Me not supporting the decisions does not mean that I don't support a kid," Krzyzewski said. "In no way did I ever say that I don't support a kid. I'll help William Avery and Corey Maggette in any way I can.
"William and Corey went to their profession, the thing they feel is going to be their profession for a certain part of their life. We're still very supportive of them. I need to be able to tell them what I think would be best; that doesn't mean there's conflict.
"Everything that happens for those kids will turn out to be pretty good," Krzyzewski said. "Whether that's the best it could turn out, who knows? Maybe we'll never know."
A Devil of a Draft
"You'd have to liken Elton Brand to a Charles Barkley-type player, but with Wes Unseld-type rebounding ability. He rebounds very well. He has great hands. He has very nimble feet like Barkley in that, defensively, he's able to get around defenders."
-- Vancouver Grizzlies President and GM Stu Jackson on Elton Brand
Details: 6-8, 260, from Peekskill, N.Y.
Notes: First player ever from Duke to announce that he was leaving school early. He was the fourth player in the 1990s to be a unanimous Associated Press first-team all-American after averaging 17.7 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. He made 62 percent of his field goals to rank fourth in the nation and was the 1999 ACC player of the year and tournament MVP.
Krzyzewski says: "Elton Brand has an unbelievable upside. He's not just a power player. I can see him doing things like putting the ball on the floor and defending the three-point shot well."
"Once his overall game catches up to his athletic ability, you can have a terrific player."
-- Boston Celtics GM Chris Wallace on Corey Maggette
Details: 6-6, 215, from Bellwood, Ill.
Notes: Ranked fourth on the team in scoring with an average of 10.6 points per game even though he didn't start and averaged fewer than 18 minutes a game. He shot .525 from the field, including .345 from three-point range.
Krzyzewski says: "Corey is the biggest unknown. He has immense physical talent, but he still needs to learn how to feel the game and master the fundamentals. If he had stayed [at Duke] at least another year, he would have been a lot better in every way."
"He is probably the best pure long-distance shooter of the point guards in the draft. He had some tremendous shooting outbursts this year. He's got good size for the position."
-- Boston Celtics GM Chris Wallace on William Avery
Details: 6-2, 180, from Augusta, Ga.
Notes: Led the Blue Devils in assists with an average of five per game and was second on the team with 57 steals. He scored in double figures in 33 of 39 games, leading the team in scoring nine times, including a 30-point effort against Cincinnati in the Great Alaska Shootout.
Krzyzewski says: "William grew so much this year. We were an easy team to run, and he still has some learning to do in that area. But William will work at it."
"An excellent long-distance shooter who has worked diligently to get to this point in his career. Trajan should have a decent run in the NBA as a complementary player."
-- Boston Celtics GM Chris Wallace on Trajan Langdon
Details: 6-3, 195, from Anchorage, Alaska.
Notes: Became just the fifth player to be a three-time first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection last season. He ranked second on the team to Brand in scoring with an average of 17.4 points per game. He set the school record for career three-pointers (342) and led the ACC in free-throw percentage (.842).
Krzyzewski says: "Right now, he's the most professional [of the four]. He's solid, dependable, low maintenance. There's very little variance in his game. He'll be there a long time."
CAPTION: Mike Krzyzewski, right, with senior Trajan Langdon during NCAA tournament, lost non-seniors to draft for first time.