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April 1, 2004

Final Four: Will Recruits Propel Duke Back?

The Final Four is set and one team will be crowned king of college basketball on Monday night. Over the next two days, we look at the incoming recruiting classes for the nation's top teams and see if their trip to the last dance will be their last. Led by Shaun Livingston, the No. 2 player on the Rivals150, Duke has their backcourt of the future lined up. Will everyone enroll though? That's the real question.

First, we'll take a look at the current roster situation: who's leaving, who's staying and then who's coming.

Senior Send Off
Chris Duhon, a four year starter in the Blue Devils backcourt, will finally end his up and down career. His loss, in terms of leadership and winning experience, will be missed. In terms of production, the Blue Devils have to McDonalds All Americans joining the backcourt. But ask anyone inside the Duke program, Duhon will be hard to replace.

Stayin' or Goin'?
Carmelo Anthony proved last year that a freshman can be the difference maker in a team's run for a national championship. Luol Deng could do the same. Now many wonder if Deng will follow Anthony's path to the NBA. While the early word from the Deng camp is favorable for Duke fans (he says he's returning for another year), a two wins in San Antonio could change everything.

Although he hasn't mentioned the NBA, power forward Shelden Williams has established himself as one of the top interior players in the nation. He's good for a double double at any time. Odds aren't high that he'll leave but if he does, the odds of Duke returning to the big stage are much slimmer.

The biggest question surrounds a player that hasn't even put on a Blue Devil jersey.

Shaun Livingston
No. 2 player on the Rivals150
6-foot-7, 175-pounds
Peoria (Ill.) Central HS

The nation's number one point guard fills Duke's biggest need. One problem though: Duke may never see him. Livingston is one of the few high school players projected very high in the NBA draft and because of that, his future in Durham is unknown. If he does decide to put his pro dreams on hold, the Blue Devils have themselves a dandy for a floor general. His presence alone could help put the ACC power back into the Final Four this time next year.

DeMarcus Nelson
No. 18 player on the Rivals150
6-foot-3, 195-pounds
Sheldon HS, Sacramento (Calif.)

While most of the national attention went to Livingston this past season, Nelson went under the radar ever since his verbal commitment to the Blue Devils as a sophomore despite being the all-time leading scorer in California history. He's a physical guard that knows how to score from deep, mid range and above the rim. Duke continues to attract and produce some of the best guards in the nation. Nelson shouldn't disappoint.

David McClure
No. 86 player on the Rivals150
6-foot-6, 205-pounds
Trinity Catholic, Samford (Conn.)

Tabbed as a role player, McClure will bring a winning résumé to the Blue Devils. The forward won three state championships at Trinity Catholic. He'll play in spots and could see some time in the frontcourt, a familiar place for him. McClure played center at the prep level and developed his interior defense. Expect McClure to develop into a good four year player. Watch his experience come to play.

Odds to return to Final Four
The Blue Devils are no strangers to the month of March and getting Livingston to come to Cameron Indoor Stadium certainly helps the team's chances. The recruiting class helps solidify their case as one of the top backcourts in the country and as the top post players skip college all together, guard play comes into factor even more in March. Will that help Duke return to the Final Four? Most likely.


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