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January 9, 2006

Nelson returns for Blue Devils

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - DeMarcus Nelson jumped to catch the high pass and threw down an alley-oop dunk. It was a good way for the sophomore to celebrate his return to the lineup for top-ranked Duke.

Nelson finished with the dunk and an assist in 11 minutes in the Blue Devils' 82-64 win over No. 23 Wake Forest on Sunday night, his first game since breaking his right ankle in November.

Nelson said he wasn't expecting to play, but was pressed into action due to some early foul trouble for Shelden Williams and Josh McRoberts. He entered the game with 9:11 left in the first half.

"Coach turned to me and gave me that look like, 'Are you ready?"' Nelson said. "I just nodded my head and he put me in."

The 6-foot-3 sophomore averaged 8.7 points in his first three games before injuring the ankle after playing just 8 minutes in a 78-68 win over Drexel on Nov. 23. He later had surgery to repair it, and returned to practice earlier this week.

He showed a flash of his old form on his only basket, slamming down a pass from McRoberts for a 39-30 lead with 3:30 left in the first half.

"He came into the game not favoring his foot, which was something we were looking for," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "Sometimes when kids rebound from an injury, they compensate and it turns into something else being hurt."

Nelson also spent some time defending Wake Forest's Justin Gray, an all-Atlantic Coast Conference performer at shooting guard.

"I've got a ways to go to get back to my normal state, but right now I think I can still contribute to the team," Nelson said. "As each day goes by, I'm only going to get stronger. My ankle is going to get stronger, my court awareness is only going to get better and my rhythm is going to come back."

For more coverage of the Duke Blue Devils, check out DevilsIllustrated.com.

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