Photo by Chase Olivieri/The Chronicle
Look up into the rafters of Cameron Indoor Stadium, and you’ll quickly realize the truth behind an old NCAA Tournament cliché.
At the Northeast end hang Duke’s three national championship banners. Just around the corner, along the Northwest sideline, are the retired jerseys of Nos. 11 and 22-Bobby Hurley and Jason Williams, the only Blue Devil point guards to lead their teams to national championships.
Duke fans know how important those two players were to their respective titles. Hurley, the Blue Devils’ all-time assists leader with 1,076, started all but one game in his career and averaged more than 33 minutes each of his four seasons.
In addition to leading Duke to its first national championship in 1991, Hurley quarterbacked a repeat run through the NCAA Tournament the following year, this time taking home Most Outstanding Player honors, as well.
Williams, the 2002 National Player of the Year, led the Blue Devils to their most recent title in his sophomore campaign. In the 2001 NCAA Tournament, he averaged 25.7 points and 5.2 assists per game as Duke won every game by at least 10 points. Despite playing just three seasons, Williams is fourth on the all-time assists list and seventh in points.
And the trend isn’t just Duke-based. Last year’s Final Four teams were led by point guards Derrick Rose, Ty Lawson, Darren Collison and Mario Chalmers. The first three were finalists for the Cousy Award, which is given to the country’s top point guard. The fourth was named Most Outstanding Player and hit the most memorable shot of the Tournament, a 3-pointer over Rose to send the title game to overtime.
Rose and Chalmers are already NBA starters, and Lawson and Collison will join them in the near future.
If it wasn’t clear already, the common perception that guard play-particularly at the point-is crucial in the Tournament has some substantial backing.
Which is what makes this Duke team so intriguing.