Harrison Barnes and Kyrie Irving will enter the season as two of the most-talented and most-hyped freshmen in the country. That they’ll play for North Carolina and Duke will only add to the coverage.
So if you’re the Raleigh News & Observer and you’re doing a series of stories on the incoming recruits at UNC, Duke, Wake Forest and N.C. State, which recruits do you write about first?
You get two guesses. The theme for both stories: confidence.
Jay Laprete / AP
Irving’s being hailed as Mike Krzyzewski’s top incoming guard since Jay Williams. That makes a Williams anecdote the perfect opener for the Irving story.
Back in January, Williams was in Massachusetts working as a TV analyst for a high school game that featured Irving’s team, St. Patrick High of Elizabeth, N.J. The two started playing a game of H-O-R-S-E and Irving wasn’t about to let Williams get comfortable.
“He started talking to me, started trying to get me out of my game,” Williams told the paper, “and that’s the kind of stuff I love. … He has that edge. He has that element of cockiness to him. Or confidence is a better word.”
Irving will need that confidence/cockiness. Coach K’s already said Irving will step into the starting lineup and that Duke will adjust its offense to take advantage of his play-making abilities.
Barnes, a wing, is a complete player. He’s a good shooter, rebounder and savvy player who could be the No. 1 selection in the 2011 NBA draft. But his confidence/leadership ability draws just as much attention.
He completed a 9 a.m. solo workout with UNC strength and conditioning coach Jonas Sahratian and told Sahratian he’d like to do the same the next day.
“Then the next morning, he comes in at 8:30 a.m. … with Kendall [Marshall], Will Graves and Dexter Strickland,” Sahratian told the paper. “I said, ‘I thought you were coming by yourself.’ He said, ‘I can’t do it all alone.’
“Right then I said, ‘OK, we’re going to be all right.’ “
Sure it’s August and practices are still months away. It’s hard not to read this stuff and get just a little excited to see what happens when these guys step on the court and finally play.
And when they play each other? Well, that’ll be a day many, many stories in the making.