June 24, 2009
It's the time of year when college coaches lose players, one after another, to the NBA draft, when the elite coaches restock their teams and hope for the best, and when the lucky few -- those whose best players decide to forgo the NBA for various reasons -- prepare for another run at the Final Four. Perhaps until today, Duke was the latter. Now? Not so much.
Duke guard Elliot Williams is leaving the school for family medical reasons, according to the Duke PR folks. (Hat tip: @Corndogg.) Duke's press release says Williams is expected to appeal the NCAA's rule that forces transfers to sit out for a year; he is hoping to play right away in 2009-10 for a "school closer to his home." Where's Williams's home? Memphis. And so the plot thickens.
Williams is a high-level talent who could start at almost any school in the country, and surely new Memphis coach Josh Pastner would be interested in having him. ("Interested," in this case, meaning "would probably commit ritual seppuku to land.") Has Williams already been contacted by Pastner? Likely. Has he already planned on transferring to Memphis? Who knows?
There are other schools close enough to Memphis that wouldn't be completely inconvenient given Williams's family medical issues (whatever they may be), and any one of those schools could be in the running for his services. But, um, yeah. Hearing "transfer" and "closer to Memphis" in the same sentence sure sets off the "he's going to Memphis" alarm bells, doesn't it?
As for Duke, it's not the end of the world, but it is a blow to what appeared to be a very solid set of returning starters for 2009-10. Williams started most of Duke's late-season games after Mike Krzyzewski benched Greg Paulus and Nolan Smith and began starting Jon Scheyer at point; he's an athletic, rangy guard and as a freshman in 2008-09 had plenty of improvement left ahead of him.
Instead, after losing Gerald Henderson to the draft, Duke is suddenly looking far less athletic. What happens now? Play Scheyer at shooting guard again? Move Smith back to the point? Krzyzewski has a couple of solid freshman on the way, especially Ryan Kelly, a skilled high-post-loving power forward, but he wouldn't seem to solve the Devils' athletic woes. Or maybe they're not woes at all. Maybe it's not that big of a deal.
Either way, it's a surprising and unfortunate move for Duke, but both sides seem to be handling it in the classiest of ways and, you know, that's good. Let's hope Williams's family's health issues improve. And let's keep an eye where, and when, Williams lands.