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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Confident and focused

    March 22–CHARLOTTE — The crisis of confidence that plagued guard Andre Dawkins of Duke earlier this season appears to be over.

    Dawkins, a 19-year-old sophomore, has found his niche again and is playing an important role as the Blue Devils continue their bid for a second straight national championship.

    Lost in the shuffle of Sunday’s 73-71 win against Michigan at Time Warner Cable Arena was Dawkins’ defense at the end and how he got close enough to Tim Hardaway Jr. to keep him from getting the ball on the final play. As guard Darius Morris drove into the lane, Dawkins did just enough to keep Hardaway — who had three straight baskets late to draw the Wolverines closer — out of the play.

    Morris ended up missing a running jumper, and the Blue Devils survived. They will leave today for Anaheim, Calif., where they have a Thursday game against Arizona (9:45 p.m., WFMY Chs. 9, 110, 1110) in the West Regional semifinals.

    Dawkins hit a rough patch for the last seven games of the regular season, failing to score in four and playing limited minutes. But he picked up his game in the ACC Tournament and has been productive so far in the NCAA Tournament.

    “”I just changed my mindset, and I think I was relying on my jump shot too much,”” Dawkins said. “”I’m just going out there and giving 100 percent regardless of if I’m hitting my jump shots or not. I’m trying to do other things, and I think that’s helped me with my shot.””

    Dawkins scored 13 points against Hampton and six against Michigan, but he also played 26 minutes against Michigan — his longest stint since Feb. 16 (26 minutes against Virginia).

    In Charlotte, Dawkins wasn’t afraid to take a big shot when called upon. With the Blue Devils clinging to a one-point lead with less than a minute to play, he put up a 3-point shot from the left baseline that just missed. A Michigan player rebounded but lost the ball out of bounds, giving Duke possession, and Kyrie Irving hit a short jumper on the next play for a 72-69 lead and the eventual winning points.

    Coach Mike Krzyzewski said that Dawkins’ all-around play has been a welcome addition.

    “”I think he’s had by far the best three weeks of his career, in practice and in games,”” Krzyzewski said. “”His defense has improved dramatically and his effort — he’s becoming more of a complete player and he can become a really, really good player if he stays on that course.””

    Mason Plumlee, another sophomore who has had his ups and downs, can relate to what Dawkins has gone through.

    “”I think he’s hit big shots for us in recent games, and he’s doing more than just shooting the ball,”” Plumlee said. “”He’s really playing good defense and has been in on our rotation a lot more. I think he’s been playing well.””

    Although Dawkins still has a propensity to shoot early in the shot clock, he is learning to let the offense come to him. It was important for him to be ready Sunday, because there were times Krzyzewski had to use four guards against the smaller Wolverines. Dawkins said he can’t pinpoint an exact moment when he regained his confidence.

    “”I think it was gradual over a few weeks practicing well and getting extra shots up and translating that over to games,”” he said. “”Once I started hitting shots, I felt better and started playing better defense and things like that. I just needed to do other things on the court as opposed to just shooting.””

    Dawkins had to deal with personal tragedy last season. His older sister, Lacey, died in a car accident in December 2009 as she was traveling to see Duke play at St. John’s. He took a leave of absence, but returned to help the Blue Devils win the national championship.

    With more depth in the backcourt this season, with the addition of Irving and transfer Seth Curry, Dawkins has had to fight for playing time. He is averaging nearly 17 minutes and eight points.

    “”I don’t think this year has been harder because there was a lot going on last year that was a lot worse,”” Dawkins said. “”If I could make it through that last season, I could make it through any season. At the same time, we have more depth in the backcourt, and it’s a little harder to get into the rotation.””

    As the Blue Devils move on in the NCAA tournament, production from the bench and players such as Dawkins — who had a 3-pointer against Michigan to give Duke a 13-point second-half lead — will be vital.

    “”When you get into March, you need to rely on the whole team and not just one or two guys,”” Dawkins said. “”Lately that’s what we’ve been doing and that’s why we’ve been winning games, first in the ACC tournament and now in this tournament.””

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