Okay, here’s the deal. We’re going to try to rank the top five Blue Devil point guards on a level playing field. You’ve got a lot of choices from a pool of immense talent so let’s give it a shot.
Kyrie Irving would likely be number one if he had played four years at Duke instead of eleven games. What he showed us in those eleven games was pretty darn impressive. Steve Wojciechoski was a huge team sparkplug and earned the national title of Top Defensive Player of the Year in his senior season. Quin Snyder was a fine point guard and he had respectable stats in almost all categories but not the very top stats in most. Jon Scheyer stepped in, served admirably as team quarterback and his scoring (2077) and rebound (522) totals excel most other rivals. Though his assist to turnover ratio was excellent, the totals were rather low. Surely this was partly because he didn’t play point throughout his Duke career. Again, with Jim Spanarkel, his point totals and career rebounds exceed some of the others but he only had 399 total assists. Nolan Smith also did well at point, though that was not his natural position throughout his Duke career. Though playing quite a bit at point, he still was able to score 1911 points—a nice total.
#5 – Tommy Amaker: Tommy Amaker was a terrific team leader, an All American, and won the 1987 national defensive player of the year. He also led the Duke team to the national championship game in 1986. But he had less career points (1168), less rebounds (308), less assists (708), less steals (259), and less blocks (11) than my number four ranked point. (Granted, there’s a good chance he would have scored more points than Duhon but the 3-point shot wasn’t initiated until his senior year).
#4 – Chris Duhon: Chris Duhon took over the point guard spot a ways into his freshman season after Carlos Boozer went down with an injury so he only started ten games that season. He ended up after four years with 1268 points, 819 assists, 489 rebounds, 301 steals, and 16 blocked shots. Perhaps partly because he set up so many teammates to score, he may not have been as flashy or noticeable on the court, but he was the second winningest player in Duke history behind Shane Battier.
#3 – Dick Groat: Some may feel I’m stepping out on a limb with my number three selection but if we had seen Dick Groat play, I believe he’d leave us gaping…a lot. A number of things must be taken into account regarding Groat. First, freshmen couldn’t play on varsity so he played only three years. In one varsity season the team only played about 19 games, far less than more recent teams. And, of course, there was no 3-point shot either. Groat was a 2-time All American and 2-time National Player of the Year. If a game was in jeopardy he had the ability to take over and win. Against North Carolina and George Washington University respectively he scored 48 and 46 points in 1952. Record keeping was atrocious during this period, especially when it came to stats such as assists and rebounds. He is listed as having 229 career rebounds and 229 career assists, but undoubtedly the correct number was much higher. Blocks and steals were apparently not tallied carefully. Adding his final year’s point totals to simulate four years, his career points scored becomes a whopping 2666. Groat was a 5’11” streak of lightning and when he was on a rampage, no one player could stop him.
#2 – Jason Williams: Jason Williams was another Duke player who only played for three years, but for two of those years he was voted National Player of the Year. If we add his junior year totals to simulate a senior season Williams ends up with 2825 points scored, 831 assists, 515 rebounds, 311 steals, and 14 blocks. He also led Duke to a national championship in 2001. He was another player with an ability to dominate a game if called upon. An amazing talent.
#1 – Bobby Hurley: Bobby Hurley was the quintessential point guard—he was everything a coach could want: great quickness, a smart passer and slick ball handler, he could both shoot, take it to the hoop, and play a stifling defense. Every one of his career stats may not top all other point guards, but his crowning achievement was leading his team to two national championships. In his four years at Duke he scored 1731 points, and had 1076 assists, 306 rebounds, 202 steals, and 5 blocks.
One could make an argument that the point guard is the most crucial player on a team. He runs the offense and sparks the defense. He can create ingenious plays or bonehead misses. He can make a teammate look better than he is or make everyone look worse. He can sneak a ball into impossible slots or get the ball stolen regularly. I realize everyone has their personal favorite Duke point and you may disagree with some of my selections. But the debate is half the fun.