Duke Basketball: Will Duke PF Ryan Kelly Finally Become a Front Court Force?

Doug BrodessCorrespondent IAugust 22, 2012

DURHAM, NC - JANUARY 21:  Ryan Kelly #34 of the Duke Blue Devils battles for a rebound with Bernard James #5 of the Florida State Seminoles during play at Cameron Indoor Stadium on January 21, 2012 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Ryan Kelly is having a nice career at Duke.

He has gone from being a sparingly-used freshmen and a key player off the bench as a sophomore to a steady starter for most of his junior season.

As he has made this progression, the 6'11" stretch 4 has gradually improved his production.

Between his sophomore and junior seasons, Kelly went from scoring 6.6 to 11.8 points per game. That's good.

He also increased his rebounding averages from 3.7 to 5.4 RPG. That's fine.

However, the questions surface as Duke's head coach Mike Krzyzewski looks ahead to the 2012-13 season:

Will Ryan Kelly finally become a frontcourt force?

Can he turn into a legitimate double-double threat?

As a senior, will he become more than a helpful third or fourth option in the Blue Devils' strategy?


Kelly is the kind of player that teases and torments Duke's faithful followers.

Last year, at the Maui Classic, he put together a three-game demonstration of the kind of player that he potentially could be: confident, engaged and aggressive. And the result: Kelly was named the holiday tournament's MVP.

Many a Blue Devil fan believed that they were witnessing the arrival of the next great Blue Devil forward. However, the glow of that moment didn't last long.

Kelly's next performance against Ohio State was unremarkable: zero points and three rebounds in 15 minutes.

In the rest of the 2011-12 season, he rode the proverbial roller coaster in terms of consistent production.

In 13 of the 31 games he played in last year, Kelly failed to reach double-figure scoring.

He has only recorded two double figure rebounding outings in three years, both coming last season (against Penn and Wake Forest).

It's not that Kelly is a liability on the court.

He was Duke's best shooter from beyond the arc in '11-12, knocking down 40.8 percent of his threes.

When he gets to the line, he is a career 80 percent free-throw shooter.

What's puzzling is to see a player who has the size and skill to be outstanding who just hasn't put it all together.

Not many people expect Kelly to all-of-a-sudden become a back-to-the-basket beast.

Kelly's strengths are found in his ability to spot up on the perimeter and drain shots from distance. However, he doesn't need to simply settle for standing outside the circle, waiting for the action to come to him.

He is too good of a free-throw shooter to only attempt four or five shots from the line per game.

In terms of rebounding, Kelly, with a little more focus, should be able to pull down 7-9 rebounds per game.

Senior years are interesting to watch.

For some players, they become more intense and more determined because it is their last time around.

For others, if they don't have early success in their last season, they tend to drift or even check out.

If Duke is going to make a deep run in the 2012-13 NCAA Tournament, the Blue Devils need Ryan Kelly at his best—dialed in and single-minded about wringing everything possible out of his final collegiate season.