After surgery and NBA draft process, Javin DeLaurier ready to be his best at Duke
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After surgery and NBA draft process, Javin DeLaurier ready to be his best at Duke

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DURHAM, N.C. - Javin DeLaurier's most productive game coincided with the stunning end to Duke's 2019 season.

As Michigan State knocked the top-ranked Blue Devils out of the NCAA tournament, 68-67, on March 31, DeLaurier, then a junior, had his first career double-double. He knew he wanted to produce and accomplish more in his final college basketball season.

The improvement plan started with the 6-10 forward declaring for the NBA draft, which allowed him to get feedback about his game from coaches and scouts at the pro level.

After deciding to return to school in May, DeLaurier had surgery to address a nagging elbow injury.

Now he's back on campus taking part in offseason workouts along with the rest of the Blue Devils, including the four freshmen scholarship players who will be a big part of Duke's annual quest for ACC and NCAA championships.

Having achieved career highs in minutes per game (16.3), rebounds per game (4.4), blocked shots (50) and points per game (3.8) last season, DeLaurier aims for even more this season.

"I really want to try to stretch the floor and continue to finish around the basket," DeLaurier said. "Being more consistent. That is also a big thing. I can't have games where you disappear or you foul out in however many minutes. I'm really trying to eradicate that and always be a consistent contributor on the floor."

DeLaurier played all 38 games for the Blue Devils with 16 starts last season. He made 74.7% of this shots from the floor, improving his career shooting percentage to 70.6 percent. From Dec. 5 through Jan. 14, he made 19 consecutive field goals in a streak that fell one make short of former Duke player Alaa Abdelnaby's ACC record.

But the fact that DeLaurier's field-goal streak spread over nine games before he missed on Jan. 22 at Pittsburgh is evidence he wasn't on the court enough to make a large enough impact. He attempted more than three shots in a game just once during the streak and only played at least 20 minutes once.

He had three fouls or more in five of the streak's nine games. In a home game against Virginia on Jan. 19, with his streak still alive, DeLaurier fouled out while playing only seven minutes without attempting a shot.

He also recorded a 24.4% turnover rate, according to KenPom.com. That's measures the percentage of a players possessions used on turnovers. DeLaurier had the worst turnover rate on Duke's team last season.

"I've been trying to get my body right get bigger and stronger and continue to develop offensively," DeLaurier said. "It's an area I need to continue to gain confidence in. As I try to figure this out, I'll be more consistent."

Even in his best game of the season, 11 rebounds and 10 points against Michigan State in the East Region final on March 31, DeLaurier fouled four times in 23 minutes as the Blue Devils fell one win short of the Final Four for the second consecutive year.

Just like in the 85-81 overtime loss to Kansas in the 2018 NCAA tournament, DeLaurier knows just one more basket in regulation is all the Blue Devils needed to avoid a frustrating loss.

"You ain't gotta tell me," DeLaurier said, shaking his head, "Ain't gotta tell me. Heart-wrenching."

Though not projected to be drafted, DeLaurier joined fellow junior center Marques Bolden in the NBA Draft pool. Bolden stayed in and wasn't drafted but he signed a free agent deal with Cleveland.

DeLaurier withdrew by the May 29 deadline.

"I learned what goes into the draft process," DeLaurier said. "The entire step-by-step series. Getting feedback in my game from NBA executives was great for me, great for my confidence and for what I want to work on."

He's already recovered from the right elbow surgery and is already feeling better because he had it.

"It had been bothering me for a while," DeLaurier said. "Got that taken care of."

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski called DeLaurier's decision to return "huge." It gives the Blue Devils not only an experienced interior player but a returning team captain.

Outside of DeLaurier, Duke's interior rotation includes two freshmen - 6-10, 275-pound Vernon Carey and 6-9, 215-pound Matthew Hurt.

Though Hurt's reputation is as a solid scorer on the perimeter, DeLaurier cautions not to overlook him when assessing Duke's interior attack. Hurt is already working on getting stronger through workouts with Duke strength coach Will Stephens.

"I think Matt, Vernon and I are going to have the ability to be pretty interchangeable," DeLaurier said. "Matt is a lot stronger than people give him credit for. As he gets with coach Will even more, come season time I think we'll be looking at a different scenario. Even so that's a challenge we are more than happy to take on."

From NBA workouts to surgery to sculpting his body to be its best, DeLaurier put the time this summer to prepare himself for the final challenge of his college career.

Visit The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) at www.newsobserver.com

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