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Duke transfer fitting right in alongside stars

Dahntay Jones didn't have teammates like Jason Williams at Rutgers, but the junior forward doesn't mind sharing the ball now.

By BRIAN LANDMAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 6, 2002


As his Duke teammates reveled in a moment they hoped would never end in April at Minneapolis, Dahntay Jones could only hope that time might somehow move faster.

In accordance with NCAA rules for a transfer, Jones, a former star at Rutgers, had to sit out the Blue Devils' national championship run. He was with them, earning a varsity letter for his impassioned work in practice, and yet he wasn't.

"It didn't seem like it (sitting out) was going to be that tough, but it was a long year and it seemed like it went by slow," Jones said, adding he had to combat any feelings of frustration by telling himself that "when I get my chance, it would be time to get down to business."

That time is now.

Finally.

Entering tonight's ACC game at Florida State, Jones, a 6-foot-6 junior forward, is averaging 11.5 points and 4.0 rebounds for top-ranked and undefeated Duke.

That's not as impressive as his sophomore numbers (16.0 points and 4.6 rebounds), but then he didn't have to share the ball with Jason Williams, Mike Dunleavy, Carlos Boozer and Chris Duhon at Rutgers.

"These guys are more talented, so it's a lot different," he said. "But it makes the game easier."

That's once he adjusted to a new crew, including strangely enough, Williams, with whom he grew up playing ball in parks around New Jersey. His longtime friend has improved so markedly, he said, it's as if he's a completely different player.

"He's so smart with the ball and he finishes so well, he makes all of us better. It's fun to play with him," said Jones, 21, who transferred to Duke in part to be alongside Williams again.

Williams heartily recommended his pal to his coach. Mike Krzyzewski had previously accepted just one transfer (Roshown McLeod) during his Duke tenure.

"It's not often you get to add a newcomer to your team who's been an all-rookie player in the Big East and has had an impact in major college games and is an older guy," assistant Chris Collins said. "He gives us an element we really don't have ... the explosive athlete, not only offensively, but defensively."

That's a role Nate James filled for years and, like James, Krzyzewski has decided to experiment with him as the sixth man. So, after starting the first 11 games, Jones sat and watched junior Casey Sanders, the 6-11 center from Tampa Prep, start against Davidson on Wednesday.

"We tried to shake up the chemistry a little bit, and see how it would look," Collins said. "Bringing Dahntay off the bench, all of sudden you have a guy who's averaging in double figures, who's a high-energy player and an emotional player coming off the bench and hopefully that can give you more of a spark."

Sanders had six rebounds, and Jones scored a season-high 19 points. Krzyzewski said he played with a real "fire."

"It was an adjustment for me," Jones said, but added he's all for anything that will help the team develop and possibly win a second straight title.

That would be a moment he'd like to see last.

This time, anyway.

TONIGHT: FSU VS. NO. 1 DUKE

WHEN/WHERE: 6:30; Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center.

TV/RADIO: Sunshine; WLVU-AM 1470. RECORDS: Duke 12-0, 1-0 ACC; FSU 7-5, 0-1.

COACHES: Duke -- Mike Krzyzewski (545-164, 22nd season; 618-223 overall). FSU -- Steve Robinson (59-74, fifth season; 105-92 overall).

KEY PLAYERS: Duke -- Jason Williams, G, 6-2 Jr. (22.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 4.3 apg, 1.9 spg); Carlos Boozer, C, 6-9 Jr. (17.3 ppg, 8.5 rpg); Mike Dunleavy, F, 6-9 Jr. (16.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg). FSU -- Monte Cummings, G, 6-4 Sr. (13.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg); Antwuan Dixon, F, 6-6 Sr. (11.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg); Delvon Arrington, PG, 5-11 Sr. (9.9 ppg, 7.3 apg, 4.0 rpg, 2.3 spg).

NOTES: The Seminoles have won three straight, their best stretch since the 1999-2000 season, but oh, my, now they begin the ACC schedule in earnest with the nation's defending champion and clear-cut No. 1. The Blue Devils have merely won 22 straight dating to last season, even without Shane Battier. Of course, Williams sure looks like the nation's top player. Said Robinson: "They're always good and as you continue through the season, they continue to get better. Maybe if you play them early, you don't catch them at the top of their game. Maybe all of the parts aren't working as cohesively as they will be later in the season." Maybe not The Blue Devils have beaten FSU 13 straight times and lead the series 19-2. But "They're playing really good basketball now," Krzyzewski said during his radio show. "They're a deep team and playing on the road, this is our first road ACC game, is always a little bit different. We really respect what Steve's team can do, especially on their home court." The Seminoles committed a season-high 25 turnovers against USF on Wednesday, but the Bulls parlayed them into only 24 points. You think Duke would do better? FSU will be without sophomore G J.D. Bracy, who's serving the third of a five-game suspension for a violation of team rules. Freshman G Adrian McPherson, the state's Mr. Basketball from Bradenton Southeast, joined the team full time after the football's team win in the Gator Bowl and could play more.

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