COLLEGE PARK -- He started having the dreams last summer, shortly after UNLV embarrassed Duke in the championship game of the NCAA tournament. He would be swimming in a pool of water, and suddenly he would realize he was not alone. A shark was in the water with him.
Bobby Hurley never waited around long enough to see if it was a hammerhead or great white, or if, by some coincidence, it happened to be chewing a white towel. Even asleep, he knew the right move to make. "I'd get out of that water as fast as I could," he said yesterday in the Duke locker room at Cole Field House.
The first time he had the dream, he woke up sweating. Then it started occurring regularly. Through the summer. Into the school year. "I wasn't getting eaten," said Hurley, a sophomore point guard, "but I kept finding myself in that water."
At first, he was hesitant to share his secret. He was worried he might get swallowed up one night and, who knows, maybe never be able to make another layup. Finally, he approached teammate Greg Koubek, who was taking a course on dream analysis. "What's the deal?" Hurley asked.
Koubek smiled as broadly as Dr. Freud surely did in his apartment in Vienna, back in the days before the 360-jam was so big. "Easy one," Koubek said. "It has something to do with the UNLV game."
Of course it did. Vegas' coach is Jerry Tarkanian, Tark the Shark, and the Rebels' win in the NCAA final was a nightmare for all Dukies, but in particular Hurley, who resembled a scared child among men that night, often failing to get the ball past midcourt against Vegas' pressure.
"I thought I'd put it behind me," Hurley said after his 26-point, 10-assist performance helped blow out Maryland yesterday, "but guess I hadn't if I was dreaming about shark attacks. I haven't been having the dream as much lately, though. Haven't had one in a while, in fact. Guess it's a new year."
A new year. Hurley can't take too many more, awake or asleep, as emotional as the last one. He had arrived at Duke as a heralded high-school player and proceeded to start every game, playing as one might expect a heralded freshman to play, often brilliantly, but sometimes erratically.
It was funny. Strange funny. Hurley played as well as anyone could expect an 18-year-old to play, but somehow, in the end, his reputation suffered. There was the memory of the Vegas game. There were the constant comparisons with another freshman point guard, Georgia Tech's luminous Kenny Anderson.
"This game can be tough," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was saying yesterday. "Sometimes it is hard to be 18. When a good freshman comes here, he is expected to be a finished product. Because he plays for Duke. It's like he's not allowed to dribble the ball off his leg, or panic, or do anything a freshman might."
Hurley is not Kenny Anderson, but then Anderson is the most gifted point guard to come along in years, a star in the making. Hurley, alas, will have to settle for being just another six-footer whom virtually any coach in the country would want running his )) team. Oh, and incidentally, when Hurley's team played Anderson's last week, Hurley's won, 98-57.
Krzyzewski, who coached Anderson on the U.S. National team last summer, put it oh-so simply: "Kenny and Bobby are completely different kinds of players. Bobby is a really, really good one. Let's remember that he took his team to the championship game last year."
There wasn't a better point guard in the country yesterday. Hurley made a hail of jump shots, found open men all over the floor and was chiefly responsible for the 10-point, never-look-back run with which Duke started the game, shutting down Maryland's Walt Williams despite giving away eight inches.
He played every second until only 66 were left, the stands weralmost empty and Duke had pushed back the last in a series of Maryland mini-rallies. He got tired toward the end and committed a few extra turnovers, winding up with eight, but the sum total of his work was, in Krzyzewski's words, "a special day."
The Terps had paid him little respect in the beginning, gathering almost all their defensive forces inside. "Normally I see at least some token pressure, but today I was pretty much left alone," said Hurley, whose previous game-high was 20 points. Maryland coach Gary Williams admitted that Hurley had "hit more than we thought he could." Call it another parcel of respect regained.
Afterward, Hurley showered and began putting himself into a coat and tie. Not a hair on his chest. A few pimples and some spare stubble on his face. A 19-year-old, yes. A 19-year-old, whom the home fans have kiddingly called Bart Simpson, for there is some likeness. A 19-year-old who happens to be growing up very publicly. And surviving, thank you, dreams and all.
"I'm a better player than I was last year," Hurley said, the bus waiting. "Last year I had a tendency, when something went wrong, to get down on myself and maybe not run the team for maybe a game or two. When things go wrong this year, I handle it better. So I'm more consistent. You just keep playing, and these things happen."