MINNEAPOLIS -- He has grown from a whining freshman who would balk at referees and make faces at teammates to a friendly, and fearless, junior who just might be the best true point guard in college basketball.
Much was made of how tough and talented Christian Laettner was when Duke won last year's national championship over Kansas, but there are those who contend that Bobby Hurley played as big a role.
And maybe bigger.
"Bobby was the most valuable player in the tournament last year," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said Sunday.
And last night, Hurley proved himself again, winning the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player award for a performance that ended with his nine points and seven assists in Duke's 71-51 victory in the championship game against Michigan.
Though Laettner was named the Most Outstanding Player last year in Indianapolis, many believed Hurley was more deserving. He did not back down against Nevada-Las Vegas. He did not come out in either game.
"He was amazing," said Krzyzewski.
As good as Hurley was at last year's Final Four, he was even better in Saturday's 81-78 victory here over Indiana in the semifinals. He carried Duke back from an early 12-point deficit by tying his career high of 26 points and equaling a school record of six three-pointers.
When they had finished, Duke (33-2) and Hurley were going to their third straight NCAA championship game together, last night against Michigan (25-8) at the Metrodome. And when they finished last night, the Blue Devils had become the first team since UCLA in 1972-73 to win two straight national titles.
"I think we've worked extremely hard all year to put us in a position to win back-to-back titles," said Hurley. "It will be great to look back and realize our accomplishments, to do something that no team has done for a long time."
There were moments earlier this season when Hurley wasn't sure if he'd be around to enjoy this year's Final Four, particularly after he broke his foot in early February while playing against North Carolina.
It would be Duke's first defeat of the season, but when he came off the court in Chapel Hill after the game, Hurley wasn't sure if he had played his last game. He had a feeling that the foot was broken, and began to think the worst.
"I feared I would be out for the rest of the season," Hurley recalled. "When I heard that I'd be out only a few weeks, a part of me was a little excited. I had never been hurt like that before. It was great to get back on the court."
Though his timing, and shooting, were off for a while, it looked as if Hurley was getting back to where he had been early in the season when the Blue Devils blitzed the Tar Heels by 20 points in the ACC tournament final. But as the NCAA tournament began, Hurley seemed to be regressing.
"There were a lot of reasons, but I think the main reason was playing against Danny," Hurley said, referring to a Round of 16 matchup with his younger brother, a reserve point guard for Seton Hall. "By the time we got to play them, I was totally distracted. I was a head case."
It showed. He scored four points and had six turnovers against the Pirates.
He had 22 points against Kentucky, including one huge three-pointer, but he was still making the kind of mistakes that he had as a freshman. The Blue Devils survived on Laettner's turnaround 16-footer at the overtime buzzer.
In fact, he made more turnovers in Philadelphia (13) than he had during the entire tournament last season (10). There was talk that the seemingly premature return from his foot injury had started to catch up with Hurley. But that talk was silenced against Indiana.
"The focal point of our defense was stopping Laettner, but Bobby Hurley killed us," said Hoosiers center Eric Anderson. "He was on fire."
There was no pouting when the Blue Devils fell behind early, no gloating when Duke seemed to have put the game away, no panicking when Indiana made a frightful run with four straight three-pointers in the closing minute to chop a 13-point lead to three.
"Bobby Hurley was most responsible for us winning," said Krzyzewski.
NCAA championship history
Year.. Site.. .. .. Result.. .. .. .. .. .. .. MVP
1939.. Evanston, Ill.Oregon 46, Ohio St. 34.. . None selected
1940.. Kansas City.. Indiana 60, Kansas 42.. .. Marvin Huffman, Indiana
1941.. Kansas City.. Wisconsin 39, Wash. St. 34 John Kotz, Wisconsin
1942.. Kansas City.. Stanford 53, Dartmouth 38. Howard Dallmar, Stanford
1943.. New York.. .. Wyoming 46, Georgetown 34.. Ken Sailors, Wyoming
1944.. New York.. .. Utah 42, Dartmouth 40, OT. Arnold Ferrin, Utah
1945.. New York.. .. Oklahoma A&M 49, NYU 45.. Bob Kurland, Okla. State
1946.. New York.. .. Oklahoma A&M 43, N.C. 40.. Bob Kurland, Okla. State
1947.. New York.. .. Holy Cross 58, Oklahoma 47 George Kaftan, Holy Cross
1948.. New York.. .. Kentucky 58, Baylor 42.. . Alex Groza, Kentucky
1949.. Seattle.. .. Kentucky 46, Oklahoma St. 36 Alex Groza, Kentucky
1950.. New York.. .. CCNY 71, Bradley 68.. .. . Irwin Dambrot, CCNY