Duke's perfect role player Basketball: Old Mill product Todd Singleton is proud to ride the bench and the No. 7-ranked Blue Devils are proud to have him.

March 05, 1997|By Alex Gordon | Alex Gordon,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When his time as a Duke basketball walk-on is over, Severn native Todd Singleton will walk away with perhaps the most valuable experience of his life.

"It's definitely been by far my best class at Duke, to best understand myself and how I operate," said Singleton, a junior electrical engineering major who carries a 3.5 grade point average. "I'm learning more and more to dig deep, push myself and be a part of something bigger than myself."

Singleton has been a fixture at the end of the Blue Devils' bench for three years since earning a walk-on spot with an impressive showing during open tryouts. The former Old Mill basketball and track star maintains a level head about playing in one of college basketball's most prestigious programs.

"Coach [Mike Krzyzewski] asked me to be on the team to help reach team goals," Singleton said. "Not so much to develop into a game-time player, but so that I can push my teammates to the best they can be for game day. I bring a desire to win and the intensity, defensive effort and drive that come with it."

Singleton has seen limited playing time, usually at the end of lopsided games, but he relishes the opportunity to develop as a player to gain quality minutes. Last year, he collected four points against rival North Carolina in only one minute of action, and this year he has played in eight games, notching 1.5 points per game.

"There haven't been a lot of non-conference teams we've played that we've watched on the tapes and not thought, 'Todd could play for that team,' " said assistant coach Quinn Snyder. "That's a testament to his ability as a player.

"More than anything else, Todd gives a consistent presence on defense. Much of the improvement of Jeff Capel, Trajan Langdon and Ricky Price is due to Todd's defense on them in practice. His work ethic is an example for a lot of our guys."

Indeed, Singleton's game and the dedication which helped elevate it have earned him the respect of his peers.

"He's a great guy to have around. He brings a positive attitude and we're really lucky that he's a part of our team," said junior guard Steve Wojciechowski, a former Cardinal Gibbons standout and Severna Park native. "He has really improved. He is a legitimate college basketball player."

During his three years as a Blue Devil, Singleton has accompanied the rest of the team on an emotional roller coaster.

As a freshman, he watched Duke sink to unfamiliar depths as the team struggled to a 13-18 record and a last-place finish in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Last year, the Blue Devils improved to a modest 18-13 mark, exiting the NCAA tournament after a first-round loss to Eastern Michigan.

Singleton's junior season, however, finds the Blue Devils ranked seventh in the nation. They are regular-season ACC champs, seeded first for the upcoming tournament, and will play the winner of the N.C. State-Georgia Tech game Friday.

"We've been to the bottom and now we've got a good shot of reaching the top," Singleton said. "What we've been through is fuel to the fire. It has strengthened us. I've learned that to achieve every day you have to put your heart on the line and not live off the past."

But just as Singleton has learned not to live off the past, he also recognizes the uncertainty of a walk-on's basketball future.

"My experience has been a time of tremendous growth and blessings," he said. "I have had incredible ups and incredible downs. If I'm on the team next year, then I'll do what I do with passion. If I'm not, then I'll re-direct my energies and keep moving."

Singleton, who is on an academic scholarship at Duke, plans to pursue a career as a professional engineer, probably in the electrical field.

Pub Date: 3/05/97

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