Battier in Terps' debt

Basketball: As a sophomore in 1999, Duke's Shane Battier was known primarily for his defensive prowess. All that changed with a game against Maryland.

College Basketball

January 26, 2001|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

DURHAM, N.C. - College basketball is often measured in moments, freeze-frame memories of shots or certain games that help define a player's career. Considering the history at Duke over coach Mike Krzyzewski's first 20 seasons, those snapshots could fill the walls of Cameron Indoor Stadium.

There would be sections devoted to Johnny Dawkins and Tommy Amaker, to Danny Ferry and Mark Alarie, to Bobby Hurley and Steve Wojciechowski, and larger sections to Christian Laettner and Grant Hill. But what type of recognition would Shane Battier receive?

While Battier has not yet made a single play worthy of Blue Devils lore, the game that began to push Battier from the legions of Duke's merely talented players to a short list of its most beloved took place two years ago.

The 95-77 victory over Maryland was played here during Battier's sophomore year. In fact, that was one of several terrific games Battier has played against the Terrapins. The 6-foot-8, 220-pound senior will get another chance when second-ranked Duke meets eighth-ranked Maryland tomorrow at Cole Field House

If someone were to look at film of that 1999 game, it would be like glimpsing the future.

Or, as the case might be, the present.

The film would show Battier, known almost solely at the time for his ability to play defense, scoring 27 points by making 10 of 13 shots from the field, including a perfect 4-for-4 on threes. It would show Battier taking charge rather than simply taking charges.

The memory of that breakout game, and its significance, remains strong for Battier.

"That game jump-started my offense," Battier said recently. "I shot something like 15 or 16 percent on threes as a freshman. Ever since that game, I became a confident offensive player. I used it as a springboard to where I am right now."

Where is Battier now? He is widely considered among the top three players in the country, along with Duke teammate Jason Williams and Troy Murphy of Notre Dame. He has become one of the most versatile players in Duke history, right up there with Laettner and Hill.

With one assist today, Battier would join former college stars Danny Manning of Kansas and Lionel Simmons of LaSalle as the only players to record at least 1,500 points, 500 rebounds, 200 assists, 200 blocks and 200 steals in their careers. And there are all those charges - a school-record 94 to date.

Which is where Battier's career began.

As part of the most celebrated recruiting class in school history-one that included center Elton Brand and point guard William Avery - Battier found his niche early in his freshman year. He came off the bench and fired up his team by giving up his body, and his ego, to play defense.

"When I was a freshman and a sophomore, there wasn't any pressure on me to do anything but play defense and take charges," said Battier. "It was more carefree. I didn't have to think about what I was doing. It was a role I enjoyed playing."

Battier eventually gained a reputation as one of the best defenders in the country as a sophomore. In that role, he shut down Maryland's Steve Francis during a game in College Park two years ago. With the offense going through Brand and guard Trajan Langdon, Battier didn't worry about shooting.

"I always had the fundamentals of shooting, I just didn't shoot as much," said Battier, who averaged fewer than five shots a game his first two years. "If people thought I was a reluctant scorer back then, they should have seen me in high school. It was painful for me to take 10 shots a game."

Fruit of hard work

Working with shooting coach Chip Englund, a former Duke player whom he met at one of Krzyzewski's summer camps, Battier worked on releasing jump shots from in front of his face rather than from the side of his head. The first time he began to see results was in that Maryland game.

"It was the fruit of all the hard work," said Battier, who badly outplayed Terence Morris that night.

That game was only the first of many nightmares that Battier has given Morris and the Terps.

"I don't think he's just tough on us, he's tough on everybody," said Maryland coach Gary Williams. "He gives Terence Morris the same problems that Terence gives everybody else because he can shoot from the perimeter. You know you have to get out and defend him. The other thing he does very well that people don't talk about is his passing.

"But the thing I like about him the most," Williams said, "is that he's improved every year to where he's one of the best players in the country."

Battier's role changed dramatically when Brand and Avery left for the NBA after their sophomore years, and freshman forward Corey Maggette departed early, too. That came following Duke's defeat at the hands of Connecticut in the 1999 national-championship game.

Suddenly, the Blue Devils were being led by Chris Carrawell and by Battier.

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