Devil of a curse
Duke players enter into Coach K's fold as McDonald's All-Americas and leave as Wooden All-Americas -- but what the heck happens when they reach the NBA? Jay Williams' tragic motorcycle wreck is only the latest chapter in the NBA hex on Duke.
BeDeviled again ??? Bulls' Williams latest victim of NBA hex on ex-Dookies

Generally, I make it a practice not to put much stock in anything based on the occult. But darn it if this so-called "Duke curse" doesn't keep picking up steam.The latest victim: Jason "Jay" Williams, former consensus All-America and player of the year, a simply dominating college player who once scored eight points in a 13-second span to stun Maryland. Of all the greats who have passed through Mike Krzyzewski's program over the years, none seemed more suited for Hall of Fame-type NBA careers than Williams, the No. 2 pick in last year's draft, and Grant Hill, the 1995 co-rookie of the year. Instead, today they are the most visible symbols of an altogether puzzling phenomenon -- the fizzling of Duke stars in the NBA. Williams last week suffered a potentially career-ending motorcycle accident, while Hill is about to miss what amounts to his third season in four years due to a lingering ankle injury. And this after both Bobby Hurley and Johnny Dawkins had promising NBA careers muted by major injuries. Exactly what kind of deal did Duke make with the devil that it's coming back to haunt its basketball standouts in such cruel ways? Wait a minute -- they are the Devils. Shouldn't they be busy inflicting these kinds of misfortunes on others? Maryland fans would tell you it's karma's way of evening out all those calls the Dookies get from ACC refs while they're in college. North Carolina fans would tell you there's no room in the NBA for more superstars after all theirs. Neither, of course, is a plausible explanation, but then again what is? How is it that the most dominant college basketball program of the past 20 years has produced not one sustained NBA stud? We're not talking about Bob Knight's old Indiana teams here, full of classic overachievers ill-suited for the more athletic realms of NBA. At Duke, they're McDonald's All-Americas going in and Wooden All-Americas coming out. Since 1989, the year Danny Ferry went No. 2 to the Clippers (before subsequently fleeing to Italy and later resurfacing as a Cleveland Cavalier), only Arizona has produced more NBA draft picks than the Blue Devils' 21. Together, they've managed to combine for just one NBA championship ring, obtained earlier this month by Ferry as a Spurs' benchwarmer. One. People, this is Duke we're talking about. Central Arkansas, former home of Scottie Pippen, has six for crying out loud. In all fairness, Duke is hardly alone in this dilemma among college's prevailing powers. Besides Baron Davis, there are not a whole lot of ex-UCLA Bruins tearing it up in the league these days. Ditto those Hoosiers. But then, we have several reasons to hold Krzyzewski's boys to a different standard, don't we? Three national championships. Nine Final Fours. Six national players of the year. And one high-profile NBA bust after another. It started with Ferry, who's managed to play in the league for 13 years but whose 7-points-per-game career scoring average hardly befits a former Naismith winner. Christian Laettner's 11 seasons have been notably more productive but still quite tame when compared with those of his former Dream Team mates. From there you've got Cherokee Parks. Trajan Langdon. Roshown McLeod. William Avery. Shane Battier started out swell but got a dose of the sophomore slump last season, losing his starting job and slipping back in most of the stat departments. And while the jury's still out on Mike Dunleavy, last year's No. 3 pick, let's just say the Larry Bird comparisons seemed to quiet down shortly after his first game. Finally, there are the three most prominent keepers of the curse -- Hill, Hurley and Williams. It wasn't that long ago that Hill had it all -- the Sprite commercials, the humanitarian awards and that fat $93 million free agent contract with the Magic. Then came the ankle injury, the surgeries and the 199 missed games the past three seasons with a prognosis for more of the same in 2003-04. As for Hurley and Williams, we may never know whether they would have reached Hill's level. Hurley's car accident came 19 games into his Sacramento Kings career, and while he returned to play parts of five more seasons, he was never the same. Williams, who averaged 9.5 points as a rookie, is in serious enough condition after his June 19 motorcycle accident for the Bulls to declare him out for next season and select a new point guard, Kirk Hinrich, in Thursday's draft. There are surely those among Duke's haters -- and when you win as much as they do, there are plenty of them -- who take a certain glee in the Blue Devils' NBA shortcomings. But you'd have to be pretty sick to wish such genuine misfortune on even one, nevertheless three, individuals. Personally, I want to see someone break the hex. It's ruining all my lifelong beliefs -- or lack thereof -- about the supernatural. The two best bets at this point are a pair of B's. Elton Brand, former No. 1 pick and rookie of the year, has been nothing but exemplary his first four seasons, averaging about 20-10 and earning his first All-Star appearance last February. The only problem: He's thus far been relegated to the dregs of the Bulls and Clippers. Meanwhile Carlos Boozer, seemingly overlooked when he slipped to the second round a year ago, put together one of the best seasons of any rookie last year in relative obscurity. That will no longer be the case for his Cleveland team next season thanks to LeBron James, so If Boozer continues to progress he could become the rare ex-Dookie who reaches stardom sooner than expected. As for Dahntay Jones, newly tabbed Memphis Grizzly, the sky's the limit at this point -- but he should still be forewarned. Stay off the motorcycles, take public transportation and -- not that we don't have faith in you, Dahntay, but just in case -- don't go spending that entire signing bonus in one place. Unfortunately, there's a decent chance you may need it sooner than expected.

from CNNSI <by> Stewart Mandel