Originally created 01/18/98

Best is yet to happen to Avery



DURHAM, N.C. -- College life has so far been good to Augusta's William Avery, and it only promises to get better.

Though the Duke freshman had an off-day shooting on Saturday, scoring eight points on 2-for-10 from the floor off the bench in the No. 2 Blue Devils' 81-80 win over Clemson at Cameron Indoor Stadium, teammates say the best is yet to come for Avery.

"He is our point guard of the future and he's going to be a great one," said first-year Duke assistant Johnny Dawkins, a former Blue Devils point guard and national college player of the year in 1986. "Even on a day like today when his shots weren't falling, he's still aggressive, he's still creating things. You can just tell he's going to be a special player. He already is."

Avery starred for three seasons at Westside High before playing his senior year at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia and has been an impact player off the bench for Duke, averaging 9.4 points in 19.9 minutes a game.

But the 18-year-old knows there is still so much to learn.

"The most important thing about playing college ball is maturity and strength," Avery said. "There's a lot more contact and you've got to be able to take blows, mental and physical. I feel like I've definitely grown up a lot but there's still a ways to go and a lot of things I can learn on and off the court."

Avery learned quickly that the things he admittedly got away with as a high school superstar would not cut it at Duke.

On the eve of his college debut as Duke opened the season on the road at Army, Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski suspended Avery for the game after he missed a class.

"That was probably the best thing that could have happened to me," said Avery, who left Westside for Oak Hill because of academic troubles. "That made me grow up right there. That was another important lesson in my life. I know that Coach K isn't going to take stuff like that and I appreciate him for coming down on me. It has made me a better, more responsible person."

Avery's maturity on the court has also grown.

"You could really see today how much confidence and leadership ability he has gained since he first got here," Dawkins said. "He didn't hit his shots but he guarded (Clemson guard Terrell) McIntyre real well and was aggressive on offense. When he's on the floor, he carries the rest of the team, whether he's scoring or not."

Ironically, that's been one of the biggest challenges for Avery. He's had to learn that his value on the floor goes beyond his ability to score.

"When Coach K put me out there he puts the ball in my hands and I've had to learn to be a true leader," Avery said. "If a certain guy pushes the ball up court and turns it over, I'm the one who's responsible. If someone takes a bad shot, it's my fault. That's what I've learned. How to take responsibility for the other four guys on the floor. You've got to try to get them going first before you worry about yourself."

Duke senior point guard Steve Wojciechowski would agree. Avery is coming along quite nicely.

"Will is going to be a great, great player," Wojciechowski said. "I know I sure wish I could do the things he can do out there."