Junior swingman Mike Dunleavy will become the third Duke men’s basketball underclassman to enter the 2002 NBA draft, sources confirmed Thursday night, but unlike classmates Jason Williams and Carlos Boozer, Dunleavy hasn’t hired an agent and keeps the option of returning to school.
Dunleavy, 6-foot-9, who didn’t return calls seeking comment, averaged 17.3 points and 7.2 rebounds a game this past season.
If Dunleavy pulls out of the draft and returns for his senior season, he likely would be the preseason favorite for ACC and national player of the year, and Duke would be the likely preseason ACC favorite.
Should Dunleavy turn pro – he’s considered a lock to go in the first 15 picks, and possibly the top 10 – Wake Forest’s Josh Howard and Virginia’s Travis Watson would be candidates to be ACC Player of the Year.
Dunleavy’s departure also would punctuate an already turbulent off-season that would throw next season’s ACC race into chaos. Duke could find itself competing for preseason No.1 votes with Maryland, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech and N.C. State.
The talent drain would be heaviest at the top. Without Dunleavy, the league would have lost its entire All-ACC first team, including the three Duke underclassmen. Watson would be the only second-teamer coming back if junior teammate Roger Mason Jr. stays in the draft.
National champion Maryland must replace its four leading scorers: seniors Juan Dixon, Lonny Baxter, Byron Mouton and Wilcox.
NCAA tournament team Wake Forest loses five seniors, all of whom started a significant number of games in their careers. Duke and Wake Forest have had the deepest recruiting classes, but North Carolina signed three McDonald’s All-Americans and – thanks to heavy losses around the league – could find itself back in the postseason picture quicker than imagined after going 8-20 last season.