RALEIGH, N.C. — Kyrie Irving’s jump to the NBA after one season at Duke had more to do with his dream than his toe.
The point guard said Thursday the toe injury that robbed him of 3½ months of his only year in college “wasn’t a big factor” in his decision.
“I wouldn’t have come back during the NCAA tournament when I did if I was worried about re-injuring my toe. … If I were to come back, then I would have complete confidence that I would complete the entire year,” he said.
Irving spoke during a conference call one day after announcing he would leave Duke early for the NBA draft and planned to hire an agent.
Irving jammed his right big toe Dec. 4 and didn’t play again until the NCAA tournament. That reduced his college career to only 11 games, during which he averaged 17.5 points, 3.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists for Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils.
“It was really a tough decision for me, personally, because both situations were beneficial to me,” Irving said. “If I would have come back, I would have gained a lot more experience under Coach K. … That was hard to let go, especially in the culture that’s built here that I was a part of. It’s something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
“But on the other hand, deciding to go the NBA is just my ultimate dream,” he added. “I’ve been dreaming about it for a while, and having that opportunity to be such a high pick at such a young age is an opportunity that many people won’t pass up.”
Irving is widely expected to be one of the first players taken if not the No. 1 overall pick. The June 23 draft is in Newark, N.J., about 10 miles from his hometown of West Orange.
He said he’s “not in any rush” to hire an agent and probably wouldn’t settle on one until after May 8 — the deadline for underclassmen to withdraw from the draft and return to school. He said his father, Drederick, is in charge of talking with interested teams. Until he selects an agent, Irving plans to work out at Duke.
Irving anticipates an NBA lockout though apparently that wasn’t enough of a concern to sway his decision.
“When it gets to that point, that’s when I’m going to really have to decide what I’m going to do,” Irivng said. “But as of right now, the draft is still going to happen and I know there’s going to be a lockout, but I just haven’t figured out everything of what I’m going to do going forward when the lockout occurs.”
Irving also might have let some recruiting news slip during the 12-minute conference call, implying that highly touted prep forward DeAndre Daniels could be headed to Duke to join an incoming class that already includes guard Austin Rivers, the son of Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers. Daniels has yet to announce his college choice.
When asked if he wondered how good the Blue Devils might be next season had he not turned pro, Irving replied that “next year’s team would be really special if I were to return.
“I think we have about five recruits coming in with the addition of DeAndre Daniels, so that would be five recruits. It would be really special because that would give me the chance to lead the team similar to what Kemba Walker was doing at UConn,” Irving said.
But Irving knows he can’t worry about what might have been, and can’t bring back the time that slipped away while he was injured.
“There are a lot of what-ifs in the back of my head. Always,” Irving said. “They’re in the back right now. Right now, I’m just thinking ahead, and thinking about what I can do to best prepare for this NBA draft.”