Mike Dunleavy was sick of being pushed around.

Paul Wong
Duke junior forward Mike Dunleavy has added 25 pounds of extra muscle, and plans to use it Saturday. <br><br>AP PHOTO

While Duke”s lanky swingman proved to be a deadly 3-point shooter last season, as well as a creative slasher, Dunleavy found himself on the losing end of battles in the paint because of his wiry, 6-9, 195-pound frame.

But Dunleavy showcased his toughness on the biggest stage last season in the national title game in the ultimate coming-out party. The Lake Oswego, Ore. native”s hot shooting single-handedly gave Duke a lift it desperately needed as he added 18 of his then-career high 21 points in the second half to help Duke survive a late Arizona rally and win the coveted crown.

This year, his junior campaign, Dunleavy wanted to be bigger and better.

Committing himself tirelessly to a strength program over the summer, and putting on 25 extra pounds of muscle, Dunleavy is ready to hold his own in the low post for the defending national champion Blue Devils.

“I”ve sensed a real maturity and toughness this year in Mike,” said Duke assistant coach Chris Collins. “One thing he wanted to add is not being knocked around and not having people be as physical with him as they were earlier in his career. Now, when he goes in and bangs with bigger bodies, he can withstand the toughness.”

His garnering MVP honors at the Maui Invitational last month indicates that Dunleavy is now the one knocking people around. Collins said that Dunleavy is “really looked up to as a go-to-guy as opposed to a complementary player,” not only on the court, but as one of Duke”s co-captains.

“He”s taking over leadership of our team with (Shane) Battier gone,” Collins said. ” He”s taking over offensively and defensively and in the lockerroom.”

One of the main aspects that Duke players admit is missing from last year is the ultimate leader in Battier, whom Collins said was “the glue that made all the pieces come together.”

Dunleavy, who was Battier”s roommate last year, picked up a few pointers from the No. 6 pick in this year”s NBA Draft. Along with junior Jason Williams, Dunleavy is expected to go above and beyond their roles last season.

“Shane was such a dynamic leader that its hard for one guy to say, “Hey I”m going to be Battier,” ” Collins said. “It”s different for (Dunleavy and Williams), as now they have to step forward and take over the team. Mike”s done a good job and I think as season goes on I think you”ll see him lead this team.”

Michigan coach Tommy Amaker sees Dunleavy as an imposing threat, and is cognizant of the small forward”s tremendous versatility.

“Dunleavy may be playing the best basketball of all those guys,” Amaker said. “He”s a very tough matchup, right out of that Shane Battier mold. He”s a difficult guy to defend 6-foot-9, he shoots, he passes and is a kid who adds a lot to their team”

While the Blue Devils are struggling from behind the arc shooting a dismal 30 percent the most dangerous aspect that the Duke backcourt brings is their ability to penetrate and score or find the open man.

And when that open man is Dunleavy, he won”t be afraid to bang with anyone to get to the basket.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *