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Published: Thursday, 4/1/2010

Dawkins boosts Duke

ASSOCIATED PRESS

DURHAM, N.C. - Andre Dawkins could be preparing for the prom.

Instead, he's having the time of his life in another kind of big dance.

The 18-year-old finished high school early to get a jump start at Duke. After playing the season with a heavy heart, he's hoping to continue providing an offensive spark off the bench in the Final Four.

"It's been a lot of fun, a long journey for the whole season," Dawkins said. "But this is what we looked forward to from Day 1."

He hit two clutch 3-pointers in the South Regional final victory against Baylor and will be ready if his number is called when the Blue Devils (33-5) play West Virginia (31-6) on Saturday night in Indianapolis.

"I don't really know if it has hit me yet," Dawkins said. "Maybe walking onto the court at [Houston's Reliant Stadium] and just seeing all those seats. It was kind of like, 'Wow, this is the big time right here.'"

The teenager's trip to the Final Four has capped a tumultuous, emotion-filled season for the freshman, who might be the best pure shooter on Duke's roster.

After not taking a shot in a combined seven minutes in his previous two NCAA tournament games, he knocked down two 3s against Baylor - including one in the final minute of the first half that swung momentum back to the Blue Devils and helped propel them to their first Final Four since 2004.

Dawkins had attended four years of high school in Virginia - one year of public school before transferring to Atlantic Shores Christian School and was classified as a freshman again. He found out that he needed one English class for NCAA eligibility, so he passed that class over the summer and pursued early admission to Duke.

Tragedy made his first season exponentially more difficult than for most freshmen.

His older sister Lacey was riding to Durham for the Blue Devils' game against St. John's on Dec. 7 when she was killed in a three-vehicle accident in southern West Virginia.

Their father said Andre, a laid-back and quiet teenager, keeps a photograph of his sister on his cell phone and had trouble opening up about her death, preferring to keep himself involved with basketball and academics.

It was comforting, though, that coach Mike Krzyzewski and Duke athletic director Kevin White were among those who attended the funeral and helped make the Blue Devils feel even more like an extended family for him.

"I just had great family support and all my teammates and my coaches being there for me the entire time," Dawkins said. "If there was anything I needed, wanting to talk to me, it was just a good feeling, I think that's one of the main reasons I was able to get through it as well as I did."



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