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In his own quiet way, junior Kyle Singler showed Tuesday exactly why he chose to remain at Duke University.

Seated to the left of Blue Devils men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, Singler didn't say much but smiled throughout a morning news conference in Durham, N.C., and looked generally at ease with the path he has chosen.

"Once it came down to it, I just felt like this was the right decision," he said of delaying a move to the NBA for one more season.

Projected as a mid-to-late first-round selection in the upcoming draft, Singler said that he couldn't have gone wrong with either decision, which lessened the pressure as he weighed his options over the weekend.

The former South Medford High standout said he tried to remain open-minded throughout the decision process, and really wasn't settled on the direction he would go until Monday.

"I kinda put myself in both shoes," he said of the process. "I wanted to see myself if I left and I wanted to see myself if I stayed. I thought that was very important to make my decision."

In the end, the lure of remaining at Duke for his senior season, with all that entails academically and athletically, was too good to pass up. The Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four is ahead of pace to graduate with his class and said he's confident another year of college basketball will only serve to make him more ready to step right into the NBA next year.

Krzyzewski said he learned the news in true Singler style Monday, nonchalant to the very end.

"Yesterday when he told me for sure what he was going to do, the first thing I asked him is, 'Are you happy in your heart,'" said the coach. "And, you know, Kyle says more with his face in his eyes and his smile, and he just said, 'I'm good.' And I said, 'Then we're good, too. As long as you're good, we're good.'"

In reality, Singler's decision not only makes Duke good for the 2010-11 season, it makes the Blue Devils the preseason favorite to repeat as ACC — and, in many minds, NCAA — champions.

The three-time All-ACC selection has posted a 93-18 record (.838) while at Duke and ranks 18th on the school's career scoring list with 1,767 points. Only Jason Williams (2,079) and J.J. Redick (1,805) have scored more points in their first three seasons.

Singler said his teammates were "very excited" when informed of his decision.

"I think they're glad that I made the decision and I think now we can just focus on the year to come," said Singler, whose 108 points were the most in the 2010 NCAA tourney.

After leading Duke to its first NCAA championship since 2001 and fourth overall, the 6-foot-8, 230-pound standout said it's not unreasonable to be thinking about a repeat performance for the Blue Devils.

"I think for everyone, when you're trying to do something in college, especially here, you set your goals high, and a national championship is reasonable for this team," he said. "I think a goal for us to come back and defend our title is something to be passionate about."

Duke loses outgoing seniors Jon Scheyer, Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek but retains a solid nucleus in seniors-to-be Singler and Nolan Smith, junior Miles Plumlee and sophomores Mason Plumlee, Andre Dawkins and Ryan Kelly. Duke will also gain the services of sophomore Seth Curry, whose brother, Stephen, plays for the Golden State Warriors. Seth Curry sat out this past season after transferring from Liberty but practiced all season with the Blue Devils.

Freshman recruits Kyrie Irving, a point guard ranked among the top five in the Class of 2010, Tyler Thornton and Josh Hairston should provide speed and athleticism, as should junior college transfer Carrick Felix.

"We're going to play much faster next year and we'll have more depth and press more," said Krzyzewski, "but still try to keep some of the same things (we did this year). We really rebounded and played defense this year."

Krzyzewski said Singler's return will have as much of an impact on the defensive end as it will for the Blue Devils' potential on offense.

"One of the things I see going into next year, I see Kyle as somebody who will captain our defense," said the coach. "I think he has a really great understanding of defense. He's one of the best defensive players in the country this year and we have to take advantage of that and he needs to share that knowledge with his teammates."

Shouldering more of a leadership role suits Singler just fine, and it's another reason he opted to remain in school.

"I think one thing that I do want to improve on, and coach and I have talked about it, is my leadership," said Singler, who turns 22 on May 4. "Being a senior and coming back with Nolan and some of the other guys, I think my leadership will grow and get better, and I think that will definitely help me as a player."

Krzyzewski said he plans to utilize Singler's skills on the perimeter, but in certain sets he'll also be asked to work in the low post next season.

"I see using him in a lot of ways," said the coach. "I think Kyle would be very much like how I used Grant (Hill), (Shane) Battier, (Mike) Dunleavy "… where you just use him everywhere. He can be in there with any lineup being very versatile."

Singler has averaged 15.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game in his first three seasons at Duke. An average senior campaign statistically would leave him fourth in career scoring, ahead of Mike Gminski.

However, if he matches the 707 points he scored this season, he would surpass Christian Laettner's third-place total of 2,460 points.

The top five players on that list have all had their jerseys retired.

"He's an amazing guy to coach," Krzyzewski said of Singler. "Kyle has a great heart, he's a warrior. And through leadership, I think he can bring out the heart of others on our team."

Krzyzewski said he and top assistants Chris Collins and Steve Wojciechowski contacted representatives from "more than half of the NBA" on Singler's behalf, from NBA presidents to general managers, and even some agents — and the results were all positive.

"I think he had really good information; I don't think anything was scary," he said. "If he did go I think he'd be successful, but it's a matter of how you want to go and what do you want to get, and then how successful do you want to be."

"Everybody's positive about Kyle "… Kyle will be a pro," added Krzyzewski. "And he'll be a great player for us next year. My feeling is when he goes into the NBA, he should be an outstanding player and not just be in the NBA."

While some underclassmen are flocking to this year's draft because of the looming potential of an NBA lockout after the 2010-11 season, Krzyzewski said he's not confident that will be an issue a year from now.

"Obviously no one can say for sure if there will be one or not," he said. —… The NBA really cannot afford to have a lockout. They'll have intense negotiations, but they can't afford not to play. The research we did is that the potential of not having it is much greater than the potential of having it."

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, or e-mail khenry@mailtribune.com

Former South Medford standout Kyle Singler spoke with the media on Tuesday about his decision to remain at Duke for his senior season. - AP