Kyrie Irving thought twice about leaving

Duke freshman Kyrie Irving tried to envision what life would be like if he returned to school next year instead of leaving for the NBA draft.

"Similar to Kemba Walker at UConn, being the go-to guy," Irving said Thursday.

Being the centerpiece of a strong national championship contender wasn't enough to sway Irving, of course. He's expected to be one of the top picks in the draft after needing only 11 games as a Blue Devil to show off his talent.

But, according to Irving, he did consider going back to school after Duke lost to Arizona in the Sweet 16.

"I really considered it based on the fact on how much it hurt to lose in the NCAA tournament," Irving said. "That was a devastating loss for me. I felt me coming back would make everything click. It was weighing on my shoulders for about two weeks. That would have been the deciding factor for me coming back -- me wanting to win a national championship next year."

Ultimately, neither the toe injury that cost him more than three months of action nor the potential of an NBA lockout were enough to make him come back to school.

"Having an opportunity to be such a high pick at such a young age is an opportunity not many people will have," said the 19-year-old Irving, thanking each media member who congratulated him.

Irving called coach Mike Krzyzewski on Wednesday afternoon with the news, and the two spoke for about a half hour. He thanked Coach K for helping turn him into a better player -- even as he sat out injured -- and felt the Duke experience would help him become a better pro.

"I felt really immature in terms of on- and off-the-court preparation," Irving said. "That was one thing coach helped me out with along with Kyle [Singler] and Nolan [Smith].

"When you come into Duke and play at such a high level, you're going to have to play like a professional and prepare like a professional."