DURHAM, N.C. – Kyle Singler could have gone out on top at Duke. He thinks he still can.
He delivered the Blue Devils' fourth national title last April, and in doing so was named the most outstanding player at the Final Four. But the most decorated player on Duke's roster insists he still has some lingering unfinished business.
"Another national championship," Singler said matter-of-factly Thursday.
Singler averaged roughly 18 points and seven rebounds last season. He considered turning pro shortly after the Blue Devils beat Butler in the title game, but opted to return for his senior year because he enjoys college life and relishes the challenge of helping a relatively young team mature while wearing the target that always comes with being a defending champion.
"I love to see myself get better. I love to see a team get better," Singler said. "Right now, we're not anywhere close to where we're going to be at the end of the year, so I guess the process of the season, I just love that."
The journey officially begins Friday night during the school's "Countdown to Craziness" when the Blue Devils will unveil their newest national championship banner. They'll receive their championship rings.
And then they'll take their first steps toward trying to win some more of them.
"Kyle has been someone that really defines Duke basketball, and for a kid like that to come back for his fourth year and decide that he wanted to do something even more special than he already has done through his career, it shows a lot," teammate Ryan Kelly said.
"I think the true reason he came back was to be one of the few players in the world that can say they won back-to-back national championships. That's his biggest drive, his biggest motivation. When he and (guard Nolan Smith) together decided, 'We want to win another one,' there are very few people that can say they did that."
What has impressed coach Mike Krzyzewski is the muscle Singler has added to his lanky, 6-foot-8 frame; he's now at 235 pounds, after weighing in before last season at 217. Singler says he's getting close to being fully healthy after having arthroscopic surgery last month to repair some "discomfort" in his left knee.
"There's certainly an investment by the guys in the offseason — if there is such a thing for these kids nowadays — to be prepared for this season," Krzyzewski said. "Kyle's full force. He's been good in our little workouts. ... I think you'll just see a guy who's ready to take on another level of playing."
For Singler, another year means another adjustment to Krzyzewski's philosophical tweaks to take advantage of the team's strengths.
"Every year since I've been here, we've been a different team, looks-wise and even style-wise," Singler said. "This year's the same thing."
That means implementing an uptempo, full-court-pressure style because the Blue Devils boast a young but talented backcourt that features Smith, sharpshooting transfer Seth Curry, maturing sophomore Andre Dawkins and skilled freshman Kyrie Irving. That's in direct contrast to last year's group, which had one of the toughest front lines in Krzyzewski's three decades at the school, led by experienced big men Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek.
The composition of the roster might be different, but Singler hopes things click well enough to lead to the same kind of ending — namely, with the Blue Devils cutting down the nets with confetti fluttering around them.
"It's definitely different this year, because we are one of the teams that is projected to be a national championship-level team," Singler said. "Just having the mindset of wanting to do it is key for us. Also, not letting a lot of pressure get to us. When all is said and done, we're basketball players. We love to play basketball. I think that's the key to it."