How Good Was Kyrie Irving in College and How Did He Become the Number 1 Pick of the 2011 Draft?

Published 02/19/2021, 1:36 AM EST
Feb 9, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) dribbles the ball during the second quarter against the Detroit Pistons at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports


The NBA might have seen multiple skilled players in the league, but Brooklyn Nets’ guard Kyrie Irving is certainly up there. Irving is certainly one of the best ball handlers in the game right now.

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The electric point guard might be seen as a volatile player, but there is no doubting the skills he possesses. But was Uncle Drew this good in his college days?

Kyrie Irving’s mixed college career

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When an 18-year-old Kyrie Irving committed to Duke on October 22, 2009, it seemed like the perfect fit. The blazing point guard was joining a program coached by the legendary Mike Krzyzewski and was in the perfect place to become better at his game.

Irving’s talent was on full display in the first game itself when Duke defeated Princeton in their season opener 97-60. Kyrie had an impressive start to his college career as he scored 17 points, 9 assists, and 4 rebounds.

His exceptional form continued in his next seven games as he went on to average 17.5 points per game on 52.9% shooting, along with 4.3 assists, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.5 steals. His performance caught many people’s attention, and he was in serious consideration to become the NCAA Freshman of the Year.

But unfortunately, Irving suffered a severe ligament injury in his right toe and missed the majority of the season. He did make his return in the first round of the NCAA tournament and put up an amazing 28-point performance in the Sweet Sixteen against Arizona, but despite his heroics, Duke couldn’t win.

Kyrie became one of the top picks in the draft as he showed the potential to be a splendid scorer and was also a potent distributor of the ball.

How did Kyrie Irving become the number 1 pick of the 2011 draft?

Uncle Drew’ might have missed multiple regular-season games in Duke, but there were no doubts about how talented a player he was. The then 19-year-old showed immense potential as a guard. Pundits even compared him with the likes of Mike Conley and John Wall.

The Cleveland Cavaliers had got the first pick after eight long years. The last time they had the number 1 pick, they had drafted a franchise player in LeBron James who led the team to the NBA finals.

Jan 20, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving (11) dribbles in the first quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Cavs wanted their number 1 pick to be a franchise cornerstone and most of the pre-draft reports suggested that Kyrie was their choice to fill this position. The Cavs drafted the 6’2 guard with their number 1 pick of the 2011 draft.

Irving did not disappoint in his rookie season and was impressive as he averaged 18.5 points, 5.4 assists, and 3.7 rebounds per game as a rookie. With these insane stats, Kyrie became the Rookie of the Year for the 2011-12 season.

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But the team was not achieving much success. Irving finally played in his very first playoff series in the 2014-15 season as the Cavs welcomed LeBron James. But ‘Uncle Drew’ did not play his first NBA finals until 2015-16.

In 2015-16, Kyrie and the Cavs finally got their hands on the coveted Larry O’Brien trophy. To date, it remains the maiden championship that Irving has won.

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The 28-year-old is trying to win his second championship with the Brooklyn Nets now. With the likes of Kevin Durant and James Harden, Kyrie and the Nets are arguably the biggest threat to the champions, the Los Angeles Lakers. Can Irving and the Nets dethrone the Lakers this season?

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Aditya Mohapatra

733 articles

Aditya Mohapatra is a sports enthusiast who primarily covers the NBA for EssentiallySports. Having graduated in Mass Communication, he has prior experience in writing for ABP News, and has been writing for EssentiallySports since November 2020. This die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan feels that LeBron James is the best thing to have ever happened to the NBA, and will hold a healthy debate with anyone suggesting otherwise.

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