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Adam Smith | Times-News Burlington | January 27, 2018

Critiques form part of the process for Blue Devils' freshman Carter Jr.

Duke freshman Wendell Carter has delivered three 20-point performances in the last eight games.

DURHAM -- For all of the size, strength, skill and potential that Duke's Wendell Carter Jr. has to offer, Grayson Allen considers the freshman forward's ability to process constructive criticism among his best assets.

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To Allen, the Blue Devils' senior leader, that's a mark of maturity and the sign of a teammate committed to improving.

"No matter what it is," Allen said, "I can get on to him out there on the court and he responds right away. 'I've got you, OK, I've got you.' When you tell him, it's fixed in an instant."

As second-place Duke meets league leader Virginia on Saturday in an Atlantic Coast Conference showdown that will impact the uppermost reaches of the national rankings, Carter arrives showing signs of continuing growth, coming off back-to-back 20-point games for the first time in his college basketball career.

Carter has connected at a 22-for-30 rate from the field, 73.3-percent shooting, during the last three games, victories at Miami, against Pittsburgh and at Wake Forest.

An imposing post presence at 6-foot-10, he also has hit at least one 3-pointer in four straight games, an area that has prompted Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski to commend Carter's increasing comfort with stepping out away from the basket.

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Whatever numbers are produced by the Blue Devils on Saturday afternoon figure to be hard-earned, given Virginia's status as the country's stingiest defense. The Cavaliers have held six of their last seven opponents to 52 points or less, after suffocating Clemson 61-36.

Meanwhile, Carter, who could be viewed as Duke's fourth option behind Marvin Bagley III, Allen and Gary Trent Jr., has delivered three 20-point performances in the last eight games. He had one of those across the season's first 12 games.

"He wasn't heavy when he came in, but he's probably about 12 to 15 pounds lighter," Krzyzewski said of Carter, who started the season listed at 259 pounds. "He's just continued to work at conditioning. He has better endurance. He's gotten accustomed to facing the basket, too. In high school, even for USA (national teams), he didn't take those shots.

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"I think he's a terrific player. He's going to play basketball for a long time and be a really good player, because he can shoot, he can handle, he's smart and he's 6-10, 245. Other than that, he stinks."

Krzyzewski laughed, having said that last line clearly in jest, after Carter supplied 23 points and 12 rebounds in Duke's defeat of Wake Forest this week.

Wake Forest 7-footer Doral Moore gobbled up five offensive rebounds during the first half of that game Tuesday night, turning those boards into four put-back scores that included three big dunks.

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Moore had supplied 14 points by halftime, a contribution that had kept Wake Forest in the game. Allen said he made it a point to instruct Carter that Moore's crashing of the offensive glass needed to cease.

Carter, while compiling 16 points and eight rebounds in the second half, responded with a more concerted effort to get a body on Moore and box out. Moore had four points, one offensive rebound and four fouls in the second half. He fouled out with 2:18 remaining.

"Certain stuff like that," Allen said, referring to Carter's handling of constructive criticism. "He's extremely mature. He plays beyond his years. He's in so much control out there."

This article is written by Adam Smith from Times-News, Burlington, N.C. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.