Fighting back tears, and occasionally wiping them away, they'll say, "We've just got to work hard this offseason to get better."
Duke's players said it after the loss to Lehigh ended their tournament run just outside the starting blocks. Within a few days, the players had met with the coaching staff to discuss what specifically they should work on over the summer.
For some reason, the media wasn't invited to those one-on-one meetings. So here's our best guess at what each of the Duke players will be improving on and adding to their game over the next few months.
Seth Curry: He probably added more to his game than any other Blue Devil during the season. He learned point guard on the job early in the season, improved his perimeter defense as the year went on, and became a threat to drive and score on shots from a variety of angles. With Austin Rivers gone, he'll be expected to score more and also be the focus of opposing defenses. The biggest thing he needs to work on is a steady diet of raw meat and nails to get the killer instinct he'll need to fill that void. He shot just 31% with the chance to give Duke the lead this season, lowest percentage on the team.
Ryan Kelly: Prior to the China trip, people were shocked at how much he'd bulked up in preparation for his junior year. Despite that, he spent most of his time on the perimeter. With the team down at least one Plumlee, and possibly two, next season, Kelly will need to crash the paint a little more. He'll need to continue to bulk up and also work on driving to the basket in order to become a true Duke "stretch four". He rebounded about 3% of his own misses this season, which was a lower percentage than guards Seth Curry and Austin Rivers. The Plumlees and Josh Hairston were all over 13%.
Mason Plumlee: In addition to gathering information and sorting through it, Plumlee will have some work to do regardless of what decision he makes. He's a consistent threat underneath the basket, but to be a high NBA draft pick either this year or next, he'll have to master the 15-foot jumper to pull his defender away from the boards. Only 7% of his shots were outside of the paint, and 63% of them were taken from inside the charge circle.
Andre Dawkins: A horrific late-season slump and season-long inconsistency make his future uncertain. The biggest thing he needs to do is straighten things out mentally and get his confidence back.
Tyler Thornton: He was praised from the outset as the team's glue and eventually developed into the team's leader. The more he can do that WILL show up in the box score, the better the team will be. That means working on driving to the hoop so he won't have to rely solely on three-pointers if defenses ignore him. In far less playing time, Quinn Cook drew almost as many fouls as Thornton did, a tribute to his ability to pressure defenders with his driving. He'll also need to work on his on-ball defense to avoid the foul trouble that plagued him in many games this year.
Josh Hairston: He brought enthusiasm and passion to the floor, but he'll need to harness that energy to be more effective. That means working on a set of post moves. Most of his shots this year were on drives or spot-up jumpers. I believe he shot one hook this year, and missed it.
Quinn Cook: He can drive the ball and run transition. If he stays healthy, he'll help speed up the Duke offense next season. Like any freshman, he was a defensive liability at times. He'll need to work on that side of the ball over the offseason, and he needs to continue to develop his outside shot and shot selection. He spent some time on the court at the same time as Thornton late in the season. The only way that lineup can work is if both of them are a threat from outside.
Michael Gbinije: Defense was what kept him from showing his slashing, driving ability in games. In the game at Wake Forest late in the year, with Hairston out with an eye injury, Gbinije was expected to get many of his minutes. Instead, he looked lost on a pair of defensive possessions and got just a single minute in that and the remaining four games combined.
Alex Murphy: He often worked out with coach Wojo before games in his redshirt season. Based on his performances in the ones I watched, he needs to keep working on his outside shot. If he and Gbinije can hold up on defense, they'll give the team a pair of wings that they didn't have this season.
Marshall Plumlee: He'll have big shoes to fill in making up for the loss of Miles on the offensive boards. If Mason declares for the draft, those shoes become as large as a circus clown's. He appeared to bulk up as the season went on, which is good, because he'll be expected to contribute from game one. He'll at least need to be able to play clean post defense and have a Josh Hairston-type energy on the offensive end. Anything extra will be a bonus for the Blue Devils.
Todd Zafirovski: He'll need to be more aggressive in seeking his shot at the end of lopsided wins. Quinn Cook tried several times to get him a basket, and T-Zaf passed up almost every opportunity.