After last-night’s 23-point performance from junior DeMarcus Nelson, the muscle-bound Californian had this to say:

I’m very confident in my shot. We have five unselfish guys. My play might be to take the shot or to make the extra pass.

This is the most encouraging news to come out of Durham since Josh McRoberts opted to stay at Duke for his sophomore season.

To this point, Coach K has been very public about the fact that he was still waiting for a player to emerge who would be willing and able to take the big shots game in and game out, someone who would lead by example and take the young Blue Devils through the fire.

After just four games, Nelson appears to be that leader.

Better yet, his outside game has improved, his endurance and strength are second to no one at his position, and his confidence is taking his play to heights that we’ve only seen glimpses of up until this point.

The Blue Devils still need Greg Paulus to find a steady hand, and still need Josh McRoberts to assimilate to his new role in the offense…but our defense appears to be ahead of schedule. Granted, after overcoming one big test against Air Force last night, a more formidable one awaits this evening against Marquette. So any conclusions we might want to arrive at now are essentially premature.

Nonetheless, I think it’s fair to say that we have more reason to be optimistic about this team’s chances now than we did four games ago.

Perhaps the biggest concern from yesterday’s game was the lack of depth indicated by our dearth of bench scoring. Just four points came from non-starters, an anomalous statistic compared to the first three games of the year.

Let’s see what happens tonight, and we’ll go from there.

Until then, take solace in the fact that our team’s identity is slowly coming together, and Nelson’s more than pulling his own weight.