BOISE — Simultaneously, Nick Duncan's size was an advantage and an impediment.
During his freshman season at Boise State in 2013-14, the 6-foot-8 Aussie at times showed huge flashes of potential with his outside shooting ability. But struggles with conditioning meant often being beaten inside and spending less time on the floor.
"It definitely didn't help me, definitely a negative," Duncan said. "I want a bigger role this year, and if that's going to happen, I need to be in better shape than I was."
Duncan finished last season at 262 pounds and played at a high of 265. Today, he is visibly more slim, weighing 248 pounds. The goal is to get under 240 by the time the season starts.
"He doesn't look like a beer league player anymore. He's looking like a Mountain West player," Boise State coach Leon Rice said.
Though Duncan may not have looked like an Aztec, Rebel or Lobo, he was a unique Bronco, comfortable at his size on the perimeter. Duncan shot 41.0 percent on 3-pointers and averaged 5.0 points in 17.1 minutes per game.
However, the rigors of his first season of hoops in the United States with some extra weight took a toll. He had 56 points in the Broncos' last 15 games (3.7 ppg).
"I really want to be a starter, play more minutes, be a contributor to the team," said Duncan, who played in 34 games and started 10.
With less to carry up and down the floor, it should help Duncan get better looks at the basket and be quicker on the defensive end. It could help him be more of a factor down low on a roster that will have more height in 2014-15 and will need to help pick up the rebounding slack left with Ryan Watkins' graduation.
At times, Duncan spelled Watkins, but had tough moments against bigger, taller players. He hit 41 3-pointers, but only 14 2-point baskets his freshman year.
"I just kind of came in and shot 3s the whole time," Duncan said. "I want to put more emphasis on being a force inside while still being able to play outside. I was the wrong kind of heavy. I can be leaner and lighter but have more muscle, which is the goal."
Strength coach Adam Hermann installed a plan for Duncan to eat smaller portions, drink more water and add a few more sprints during workouts. It produced immediate results, as Duncan dropped nearly 20 pounds before he went in May to Australia for two months, returning last weekend with the lost weight maintained.
"You look at the past at what we've had in the past, with guys like Derrick (Marks) and Anthony (Drmic) that went from freshmen that played to sophomores that were really good Mountain West players, and I hope to see that sort of jump with Nick," Rice said. "He's certainly working hard enough on his body."
On the road, Duncan could hear the jeers, calling him "Duncan donuts" or other somewhat chuckle-worthy quips. This season, he might look a little more like a man that orders off the low-calorie menu.
"You brush it off, you expect it from every crowd - but it's a little motivation - hopefully next time they see me, they won't be having to say that anymore," Duncan said.
BRONCOS TO PLAY AT N.C. STATE
Rice confirmed Tuesday the Broncos will play at North Carolina State this upcoming season.
Rice said the game is slated to be played the day after Thanksgiving in Raleigh, N.C. There are no plans for the Wolfpack to return to Boise. North Carolina State, a two-time NCAA national champion, has reached the NCAA Tournament in all of coach Mark Gottfried's three seasons.
Dave Southorn: 377-6420, Twitter: @IDS_Southorn