Blue Devils Up Against a (John) Wall

If you’ve been paying attention (and we always assume you have), you are fully aware that point guard John Wall (right), the top rated high school player in the nation (our nation, in case you were unsure) visited our beloved Duke Blue Devil’s coaching staff this past Sunday. This of course was not Wall’s first stop on campus, but it was the first time the top rated point guard and Coach Krzyzewski sat face-to-face to discuss his possible role on the 2009-10 Blue Devils. /

Of course, if you’re a Duke fan, you didn’t even have to be in the room to know what was said. Duke is a good team, with plenty of talent along the wings, but lacks both a legit big man in the middle and an athletic point guard who can run the show and penetrate through the lane (keeping the opponent’s PG out on the defensive end). Mr. Wall would naturally be a perfect fit. He could be the next Jason Williams, who led Duke to the 2001 championship.

While Coach K officially offered up a scholarship to John Wall during his visit, he will remain undecided for at least three more weeks (if not longer). While Wall has a list of five-seven teams, prior to John Calipari’s exit from Memphis, the Tigers were always the front-runners. However, with his move to Kentucky, the situation is even muddier.

Some would argue this helps Duke’s case, in fact, Wall even said as much, but think about it…why? Since Wall never committed or signed with Memphis, what keeps him from rolling to Kentucky? Hell, Calipari could potentially bring both of his big time Memphis recruits to Kentucky with him. DeMarcus Cousins, rated 2nd, never signed with the Tigers and Xavier Henry, rated 3rd (who did sign), has asked for a release (and trust me, he’ll get it). How good would Kentucky suddenly be with both Patterson and Meeks (assuming they return) and the top three recruits in the 2009 class? I’d have them in my top-five in week one.

Of course, experience counts for something (just look at the four Final Four teams right now) and Wall, by joining the Dukies, will be given the keys to a pretty damn good ride, with a possible lineup of Wall, Scheyer, Henderson (we’re assuming), Singler and most likely Mason Plumlee. Coming off the bench, you’re looking at Smith and Williams in the backfield, along with Zoubek, Thomas, Ryan Kelly and Miles Plumlee. With Wall running the point and Henderson returning, I could make a pretty good argument to have Duke #1 at the beginning of the season.

Now having said all that…is Duke making the right decision going after John Wall? It’s the question of the hour for all Duke loyalist and it’s an important question, so pay attention. John Wall’s in no rush to make a decision. I can’t really blame him. But by waiting, Duke could get left hanging with a scholarship, and no point guard.

One little story you might have missed this weekend was Connecticut’s signing of Darius Smith from Chicago. Not a bad signing considering the Huskies will probably be on probation next season. Anyhow, Smith is the 19th best point guard coming out of high school, and more importantly, he was one of two players on Duke’s radar as a potential freshman point guard. The other, Eric Bledsoe, is the 12th best point guard out of Alabama.

Both guards are strikingly similar in body and in style of play. Both are lightening quick guards, great ball handlers, with the ability to create. The difference between these two and John Wall is simply shooting. Wall is a gifted shooter and scorer, while both Bledsoe and Smith need improvement.

With Smith out of the picture, Bledsoe (left) and Wall are it for 4-star or up point guards. that’s why we have to ask, by going after and waiting for a long shot like John Wall to make his decision, will Duke miss out on Bledsoe? And a more important question…is it worth the risk? /

Wall is a amazing talent and he appears to be a good kid (don’t be fooled by his three high schools in five years. Those were basketball decisions and when you are this talented, you can do that). He could be lightening in a bottle for an experienced Duke team next year, but we can’t forget…he’s a one-and-done. He’s already said it, there’s no question about it.

The Duke coaching staff is in a tight spot, knowing that if Wall passes, Bledsoe might not be there afterwards and then we spend the rest of the summer eating cheese steaks at 99 Miles From Philly, gawking at young ladies from a safe distance, and trying to figure out how good can the Blue Devils be with a backfield consisting of only Scheyer, Smith and Williams.

That’s the risk…Eric Bledsoe won’t be there when Wall makes up his mind. You see, the kid from Alabama grew up a Duke fan, but the coaching staff was johnny-come-lately and only recently started to chase him. Now I firmly believe that if Duke offered him up a scholarship today, he’d take it yesterday (assuming he can qualify, which could be a potential problem). However, the Blue Devils haven’t offered him up a scholarship, because they’re saving it for Wall.

Currently, four teams have offered a scholarship to Bledsoe, UAB, Rutgers, Kentucky and Florida. Also, with former VCU head coach, Anthony Grant, now running the show at Alabama, I wouldn’t be too surprised if the Tide don’t take another look at him.

Of all these offers, the biggest threat is probably Florida. Billy Donovan has owned Coach K in ’09 recruiting, landing both Erik Murphy and Kenny Boynton, two players who were high on Duke’s list. Of course I didn’t think the Gators were a real threat for Bledsoe because they already have a solid point guard in sophomore Nick Calathes. However, he has declared himself eligible for the upcoming NBA draft (although he will not sign with an agent), so I wouldn’t be surprised if Coach Donovan doesn’t start to light a fire under Bledsoe.

So the question remains, does Coach Kryzewski roll the dice and hope to land a stud like Wall, who could be the final piece in a championship puzzle, or does he go after a solid point man like Bledsoe, who’s skills aren’t in the same league as Wall, but still could start at the point for Duke starting tomorrow (and do a fine job)? Man, that’s one long question. Here’s an easier way to ask it; would you take Jason Williams for one year, or Chris Duhon for four?

My gut (and my gut has been wrong so often before) is that Wall will follow Calipari to Kentucky. The change in address will have no impact. In fact, Wall’s has already stated:

From Rivals:

"“Kind of, basically would eliminate Memphis, and I would look into Kentucky,” said Wall, a 6-foot-4, 184-pound point guard from Raleigh (N.C.) Word of God Christian Academy. “I wouldn’t rush into anything. I did want to play for Coach Calipari. And if I had committed to Memphis, he is the coach I wanted to play for.”"

Hopefully for our sake, Eric Bledsoe will still be available.