Duke Basketball: Duke may be losing steam in race for Isaiah Stewart

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

The outlook for the Duke basketball program’s 2019 recruiting class continues to be bleaker by the day.

In the past five weeks, every piece of news involving the Duke basketball program and its targets from the class of 2019 has been bad news.

First, Armando Bacot — a former Duke target — picked the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Next, Bryan Antoine — the Crystal Ball at 247Sports pegged him as a Blue Devil — chose Villanova.

Then came Nico Mannion announcing his decision to attend Arizona. And there was Scottie Lewis dropping Duke from his list. Finally, Josiah James stunned experts last week by putting on a Tennessee hat.

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Well, here’s even more bad news: Five-star center Isaiah Stewart — who had cut his list to six back in August without Kentucky on it — has scheduled an official visit to Lexington for this weekend after Wildcats coach John Calipari extended him an offer earlier this month.

What makes this news even more dreary is that the 6-foot-9, 245-pound native of Rochester, N.Y., has not yet scheduled an official visit to Durham. (He just returned from an official visit to Washington.)

Also, Stewart — ranked No. 5 overall and No. 3 among centers on the 247Sports Composite — has reportedly suggested that he always wanted to receive an offer from Kentucky. Making matters even worse still for the Blue Devils, he retweeted an edited photo of himself wearing a Kentucky jersey on Monday and recently made a statement that is plenty worrisome in the eyes of Duke basketball fans:

"“Kentucky speaks for itself. It’s known for being a one-and-done powerhouse. Coach Cal (John Calipari) has the most pros in the league,” Stewart said, according to Corey Evans of Rivals.com. “Although they came in late, it is hard not to listen to someone like him and coach (Kenny) Payne. I am looking forward to the visit, seeing the plan they have in store for me and what the atmosphere is like with Big Blue Nation.”"

In August, 91 percent of the experts at 247Sports’ Crystal Ball predicted Stewart would eventually pick Duke. Now, that mark is down to 64 percent. And the buzz seems to be that the chances for Duke are in the midst of a freefall.

There is no consensus on when Stewart will make a decision. He had indicated over the summer that he would like to have his mind made up before his senior season starts. However, 247Sports’ Jason Marcum believes he is now considering waiting until spring, which means the last-to-the-race Wildcats would have more time to make their pitch.

In the meantime, Duke is still pursuing the services of center Vernon Carey Jr., who is No. 2 on the composite rankings. Coach Mike Krzyzewski and his staff have no other outstanding offers to big men from the 2019 class.

The number of overall commitments for Duke’s 2019 class remains at zero.

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Stay tuned to Ball Durham for more Duke basketball recruiting updates, analysis, opinions, and projections.