Duke Basketball: Staff uses bold comparison to lure 2020 C Walker Kessler

Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

A five-star big man said the Duke basketball coaches have compared his potential to that of a legend as a tool to persuade him to become the program’s future centerpiece in the paint.

Duke basketball fans may not like what they see, particularly in the post, if they were to travel in time to the 2020-21 season. Granted, so long as recruiting stud Mike Krzyzewski is still at the helm, panicking about it at this point in time would be preposterous.

However, the sensible bet at the moment would be for only five scholarship players between the probable returning Blue Devils and the incoming freshmen next season to still be on the roster at that point in time (Duke currently has zero commitments from the 2020 class).

And those five consist of all guards and wings: two would-be seniors in Alex O’Connell and Jordan Goldwire, one would-be junior in Joey Baker, and two would-be sophomores in Boogie Ellis and Wendell Moore.

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Marques Bolden and Javin DeLaurier, two longtime fixtures in the paint, will have used up their eligibility by that time — same goes for semi-big Jack White (Bolden could even leave beforehand by either entering the professional ranks or becoming a graduate transfer this offseason).

Meanwhile, Vernon Carey Jr., the program’s top-ranked 2019 recruit and a near-definite frontcourt starter next season, will almost certainly have bolted for the NBA. Plus, Duke’s top remaining 2019 target, power forward Matthew Hurt, will likely also be reaping the financial rewards of his skill set by the time the 2020-21 season rolls around — no matter which school he chooses at his announcement ceremony on April 19.

ALSO READ: Tre Jones’ return likely reels in 2019 PF Matthew Hurt

This means the program needs, as much as grass needs rain, to find the next long-term center.

Enter Walker Kessler.

The five-star seven-footer — a noted scholar both in the classroom and on the court who attends Woodward Academy in Fairburn, Ga., and ranks No. 16 on the 247Sports Composite for the 2020 class — was once considering a reclassification to 2019 but told 247Sports this week, per Evan Daniels, he has decided to stay put in 2020.

At the moment, Kessler is the only big man in his class holding an offer from Krzyzewski — including power forwards and centers. And he said Duke is one of six programs standing out for showing a passionate pursuit of his services — others being Virginia, UNC, Georgia, Auburn, and Michigan.

What he said about Duke’s key selling point, though, seemed to nearly force him to stop and apologize — based on the name he mentions — for repeating it:

"“[The Duke coaches’] thing was they’re going to prepare you for the NBA because we know that you can make it, and kind of an old comparison, but [they said] Christian Laettner is kind of a similar [player],” Kessler said. “I know, it’s a big, bold statement, but that was kind of their thing: they’re just going to prepare me.”"

Some similarities — emphasis on “some” — between Kessler and Laettner are evident. Kessler’s height is almost identical to Laettner’s. His listed weight of 235 pounds is exactly the same as Laettner’s was at Duke. They both sport a soft shot that can supply points in bunches from inside and beyond the arc. They both have strong hands and a strong sense of confidence with the ball in those hands. They both have a large arsenal of post moves.

For the sake of further supporting the Duke staff’s comparison, which surely seems far-fetched to some and far too premature to all others, one might as well also throw in the “-er” ending to both their surnames.

So that means basically all Kessler lacks is four final fours, two national championships, The Shot, other clutch shots that won all-important college games, a slew of awards for player of the year in the conference and nation, a jersey number hanging in Cameron Indoor Stadium’s rafters, and a title as the most accomplished Duke basketball player ever.

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All of that may be a tad much to ask from the teenager — or anyone, for that matter.

Before he has a chance to start chipping away at the above list of shortcomings to Laettner, though, the Blue Devils must land a commitment from him.

As it stands, 71 percent of the 247Sports Crystal Ball shows a future where he is at Georgia — likely in part due to his brother, uncle, and dad all having played their college ball in Athens. But the other 29 percent pegs his future college town as Durham.

Kessler, who is likely to stay in college for at least a couple of seasons, took an official visit to Duke the weekend of Feb. 1. He has not provided a definite timeline for making a decision.

What he has provided, though, is hope for the Blue Devils to benefit from having him as their anchor in the paint in the future — without him even having to be the next Laettner.

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