Duke Basketball: Cassius Stanley would make Dukies preseason No. 1

Cassius Stanley, Duke basketball (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Cassius Stanley, Duke basketball (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

If grossly underrated Cassius Stanley adds his name to the Duke basketball roster for next season, then the Blue Devils will be deserving of polls’ top spot to start the season.

The experts who in their 2018 class rankings inexpertly placed below No. 1 the extraterrestrial who became the Duke basketball program’s all-time taker-away of breath are the same folks acting a fool again by keeping Cassius Stanley outside the top 10 in the 2019 class.

Likewise, many of these talent evaluators for the major recruiting sites, who regularly chime in with opinions on the college game, will be among those who will refuse to put the Blue Devils at No. 1 in their personal preseason polls come fall.

They will not be alone.

Most likely, no major publication will put out a top 25 with Duke at the top. Pundits will argue the loss of Zion Williamson, along with the departures of fellow one-and-doners R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish, disqualifies the program from starting the 2019-20 season in the same position it finished the 2018-19 regular season in the AP Poll — at No. 1.

The only way they’ll be correct for discounting the Blue Devils from being No. 1, though, is if Stanley dons apparel from a program other than Duke when he announces his college choice on Monday (he has not yet provided an exact time or place for his announcement).

However, if the four-star (one too few) shooting guard from Chatsworth, Calif., does decide to play for coach Mike Krzyzewski next season, not only will the program wrap up its fourth consecutive No. 1 recruiting class, but the newest edition of Blue Devils will possess the nation’s most lethal concoction of shooting, athleticism, size, experience, youth, depth, defensive prowess, and living-legend coaching.

Stanley’s spark, though, is necessary to set off the entire collection of fireworks.

At the Jordan Brand Classic on Saturday night, the 6-foot-5, 180-pound F-16 stayed grounded most of the game while showing off his arsenal from deep and mid-range. Stanley’s jumper — his glaring defect for most of his high school career, playing a part in his now-too-low No. 29 ranking on the 247Sports Composite — is now nothing short of a work of art.

The oldest player in Las Vegas for the annual exhibition — Stanley will be 20 years old by the start of next season — finished his 17 minutes off the bench with 16 points on 5-for-11 shooting from the field, including 2-for-5 from downtown, and a 4-for-4 clip from the charity stripe.

His stroke from beyond the arc was clean with consistent form. His release point was high. His quickness in getting his shots off was impressive.

Luckily for the Blue Devils — should they land his services — his most impressive art form is exactly what next season’s roster would be lacking without him: high-flying athleticism, leading to loud dunks and blocks that serve as momentum-changers.

ALSO READ: Durham has ample airspace for 2019 G Cassius Stanley

Also luckily for the Blue Devils, most signs suggest they will land his services. Although Duke only began aggressively pursuing him in recent months and didn’t offer him a scholarship until just prior to his official visit to the Durham campus last weekend, the 247Sports Crystal Ball reflects the general consensus that Stanley now prefers to play at Duke over his other three finalists: Kansas, Oregon, and UCLA.


He is chiseled. He has fluidity. He has improving handles. He excels in transition. He willingly defends. He brings energy. He has stamina. He has a mind for the game. He has the ability to pull off a windmill dunk after leaping from just inside the foul line:

He’s a natural hooper who has what it takes to make his current ranking look silly by playing his way into a top draft pick by way of a college career that may end after only one season.

Again, should he choose Duke, he should also have what it takes to be a go-to playmaker and starter for the Blue Devils alongside sophomore point guard Tre Jones and possibly three other incoming freshmen: five-star Vernon Carey Jr., a center who ranks No. 3 on the composite; five-star Matthew Hurt, a power forward who ranks No. 8; and five-star Wendell Moore, a small forward who ranks No. 22.

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ALSO READ: Matthew Hurt commits, may become a target for haters

In addition to the three signees listed above and potentially Stanley, the Blue Devils’ 2019 class includes four-star combo guard Boogie Ellis, who ranks No. 34. Even without Stanley, Coach K and his staff have hauled in what 247Sports sees at the moment as the nation’s No. 1 class.

ALSO READ: Tre Jones will be an ideal mentor for Boogie Ellis

Barring a surprise departure, in addition to the already-loaded freshman class, the 2019-20 Duke basketball roster will include the ACC’s top returning point guard, another sophomore who was a five-star out of high school, and six scholarship upperclassmen, four of whom each drew no less than three starts last season for a squad that won the ACC Tournament, reached the Elite Eight, and finished with a 32-6 record.

And should Stanley join the group, the Blue Devils will at least be the preseason No. 1 in the eyes of Ball Durham.

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