Duke Basketball: Chris Carrawell nears reign over recruiting trail

(Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images) /

Duke basketball assistant Chris Carrawell’s made-for-recruiting personality and first-year recruiting record suggest he’s already a discouraging sight for opposing coaches on the recruiting trail.

As a freshman at Duke — my sole completed year due to my sole reason for going there being students’ free admission inside Cameron Indoor Stadium — talking to the Duke basketball players proved more difficult than in rehearsals throughout my Blue Devil-obsessed childhood.

Not naming names, but the bulk of the players’ personalities during my brief stint as a fan-posing-as-a-student served as total downers to my expectations.

Honestly, they were mostly @$$#0!~$.

Chris Carrawell, though, was an exception.

I arrived at Duke for the fall semester of the 1999-00 school year when Carrawell was a senior, months from becoming the program’s most unlikely ACC Player of the Year.

One night soon after my arrival, when Carrawell caught me staring in awe at him at an on-campus gathering, his facial expression didn’t call me a loser like the looks I received from other players who noticed me drooling at them.

Instead, the 6-foot-6 St. Louis native — who could defend any position and find unique ways to generate buckets despite an odd playing style resulting from shoulder injuries in high school that permanently limited his arm movements — nodded his head at me with a welcoming smile.

Approachable. Unassuming. Friendly. Captain Cool.

It’s no wonder, now 20 years later, the dude I found so easy to talk to contributed mightily to head coach Mike Krzyzewski hauling in the program’s fourth straight No. 1 recruiting class — despite former assistant and recruiting mastermind Jeff Capel taking the head coaching gig at Pitt a year ago.

According to 247Sports’ 2019 rankings of individual recruiters, Carrawell’s contributions were enough to currently place him second in the nation.

Also according to 247Sports, the 41-year-old Carrawell — in just his first year on the job after serving a variety of other roles for Duke for years and then as an assistant for four years to former Duke teammate Steve Wojciechowski at Marquette — finished with an undefeated record when leading the recruitment of a 2019 prospect holding a Duke offer.

His first two recruiting victories for Duke — small forward Wendell Moore and combo guard Boogie Ellis — were vital in that they helped the Blue Devils’ class get off the ground after a rocky start.

His third victory — shooting guard Cassius Stanley — was vital in that it likely secured Duke finishing with the nation’s best class while adding a potent dose of hops to next season’s roster.

Adding to the impressiveness of Carrawell’s work to recruit Ellis and Stanley is the fact that Duke entered both races late and, in each case, was the last program to extend an offer.

ALSO READ: Cassius Stanley commits as Coach K crushes peers

Would Coach K and his other two assistants — Jon Scheyer and Nate James — still have received commitments from all three of Moore, Ellis, and Stanley without Carrawell’s help in scouting and in strengthening relationships with them and their families?

Though we’ll never know for sure the answer to that question, my hunch is no.

But will Moore, Ellis, and Stanley each exceed expectations — they rank No. 25, No. 34, and No. 31, respectively, on the 247Sports Composite — thereby showcasing Carrawell’s natural eye for talent?

Though we still may not yet know that answer by this time next year, my hunch is yes.

Yes, it’s true Scheyer reportedly led the recruitments of Duke’s two 2019 signees with top 10 composite rankings — center Vernon Carey Jr. (No. 4) and power forward Matthew Hurt (No. 9) — thereby earning a lofty ranking of his own (No. 5) on the 2019 recruiter rankings.

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

Yes, it’s also true Krzyzewski has often reiterated his staff’s recruitment of any player is a team effort.

However, it’s certainly true Carrawell — whose humility surely comes from his growing up in a two-bedroom house without a kitchen table with his mother and three siblings in a neighborhood not exactly conducive to bright futures — has a personality that gives him the potential to become a recruiter other program’s assistants will grow to fear (if they don’t already).

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Most importantly, it’s certainly true Carrawell, who did not have a father figure in his life as a kid, has loved the Duke basketball family as much as anyone ever since he was a high schooler and Coach K kept pursuing his commitment after other coaches gave up on him due to all his shoulder issues.

Finally, I should point out what may or may not be a coincidence:

At the moment, the Blue Devils have yet to receive a commitment from a 2020 recruit — true, it’s still early in the process — while 247Sports does not list Carrawell as the primary recruiter of any of the six prospects who hold Duke offers (Scheyer is listed for four of them while nobody is listed for the other two).

ALSO READ: Coach K set for a crucial visit with a 2020 center

It may be time for Coach K to have Scheyer relinquish the reins to Carrawell as Duke’s go-to recruiter so that Carrawell may begin what seems to be his calling: reigning over the recruiting world.

Recently, he proved to all to be — based on his 2019 recruiting results — a last-second closer. Decades ago, he proved to me to be — based on just a couple of brief conversations — a noble Dukie due to his inviting disposition.

Who wouldn’t want to say yes to a guy like Carrawell?

In terms of recruits he is tasked with swaying to Duke, the answer so far is nobody.

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