Duke Basketball: Recent early commits have been kind to Blue Devils

Duke basketball (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Duke basketball (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) /

Based solely on recent collegiate careers of those who committed at least 15 months before making their Duke basketball debut, odds are Jeremy Roach will have a successful stay in Durham.

Prior to point guard Jeremy Roach becoming the nation’s first 2020 five-star to announce his college choice — by tweeting his decision on Wednesday without any forewarning — the last player to commit to the Duke basketball program before becoming a high school senior was 2016 forward Jayson Tatum on July 12, 2015.

Note: Joey Baker, who reclassified to 2018 and thereby essentially turned his junior year into his senior year, doesn’t qualify for this distinction.

ALSO READ: Time to hush chatter about a Joey Baker transfer

The two prior to Tatum were 2015 guard Luke Kennard on March 24, 2014, and 2014 guard Grayson Allen on April 24, 2013.

Needless to say, the careers of Tatum, Kennard, and Allen at Duke worked out favorably; each had a season averaging at least 16 points — each also won either a national title, a conference title, or both — and all three became beloved Blue Devils. Equally notable, each of the three’s commitment provided the initial spark to a class that either finished No. 1 (2016, 2014) or No. 2 (2015) in the nation, per 247Sports.

However, a look back at all 20 names prior to Roach this millennium whom head coach Mike Krzyzewski has bagged before they were high school seniors — 14 of those commits, like Roach, announced before the conclusion of their junior year — yields a mixed bag of results.

First, though, let’s look at the only pre-senior-year commit since 2000 with his name and number hanging from Cameron Indoor Stadium’s rafters: J.J. Redick. The sharpshooter from Virginia — the same home state as Roach — remains the only recruit during Krzyzewski’s four-decade tenure to have committed to Duke prior to the start of his junior season; he did so on Oct. 4, 2000, just a few months after his 16th birthday and an astounding 25 months before his first game as a Blue Devil.

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Of course, history proves Redick — who still sits atop the program’s all-time scoring list with 2,769 points and nowadays continues to improve in the NBA despite being about a month from his 35th birthday — made the right move by choosing Duke (his commitment date was too early for coaches to have even been allowed to yet contact his home by phone).

Also on the list of those who became above-average Blue Devils this millennium after committing before becoming a high school senior are Matt JonesMason Plumlee, Nolan Smith, Gerald Henderson, Jon Scheyer, Josh McRoberts, DeMarcus Nelson, and Daniel Ewing (it is possibly no coincidence two of those on this list of guys who showed obvious love for Duke by committing early are now on Coach K’s staff — Smith and Scheyer).

As for the early commits since 2000 who turned out to be average-to-below-average Blue Devils — but did not transfer out of the program before graduating and represented the Duke brand admirably — Tyler Thornton, Josh Hairston, Andre Dawkins, Brian Zoubek, Greg Paulus, and Sean Dockery comprise that list.

Finally, the remaining two of the 20 early commits leading up to Roach — Rasheed Sulaimon and Taylor King — ended up transferring to another school before earning a Duke degree.

But that’s only a transfer rate of 10 percent.

Meanwhile, 12 transfers have come from the 52 players this millennium who accepted scholarship offers from Duke following the start of their senior year in high school (counting only those who have either finished or already begun their time in Durham).

And that’s a transfer rate of 23 percent.

So after comparing the results since 2000 between pre-senior-year commits and the rest, a few observations are clear:

  1. Not counting Roach, recruits committing to Duke before their senior year has happened less frequently across the past seven years — only Allen, Kennard, and Tatum — than it did in the 12 years prior.
  2. The combined performance at Duke from the three early commits since 2012 is nothing short of stellar.
  3. Overall, those who have committed prior to the start of their senior year this millennium have combined to produce a much better mark at staying in Durham — until they either graduate or head to the NBA — than those who have committed after the start of their senior year.

And here are a few observations about Roach:

  1. The 6-foot-2, 165-pounder, who ranks No. 15 overall and No. 2 among point guards on the 247Sports Composite, committed out of the blue — without needing the hype and fanfare that comes from releasing an announcement date beforehand — suggesting he is either extremely shy, extremely humble, or both.
  2. Other than needing to improve his outside shot and continue to heal from a torn ACL that forced him to miss his junior season, he appears to have all the makings of a star floor general at Duke.
  3. He has indicated in the past he is friends with three other 2020 five-stars holding Duke offers — small forward Jalen Johnson, small forward Scottie Barnes, and shooting guard B.J. Boston — suggesting his commitment could lead to a package deal with enough talent to likely give the Blue Devils another top-ranked class.

ALSO READ: Jalen Johnson admits package deal is possible

In addition to Roach’s three buddies — their friendships took root while playing for the USA Basketball U17 team last summer — Coach K has extended offers to 2020 centers Walker Kessler, who is also a five-star, and Mark Williams, who is a four-star.

ALSO READ: Tobacco Road tussle underway for 2020 center

In conclusion — on the off-chance Johnson, Barnes, Boston, Kessler, or Williams happen to read this — when it comes to committing to Duke, the earlier the better.

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