Duke Basketball: Essential 2020 center may contain Blue Devil DNA

Duke basketball (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Duke basketball (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

The Duke basketball coaches appear to be in a dead heat for a Laettner-esque 7-footer who could be the most important piece to a desperate-for-bigs 2020 class.

As a Georgia Bulldog, Walker Kessler could continue a legacy. As a Duke basketball player, the five-star 2020 center could start his own from scratch.

And with a game somewhat reminiscent of one Duke basketball legend and a face nearly a spitting image of another, Kessler — the son, nephew, and younger brother to former Bulldogs — must somehow have some Blue Devil in his blood.

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The native of Fairburn, Ga., who attends Woodward Academy in nearby College Park, has held a Duke offer for five months. Yet Duke fans may have to wait a few more months before finding out if they’ll fall head over heels for the Grayson Allen look-a-like whose size, shooting stroke, and overall rhythm on the court spark flashbacks to Christian Laettner — yes, the comparison is lofty, but Laettner’s college coach has already used it to court Kessler.

And coach Mike Krzyzewski’s comparison may be doing the trick.

Earlier in the week, based on the 247Sports Crystal Ball, Duke moved into a tie for the lead with Georgia in the race for the 7-foot, 235-pounder with a No. 16 ranking on the 247Sports Composite.

This weekend, though, Kessler is in Alabama and at risk of falling under the spell of Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl.

Also, according to a tweet from Stock Risers’ Jake Weingarten, a handful of other 2020 recruits are currently alongside Kessler on his visit to Auburn (he took one to Duke back at the beginning of February). One of those recruits, five-star shooting guard B.J. Boston, is another one of Coach K’s top targets.

Fingers crossed Kessler and Boston build a tight bond this weekend while quietly discussing a vision of playing together in Durham.

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Kessler has received 23 offers in all. Other than Duke, Georgia, and Auburn, also on the list of top candidates to land the big man are Virginia, Michigan, Vanderbilt, and UNC.

He has indicated in the past his decision is likely to come sometime before the start of his senior season in the fall.

Of all his choices, though, the Blue Devils may need him the most.

To date, Coach K and Co. have received a commitment from one key piece to the 2020 class, five-star point guard Jeremy Roach, who ranks No. 15 on the composite and will help ease the pain from the expected departure of Tre Jones to the NBA after next season. As for inside pieces, assuming incoming freshmen Vernon Carey Jr. and Matthew Hurt also bolt for the pros next spring, none will return to Durham for the 2020-21 season.

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A commitment from Kessler would go a long way in solving the looming issue in the paint.

Although Kessler is far from the most explosive center in his class, he ranks as the No. 3 center in the class on the composite due to sure hands, tremendous footwork, high basketball IQ, and gorgeous fadeaways extending beyond the arc:

With only three centers in the top 20 on the composite and Duke not at all involved with the other two, Kessler may be Krzyzewski’s one shot at landing someone worthy of starting at the 5-spot in Durham as a freshman.

The only other 2020 center holding a Duke offer is Mark Williams, a four-star who ranks No. 45 and isn’t likely to make up his mind on a college destination until winter.

Besides Kessler, Boston, and Williams, three other 2020 recruits — all five-star small forwards — have received offers from the Blue Devil staff: Jalen Johnson, who ranks No. 3; Scottie Barnes, who ranks No. 4; and Cade Cunningham, who ranks No. 7.

ALSO READ: Five-star 2020 SF Cade Cunningham drops his first list

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