Duke Basketball: Five-star headliner gives more music to Blue Devil ears

Duke basketball (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Duke basketball (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

As of late, whenever fielding questions about his recruitment, a hype-attracting 2020 recruit mentions the Duke basketball program — always in a positive light.

Duke basketball target Cade Cunningham, the most recent 2020 prospect to pick up a Duke offer, seems to often have the Blue Devils on his mind.

Not only did the five-star small forward, who can also seamlessly run the point, include Duke in the top 10 he released last week — also UNC, Kentucky, Texas, Kansas, Washington, Memphis, Oklahoma State, Florida, and Virginia — but he has recently never failed to bring up the coaching staff from Durham in interviews and in his blog.

For instance, only the names of Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and UNC coach Roy Williams appeared in Cunningham’s first USA Today blog —  Cade’s Corner — last week:

"“I think the coolest part about this process is getting to form the relationships with these legendary coaches,” the 6-foot-6, 215-pound rising senior wrote. “[Williams] told me that he wants me to be the next great point guard to come to North Carolina…“Then Coach K came by the school and he was just telling me about how I have such a presence on the floor that it naturally makes everyone’s eyes stay focused on me. I’ve never heard anyone say anything like that. Coming from Coach K it meant more because he’s seen everyone. He said he wants me to be the next great player to come to Duke.”"

According to a recent tweet from 247Sports’ Adam Rowe, Cunningham came away pleased by one recent Duke great Coach K brought up for having a similar game: R.J. Barrett, who attended Florida’s Montverde Academy, where Cunningham now goes to school.

Two weekends ago in his home state of Texas, Cunningham earned first-team honors at a Nike EYBL event after averaging 28.8 points, 6.8 boards, 4.3 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.0 blocks. Across the four games, he shot 57.1 percent from the field (37-for-66) and — what Duke fans sure wish Barrett had been able to match — 85.7 percent from the charity stripe (36-for-42).

Last weekend, the quickest riser on the 247Sports Composite this spring — currently sitting at No. 6 after not being among the top 30 for the first half of his high school career — spoke with Rivals’ Krysten Peek in between games at the Pangos All-American Camp in California, where he again stood out from other five-stars and took home co-MVP honors.

Cunningham told Peek he hopes to soon figure out the destinations for his five allowed official visits, which he said he will likely take after football season starts or at the start of the college basketball season.

But after Peek asked Cunningham to name one school he definitely wants to see, he didn’t hesitate with his first answer:

"“I heard that Duke [official visits] are crazy,” Cunningham said."

As for when he plans to further chip away at his list and ultimately announce his decision, Cunningham only gave Peek one definitive answer:

"“Whenever I know, I’ll announce,” he said. “I’m not really a fan of waiting. If I know where I am going, I’m going to commit and then try to get other people to go [to the same school].”"

The 247Sports Crystal Ball for Cunningham — only six picks are in — shows Oklahoma State as the clear leader.

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Yet if Cunningham continues to speak kindly about Krzyzewski’s Brotherhood and ultimately commits to joining it, then the Blue Devils would have an all-around playmaker and savvy defender who could easily be the 2020-21 team’s leading scorer and MVP (after that, he’s likely off the NBA).

He could hold down the three-spot in Durham while sometimes filling in at point guard for Jeremy Roach, who ranks No. 16 on the latest composite and is Duke’s lone 2020 commit.

Or — fingers crossed — he could start alongside two other Swiss Army Knife small forwards who hold Duke offers: Jalen Johnson, who now ranks No. 4 and may commit before summer’s end, and Scottie Barnes, who ranks no. 3 and has repeated his intention to wait until next spring to announce.

ALSO READ: Answering who is best among Coach K’s 2020 targets

Cunningham’s catch-and-release and off-the-dribble outside jumpers are smooth, accurate, and difficult for defenders to anticipate. His ball-handling is superb. His passing is crisp. His defense appears on-point.

And any truck commercial describes both his on-court attitude and his frame: built tough and like a rock.

These are some of the reasons many experts keep repeating the possibility Cunningham snatches the No. 1 ranking in his class by this time next year.

Three recruits other than Cunningham, Johnson, and Barnes hold offers to join Roach at Duke the season after next: five-star shooting guard B.J. Boston, who ranks No. 11 and recently trimmed his list to four; five-star center Walker Kessler, who ranks No. 15; and four-star center Mark Williams, who ranks No. 44.

ALSO READ: Crystal Ball shows 2020 center opting for the limelight

Next. Three reasons Duke sweeps UNC next season. dark

Stay tuned to Ball Durham for more Duke basketball recruiting updates, analyses, opinions, and predictions.