Duke Basketball: Top 2021 prospect could cap off Coach K’s career

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

As Mike Krzyzewski continues to chase a teenager who is well on his way to becoming a household name, realistic minds might wonder if the wunderkind would be the Duke basketball coach’s last star player before his retirement.

The fact Michael Savarino begins his Duke basketball career as a freshman walk-on guard next season logically means the career of the man he calls “Poppy” is likely to extend three or four more seasons.

If only three, then Savarino’s legend for a grandpa, Mike Krzyzewski, in what would be his farewell campaign, could have an opportunity to coach a potential legend of the game: Patrick Baldwin Jr.

Based on Baldwin Jr.’s progression through his sophomore year in high school and the number of heads he routinely forces to turn, the only way for the Blue Devils to be national champions in 2022 may be to have his services in Durham — for what will likely be his lone year in college before potentially becoming that year’s No. 1 draft pick.

Without the consensus No. 1 prospect from the 2021 class — with a perfect 1.000 composite score, per 247Sports — Duke may be left watching the net-cutting ceremony of whatever program does land him.

The 6-foot-8, 195-pound small forward from Wisconsin has the look of a guy who could be the deciding factor for a national champion. He also has the look of a guy who, this time last year, became the youngest in history to receive an offer from Coach K.

Though only two experts have entered picks in the 247Sports Crystal Ball for the phenom, both picks are for Duke. Plus, the Rivals FutureCast also unanimously pegs him as a Blue Devil.

Based on an April tweet, though, Baldwin Jr. is not leaning toward any school, and Duke fans aren’t likely to know for another year or two whether he will play in a Blue Devil jersey.

But Baldwin Jr., who holds 18 offers in all, certainly has the look of a future Dukie — by looking a lot like a past Dukie.

His lightning first step brings to mind former Duke great and two-time national champion Grant Hill. Same goes for his graceful handles and passes. Also like Hill, his humble demeanor remains on display even when demoralizing opponents.

However, Baldwin Jr.’s athleticism is not quite up to par with Hill — not to mention he still has a ways to go to fill out like Hill, which is understandable considering he’s barely old enough to drive. That being said, his outside shot is light-years ahead of where Hill’s was at his age.

In fact, his stroke is already far cleaner and more textbook than Hill’s was even at his peak as a pro. As an obvious gym rat and the namesake son of a man who is now Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s head coach, Baldwin Jr. has developed a flawless follow-through — with his right arm and hand resembling a swan until the ball whips the net.

Anyone doubting the lofty comparison and heavy praises should check out the highlights Rivals recently released of Baldwin Jr.’s sophomore year:

Sure, mixtapes never include misses, turnovers, or any boneheaded mistakes. Nevertheless, the evidence is there:

Baldwin Jr. has the makings of a basketball masterpiece.

As of late, the 16-year-old has often schooled older five-stars while starring alongside 2020 Duke basketball target and fellow Wisconsin native Jalen Johnson as a member of Phenom University at Nike EYBL sessions.

More from Ball Durham

His games continue to show why Baldwin Jr. is still the only player in his class with a Duke offer, pointing to just how badly Coach K wants him in Durham.

ALSO READ: Five-star 2021 SG hungry for Duke offer

And the fact Baldwin Jr. retweeted the announcement of Coach K and his staff visiting him in late April — with no mention of any of his other suitors across all of his social media ever since — could point to his favoritism for the Blue Devils (despite his tweet claiming no favorite exists).

Finally, while wishful thinking says the 72-year-old Krzyzewski has many more years in the tank before his retirement, realistic thinking says otherwise.

Therefore, Duke fans might consider wishing for this more realistic narrative:

Baldwin Jr. commits to join #TheBrotherhood, followed by his freshman season being spectacular enough to follow in Hill’s champion-as-a-freshman footsteps and allow the GOAT coach to cap off his career in a fitting way…

Standing atop a ladder with scissors in hand.

Next. Three reasons Duke sweeps UNC next season. dark

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