Duke basketball: 2020 C lists top five, plans return visit to Durham

Duke basketball mascot (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Duke basketball mascot (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

The Duke basketball program recently appeared on two lists from one 2020 target: a list of top contenders for his services and a list of where he intends to take another official visit.

The closing argument may be more than a mere formality, but the totality of evidence suggests the Duke basketball coaches should soon be in a position to wrap up the battle for Walker Kessler.

At a recent event showcasing high school standouts from Georgia, the five-star center from Fairburn (Woodward Academy) listed his current top five during a chat with 247Sports’ Evan Daniels:

"“Right now, I think I got a top five or top six,” Kessler said. “It’s more of schools that I feel like are heavily recruiting me: Michigan, Gonzaga, Auburn, Duke, UNC, I think that’s it.”"

And according to Kessler, Duke will be one of three — also UNC and Michigan — to host a second official visit from the 7-footer before his decision (he has not provided dates for the visits but has reiterated his desire to sign in the fall).

His first official visit to Durham came the first weekend of February (he was in attendance for Duke’s home win over St. John’s).

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The Blue Devils, slight leaders over Georgia in the eyes of the 247Sports Crystal Ball, must beware of a late surge from new Wolverines coach Juwan Howard.

"“I really like Coach Howard and the program there,” Kessler, who ranks No. 15 overall and No. 4 at his position on the 247Sports Composite, told Evans. “The guy played 19 years in the NBA at my position during that big-man stretch, so you have to listen to him, and he’s such a smart guy, and I feel like he’s going to do great at Michigan.”"

Now, despite Kessler’s intention to for some reason visit UNC a second time, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and his cohorts shouldn’t have too much to worry about when it comes to the wishy-washy staff from Chapel Hill.

"“[The UNC coaches] just started recruiting me [again] recently,” he said, “because they thought I was going to reclassify to the 2019 class, so they just started calling me about two weeks ago reinstating the offer and saying they would really love to have me [back] on campus sometime and are really interested — so we will see how that goes.”"

At the risk of helping out Roy Williams in the future in any way, having to reinstate offers is probably not the best of strategies in the game of recruiting.

As for Kessler’s comments about the Duke coaches, who once compared his game to Blue Devil legend Christian Laettner, those have remained glowingly positive.

"“Obviously it’s Duke, it’s a historic program,” Kessler said. “Coach K and the staff there are great, really a pro lifestyle getting you ready for the pros, and they just prepare you for that.”"

If the Duke staff does land Kessler — a huge need considering the expected dearth of returning big men on the roster the season after next — Cameron Crazies could experience the rare pleasure of watching a five-star as a Blue Devil for more than one season.

One reason for Kessler’s five-star rating and the Laettner comparisons from Coach K is his pillowy shooting touch both around the rim and from downtown. Another reason is his refined footwork and seamless execution of his role on offense.

Kessler’s defense, however, is a bit limited due to his limited athleticism:

But if Kessler does play his college ball in Durham, then he will have the help of a staunch backcourt defender in Jeremy Roach — Duke’s lone 2020 pledge at the moment.

Five other 2020 recruits currently hold Blue Devil offers. Three are five-star small forwards: Jalen Johnson, Scottie Barnes, and Cade Cunningham. One is five-star shooting guard B.J. Boston. And the only big man other than Kessler on Duke’s offer sheet is four-star center Mark Williams.

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