Duke basketball gains ground on UNC for 2020 five-star

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

A long road lies ahead, but some insiders suddenly see Duke basketball’s latest 2020 target landing eight miles down the road from where once expected.

Though the Duke basketball coaches only entered the race for five-star small forward Ziaire Williams with their offer two weeks ago, they appear to be nudging their way into the driver’s seat.

So Rivals expert Corey Evans suggested Tuesday that staffs from North Carolina and Stanford may find their early efforts were a complete waste of time, as both extended offers to the 6-foot-8, 190-pound Californian (Sierra Canyon) back in 2018.

"“The Blue Devils need a shot-making guard or wing, which is why they just offered Ziaire Williams and have continued to pursue D.J. Steward,” Evans wrote. “While the thinking is that Steward is a heavy Duke lean, I actually think differently. Sure, the Blue Devils could continue to pick up ground, but I see Steward committing to Louisville…“Williams, on the other hand, was favored heavily by North Carolina and Stanford throughout recent months, but if Duke continues to prioritize, my guess is that he could end up in Durham.”"

And 247Sports’ Andrew Slater seems to share Evans’ vision; the renowned early prognosticator for Duke targets entered the first pick for the Blue Devils inside Williams’ Crystal Ball last week.

Prior to Slater’s prediction, no picks had come in since December, with UNC and Stanford holding three apiece ever since.

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Williams has expressed no rush to make his decision but does intend to soon announce finalists and then plan fall visits (his only official visits last year were to UNC and Stanford; he was in the Dean Dome for the Tar Heels’ win over the Zion-less Blue Devils in March).

Boasting a No. 7 ranking on the 247Sports 2020 Composite — up 26 spots this calendar year — Williams could potentially perfectly complement Jalen Johnson, the five-star small forward who on July 4th became the Blue Devils’ second 2020 pledge (five-star point guard Jeremy Roach committed in early May).

Williams is more of a slick wing and has the superior outside stroke; Johnson, meanwhile, is more of a smooth combo forward — with a stronger frame — and focuses more on creating than scoring.

In Duke terms, Johnson resembles Grant Hill while Williams’ game brings to mind a mashup of Rodney Hood and Brandon Ingram.

As for Duke’s other 2020 targets, Evans named two he sees playing for Mike Krzyzewski come the 2020-21 season.

"“In the frontcourt, Mark Williams is the likeliest,” Evans explained. “Keep tabs on UCLA, as it definitely has a shot, but my prediction is that he ends up a Blue Devil.“The same can be said for Henry Coleman; he just released his final five on Sunday, and while Michigan, N.C. State, Ohio State, and Virginia Tech are strong contenders, the top-50 forward still chooses Duke over the rest.”"

Five-star center Walker Kessler is the only 2020 prospect holding a Duke basketball offer whom Evans did not mention in his article. Kessler’s Crystal Ball currently contains 10 picks, eight of which favor the Blue Devils.

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