How Duke basketball staff should respond to recruiting loss

With now no more targets on the table, does Duke basketball’s 2020 class even need another piece?

DeMatha Catholic (Md.) four-star center Hunter Dickinson announced via tweet on Friday his decision to gift Michigan with his 7-foot-2, 260-pound frame, leaving the Duke basketball coaches with no more unanswered 2020 offers (Florida State and Notre Dame were the towering lefty’s other two finalists).

Though Dickinson’s choice came as no surprise, with current Duke freshman Vernon Carey Jr. likely bound for the next level after this season and senior Javin DeLaurier graduating, the fact remains that the roster outlook in Durham for next season shows only one true center: IMG Academy (Fla.) four-star Mark Williams.

No worries. No solutions — i.e., more offers — are necessary because hoarding big men is becoming less and less necessary in today’s college basketball climate. Simply put, speed now matters far more than size.

Besides, Carey Jr. is the program’s only rookie who looks like a future lottery pick at the moment — in fact, some 2020 mock drafts predict he’s the only first-rounder of the bunch — suggesting Mike Krzyzewski and his staff may not see the mass one-and-done departures they have become accustomed to the latter half of this decade.

Along with small forward Wendell Moore and shooting guard Cassius Stanley, power forward Matthew Hurt currently appears in need of at least a sophomore year. Those three plus the four other scholarship players likely to return — sophomore wing Joey Baker in addition to junior guards Alex O’Connell, Jordan Goldwire, and Mike Buckmire — equals seven.

Assuming sophomore point guard Tre Jones bolts for the NBA come April, those seven plus the six 2020 signees to date — Williams, Paul VI Catholic (Va.) five-star point guard Jeremy Roach, Whitney Young (Ill.) five-star combo guard D.J. Steward, IMG five-star small forward Jalen Johnson, Trinity Episcopal (Va.) four-star power forward Henry Coleman, and Huntington Prep (W.Va.) four-star power forward Jaemyn Brakefield — equals 13.

ALSO READ: Stacking up Duke’s six 2020 signees

And 13 is the max number of scholarships the NCAA allows each season. Yes, with those 13, the Blue Devils would be a bit small next season. Yes, they would be without anyone taller than 6-foot-9 for when Williams faces foul trouble, fatigue, or injury.

However, the prize of the class, Johnson, seems to possess a nearly identical skillset, toughness, IQ, and 6-foot-8, 220-pound frame to Duke legend Shane Battier. Consider that Battier, who left his jersey number (31) in Cameron Indoor Stadium’s rafters, sometimes filled in at the five-spot for four Duke teams (1997-98 through 2000-01) that combined for a remarkable 133-15 record (71-6 against the ACC), snatching three ACC Tournament titles and one set of April nets.

ALSO READ: The 100 greatest Blue Devils under Coach K

Furthermore, all three of Coleman, Brakefield, and current freshman walk-on power forward Keenan Worthington could prove worthy of manning the post for a spell; at the very least, they each will provide a body for Williams to battle against in practice. Also, Moore has already shown glimpses of having the length, strength, athleticism, and acumen to serve as a jack of all trades.

Granted, one or more of Moore, Hurt, and Stanley could indeed turn pro come April. Also possible, though, is one or more of Krzyzewski’s 2021 targets reclassing and joining the Duke basketball family.

Either way, all other bigs in the top 100 of the 247Sports 2020 Composite are either committed elsewhere or seemingly out of play for the Blue Devils. Of course, some giant graduate transfers or decommitted prospects could become available in the spring.

But with the nation’s No. 2 class in hand, per 247Sports, and a solid group of probably four-to-seven returning scholarship players in the forecast, Coach K does not need to leave any more footprints on the 2020 recruiting trail.

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