Crystal clear: The one five-star race Duke basketball recruiters must win

Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

Duke basketball’s remaining 2021 wishlist includes several special talents, but the one who appears the most likely to become a Blue Devil would undoubtedly help fill a consistently vital need.

Only three of the past 16 Duke basketball teams have made less than 37.0 percent of their 3-point attempts. One was last season’s bunch, who turned in a 30.8 eyesore. Another is the current squad, sitting on a 36.6 clip through 19 games.

A possible future solution, at least for one season, could come in the form of Hamilton (Wis.) small forward Patrick Baldwin Jr., a five-star who ranks No. 2 overall on the 247Sports 2021 Composite. His Crystal Ball, with two new picks this week matching the previous five, shows Durham as the pre-NBA layover for the 6-foot-10, 205-pound namesake of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s head coach.

But Baldwin Jr., who recently told Rivals’ Eric Bossi that he “would definitely like to get out to Duke” for an unofficial visit, is more than just a long-range sniper with a picture-perfect trigger. In fact, what seems to separate the 17-year-old from his peers — as one might expect from the son of a college coach — is his refined, smooth movements all over the court, translating into a remarkably confident demeanor with the ball in his hands.

Plus, he boasts a lean frame with long arms in addition to off-the-charts basketball IQ and adequate athleticism. Former Duke basketball national champ Mike Dunleavy Jr., another head coach’s offspring, seems to be a relatively suitable comparison — though Baldwin Jr. appears to possess even more potential at this stage in his development.

And because one mixtape doesn’t suffice for a guy who once said, “I believe I can be one of the best players of all time,” here’s one with Baldwin Jr.’s voice in the background:

Another past Duke basketball sharpshooter who snipped April nets, current associate head coach Jon Scheyer, is spearheading the program’s Baldwin Jr. pursuit. Considering the 32-year-old is a fellow Midwesterner (from the Chicago area) and has been among the top five on the 247Sports Recruiter Rankings from 2018 through the ongoing 2020 cycle — in which he sits No. 1 overall with credit for four of the six signed future Blue Devils — he’s obviously a wise choice for the job.

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Baldwin Jr. has indicated on several occasions his intention to sign in the fall. However, he does not plan to take any official visits this spring and likely won’t announce finalists until the summer.

Based on his past comments, Duke’s top blue-blood competition in the race appears to be Kansas and Kentucky. Notable wildcard candidates are Wisconsin-Milwaukee, due to his dad, and Northwestern, due to the pitch from Duke basketball alum and Wildcats head coach Chris Collins — who, according to Baldwin Jr., has pointed out the chance for his name to become synonymous with the program (also, Patrick Baldwin Sr. is a Northwestern alum).

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Of course, Baldwin Jr.’s advanced game suggests he should have no problem shining wherever he lands. Clearly, Duke should be sending in the big guns as often as possible to prove the Crystal Ball correct for this top gun. Simply put, hauling in a recruit of this caliber is one opportunity that Mike Krzyzewski and his staff better not let slip away.

The Blue Devils already hold one commit from a high school junior in Archbishop Stepinac (N.Y.) five-star small forward A.J. Griffin.

Other targets for the 2021 class are The Patrick School (N.J.) five-star small forward Jonathan Kuminga, O’Dea (Wash.) five-star power forward Paolo Banchero, Rolling Meadows (Ill.) five-star shooting guard Max Christie, Briarcrest Christian (Tenn.) five-star point guard Kennedy Chandler, Paul VI Catholic (Va.) four-star shooting guard Trevor Keels, and Andrews Osborne Academy (Ohio) four-star center Charles Bediako.

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