A past Blue Devil is looking like a top competitor to the Duke basketball coaches in the battle for a pair of elite recruits.
With a 7-21 record in his seventh season as the head man at Northwestern, former Duke basketball player and assistant Chris Collins isn't likely to have enough leverage to ask for a raise anytime soon (the Wildcats extended his contract through 2025 after he guided the 2016-17 team to the school's first NCAA Tournament).
But there is one way Collins could put himself in an excellent position to earn a substantial bump in pay following the 2021-22 season. The 45-year-old, who played under Duke basketball legend Mike Krzyzewski in the mid-1990s and served on the staff in Durham from 2000 to 2013, would just need to snag commitments from Hamilton (Wis.) five-star small forward Patrick Baldwin Jr. and Rolling Meadows (Ill.) five-star shooting guard Max Christie.
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Sure, such a feat may seem impossible for such a non-threatening program considering Duke and other bluebloods are also eyeing both high school juniors. Yet keep in mind that Baldwin Jr. and Christie — No. 3 and No. 13, respectively, on the 247Sports 2021 Composite — became friends, as The Daily Northwestern sports editor Charlie Goldsmith recently reported, when they were Northwestern ballboys together during Collins' early days in Evanston.
Keep in mind that Christie — a 6-foot-6, 175-pound smooth operator with high intellect and a knack for knocking down shots from all over the court — is the son of a former Northwestern women's basketball player. Plus, keep in mind that Collins is a former guard out of the Chicago area.
And keep in mind that Baldwin Jr. — a 6-foot-10, 205-pound poised playmaker with arguably the sweetest shooting stroke among all preps at the moment — is the namesake of a former Northwestern basketball great who served under Collins as an assistant from 2013 to 2017 before taking the head gig at Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Furthermore, keep in mind what all Christie said to Goldsmith concerning what he and Baldwin Jr. have discussed:
“Obviously, going to Northwestern, we’re thinking about being a package deal...There’s definitely talk...For a coach like Coach Collins to say that they’re really focusing on my class and that they really want someone like me or someone like Patrick to go there is obviously intriguing for me as a 17-year-old kid who wants to make a name for myself."
Finally, keep in mind the similar thoughts that Baldwin Jr. — who took an unofficial visit to Duke that coincided with the win over Virginia Tech on Feb. 22 — expressed to Goldsmith:
"If I commit [to Northwestern], I could really make an impact. It would be something special if I do decide to commit...When Northwestern turns it around, you’ve seen how they can fill the house against Michigan and against Purdue [in 2017]. You’ve seen the immense support."
All that aside, though, keep in mind that each prospect's 247Sports Crystal Ball unanimously favors the current Duke basketball coaches to be the victors. After all, assistant Jon Scheyer, a top-ranked recruiter who is from the Windy City suburbs, is spearheading the Blue Devils' pursuit of both Christie and Baldwin Jr.
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Moreover, keep in mind that Krzyzewski is a Chicago native who has regularly snatched prized hoopsters with ties to the northeast corner of Illinois.
All in all, it looks as if Duke is indeed the favorite to haul in the duo (neither has named finalists nor scheduled official visits, but both intend to decide on a college by the fall signing period). That said, don't count out Collins, who has not been shy about the fact that he is going all-in on giving his current fans this package-deal gift that would be unlike any they've ever enjoyed.
The Duke basketball recruiting machine has already produced a 2021 commitment from Archbishop Stepinac (N.Y.) five-star small forward A.J. Griffin.
Coach K also still has offers on the table to Briarcrest Christian (Tenn.) five-star point guard Kennedy Chandler, Paul VI Catholic (Va.) five-star shooting guard Trevor Keels, The Patrick School (N.J.) five-star small forward Jonathan Kuminga, O'Dea (Wash.) five-star power forward Paolo Banchero, and Andrews Osborne (Ohio) four-star center Charles Bediako.