Duke basketball: Coach K holds enviable spot on closed recruiting trail

Duke basketball (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Duke basketball (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

The Duke basketball coaches couldn’t have picked a better cycle to pull off the program’s all-time largest number of November signatures, which allowed a headstart in putting together the next group.

Due to their success in the early signing period for the 2020 class — as well as the fact they have already landed a 2021 commitment from Archbishop Stepinac (N.Y.) five-star small forward A.J. Griffin and compiled a strong wishlist of other juniors — Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski and his assistants shouldn’t experience much of a setback from the sudden closing of the recruiting trail.

ESPN staff writer Tom VanHaaren reported the NCAA’s Friday announcement that came a day after the nixing of March Madness:

“The NCAA is suspending on-campus and off-campus recruiting for all Division I sports through April 15. In the wake of the coronavirus threat, the NCAA has taken measures to mitigate any risks associated with the virus, and that now includes recruiting.”

This week has also seen cancellations of senior showcases, such as the McDonald’s All-American Game that was set for April 1 and would have included three Duke basketball signees: Whitney Young (Ill.) five-star combo guard D.J. Steward, Paul VI Catholic (Va.) five-star point guard Jeremy Roach, and IMG Academy (Fla.) four-star center Mark Williams.

Additionally, every major prep circuit has postponed spring events. Therefore, until some sense of normalcy returns on this planet, opportunities for coaches to both discover and pursue fresh talent will likely remain all but nonexistent.

Fortunately for Coach K and his cohorts, their crop of freshmen for next season seems to have been complete for months. In addition to the three McDonald’s All-American selections, they have hauled in three other top 50 prospects on the 247Sports 2020 Composite: Nicolet (Wis.) 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.

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Per the 247Sports 2020 Team Rankings, the Duke basketball class sits No. 2 in the country, behind Kentucky’s and one notch ahead of North Carolina’s (no doubt those two fellow recruiting powerhouses are also in favorable positions in light of all the recent news).

As for 2021, all official and unofficial visits to Duke that had been scheduled have already taken place. That visitor list consists of five five-stars: Griffin, O’Dea (Wash.) power forward Paolo Banchero, Hamilton (Wis.) small forward Patrick Baldwin Jr., Paul VI Catholic (Va.) shooting guard Trevor Keels, and Briarcrest Christian (Tenn.) point guard Kennedy Chandler.

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Those juniors holding offers who haven’t set up trips to Durham are Rolling Meadows (Ill.) five-star shooting guard Max Christie, The Patrick School (N.J) five-star small forward Jonathan Kuminga, and Andrews Osborne (Ohio) four-star center Charles Bediako.

Meanwhile, the 247Sports Crystal Ball shows the Blue Devils as the leaders for Griffin, obviously, and three of the other above names: Baldwin Jr., Chandler, and Christie.

ALSO READ: Five 2021 recruits who’d gel devilishly well at Duke

So while the average program must now devise future plans to make up ground, the Duke basketball recruiting machine ought to have little to worry about when it comes to all these unforeseen, unprecedented restrictions. And though the impacts of the cancellations, postponements, and missed evaluation time remain to be seen, Rivals insider Corey Evans offered his general prediction on Saturday:

“This only means that the staffs that have already laid the groundwork with the class of 2021 should be even more ahead compared to others. In a few years, if we see another Ja Morant
trickle to the mid-major realm, it is because of the coronavirus impact during the spring and summer of 2020. Expect for missed evaluations and also slept-on prospects to be the reverberating theme…”

For more information about COVID-19, visit the CDC’s website or the website for your state’s Department of Health.

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