In order to conserve energy while also showing utmost appreciation for both the expected returnees and six signees, the Duke basketball coaches should focus more on relaxing than recruiting this offseason.
Just because I concur with Ball Durham contributor Garth Johnson that “Duke hoops is a meritocracy whether you like or not” doesn’t mean I think Mike Krzyzewski and his staff should pursue, or even peruse, more options for next season’s Duke basketball roster.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: A few hours after the publishing of this article, Duke landed Columbia graduate transfer Patrick Tape.
To the same point, just because I enjoy as much as anyone the thrill of witnessing high-level prospects pledge allegiance to #TheBrotherhood doesn’t mean I can’t get my kicks from the 2021 recruiting trail alone.
Nope, the 2020-21 Blue Devils are in good shape, regardless of where current freshmen Vernon Carey Jr., Cassius Stanley, and Matthew Hurt decide to reside next year (sophomore Tre Jones has already opted to enter the professional ranks, and junior Alex O’Connell announced over the weekend that he’s seeking greener pastures via the transfer route).
Plus, handing out offers right now to either grad transfers or undecided 2020 recruits could make it look as if Coach K is basically giving Carey Jr., Stanley, and Hurt the boot.
It is true, I should mention, that the chances of both Carey Jr. and Stanley returning to Durham are on par with the chances of finding toilet paper at Walmart right now.
Taking that into account and considering that junior Jordan Goldwire, sophomore Joey Baker, and freshman Wendell Moore look to be back, the main question mark is Hurt, who needs an extended college stay to bulk up and add to his repertoire (defense being the chief concern).
The 6-foot-9, 215-pound forward exhibited both promise and inconsistency this past Duke basketball season, averaging 9.7 points and 3.8 boards while shooting 48.7 percent from the field, including 39.3 percent from downtown. Surely in part due to his perceived lackadaisical demeanor, though, Hurt’s minutes took a giant hit down the stretch.
With that in mind, sending out a scholarship invite in the coming weeks to someone like 6-foot-10, 230-pound Columbia grad transfer Patrick Tape, who recently included Duke in his list of four finalists despite no word of an offer from Coach K & Co., could be all Hurt needs to see to make up his mind to leave.
I like Hurt (admittedly, as a fellow Matt, I’m a tad biased). I think he’d be in a position to prosper at either the high or low post for the Blue Devils next season. I believe he’d reap significantly more touches in the paint and 3-point attempts with Carey Jr. no longer around as the focal point of the offense (superstitiously, I point to the fact that history’s only other two Dukie Matt’s, Christensen and Jones, each won a national championship).
That said, I rest easy dreaming about the 2020-21 Duke basketball team even if Hurt does end up elsewhere (he could be waiting to see if the NCAA will put into effect for this year the newly passed rule that will allow all underclassmen to transfer without sitting out a year).
In that scenario, the Blue Devils would have nine quality pieces (more than Coach K is likely to regularly play): Goldwire, Baker, and Moore plus newbies Jeremy Roach, D.J. Steward, Jalen Johnson, Henry Coleman, Jaemyn Brakefield, and Mark Williams (all six Duke basketball signees sit within the top 50 on the 247Sports 2020 Composite).
Sure, the group would be on the small and inexperienced side with only one senior (not counting bench-rider Mike Buckmire) and only one player taller than 6-foot-9, but those two shortcomings would equate to two opportunities that could be more exciting than landing new faces:
- The opportunity for Coach K to put his adapting powers on full display in his 41st season on the job
- The opportunity for stars like Johnson and Steward plus leaders like Goldwire, Baker, and Moore to rise up in cohesive fashion
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However, to ensure all the Duke basketball coaches are in tip-top condition for this challenge, they might consider taking a deserved break from the stresses of recruiting, at least in terms of filling needs for next season. Besides, as noted above, these “needs” are essentially just “greeds” at this point. Also, it’s not like the staff can do much of anything for the time being outside of calling and texting recruits anyway.
There’s nothing wrong with sometimes — especially during these trying times the world is facing — embracing a little R&R while basking in the invigorating anticipation.