Duke basketball: Coach K could land silky shooter sooner than expected

Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

While the Duke basketball staff remains the frontrunner in a significant 2021 recruiting race, another suitor is surging, and the finish line may not be far away.

Three weeks ago, Rolling Meadows (Ill.) shooting guard and Duke basketball target Max Christie told SI director of basketball recruiting Jason Jordan that he has “a lot of time left” in the recruiting process and he would take his time discussing his future with those close to him “in order to make the best decision.”

Well, since that interview, COVID-19 has further impacted daily life all around the globe — including at the Christie household. One effect from the pandemic is the extra time at home with family, thereby giving the 6-foot-6, 175-pound high school junior more free moments than anticipated to dissect college choices with his folks (all nine 247Sports Crystal Ball picks show the five-star choosing Duke).

As a result, as Stock Risers recruiting insider Jake Weingarten reported from his chat this weekend with the smooth-moves sharpshooter — who knocked down 43 percent of his 3-point attempts this past season — Christie now “says he has an idea who’s on his ‘final list’ but won’t really publicize the list.” And Weingarten added that “he’s weighing a potential commitment date but feels like he could commit ‘pretty soon’ with all that is going on.”

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Christie, who ranks No. 13 overall on the 247Sports 2021 Composite and holds roughly a dozen big-name offers, appears to have enjoyed his official visit to Michigan State in early March, which took place only days before coronavirus concerns led to the temporary ban on all in-person visits. Based on what the 16-year-old told Weingarten, one can assume the Spartans have climbed his classified list of favorites:

“The Michigan State official was great. It was my first official visit, and I feel like [Tom Izzo and the program] did a great job on their part of making me feel welcomed and at home.”

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But possibly working in Duke’s favor is the fact Christie hails from the northeast corner of Illinois, a fertile ground for future Blue Devils across the 40 years since Chicago native Mike Krzyzewski took over the reins in Durham. Plus, it can’t hurt that right-hand man Jon Scheyer — the one Coach K assistant who 1) grew up in the same metropolitan area, 2) shares a similar game to that of Christie, and 3) sits atop the 247Sports 2020 Recruiter Rankings — has acted as the program’s chief pitchman in the battle.

However, as Ball Durham has pointed out on several occasions, another past Duke basketball gift out of the Windy City suburbs, Chris Collins, holds a hometown advantage as the current head coach at Northwestern (not to mention that Christie used to be a ballboy for the Wildcats and is also the son of a former women’s basketball player in Evanston).

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Whichever group of coaches hauls in Christie, whenever it happens, here’s how the player himself described to Weingarten the prize they should expect to receive:

“I am a versatile and dynamic guard who can score as well as get teammates open. I can shoot the ball, which opens up my game to allow me to drive and finish at the rim. I am an improving defender and a rebounder who will push the ball in transition.”

Coach K and his crew have already reeled in one 2021 pledge: Archbishop Stepinac (N.Y.) five-star small forward A.J. Griffin.

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Others from the class remaining on the Duke basketball wishlist are Briarcrest Christian (Tenn.) five-star point guard Kennedy Chandler, Paul VI Catholic (Va.) five-star shooting guard Trevor Keels, Hamilton (Wis.) five-star small forward Patrick Baldwin Jr., 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.

For more information about COVID-19, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website or the website for your state’s Department of Health.

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