Duke basketball: Blue Devils amp up pursuit of five-star package deal

Duke basketball (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
Duke basketball (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images) /

As the Duke basketball coaches improvise on a closed recruiting trail, their restricted movements point to one potential tandem being a top priority.

In recent weeks, because of current world conditions, virtual visits have become all the rage. This month, there have been reports of two of these glorified video calls involving the Duke basketball program.

There was the one last week with O’Dea (Wash.) junior power forward Paolo Banchero. Next week, per Stock Risers recruiting insider Jake Weingarten, one is on tap with Briarcrest Christian (Tenn.) junior point guard Kennedy Chandler.

Banchero and Chandler have talked extensively about choosing the same college destination ever since their games grooved together at a Team USA minicamp last summer. So looking at this recent scheduling by Mike Krzyzewski and his staff, one can assume they view the five-star duo as a package-deal priority.

The actions make sense, too, seeing that the pair at least loosely resembles a former pair of uber-successful Duke basketball teammates: 2001 national champs Carlos Boozer and Jason Williams.

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Banchero, who ranks No. 4 overall on the 247Sports 2021 Composite, is similar to Boozer in that he is a brawny brute with advanced footwork and a creative array of soft shots from all spots inside the arc.

Chandler, who ranks No. 15 overall, looks a bit like Williams in that he is a sturdy rim-attacker with a relaxed swagger, a compact outside jumper, an explosive liftoff, and just an overall bucket-getter mentality.

But can Duke realistically reel in both? Well, the 247Sports Crystal Ball provides a mixed view of this dream scenario.

All eight Crystal Ball picks for Banchero show the 6-foot-9, 235-pound Seattle native staying close to home by choosing his parents’ alma mater, Washington. However, no recent picks are in, and the “Duke talk” has been picking up steam ever since the “visit” this month; plus, the “visit” technically was of the followup variety, for he was at Countdown to Craziness last fall during a real official visit.

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Meanwhile, both picks for Chandler show the 6-foot-1, 165-pound Memphis native winding up a Blue Devil. He has not taken an official visit to Durham, yet he was in town for an unofficial visit the same weekend as ESPN College Gameday — granted, on a sour note, he watched the Duke basketball team fall to Louisville that day.

Assuming the two targets do indeed intend to join forces, Washington would theoretically be out of contention considering there are no Huskies among Chandler’s 10 finalists: Duke, Kentucky, Memphis, Tennessee, North Carolina, Michigan, Florida State, Kansas, Ole Miss, and Southern Cal. Only the first six, as listed here, overlap with Banchero’s 11-deep list.

Both have mentioned cutting their lists as soon as summer and no later than the start of their senior seasons. So although neither has said exactly when a final decision will come, just by being on a similar timeline, Banchero and Chandler further hint at a package deal in store for some lucky program.

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The Duke basketball recruiters are fortunate to already have one 2021 commit in the bag: Archbishop Stepinac (N.Y.) five-star small forward A.J. Griffin. Others from the class with Blue Devil offers are Rolling Meadows (Ill.) five-star shooting guard Max Christie, Paul VI Catholic (Va.) five-star shooting guard Trevor Keels, The Patrick School (N.J.) five-star small forward Jonathan Kuminga, Hamilton (Wis.) five-star small forward Patrick Baldwin Jr., and Andrews Osborne (Ohio) four-star center Charles Bediako.

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