Duke basketball: Blue Devils overdue for another 2021 commit

Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images) /

A six-month stretch without a single five-star addition to The Brotherhood is all it takes for Duke basketball recruiting junkies to suffer withdrawal and worry.

Archbishop Stepinac (N.Y.) five-star small forward AJ Griffin, who ranks No. 7 overall on the 247Sports 2021 Composite and committed in early November, must be lonely as the lone piece to his Duke basketball class.

And it’s not as if guys are holding off on verbal pledges during this uncertain time. In fact, one could argue the opposite is true. After all, North Carolina landed a commitment from four-star power forward Dontrez Styles on Saturday, and any good news out of Tar Heel Land always makes Blue Devils impatient to top it. Now, roughly a quarter of the top 60 juniors are off the board.

Plus, the needs in Durham for the season after next may be extensive. Rising seniors Jordan Goldwire and Mike Buckmire will have graduated. Incoming graduate transfer Patrick Tape will have expired eligibility. Sophomores-to-be Matthew Hurt and Wendell Moore are far from shoo-ins to become juniors. Five-star 2020 signee Jalen Johnson and a few others from his group could be professionals by then as well.

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Therefore, it’s possible Duke’s only returning scholarship players on the 2021-22 roster will be then-senior Joey Baker and three or four then-sophomores. Crunching the numbers, the 2021 haul needs to be at least five deep; however, six or more could again be the magic number.

Granted, it’s still early in the cycle. Besides, Mike Krzyzewski and his gang rarely have more than a couple of commits in the bag before a recruiting class begins its senior year of high school. Furthermore, Griffin remains the only top 10 talent to have announced his decision, and as of yet, no 2021 targets have rejected the Blue Devils.

But momentum boosts are key to Duke’s recruiting successes. Package deals materialize. The staff struts its stuff with extra swagger. Becoming a Blue Devil becomes trendier than ever.

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The list of those holding unanswered Duke basketball offers consists of seven five-stars: Briarcrest Christian (Tenn.) point guard Kennedy Chandler, Paul VI Catholic (Va.) shooting guard Trevor Keels, Rolling Meadows (Ill.) shooting guard Max Christie, Hamilton (Wis.) small forward Patrick Baldwin Jr., The Patrick School (N.J.) small forward Jonathan Kuminga, O’Dea (Wash.) power forward Paolo Banchero, and Andrews Osborne (Ohio) center Charles Bediako.

So who will be the next to put a smile on Blue Devil faces? Well, let’s start with who likely won’t. Not only does Duke not hold an outright Crystal Ball lead for Keels, Kuminga, or Bediako, but there have also been no recent reports of contact between Coach K & Co. and any of the three. On top of that, Keels and Bediako have yet to publish a list of favorites, suggesting they’re in no hurry.

Moving on, Duke owns 100 percent of the Crystal Ball picks for three of the other four: Chandler, Christie, and Baldwin Jr.

Chandler has scheduled a FaceTime visit with the Blue Devils next week. His buddy and possible college teammate, Banchero, took such a virtual trip last week. Both have already experienced Duke’s campus in person, and both have hinted that they will choose a school before their senior seasons begin.

As for Christie and Baldwin Jr., they also represent a potential package deal. Baldwin Jr. became the all-time earliest recipient of an offer from Coach K almost two years ago and attended Duke’s home win over Virginia Tech in February. He and Christie became friends while serving as Northwestern ballboys. Though neither has named finalists, both seem like secretive fellas who could just tweet out a commitment without seeking fanfare in advance.

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In other words, as was the case for Jeremy Roach’s commitment last May to jumpstart the Blue Devils’ 2020 class, the next one might just come out of the blue. If not soon, though, then the masses of spoiled Duke basketball fans will stay true to form by incessantly and unnecessarily mashing the panic button until another dose of five-star delight finally does arrive.

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