Some might view the Duke basketball head coach’s quiet pursuit of a must-have recruit as a bad sign, but the recruit himself appears to understand that’s just the legend’s proven scheme.
In one sense, there are only so many words to tell. In other words, Mike Krzyzewski doesn’t need to repeatedly tout what every five-star with ESPN has already seen for themselves: Duke basketball has the “it” factor. It is five national titles. It is the NCAA’s winningest coach. It is love or hate at first sight with no in-betweens. It is Zion Williamson. In fact, it is now so popular that today’s youth seem to see even JJ Redick as cool by association.
And Rolling Meadows (Ill.) junior shooting guard Max Christie seems to see one secret to Duke’s prolonged reign. In a Q&A this week with Rivals recruiting analyst Corey Evans, the No. 13 overall prospect on the 247Sports 2021 Composite alluded to Coach K’s uniquely fortunate process of letting the talent come to him:
“Coach K and with his recruiting style, he doesn’t talk to his recruits as much. He has a lot going on and is arguably the greatest coach of all time in college basketball. Coach K has been really busy, and Duke has contacted me every now and again…I just think their recruiting style is a little different…Duke has stayed in contact but not as much as the others.”
In this case, seeing that Christie looks like he checks all the boxes of a potential Blue Devil, the secret seems to be Krzyzewski’s post-offer test that checks to see if a target will join #TheBrotherhood without needing frequent sales pitches (and Coach K doesn’t operate an offer mill; rather, he seeks out only a handful of Duke-worthy prospects each cycle, even when needs abound).
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By giving this figurative test through his inaction, Coach K avoids the “chaser” label that makes many of his competitors look desperate and insincere. As a result, the 73-year-old has ended up with not only a sizeable chunk of the top 50 guys each year but also, for the most part, guys who are gung-ho about chasing Duke basketball dreams — at least for one season, anyway.
Maybe Christie, a sharpshooter with the wherewithal to own either guard position, will be one of those guys. Or maybe the 6-foot-6, 175-pound five-star will lace ’em up for a suitor at one of the other schools he spoke highly of to Evans: Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Villanova, and Virginia.
At this point, despite the relatively sparse contacts, all nine 247Sports Crystal Ball picks still give the edge to the Duke basketball recruiting machine. The same forecasting tool also proclaims Coach K & Co. the leader for Hamilton (Wis.) five-star small forward Patrick Baldwin Jr., which is significant if Christie was downplaying to Evans his thoughts on teaming up somewhere with his fellow Northwestern ballboy alum:
“I have known Pat since we were in sixth grade…we have had some talks here and there, but it hasn’t been anything necessarily huge. I think that it is kind of accidental actually that we both have the same type of schools on our list, but yeah, Pat is someone that I am close with and talk to every now and again.”
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Christie, who hails from the outskirts of the Duke basketball recruiting hotbed of Chicago, confirmed to Evans that he does still intend to choose a destination sometime before his senior season of high school ball begins in the fall. The 17-year-old also provided an encouraging response to the G League’s recent slick moves on the recruiting trail:
“A lot of players are looking to go the pro route with Jalen Green and Isaiah Todd…so it is really just a different route. Their main goal is to get to the NBA…for me, I obviously want to have the college experience…I want to get my degree at some point and feel that I am part of a family after I leave college…the G-League is definitely intriguing. You are making money…but I want to take the steps that will set me up for life and not just for basketball.”
Besides the ones to Max Christie and Patrick Baldwin Jr., Duke basketball invites remain on the table to five other 2021 five-stars: Briarcrest Christian (Tenn.) point guard Kennedy Chandler, Paul VI Catholic (Va.) shooting guard Trevor Keels, The Patrick School (N.J.) small forward Jonathan Kuminga, O’Dea (Wash.) power forward Paolo Banchero, and Andrews Osborne (Ohio) center Charles Bediako. The lone Blue Devil commit from the class right now is Archbishop Stepinac (N.Y.) five-star small forward AJ Griffin.