In light of the recruiting trail remaining closed until further notice, a top-five talent could go relatively unnoticed in the eyes of Duke basketball recruiters and their heavyweight counterparts.
Under normal conditions, a live evaluation period would be underway right now, meaning Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski and his assistants would be spending much of late April in various gyms across the country on the lookout for offer-worthy high schoolers.
Under these current stay-at-home conditions, though, outside of any five-star film the guys in Durham have on file at their respective homes, they’re pretty much stuck scouring YouTube like some Joe Schmo.
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As Rivals national recruiting analyst Eric Bossi opined in a Wednesday article, Coach K & Co. might end up overlooking Sandy Creek (Ga.) five-star power forward Jabari Smith — a potential game-changer at the NCAA level — by lacking an ideal opportunity to reinspect the No. 5 prospect on the 247Sports 2021 Composite:
“I don’t know how a player as talented as Smith, who fits the direction the game is going because of his inside/out game, has made it this far without any blueblood offers — but he has. I’m pretty sure that after a weekend of bombing threes, showing off his low-post game and more…would have seen head coaches from Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, and others get more involved.”
It’s not as if the Blue Devils already have an excess of tall dudes in storage for the season after next. Patrick Tape, an incoming graduate transfer for the upcoming season, will have graduated in terms of eligibility. Chances are Matthew Hurt will have moved on to the pro ranks before entering what would be his third year in college. Surely, one or more of 2020 signees Jalen Johnson, Henry Coleman, Jaemyn Brakefield, and Mark Williams will be gone by then as well.
Currently, Krzyzewski has an offer out to only one 2021 center in Andrews Osborne (Ohio) five-star Charles Bediako, and there have been no reports of contact between the two sides as of late. Meanwhile, O’Dea (Wash.) five-star Paolo Banchero, who ranks one spot ahead of Smith, is the only power forward holding a Duke basketball invite; although all signs say he is at or near the top of the Blue Devil wishlist, not all signs say this particular wish will come true.
That brings us back to Smith. Last summer, a few members of the Duke basketball staff scouted the 6-foot-9, 195-pound namesake of a former five-year NBA center. At the time, Ball Durham noted the prep’s literal weakness while also explaining how the strengths to his game more than compensated for his skinny frame:
“Versatility, intensity, go-go-gadget arms, and a knack for turning garbage in the paint into buckets…Across the USA U16 National Team’s gold-medal run at the FIBA Americas Championship in June, he shot 54.7 percent from the field and 36.8 percent from beyond the arc on his way to averaging 13.8 points and 6.2 rebounds in only 17.8 minutes per game.”
Unfortunately, while it appears as if Smith has both literally and figuratively taken some giant strides the past six months — especially in terms of his shooting range, as is evident in the latest mixtape below — Coach K and his cohorts may not have a chance to check out the improved version in person for quite some time:
Per 247Sports, as Smith for some reason still awaits heightened interest from recruiting powerhouses, his primary pursuers are Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Ole Miss, and Tennessee.
Coach K and his gang already have one commit from Smith’s class in Archbishop Stepinac (N.Y.) five-star small forward AJ Griffin, who ranks No. 7 overall.
The list of unanswered 2021 Duke basketball offers presently consists of Bediako and Banchero plus five more five-stars: Briarcrest Christian (Tenn.) point guard Kennedy Chandler, Rolling Meadows (Ill.) shooting guard Max Christie, Paul VI Catholic (Va.) shooting guard Trevor Keels, The Patrick School (N.J.) small forward Jonathan Kuminga, and Hamilton (Wis.) small forward Patrick Baldwin Jr.