The Duke basketball recruiters remain in play for a coveted potential duo, but recent chatter implies they may have to settle for one — or neither.
Last week, Briarcrest Christian (Tenn.) point guard Kennedy Chandler announced five finalists for his services, including the Duke basketball program along with Kentucky, Memphis, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Days earlier, his close friend, O’Dea (Wash.) power forward Paolo Banchero, named his six: Arizona, Duke, Gonzaga, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Washington.
So the overlap between the lists consists of Duke, Kentucky, and Tennessee. And seeing that the two five-star 2021 prospects have, for a year now, publicly discussed joining forces at the next level while staying on the same timeline in terms of visits and lists, that overlap could prove significant.
However, in his inaugural SI blog this week, Chandler somewhat downplayed the possibility yet at least left the door cracked open:
“I know that people are talking about me and my guy Paolo being maybe a package deal…I would love to play with him in college, and if the school that we both feel is right for us happens to be the same school then that’s great. But we have to do what’s best for us first, and maybe that will be the same school. Too early to tell right now.”
What’s not too early to tell is the fact that both Chandler and Banchero — No. 4 and No. 15, respectively, on the 247Sports 2021 Composite — already appear ready to shine at the major-conference level.
Chandler comes equipped with an explosive first step, a high-level finishing ability, a compact outside stroke, and a keen eye. The 6-foot-1, 165-pound Memphis native attended a Duke basketball game this past season during an unofficial visit and is the only floor general in his class who has received an offer from Mike Krzyzewski — not to mention he has referred to said offer as a dream come true.
Meanwhile, Banchero has a sturdy frame to go along with refined footwork, smooth handles, and a soft shot, all bringing to mind former Blue Devil great Carlos Boozer. Coach K and his staff have made it clear via their consistent pursuit that the 6-foot-9, 235-pound Seattle native, who was at Duke’s Countdown to Craziness in October while on an official visit, is priority No. 1 at the four-spot.
To the dismay of Dukies, Rivals insider Corey Evans opined on Wednesday that a package deal of Chandler and Banchero seems unlikely:
“I am going to bet against it because very rarely do we see two five-star prospects go through with their original plans of attending college together…There are just so many dynamics that go into two prospects choosing the same school together as far as comfort level, location, fit, role, and other unforeseen influences that go unnoticed.”
Plus, Evans didn’t regain any Blue Devil fanfare by weighing in on the perceived favorite should package-deal plans come to fruition:
“If they do find a way to make it work, it might come as a surprise, but Tennessee has the best chance…If not Tennessee, maybe Kentucky keeps the two together…for now, I will say they go their separate ways with Chandler picking the Vols and Banchero choosing their rivals in the Bluegrass State.”
With only two picks in, the 247Sports Crystal Ball shows Duke as the frontrunner for Chandler, who noted in his blog that he has no idea when he’ll make a final decision. As for Banchero, who might also wait until next spring to choose what is likely to be a one-and-done destination, his Crystal Ball still unanimously favors Washington, the alma mater of both his parents.
Coach K and his cohorts have already landed a 2021 commitment from Archbishop Stepinac (N.Y.) five-star small forward AJ Griffin, who holds a No. 7 composite ranking.
Others from the class with Duke basketball offers are also five-star talents: 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, and Andrews Osborne (Ohio) center Charles Bediako.