Imminent or not, one step remains for a Duke basketball target: a decision.
Now that Jonathan Kuminga has graduated high school early, once all the pertinent recruiting sites have updated their rankings, a new No. 1 will emerge on the 247Sports 2021 Composite. One candidate to eventually take over the top spot is O’Dea (Wash.) power forward Paolo Banchero, who currently ranks No. 4 and sits at the center of the Duke basketball radar.
A recent breakdown of Banchero’s game via 247Sports analyst Josh Gershon seems to support the notion that the 6-foot-9, 235-pound Seattle native will at least be in the running for the honor as the best among rising seniors:
“Banchero has always had an excellent frame…wide shoulders and long arms…long been a very good shooter from the high post but is more comfortable from the perimeter and is a really tough cover off the dribble…toughness, motor, soft hands, and touch make him an outstanding scorer on the low block…elite vision…rebounding remains a strength…improved physical tools have made him a more versatile and effective defender.”
In April, the Gatorade Washington Boys Basketball Player of the Year, who averaged 22.6 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks last season, announced six favorites (previously 11): Duke, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arizona, Washington, and Gonzaga. This week, while Banchero didn’t specify when to expect a final decision, he explained to Stock Risers recruiting insider Jake Weingarten that he won’t further tweak his list beforehand:
“I’m not cutting down again…next is a decision for me.”
The Duke basketball recruiting machine certainly stands a chance
Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski and his staff, who hosted Banchero for an official visit in October and a virtual visit in April, don’t yet show up inside the 247Sports Crystal Ball for the 17-year-old. As for the two programs that do register expert picks — Kentucky with one and Washington with the other five — their perceived standings in the race hardly seem insurmountable.
Yes, John Calipari and his cohorts in Lexington held a second Zoom meeting with Banchero last week. Sure, the Huskies are the alma mater of both his parents and stand out as the hometown favorite.
All that aside, the Blue Devils boast the Crystal Ball lead for his friend, Sunrise Christian (Kan.) point guard Kennedy Chandler, a fellow 2021 five-star who has called Duke his “dream school” while making clear time and again that he and Banchero have talked extensively about teaming up at the college level.
Also, evidence suggests the other three remaining contenders for Banchero are indeed exactly that, contenders. Keep in mind that Arizona suddenly came on the scene just before the naming of his final six. Note that Tennessee hosted him and Chandler for official visits on the same weekend last fall and remains in hot pursuit of both. And Gonzaga, another close-to-home option, has become a legit power in five-star battles.
Whether Banchero waits until next spring or soon arrives at a decision — possibly without advanced warning — it looks as if all six hopefuls will be in it to win it until the end.
The Blue Devils also continue to pursue Chandler, of course, plus four more five-stars from the class: Hamilton (Wis.) small forward Patrick Baldwin Jr., Rolling Meadows (Ill.) shooting guard Max Christie, Paul VI Catholic (Va.) shooting guard Trevor Keels, and Andrews Osborne (Ohio) center Charles Bediako.
Coach K has landed one 2021 commit: Archbishop Stepinac (N.Y.) five-star small forward AJ Griffin, who pledged allegiance to the Duke basketball program in November.
Stay tuned to Ball Durham for more Duke basketball recruiting updates, analyses, opinions, and predictions.