One particular prospect could make or break the 2021 Duke basketball class.
Just by landing Hamilton (Wis.) small forward Patrick Baldwin Jr., the Duke basketball coaches would enjoy yet another elite recruiting class. The five-star, who plans to pick a college sometime before the November signing period, would add to the commitment last November from Archbishop Stepinac (N.Y.) five-star small forward AJ Griffin, thereby ensuring the Blue Devils at least two of the top seven recruits on the 247Sports 2021 Composite.
Even if Mike Krzyzewski and his assistants had to fill in the remaining gaps with mediocre pieces — the class likely needs to be no less than four deep — the dynamite combo of Griffin and Baldwin Jr. would be sufficient for probable success come the 2021-22 season. Of course, that would likely be the only college season for both potential one-and-done lottery picks.
Even though Griffin, who ranks No. 7, and Baldwin Jr., No. 3, technically play the same position, both possess the necessary versatility to excel pretty much anywhere on the floor. Together, they would surely give Duke one of the top five classes on the 247Sports 2021 Team Rankings.
Baldwin Jr., who two summers ago became the all-time youngest recipient of an offer from Krzyzewski and in February took an unofficial visit to Duke, offers a unique blend of best-in-class hoops aptitude, center-like height, pristinely polished moves, and a textbook shooting stroke. According to Chicago Tribune columnist Teddy Greenstein, Coach K has implied that the 6-foot-10, 205-pound phenom has all the tools of a future Duke basketball legend:
"Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has told friends he views Baldwin as the 'perfect recruit.'
High basketball IQ. Great family. Relentless worker. A skilled stretch-four likened to Klay Thompson."
It's no sure thing, but the Duke basketball staff is the perceived favorite
In early May, Baldwin Jr. named 10 finalists: Duke, Georgetown, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Northwestern, UCLA, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Seeing that the 17-year-old is the namesake of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's head coach and was a ballboy for Northwestern when his dad was an assistant there under former Blue Devil Chris Collins, Duke's stiffest competition could indeed come from the two historically weakest recruiters from his list.
This week, Rivals recruiting insider Eric Bossi chimed in on the race, which the 247Sports Crystal Ball shows as Duke's to lose, and accurately asserted that Coach K & Co. should view Baldwin Jr. as an absolute must-get:
"The Blue Devils already have five-star wing AJ Griffin committed, but given Baldwin’s size, skill, and versatility, he looks like the remaining must-have player for Duke. Jalen Johnson will likely be gone after this season, and he could end up playing three or four positions for the Blue Devils this season. Baldwin could help fill that void. Also, Mike Krzyzewski’s best teams have had dangerous shooters, and Baldwin would be the best shooter of his size to land in Durham in quite some time."
The Duke basketball recruiters are also still in pursuit of five other 2021 five-stars: Sunrise Christian (Kan.) point guard Kennedy Chandler, Rolling Meadows (Ill.) shooting guard Max Christie, Paul VI Catholic (Va.) shooting guard Trevor Keels, O'Dea (Wash.) power forward Paolo Banchero, and Andrews Osborne (Ohio) center Charles Bediako.
Stay tuned to Ball Durham for more Duke basketball recruiting updates, analyses, opinions, and predictions.