Four rising seniors stand out as the most probable Duke basketball signees.
In all, Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski has handed out eight offers to the 2021 class. All eight are to five-star prospects. And the 73-year-old Hall of Famer has stood pat on the number since December, suggesting he and his top-tier recruiting team are confident they'll land their fair share of the eight.
If half the targets ink letters of intent with Duke during November's early signing period, then obviously the program would be in an ideal position, no matter how many current Blue Devils depart next spring. Krzyzewski could then wait to see what happens, knowing that even if he had to settle for three-stars or grad transfers to fill a few holes, the five-star quartet would ensure the total incoming talent is immense.
So how many of the 11 primary players on the 2020-21 roster figure to bounce? Well, Jordan Goldwire and Patrick Tape will graduate. Between sophomores Wendell Moore and Matthew Hurt, at least one is likely to turn pro. Jalen Johnson feels like a certain one-and-done. Of the other five freshmen, 1.5 is a fitting over-under for how many will bolt. Altogether, let's say five return for the 2021-22 campaign, meaning five to seven replacements will be the need.
Now, after absorbing the current buzz on the 2021 recruiting trail, it's time to predict which four names will put Coach K & Co. in supreme standing via fall signatures. We begin with the one who has verbally committed to Duke...
Four 2021 targets looking like Duke basketball players: AJ Griffin
BUZZ ON THE RECRUITING TRAIL: Archbishop Stepinac (N.Y.) small forward AJ Griffin verbally committed to Duke back in November, roughly two weeks after attending Countdown to Craziness and visiting with Mike Krzyzewski and the rest of the program's family members on hand that weekend. At this point, there is absolutely no reason to believe the No. 7 overall prospect on the 247Sports 2021 Composite would back out of his pledge to become a Blue Devil.
SCOUTING REPORT from Bleacher Report lead NBA scout Jonathan Wasserman: "Toned arms, wide shoulders, a 7-foot wingspan, and plus athletic abilities...high-level ball-handling...whether it's east-west as a dribble jump-shooter or north-south while attacking the rim...high-arching three-ball needs fine-tuning...tough to top his combination of mobility, strength, and length...steals and blocks appear effortless...our way-too-early No. 1 for [the 2022 draft]."
Four 2021 targets looking like Duke basketball players: Charles Bediako
BUZZ ON THE RECRUITING TRAIL: Charles Bediako, a Canadian who sits No. 21 on the 247Sports 2021 Composite and recently announced his transfer from Andrews Osborne Academy (Ohio) to IMG Academy (Fla.), is the lone center on Duke's 2021 wishlist. Plus, at most, only one true big man will come back from next season's squad in Durham. And Rivals insider Corey Evans notes this paint need as the overriding reason why he sees the Blue Devils as the eventual winners:
"In the frontcourt, things are promising. Charles Bediako could be the replacement for Mark Williams if Williams decides to depart after his freshman season. Alabama, Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State are among the others heavily involved with Bediako, but I like Duke for now."
SCOUTING REPORT from 247Sports recruiting analyst Josh Gershon: "Mobile center with good size, long arms, and budding athleticism...physically immature with a frame that should eventually carry a lot more weight...improved motor...relatively raw on offense, but hands and feet don't give serious limitations...made progress as a rebounder and rim protector with strength...needs to get stronger and add to skill but has a high ceiling."
Four 2021 targets looking like Duke basketball players: Kennedy Chandler
BUZZ ON THE RECRUITING TRAIL: Besides using "dream school" to describe the university in Durham, Sunrise Christian (Kan.) point guard Kennedy Chandler, No. 12 on the 247Sports 2021 Composite, tweeted last week his open-run highlights while wearing Duke shorts. Of his other finalists — Memphis, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Tennessee — the Volunteers drum up the most chatter. But the Blue Devils have one target at the point. Chances are he chooses the dream.
SCOUTING REPORT from 247Sports director of scouting Jerry Meyer: "Plays with surprising strength and exceptional explosive athleticism at 6-1. Regularly gets to the rim. Draws fouls at a high rate. Tremendous passer on the move. Adequate three-point shooter but plenty room for improvement. Creative finisher off the dribble. Rebounds position and is a disruptive defender."
Four 2021 targets looking like Duke basketball players: Patrick Baldwin Jr.
Patrick Baldwin Jr.
BUZZ ON THE RECRUITING TRAIL: Two summers ago, Mike Krzyzewski made Hamilton (Wis.) small forward Patrick Baldwin Jr. — not even a sophomore at the time — his all-time youngest offer recipient. The 17-year-old has been hearing from Duke assistant Jon Scheyer since middle school. Per Chicago Tribune columnist Teddy Greenstein, Krzyzewski has told friends that the No. 3 prospect on the 247Sports 2021 Composite is the "perfect recruit."
Baldwin Jr. recently unveiled 10 finalists: Duke, Georgetown, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Northwestern, UCLA, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Though he hasn't specified an exact timeline, he has said he won't trim his list again and plans to announce sometime before the early signing period. In addition to the 247Sports Crystal Ball unanimously seeing the battle as the Blue Devils to lose, Rivals insider Corey Evans chimed in this week with the same vision:
"I see it coming down to Duke and Milwaukee with the Blue Devils winning out over his father’s program."
SCOUTING REPORT from BadgersWire analyst Asher Low: "Patrick Baldwin Jr. is the truth...an NBA frame and an NBA jumper to go along with it...looks like he is playing at a completely slower pace than others around him, yet he dominates games without being in a hurry...almost looks as if his shot was created in a lab...consistent mechanics and a quick trigger...an element of smooth in his dribble moves...one of the first NBA comparisons that pops into my mind is Kevin Durant."
FINAL NOTE: Duke's other four 2021 targets — i.e., the ones Ball Durham does not foresee as Blue Devils at the moment — are Rolling Meadows (Ill.) shooting guard Max Christie, Paul VI Catholic (Va.) shooting guard Trevor Keels, O'Dea (Wash.) power forward Paolo Banchero, and The Patrick School (N.J.) small forward Jonathan Kuminga (technically, Kuminga is still in the 2021 class, yet he graduated and seems likely to take the G League or overseas route next season).
Stay tuned to Ball Durham for more Duke basketball recruiting updates, opinions, and predictions.