Duke basketball: Coach K’s possible successor pulls off remarkable feat

A potential Duke basketball head coach is becoming an impressive recruiter.

Across 13 seasons as the head honcho at Harvard, without the benefit of being able to offer scholarships, Tommy Amaker has guided the Crimson to two NCAA Tournament wins in four appearances. Both the W’s were of the Cinderella variety. Plus, the former Duke basketball point guard and assistant almost pulled off a third in 2015, losing by only two points to No. 4 seed North Carolina.

Adding to his résumé, two of Amaker’s Harvard squads have appeared in the AP Top 25. More remarkable still, though, is what the 55-year-old has achieved as of late on the recruiting trail.

Not only has Amaker and his crew reeled in their conference’s top recruiting class three years running, but each of those hauls also ranked inside the top 70 on the 247Sports Team Rankings. Again, all this is without the use of athletic scholarships (a no-no in the Ivy League).

But wait, for Amaker seems to only be getting better as a recruiter. This week, he drew the attention of 247Sports top recruiting insider Evan Daniels for his early success with 2021 targets:

“If the Team Rankings were based just on 247Sports player rankings, Harvard would be at No. 2 in the Team Rankings with two top 100 players and a three-star.”

All three announced their pledges within the past six weeks. The top two prizes Daniels noted are both four-stars. Notre Dame Prep (Ill.) shooting guard Louis Lesmond, who ranks No. 87 on the Top247, chose Harvard over the likes of Marquette, Wisconsin, and Xavier. And Amaker was able to help convince Deerfield Academy (Mass.) big man Bennett Pitcher, No. 88, to choose hoops over football (he’s a three-star offensive tackle).

Is the Duke basketball alum outperforming his mentor in 2021?

On the actual 2021 Team Rankings, which only factors in recruits’ composite ratings, Harvard is No. 8 overall. Still, this means Amaker currently sits five spots ahead of his alma mater’s recruiting masterminds, who have lured only one commitment from rising seniors; albeit, the lone Duke commit is Archbishop Stepinac (N.Y.) five-star small forward AJ Griffin, No. 7 on the 247Sports 2021 Composite.

ALSO READ: Four 2021 recruits who look like Blue Devils

Amaker was a starter for a 1985-86 Duke basketball team that won 37 games and came within a minute of cutting down April nets. The Virginia native then became the inaugural NABC Defensive Player of the Year as a senior in 1987 and later served as an assistant under Mike Krzyzewski from 1988 to 1997.

While Amaker has long been among the names of possible successors to Coach K, who is now 73 years old, these recent recruiting feats should earn him extra consideration — whenever the day shall come.

ALSO READ: Ranking all 40 Duke teams under Coach K

At Harvard, Amaker boasts a combined 251-139 record. Including stints at Seton Hall (1997-01) and Michigan (2001-07), he’s 427-278 overall in 23 years as a head coach.

Stay tuned to Ball Durham for more Duke basketball news and views.