Duke basketball: Five-star package deal now looks less likely

Duke basketball (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Duke basketball (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

Can the Duke basketball coaches still add a pair of pals to the 2021 class?

Typically, when a package deal on the recruiting trail is truly in play, decision timelines align. Therefore, though plenty of past statements point to a tight friendship between Sunrise Christian (Kan.) point guard Kennedy Chandler and O’Dea (Wash.) power forward Paolo Banchero, the two prime Duke basketball targets no longer appear fixed on the path to forming what would be a scary five-star duo.

Judging by recent comments, one now looks like a fall signee while the other is eyeing the spring.

Chandler, who hails from Memphis and sits No. 13 overall on the 247Sports 2021 Composite, at one time hinted at holding off through next season in order to see how rosters shake out for the five finalists he announced in April: Duke, Kentucky, Memphis, North Carolina, and Tennessee. However, over the weekend, his dad, Kylan, made it clear to Larry Vaught of Marshall County Daily that the 6-foot-1, 165-pound explosive floor general intends to speed up the process:

“He’s not going to wait his whole senior year to make a decision. He’ll make it this fall, like maybe November. He wants to make a couple of visits when he can. After that, he wants to make a decision. He doesn’t want to go his whole senior year worrying about where he’s going to school.”

ALSO READ: Kennedy Chandler discusses all five finalists

As for choosing the best fit without knowing which backcourt players will return at each school, Kylan Chandler implied that such details aren’t so important for his son:

“He knows any school he picks that he has to go in and compete. He doesn’t want anyone to promise him this or that. He is ready to go at full pace and do what he needs to compete and hopefully start his freshman year.”

Krysten Peek of Rivals essentially suggested to Vaught that Kennedy Chandler should have no problem finding playing time wherever he winds up:

“I think he has more tools than people realize. Most see him as a playmaker and shifty point guard. But he has hops. He can play above the rim. He’s a very versatile 6-1 point guard. I remember his first time at USA Basketball, and he played with confidence because he knew he belonged — because he knows he’s a good player.”

Meanwhile, Paolo Banchero, who ranks No. 4, is down to six: Arizona, Duke, Gonzaga, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Washington (his parents’ alma mater). The observations that 1) three schools overlap with Chandler’s favorites, and 2) the 6-foot-9, 235-pound Seattle native made his cuts the day before his buddy, well, it all came across as a sign the prospects formulated their lists as a team (they formed their bond on and off the court last summer at a USA Basketball event).

But per his chat a few weeks ago with Pro Insight, Banchero, who used an official visit to check out the Duke basketball program last fall, is evidently preparing to sit tight for a while:

“I could just see it to where I would choose to wait till after the season. I don’t want to commit during the season…that’d be too much of a distraction, I think…I think it’d be cool to commit on my birthday, November 12, but I think with the virus, I don’t know when I’d be able to take a visit, so committing in the fall or winter feels like it might be rushed or squeezed in. So I could just see it happening to where I wait until after the basketball season.”

Here’s how Pro Insight summarized Banchero’s off-the-charts game:

“Paolo Banchero…checks every box emphatically. The former quarterback and track star hit a growth spurt, narrowed his focus to basketball…it’s paying off: he’s building a realistic case as the top overall player nationally in the 2021 high school class…strong, agile…great hands and shows incredible acumen on both ends of the floor. He’s flashed shooting potential out to the 3-point range…an adept distributor…has to be among the strongest players currently in high school.”

ALSO READ: The 15 Duke hoops stars who could’ve starred in football

A package duo still isn’t out of the question for the Duke basketball staff

Now, it remains within reason that Banchero could pick the same destination as Chandler, just six or so months later. That said, it could be telling that, unlike months ago, neither has made much mention of the other in their most recent interviews. The 247Sports Crystal Ball favors Duke for Chandler and Washington for Banchero.

Currently, Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski and his gang hold one commit from the 2021 class in Archbishop Stepinac (N.Y.) five-star small forward AJ Griffin. The Blue Devils also remain in pursuit of four other five-star rising seniors: Paul VI Catholic (Va.) shooting guard Trevor Keels, Rolling Meadows (Ill.) shooting guard Max Christie, Hamilton (Wis.) small forward Patrick Baldwin Jr., and IMG Academy (Fla.) center Charles Bediako.

Christie and Baldwin Jr., who were ballboys together at Northwestern in their early teenage years, have also brought up the idea of joining forces at the NCAA level, though never to the extent that Chandler and Banchero once did.

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