Duke basketball can play mind games with UNC in recruiting race

Despite no offer, Duke basketball might end up a finalist for a UNC target.

Typically, when recruits trim a top 10, five survive. But some unveil six instead. That’s exactly what St. Mark’s (Texas) five-star small forward Harrison Ingram plans to do on Aug. 1, per the 6-foot-7, 210-pound rising senior’s Sunday tweet. In such “plus-one” scenarios, especially when the “sixth” represents a new addition and, more specifically, the Duke basketball program, it signals the hope for a dream offer.

So will Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski be “sixth man” in the battle for Ingram (no relation to Brandon Ingram)? If so, then the 73-year-old could crawl inside the head of his archnemesis in Chapel Hill — and just by watching from the bench. Besides, what Rivals analyst Corey Evans wrote two weeks ago about the longtime target of North Carolina’s Roy Williams implies this game could be Duke’s to lose:

“While Duke is not even among Ingram’s final 10, the Blue Devils have begun to pick up interest in him in recent weeks. If an offer is handed out, the Blue Devils might instantly become the favorite. Duke was Ingram’s dream school growing up, and we should know fairly soon Duke’s intent…If the Blue Devils were to actually want him, an offer would then be handed out by the end of the month. If not, it would give his finalists a better chance.”

Is a Duke basketball offer even necessary yet?

Well, July’s end is now four days away. And Ingram’s top six is set for the following day. Yet that doesn’t necessarily mean Duke must hurry with an offer like Evans suggested. Chances are the recent attention alone has reserved the “dream school” a seat. Chances are Coach K’s crew has skillfully communicated to the 17-year-old that it might ramp things up after seeing how some previously entered pursuits pan out.

Of course, it is possible Duke won’t be on the list for Ingram, who sits No. 15 on the 247Sports 2021 Composite with the instincts and know-how to potentially shine at three positions. Still, the mere possibility of putting Tar Heels on edge down the stretch of any contest — whether on the recruiting trail or in front of Dean Dome patrons — deserves special attention from Blue Devils.

Outside UNC, Ingram’s 10 consists of Arkansas, Baylor, Louisville, Memphis, Michigan, Purdue, Stanford, Tennessee, and Texas A&M. After recently talking to the Dallas native, Jake Weingarten of Stock Risers analyzed the race, hitting some of the same points as Evans while adding other nuggets:

“Duke and Kentucky have begun to reach out and pick up interest in Ingram…pretty interesting due to the fact that he already had dropped his final list and neither program made the cut. But, for this, Ingram will hear out all options as of right now and reaffirms that despite many rumors ‘everything is speculation right now’…he isn’t close to a decision.”

Weingarten continued:

“Recently, Ingram landed an offer from Howard. He was honored by the opportunity to play at an HBCU saying ‘they are now being heavily considered’ — which is very significant because this could be a move that he would make. His mother and father both attended HBCUs…he said the chance to be a legacy recruit is something he would 100% consider. Also, Harvard offered and could be seen as another option in his recruitment.”

Finally, Weingarten wrapped up his takeaways by taking a stab at who the leaders are:

“I think Ingram could nab at least an offer from Duke soon…if they do I think they could jump ahead of many teams involved. As of now if I had to choose one school I think my underdog would be Stanford…they’ve prioritized him for quite some time. I think UNC and Tennessee are sleepers also.”

ALSO READ: Dream Duke starting five for 2021-22 season

To date, the Duke basketball staff has snagged one 2021 pledge in Archbishop Stepinac (N.J.) five-star small forward AJ Griffin. Offers are out to six others, all five-stars: Sunrise Christian (Kan.) point guard Kennedy Chandler, Paul VI (Va.) shooting guard Trevor Keels, Montverde (Fla.) small forward Caleb Houstan, Hamilton (Wis.) small forward Patrick Baldwin Jr., O’Dea (Wash.) power forward Paolo Banchero, and IMG (Fla.) center Charles Bediako.

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