Insider argues Duke basketball recruiting ‘cannot afford to strike out’ again

Could Duke basketball soon run out of chances on the 2021 recruiting trail?

When comparing the current 2021 classes of the top seven programs from the 2020 cycle, Corey Evans of Rivals seemed to suggest on Friday that the Duke basketball staff is bordering on desperation mode. Fair or not, here’s how the recruiting insider summed up the efforts by Mike Krzyzewski and his assistants:

“The Blue Devils did some nice work picking up the commitment of AJ Griffin last November, but things have sat at a standstill since…Duke cannot afford to strike out on its top targets any longer…”

However, Evans failed to mention that Archbishop Stepinac (N.Y.) five-star small forward AJ Griffin remains the highest-ranked commit among rising seniors at No. 6 overall on the 247Sports 2021 Composite. On the other hand, if judging the haul against those in Durham from recent years, it’s true Coach K & Co. has some work to do — particularly when considering roughly half of the top 100 have already announced their college destinations.

Players the Duke basketball coaches are still eyeing

By only chasing five-stars, the Blue Devils face nothing but loaded competition. In fact, all six with offers rank within the top 20: IMG (Fla.) center Charles Bediako at No. 20, Paul VI (Va.) shooting guard Trevor Keels at No. 16, Sunrise Christian (Kan.) point guard Kennedy Chandler at No. 11, Montverde (Fla.) small forward Caleb Houstan at No. 8, O’Dea (Wash.) power forward Paolo Banchero at No. 3, and Hamilton (Wis.) small forward Patrick Baldwin Jr. at No. 1.

Per Evans, in order to land the quantity and quality of talent that its fans have come to expect on an annual basis, the Duke basketball recruiting team must come away with a commitment from its priority 2021 prospect in Hamilton (Wis.) five-star small forward Patrick Baldwin Jr., who sits No. 1 overall, in addition to another five-star or two. But he doesn’t deny such success is possible:

“Just like Kentucky, the Blue Devils are not expecting to lose as many after the season to the NBA as this past spring, but there will be some holes that must be filled…Duke has placed an emphasis on Trevor Keels since Kennedy Chandler likely will not step foot in Durham. Pat Baldwin is a must-get for Duke, and it sits in a fine spot with him. The X-Factor could be Caleb Houstan…they have piqued his interest.”

ALSO READ: How Blue Devils supposedly overtook lead for 2021 five-star

Though the number of expected early departures is difficult to decipher at this point, it’s reasonable to assume Duke’s 2021 class needs to contain at least four pieces. Now, they wouldn’t all necessarily need to be five-stars inside the top 20. Until that looks impossible, though, it’d be foolish to think Coach K and his crew, whose past six collections have ranked among the top three in the country, couldn’t pull off such a feat.

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