Duke basketball: Insider sees two-horse race for 2021 five-star

Duke basketball (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
Duke basketball (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images) /

Duke basketball looks neck and neck with one foe in pursuit of a top guard.

According to a tweet on Tuesday from Tipton Edits, Paul VI (Va.) shooting guard Trevor Keels will unveil his three finalists at 7 p.m. EST on Wednesday. By all accounts, the Duke basketball recruiting team figures to make the cut. The same goes for Villanova.

In fact, per an article this week from Rivals insider Corey Evans, the third school that lives to fight another day in the battle for Keels — a 6-foot-5, 210-pound five-star who ranks No. 15 overall on the 247Sports Composite and has held a Duke offer since December — might just be there for show or as thanks for persistent efforts:

“While questions still remain as to who the third team will be, it is more of a two-team battle between Duke and Villanova … The final spot should be reserved for North Carolina or Virginia. The latter may be my pick right now thanks to their nearly three-year-long recruitment of Keels … Louisville, Michigan, Ohio State, and UConn are also in the mix.”

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Judging from the relative shortness of the list, one might deduce that Keels intends to pick a winner in time for the early signing period in November. In other words, presuming Duke and Villanova are indeed the clear frontrunners in the chase, head coaches Mike Krzyzewski and Jay Wright may have no more than a month or two to make their final push.

But it’s also possible the programs will need to prove over time which one has the greater need for Keels, whose game is somewhat reminiscent of 2015 Duke basketball champ Matt Jones in that his solid frame, smooth shooting stroke, trustworthy handles, and gritty defense outweigh his limited athleticism.

Here’s the take from Evans on the potential importance of available playing time to Keels:

“The question is whether the backcourt is too full at either spot next season and if that would deter him from picking the respective program. [Villanova’s] Collin Gillespie will graduate in the spring, but Justin Moore and Bryan Antoine will return, and an already loaded 2021 class will also enroll along the Main Line next year. At Duke, the Blue Devils are not recruiting any other guards in the 2021 class.”

Evans continued:

“Villanova has already landed Angelo Brizzi and Jordan Longino. However, [Duke guards] DJ Steward and Jeremy Roach could also return for their sophomore seasons, which could muddle some things along the perimeter … Either way, both programs make the cut.”

Between the Rivals FutureCast and 247Sports Crystal Ball, there’s only one expert prediction, and that points to Keels choosing Villanova.

Overall, Duke basketball sits pretty on the 2021 trail

Krzyzewski and his crew have reeled in two top 10 prep seniors in small forward AJ Griffin and power forward Paolo Banchero. They also remain in the hunt for three more five-stars: small forward Patrick Baldwin Jr., small forward Caleb Houstan, and center Charles Bediako.

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