Five-star forward keeps Duke basketball in contention, eliminates UNC

Duke basketball (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)
Duke basketball (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports) /

It’s Duke basketball versus three others for a five-star 2021 sharpshooter.

Once again, the Duke basketball recruiters have entered the final stage of a five-star race. However, three others are in the mix as well, and it doesn’t appear as if the Blue Devils are the outright leaders. A surprise came in the form of the UNC basketball staff failing to make the cut since it had been in heavy pursuit since January; Duke didn’t extend an offer until late June.

Montverde (Fla.) senior Caleb Houstan, a 6-foot-8, 205-pound versatile small forward who ranks No. 8 overall on the 247Sports 2021 Composite, named his four finalists on Wednesday via Tipton Edits: Alabama, Duke, Michigan, and Virginia.

Though Houstan hasn’t said when he’ll make a final decision, the fact he’s down to four might serve as a hint to be on the lookout for an announcement in the coming weeks.

While the 247Sports Crystal Ball is empty for the native of Mississauga, Ont. — the same hometown as Duke basketball great RJ Barrett — it’s clear Alabama has been picking up steam. The Crimson Tide snagged the No. 1 point guard in JD Davison last week and are looking strong for five-star center Charles Bediako, a Blue Devil target who will name his top five on Saturday.

As for the Blue Devils, their only hope for Houstan is probably rejection from small forward Patrick Baldwin Jr., who ranks No. 1 and also hasn’t specified when he’ll commit.

ALSO READ: What to make of peculiar Patrick Baldwin Jr. updates

Whichever school wins the Houstan sweepstakes is sure to enjoy the silky shooting stroke that comes with it. Here’s the recent evaluation of the 17-year-old’s game from 247Sports director of basketball scouting Jerry Meyer:

“Has good size as a combo forward with shooting range. Not overly athletic, but plays with strength and has body control. Dangerous 3-point shooter. Finishes well inside the arc. Composed with the basketball. Solid handler and passer. Strong rebounder. Comes up with points off the glass. A positional defender with versatility defensively.”

A recap of 2021 Duke basketball recruiting efforts thus far

Mike Krzyzewski and his gang in Durham have reeled in two pledges from the 2021 class, both five-stars who just so happen to remain the top two prospects off the board: power forward Paolo Banchero, who ranks No. 3, and small forward AJ Griffin, who ranks No. 6.

Besides Houstan, Baldwin Jr., and Bediako, the only other prep senior currently holding a Duke basketball offer is five-star shooting guard Trevor Keels, who ranks No. 16 overall and is already down to a top three of Duke, Virginia, and Villanova (no word on his decision date yet either).

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Stay tuned to Ball Durham for more on Caleb Houstan plus other Duke basketball recruiting news and views.