Kentucky lurking around in key Duke basketball recruiting battle

Duke basketball (Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports)
Duke basketball (Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports) /

Don’t count out Kentucky basketball in one Duke basketball recruiting race.

They were late to the game, delivering an offer to Paul VI (Va.) shooting guard Trevor Keels in mid-February, more than a year after the five-star’s three active suitors. That said, the Kentucky basketball coaches remain a threat to their Duke basketball counterparts — plus Villanova and Virginia — as the recruiting rivals enter the last month or two of the high-profile chase.

At least that’s what three Rivals recruiting insiders implied this week in a roundtable gathering when discussing Keels, a 6-foot-5, 210-pound noted sharpshooter and multifaceted job-doer who sits No. 20 overall on the 247Sports 2021 Composite and has been near the center of the Blue Devil recruiters’ attention since December 2019.

Though none of three experts came close to calling Kentucky a favorite for Keels, Rob Cassidy, Jamie Shaw, and Russ Wood did each warn — to varying degrees — against overlooking the powerhouse in Lexington.

Cassidy kicked things off with a take that appears to be the least optimistic in terms of Kentucky’s chances to land the 17-year-old:

“It’s unwise to ever count John Calipari out of a recruiting battle, but this one might be a bit too uphill even for him. Duke and Villanova have too much of a head start when it comes to luring Trevor Keels…I’ll feel exceedingly dumb when [Kentucky] lands Keels and somebody with a Wildcat avatar tweets this paragraph at me, but that’s a risk I’m prepared to take.”

Shaw then chimed in with a similar forecast, explaining the likely reason for Kentucky’s sudden arrival on the scene in the first place:

“This has been a two-team race for a while now, Duke and Villanova…Kentucky moved late on Keels after reading the tea leaves with Hunter Sallis (Gonzaga) and Jaden Hardy (pro) going elsewhere. While Cal has to have some confidence in issuing such a late offer, it feels like the ship had already left the port…”

Finally, Wood examined the situation, perhaps giving Kentucky basketball fans just a tad more hope than his Rivals colleagues:

“John Calipari wouldn’t have offered late if he did not believe he has a real shot here. So, the Wildcats are in the sweepstakes, but right now I do not believe they will get Keels’ signature.”

It is worth pointing out at this late stage that the 247Sports Crystal Ball and Rivals FutureCast are still in full agreement concerning the frontrunner in the Keels pursuit: the blueblood Blue Devils. In fact, all seven predictions between the two recruiting sites continue to favor Duke.

On the other hand, it is also worth pointing out that Trevor Keels did officially add Kentucky to his finalists.

Summarizing all Duke basketball recruiting efforts

Also on the 2021 recruiting trail, in addition to the Trevor Keels pursuit, the Blue Devils technically remain in the hunt for IMG (Fla.) five-star center Charles Bediako and Hamilton (Wis.) five-star small forward Patrick Baldwin Jr.

Meanwhile, Duke basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski and his gang already hold signatures from two of the top 10 prospects in the class: O’Dea (Wash.) five-star power forward Paolo Banchero and Archbishop Stepinac (N.Y.) five-star small forward AJ Griffin.

Related Story. Experts weigh in on Charles Bediako race. light

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