Duke basketball: Do recent transfers signal turmoil in Durham?

Duke basketball (Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports)
Duke basketball (Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports) /

Despite what the haters are selling, Duke basketball’s future looks bright.

Jalen Johnson bolting in February. Three transfers in the past seven days. Or an average of roughly one every two days. An underachieving 2020-21 Duke basketball campaign (13-11).

Understandably, without knowing anything else about the story, many outsiders are insisting that the Duke Blue Devils must have some serious internal issues these days.

Uninformed trolls aside, though, Duke’s current transfer total is pretty much on par with the rest of the ACC right now. After all, the average in the conference has already eclipsed two per team, and only two of the 15 league members have yet to lose a single player to the ever-growing transfer portal.

Actually, this recent flood of goodbyes coming out of Durham appears to be just another sign of the times — most everywhere — with the NCAA set to vote in early April on the one-time transfer rule. This new freedom, which is almost certain to pass, will allow any player anywhere one free pass to ditch one program for another without having to sit out a season.

At last check, per the following Wednesday morning tweet from 247Sports transfer guru Travis Branham, the list consists of 1,056 names and is on track to put past years’ totals to shame:

Besides, shifting back to the three departing Dukies thus far this offseason, keep in mind that the bunch includes only one underclassman: freshman forward Jaemyn Brakefield, a former four-star recruit who showed promise early but saw his impact taper off as the season progressed.

As for the other two, senior guard Jordan Goldwire and graduate forward Patrick Tape, the consensus was neither of the former unheralded recruits would use the extra year of eligibility that the NCAA has extended to everyone who played in the COVID-altered 2020-21 season.

Rather, the general expectation was that both, with Duke degrees in hand, would begin pro careers, possibly outside the hoops world altogether. After all, truth is, you’d likely be hard-pressed to find an NBA scout who could tell you much about either Goldwire or Tape right now.

True, the Blue Devils might’ve enjoyed another year from Goldwire, a bonafide go-getter and admirable leader who worked his tail off for minutes over the years and ultimately landed on the All-ACC Defensive Team this year.

And if nothing else, Tape would’ve given the next Duke basketball squad a 23-year-old deep reserve in the paint.

When it comes to Brakefield, he seemed to possess enough weapons to one day at least become a consistent double-digit scorer for Duke.

Plus, sophomore forward Matthew Hurt, who wound up on the 2021 All-ACC First Team, is in all likelihood about to explore a potential NBA career.

Ample Duke basketball stars in store

Consider that there is a pair of premier five-star freshman forwards in Paolo Banchero and AJ Griffin on the way. Both are projected 2022 lottery picks, but neither comes across in interviews as a me-first dude.

Moreover, note that five-star 2021 guard Trevor Keels is a legit sharpshooter and secondary ball-handler who continues to emit more and more Duke basketball vibes as he gears up for his decision day on Sunday.

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Finally, add the top-shelf prospects above to the anticipated returning scholarship talent below, featuring an encouraging sophomore-to-be quartet that surely grew as a unit by experiencing its fair share of adversity this past year:

  • Sophomore guard DJ Steward
  • Sophomore guard Jeremy Roach
  • Sophomore forward Henry Coleman
  • Sophomore center Mark Williams
  • Junior forward Wendell Moore Jr.
  • Senior forward Joey Baker

So between the potential trio of newcomers and six returnees, that’s nine players who all ranked no lower than No. 54 on the 247Sports Composite for their respective high school classes.

Of those nine, seven were McDonald’s All-Americans.

Yup, in what will be his 42nd season as the Duke basketball head coach, Hall of Famer Mike Krzyzewski ought to be able to work with that.

In fact, one could view all the recruiting and transfer moves taking place in Durham as a sizeable upgrade from last season to the main rotation’s overall talent level.

Furthermore, it’s not as if Coach K and his gang won’t have 1,000 or so transfers to potentially evaluate should they decide in the coming weeks and months to build a little more depth on the bench.

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Simply put, barring either any transfers to come from the 2020-21 Duke basketball team’s top few talents or several unexpected early exits to the professional level, the only fans who should really be worried moving forward are those whose favorite teams will be seeing the Blue Devils on their 2021-22 schedules.