Duke basketball battling UNC and Kentucky for stellar recruit

Duke basketball head coach-in-waiting Jon Scheyer (Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports)
Duke basketball head coach-in-waiting Jon Scheyer (Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports) /

Mackenzie Mgbako may pit the Duke basketball coaches against familiar foes.

Duke basketball. UNC basketball. Kentucky basketball. At this early stage on the 2023 recruiting trail, those three programs — arguably the most recognizable bluebloods in college hoops — might be the most hopeful pursuers of Gill St. Bernard’s (N.J.) small forward Mackenzie Mgbako.

Sure, the 6-foot-8, 195-pound five-star noted several other suitors during a chat this week with 247Sports insider Dushawn London. They include Kansas, Memphis, Michigan, Northwestern, Ohio State, and UConn.

But Mgbako, who ranks No. 6 on the 247Sports 2023 Composite due to go-go-gadget arms and top-shelf versatility, spoke at length about only Duke, UNC, and Kentucky.

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Earlier this month, Mgbako used his first official visit to check out the Blue Devils and said the following to London about that trip:

“The Duke visit went really well. I loved the atmosphere. While on the visit, we went on a plethora of meetings. We did a fitness meeting, player development meeting, exercise and workout-routine meeting, and a campus east and west tour meeting.”

Mgbako then again hinted that Hall of Famer Mike Krzyzewski’s upcoming retirement wouldn’t deter him from potentially choosing Duke for what could be a one-and-done stay in college before becoming an NBA lottery pick:

“[Jon] Scheyer is a very experienced coach, and Duke is in good hands passing the baton off from Coach K to Scheyer.”

Next, here’s what Mgbako highlighted about the other heavy interest coming from Tobacco Road:

“Our relationship is building day by day, and I feel like [the Tar Heels are] most definitely an option as well. With them, I like [UNC basketball head coach Hubert] Davis’ character, and I like speaking to him. Basketball-wise, they move the ball well and get shots off quickly, which I enjoy. We started talking about dates where I can take a visit in the future, but nothing is locked in yet.”

Finally, Mgbako touched on his talks with the Kentucky basketball staff:

“[Kentucky basketball assistant coach Orlando] Antigua and I have a really good relationship, and we’ve been talking for almost a year now. His message has just been that Kentucky is a really good place to be and a place for me and that I will be very successful if I go there.”

Meanwhile, Mgbako pointed out to London that he has no decision timeline in mind at the moment. And thus far, he has yet to mark his calendar for any more official visits.

Duke basketball looking like the frontrunner

There’s no question Duke basketball has a proven track record when recruiting high-profile New Jersey targets. Most recently, Jon Scheyer and the assistants in Durham picked up a Garden State pledge from five-star 2022 small forward Dariq Whitehead.

Now, recent chatter among insiders hints that the Jersey-to-Durham train is showing no signs of slowing down.

Yes, between the 247Sports Crystal Ball and Rivals FutureCast, all three expert predictions to date point to the Blue Devils coming out on top in the Mgbako sweepstakes.

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Currently, the Duke Blue Devils lay claim to zero commitments from their 2023 wishlist. Outside of Mackenzie Mgbako, offers are the table to five-star point guard Caleb Foster, five-star small forward JJ Taylor, and five-star power forward Greg Jackson.