Duke basketball: Jon Scheyer’s imprint is growing increasingly evident

Duke basketball (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports)
Duke basketball (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Subtle differences in Duke basketball’s Grand Philosophy

While it’s still too early to tell how Jon Scheyer will put his stamp on Duke basketball in the Xs and Os, we already see the things he has done on the recruiting trail. Known as one of the most skilled wranglers of talent in the country before his soon-to-be promotion, Scheyer was able to secure many of Coach K’s most prized recruits into top-rated classes year after year.

But he was working within the parameters laid out by Mike Krzyzewski. Duke basketball has consistently offered the least amount of scholarships and targets its would-be players more than any program in the country, often offering later in the cycle after many teams have built more solid relationships.

Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with that, as evidenced by those top-rated classes previously mentioned. Sometimes, though, the Blue Devils miss out on someone who professes Duke basketball fandom or a desire for a coveted offer. Far be it from me to know everything going on in the Duke basketball machine that is their recruiting strategy or the genuineness of every player wanting a scholarship, but someone like Jalen Suggs, who had no problems assimilating in with other point guards and who was rumored to really want that Duke attention, seemed like a missed opportunity.

It doesn’t appear as though Scheyer is offering more players than Coach K was previously, not yet anyway, but he seems to be investing more seriously into those relationships a lot sooner. As of this article, Duke basketball had four offers out for the 2023 class, with one commit in point guard Caleb Foster.

Scheyer isn’t just sending out assistants or having them make the first calls. He seems intent on keeping his presence out on the trail, and recruits are noticing. Even back in June, as top target Mackenzie Mgbako was showing out on the court and shooting up the rankings, schools were reaching out. But not like Duke.

In an interview with 247Sports, Mgbako talked about some schools, with Kentucky assistant Orlando Antigua reaching out “…just to check up on me…” and “…starting the recruitment process.” His impression of Duke basketball seemed a little bit different: “Coach Scheyer was the one who reached out,” saying it felt “…surreal. I didn’t believe it. I’m just living my dream right now.”

Those statements are probably why there are six predictions for Mgbako’s future home, with 100 percent of them crystal balling toward Duke. Scheyer has taken the entire staff to see GG Jackson practice early in the morning. Two days after securing Dereck Lively’s commitment, he was off to visit another potential target in Matas Buzelis, who he’s seen again since then. Scheyer has also checked in on Taylor Bol Bowen and offered JJ Taylor as soon as he was able on June 15, being the one leading the recruitment of the fellow Illinois player.

Scheyer also appears to know when to take a backseat to his most famous of mentors, utilizing his iconic status for Duke basketball’s future benefit. Even though GG Jackson would never play one second for Coach K, Scheyer set up the offer with Jackson and his family going into Mike Krzyzewski’s office to receive it from the retiring legend. The impression was noticeable: “…it seemed like everything was going in slow motion as he was saying the words. It was a very emotional moment. A big blessing.”

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Jon Scheyer appears content adhering to the philosophy that has made Duke basketball a pantheon in college hoops. But as we have seen throughout his playing days and early in his tenure going after his own recruits, he will do whatever it takes to win and isn’t afraid to change it up or adapt to get there.