Duke basketball recruiting: Blue Devils interested in ‘Baby Giannis’

Duke basketball head coach Jon Scheyer (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports)
Duke basketball head coach Jon Scheyer (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports) /

Duke basketball has eyes on a wildly promising 2023 prospect.

Five top-shelf early commits have put the 2023 Duke basketball recruiting haul comfortably atop the 247Sports Team Rankings. Still, the brilliant collection lacks a center. And there has been no word yet about new Blue Devil head coach Jon Scheyer extending any offers to high school juniors at that position.

But there are now a couple of 2023 big men on Duke’s radar. One is Putnam Science (Conn.) four-star Ugonna Kingsley, according to a tweet this week from Pro Insight recruiting insider Andrew Slater.

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Despite moving to America less than a year ago, Kingsley — standing somewhere between 6-foot-10 and 7-foot, depending on the source — shined as a member of an undefeated Putnam squad this past season. The budding talent from Nigeria now ranks No. 25 overall in his class, per the 2023 On3 Top Basketball Recruits.

As Slater noted in his tweet, Kingsley’s offer sheet consists of Georgetown, Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss, Providence, Texas Tech, and others. On top of the new Duke interest, which he was openly hoping for a month ago, the 17-year-old is hearing from Baylor, Kentucky, and Oregon.

A future NBA sensation on the Duke basketball recruiting watchlist?

Ugonna Kingsley’s AAU coach, Isaiah Davis, described the towering weapon’s game to 247Sports recruiting analyst Dushawn London back in the fall. While doing so, he offered one lofty comparison, in the form of a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player:

“He’s like a baby Giannis [Antetokounmpo]. He’s different…The glaring part to his game is his skill, but what also stands out is his adjustment to the speed of how they play over here in America compared to in Africa. It only took him a few weeks.”

Last month, Jamie Shaw of On3 provided his assessment of Kingsley’s stock, seemingly aligning with the coach’s ringing endorsement:

“Kingsley has some unique qualities about him. He is an elite defensive presence, possibly one of the best over the last couple of years from the center position. [Kingsley] has a lengthy 6-foot-10 frame with a lot of natural pop. He is raw in his offensive game, but he has some natural abilities.”

Shaw concluded with words on Kingsley’s potential in the rankings department:

“With continued development through the travel ball period, I could see him in the conversation for the top center in the class.”

Given Jon Scheyer’s show-no-mercy hunger for elite preps these days — the Blue Devils also sit atop the 2022 recruiting rankings — Ugonna Kingsley’s reachable best-at-position distinction might soon translate into a Duke basketball offer.

The five 2023 Blue Devil prizes to date are Oak Hill (Va.) five-star point guard Caleb Foster, NBA Global Academy (Australia) five-star point guard Tyrese Proctor, Centennial (Calif.) five-star shooting guard Jared McCain, Gill St. Bernard’s (N.J.) five-star small forward Mackenzie Mgbako, and Windermere (Fla.) four-star power forward Sean Stewart.

Loaded — but always room for more.

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