Duke basketball recruiting: Nolan Smith presents real threat in huge race

Former Duke basketball assistant Nolan Smith (USA TODAY Sports)
Former Duke basketball assistant Nolan Smith (USA TODAY Sports) /

Duke basketball versus Nolan Smith now seems inevitable.

Last week, Sierra Canyon (Calif.) small forward Trentyn Flowers told On3 recruiting insider Joe Tipton that the Duke basketball program was his favorite growing up. And while the 6-foot-8, 180-pound five-star has yet to receive an offer from the Blue Devils, his encouraging comments have suggested they’d be legit contenders should they officially enter his recruitment.

ALSO READ: Trentyn Flowers gushes over his dream school

But first-year Duke head coach Jon Scheyer and his cohorts could have to compete against one of their own in first-year Louisville assistant Nolan Smith, a former Blue Devil national champ on the Duke staff until joining the Cardinals in early April.

This week, Rob Cassidy of Rivals talked to Flowers, who ranks No. 8 overall on the 247Sports 2024 Composite, and the high school sophomore spoke quite highly about Smith:

“I talk to the new staff a lot. Coach Nolan Smith was recruiting me at Duke. I had a pretty good relationship with him even before he went to Louisville, and I feel like it’s a really strong relationship…He’s great. You can tell how much of a player’s coach he is when you talk to him. You know he’s gonna let you play your game.”

Jai Lucas’ connection with the Duke basketball recruiting prospect

All those kind words about Nolan Smith aside, Trentyn Flowers mentioned to Rob Cassidy a new heralded recruiting weapon in Durham who might work in Jon Scheyer’s favor. Yes, it appears the versatile wing already bonded with first-year Blue Devil assistant Jai Lucas when the 33-year-old was Kentucky’s top recruiter. He anticipates hearing from him again soon now that he’s at Duke:

“Now, it’s Coach [Jon] Scheyer and Coach [Jai] Lucas, who was just at Kentucky. Everyone is moving right now. I haven’t talked to Coach Lucas since he got there, but I think I will soon.”

Lucas ranked No. 2 behind Scheyer on the 247Sports 2021 Basketball Recruiter Rankings.

So it makes sense that despite no offer yet from the Blue Devils — about 20 offers are now in Flowers’ pocket — Cassidy views the high-profile recruitment as a three-team race between Duke, Kentucky, and Louisville at this juncture.

It’s worth noting that Flowers plans to decide on a winner by October. Therefore, Jon Scheyer, Jai Lucas, and the rest of the Duke gang may want to make their move — sooner rather than later — if they hope to land his services.

The Blue Devils’ only 2024 offers thus far are to three prospects at Trentyn Flowers’ position: five-star Naas Cunningham, five-star Bryson Tucker, and four-star Darren Harris.

Next. Jon Scheyer should set 2025 recruiting trail on fire. dark

Stay tuned to Ball Durham for more Duke basketball recruiting news and views.