Duke simply had to get Amile Jefferson (news via Associated Press) if they were to remain one of the elite programs in college basketball.
Not that they absolutely need him for success next season, but this changes things in the recruiting circles.
Kentucky, Kansas, UCLA and other top programs such as Arizona (they are on their way back) and North Carolina seem to be getting the lion's share of McDonald's All Americans. Even lowly North Carolina State seem to be doing well under Mark Gottfried.
Duke does enjoy success in recruiting wing players and guards (2010 recruit Kyrie Irving just won NBA rookie of the year) but has missed out on several forwards and centers.
Mitch McGary, ranked No. 2 in the 2012 recruiting class last summer, went on record saying (via ESPN) that Duke big men are only good for setting screens and rebounding, then subsequently picked Michigan. That was the most brutal statement made by a recruit, but obviously he was not alone in this way of thinking.
Nerlens Noel, the top player in the same class, simply said “no” to Duke. Perry Ellis chose Kansas after claiming via kentucky.com he used to be "a real Dukie." The list goes on and on, as if Duke was the captain of the football team that could not get a date for his high school prom.
Tony Parker, a player who seemed like a dead ringer for Sheldon Williams and is affectionately known to the Duke fanbase as ‘The Landlord,’ chose to compete with a loaded UCLA frontcourt rather than commit to Duke.
According to Duke Basketball Report, Parker had cited in an online diary that Mason Plumlee was a "real monster" in high school and he had somehow regressed as a Blue Devil.
This was a myth the guys at Duke Basketball Report dismissed as rumor, since Parker was too young to play Plumlee in high school.
They argued that Mason Plumlee averaged 15.3 points, 10.1 rebounds and 2.5 blocks as a senior at Christ the King High School, which played “in the greatly inferior North Carolina private school league.” They then compared those numbers to Plumlee’s junior year at Duke (11.1 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks) against tougher competition, to show the forward had actually grown.
This is why Jefferson’s commitment is so important to show that players, specifically post players, can grow in Durham. Since The Landlord graduated in 2006, Duke has not had a polished offensive post player. The fact that Coach Krzyzewski personally took over Amile's recruiting showed how important the forward is to the program.
"Once Coach K started recruiting me, I did not talk to an assistant coach," Jefferson said, via ESPN. "That definitely shows the coach wants you and every conversation I had with him seemed genuine. I felt like I can become a better person and player at Duke University."
Both player and school must have a symbiotic relationship. Jefferson cannot sacrifice his offensive game just to play defense, rebound and set screens, he has to be rewarded with the ball on offense as well.
Not an easy task for a 6’8” power forward who weighs 190 lbs. His weight may be a red flag but not necessarily a great hindrance. Over the years, some players have shown that their athletic ability can triumph over lack of requisite weight in the ACC. Chris Bosh at Georgia Tech, John Henson at North Carolina and C J Leslie at North Carolina State are examples of this.
Jefferson, whose YouTube highlights show he is quite adept at finishing with either hands around the rim, should be a welcome addition for the coming season along with guard Rasheed Sulaimon.
It is doubtful that Jefferson will be a starter, but rising senior Ryan Kelly has proven in the past that he is just as effective coming off the bench as he is starting, so don't be surprised if Amile does start.
If Jefferson can enjoy some success, as an offensive threat, this will go a long way to demystify the perception of Duke big men and should help greatly with future recruiting. More importantly, Duke will get players that will provide balance in scoring rather than rely too much on outside shooting.