Duke Basketball: Is Jabari Parker Coach K's Biggest Recruiting Coup Ever?
It’s not too often that a juggernaut college basketball program like Duke pulls off an upset victory.
But Jabari Parker choosing to play for Mike Krzyzewski has to be considered somewhat of an upset. For the majority of the long recruiting process for one of the most coveted players of all time, Duke wasn’t considered the favorite.
That honor went to the likes of Michigan State and—surprisingly—BYU. However, Duke quietly made Parker’s top five list just a couple of weeks ago.
And when Parker held up a Blue Devils shirt in front of throngs of adoring Chicago fans, the coup for Coach K was complete. Parker picking Duke was certainly a coup.
But where does the Parker signing rank on the list of top five Coach K recruiting steals of all time?
5. Shavlik Randolph
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Former Duke forward Shavlik Randolph never had the legendary career many thought he would in college.
But don’t forget that Randolph was one of the most coveted high school basketball players to ever come out of the Triangle (the area surrounding Duke, North Carolina and NC State) back in 2001.
Circumstances had Duke as the odd team out when it came to recruiting Randolph. After all, Randolph’s grandfather was a star basketball player himself at NC State. And his father played baseball for the Tar Heels.
Yet, Randolph surprised many when he opted to play for Coach K and Duke. At the time, it was considered major news in recruiting circles.
4. Greg Paulus
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Greg Paulus grew up in the shadows of the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.
So it came as a bit of a surprise to many when Paulus turned down a basketball scholarship from Jim Boeheim and Syracuse to play point guard at Duke. Paulus had many options coming out of high school, as he was a star quarterback in addition to a talented basketball player.
At one point, Paulus had a scholarship offer to play quarterback at Notre Dame. It’s not every day someone rejects that kind of opportunity.
However, that’s exactly what Paulus did when he committed to Mike Krzyzewski’s Duke Blue Devils in 2005. Ironically enough, Paulus returned home to play quarterback for one season at Syracuse after his Duke career ended in 2009.
3. Austin Rivers
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Austin Rivers had one of the greatest freshman seasons in Duke history just last year.
And to think he was originally destined to be a Florida Gator. Billy Donovan spent a long time trying to get Rivers to play for him in Gainesville.
For awhile it looked like Donovan’s commitment to Rivers was going to pay off in Rivers’ commitment to Florida. However, Rivers decommitted from the Gators back in April 2010.
Months later, Rivers signed a letter of intent to play for Mike Krzyzewski and Duke. He ended up being the top-ranked high school player in the country. And as they say, the rest is history.
2. Jabari Parker
When it came to recruiting Jabari Parker, a few schools held some distinct advantages that were supposed to help separate them from the rest of the pack.
Some critics thought Parker would sign with the Washington Huskies, since his brother attends the university and has worked for the basketball program. Others felt BYU was the favorite, given how much of a devout Mormon Parker is.
Even lowly DePaul was thought to be a wild card. If Parker was going to stay at home to play his college basketball, DePaul was supposedly the leading candidate in that regard.
It seemed like Duke was on the outside looking in. But playing for Mike Krzyzewski proved to be too attractive an opportunity for Parker to turn down.
So at the end of the day, it wasn’t family or religion that was the major selling point for Parker. Simply put, it was greatness (Parker) recognizing greatness (Coach K). That’s what allowed Duke to pull this off.
1. Johnny Dawkins
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Johnny Dawkins may not necessarily have been Mike Krzyzewski’s biggest recruiting steal ever.
But he tops this list because he was the most significant.
In his first two seasons at Duke, Coach K compiled a pedestrian 27-30 record.
And yet Dawkins, who was one of the best recruits in the country, committed to Coach K and Duke anyways back in 1982. That signing showed ACC fans that perhaps Krzyzewski was onto something in Durham.
Indeed, he was. Dawkins’ signing got the ball rolling on the dominant program Duke basketball would become. In the years after Dawkins, Coach K has won countless games and signed a ton of top talent.
But that success was a domino effect that emanated from Dawkins choosing to play for then-modest Duke three decades ago.