Duke is coming off an impressive haul of incoming 2013 freshmen. Of course, thanks to the one-and-done rule, college basketball requires teams to continually attract top recruits.
While the Duke Blue Devils will certainly be an exciting team in 2013 and likely be a serious title contender, there could be a mass exodus following that season. Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood could easily go pro after only one season of playing at Duke. Rasheed Sulaimon could see his draft stock rise and be tempted to exit after his sophomore season.
Even if Duke doesn’t lose a ton of underclassmen, seniors Tyler Thornton and Josh Hairston will graduate. Both players are solid rotation guys, and the absence of their contributions will need to be addressed in 2014.
Given that there will be a need to reload and replace lost production, let’s take a look the top five recruits Duke is targeting for the 2014 class.
Before getting into who Duke is still going after in the class of 2014, it’s worth mentioning a player who the Blue Devils have already landed.
Grayson Allen is an excellent shooting guard out of Florida. ESPN has him rated as a 4-star recruit and as the No. 8-ranked point guard in the country. The easy comparison for Duke fans to make is to J.J. Redick.
Allen is an excellent three-point shooter in high school, but it’d be overzealous to think that he’ll have the collegiate shooting prowess of Redick. He does, however, show off some good mobility.
Ultimately, he may not shoot quite as well as Redick did, but Allen might be more adept at driving to the basket. Either way, the Blue Devils have locked up another prototypical Duke three-point shooter with big-time scorer potential.
Jahlil Okafor is the top junior in the country, so nearly everyone is after his services. Duke, Michigan State and Kentucky seem to be a few of the front-runners according to Rivals. Of course, it’s early and no one should put anything past Calipari when it comes to recruiting.
As a 6’10” center, Okafor is a game-changer for whoever gets his commitment. He’d be NBA ready if it wasn’t for the one year of college requirement. He racks up blocks through good movement and defensive anticipation. He has impressive post moves for a high school player.
It’s been a while since Duke locked up such a highly touted post player. A commitment from Okafor would not only set up Duke for success in 2014, it would dispel the notion that Duke can’t attract quality post players.
Michigan State has the advantage of being closer to home for Okafor, and Kentucky can make the claim to having turned Anthony Davis and Nerlens Noel into prized NBA draftees.
If Duke can beat out those two schools and earn a commitment from Okafor, it will be a major coup. Not only will it benefit the team, it’ll benefit the program. Short term and long term, Okafor coming to Duke would have a massive positive impact.
The most interesting storyline in the 2014 class is that Tyus Jones and Kahlil Okafor want to go to the same school. Combining Jones, who is either the No. 1- or No. 2-ranked point guard in the class, with the No. 1 overall ranked 2014 recruit in Okafor would be a heck of a one-two punch.
But don’t be fooled into thinking that Duke is only recruiting Jones to get to Okafor. Mike Krzyzewski was a point guard himself and has a penchant for picking out point guard recruits with heaps of potential.
According to Blue Devil Nation, Coach K watched Tyus Jones’ entire game at the Nike EYBL Session II event. Jones has obviously caught the eye of Coach K. He’s exactly the sort of player that the Duke coach loves mentoring.
Moreover, Duke will have a need for a point guard. Quinn Cook will be a rising senior in 2014. Outside of him, there is no other point guard on Duke’s roster. Jones will receive a great deal of attention, but the Blue Devils will be offering the opportunity to run the offense for multiple years.
The prestige of playing point guard at Duke for Krzyzewski has a great deal of appeal. Even if Jones comes alone, Duke would be over the moon to have him on the 2014 roster and beyond.
While Duke’s trademark is to develop sharp-shooting guards, the Blue Devils need an inside presence. Trey Lyles is a solidly built power forward. He’s big and strong and uses that physicality to own the paint on offense and defense.
Duke is at its best when a dominant post player is paired with deadly three-point shooters. Lyles has the ability to corral offensive rebounds, offer reliable inside scoring through high-percentage shots and anchor the Blue Devils defense.
Even if Okafor turned Duke down, Lyles would ensure that the team’s interior play was more than up to par. If Okafor and Lyles both opted to come to Durham, then the Blue Devils would have an unparalleled inside game.
Duke is taking a hard look at several small forwards, but Justise Winslow could be the Blue Devils’ first choice.
Unfortunately, Arizona is one of the many teams doggedly pursuing Winslow as well (per Rivals). The Wildcats seem to have really rolled out the red carpet for him.
Coming out of Houston, Texas, Arizona has the advantage over Duke in terms of proximity to Winslow’s home. That combined with the atmosphere of going to school at Arizona versus Duke University means that the Blue Devils are fighting an uphill battle to get a commitment from Winslow.
If he does opt for Arizona, Duke will seek the services of small forward Theo Pinson. The Greensboro product could be leaning toward NC State, but if Duke loses out on Winslow and puts a full-court press on Pinson, he might end up a Blue Devil.
In 2014, Rasheed Sulaimon, if he hasn’t left for the NBA, will be a junior and Matt Jones will be a sophomore. So shooting guard isn’t of the highest priorities for the Blue Devils’ 2014 recruiting class.
Even still, Rashad Vaughn is the sort of player who coaches would happily find a spot for. Not only is he a shooting guard with great scoring ability, but his size makes him highly versatile.
At 6’6” and 200 pounds, Vaughn can guard players on the wing and post up smaller defenders. His height allows him to shoot over smaller guards on the perimeter and makes it more difficult for post players to block his shot on drives to the hoop.
In short, Vaughn could develop into a real force on the offensive end.
Louisville, UNC and Kentucky are among many teams hard-charging Vaughn (per Rivals). At the moment Duke doesn’t look likely to reel in this high-potential prospect, but if things go south with the other recruiting targets, then Vaughn would get much more attention from the Blue Devils.