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For years Duke dominated the national recruiting scene. From the late 90's to the early 2000's, Duke enjoyed the riches of landing commitments from the nation's very best prospects. Which, in all likelihood, could be considered an understatement.
Then came the proverbial dry spell.
While the Blue Devils' recruiting classes were good in the mid 2000's, they were all missing that one player with the capabilities of elevating the program back to its glory days.
The ripple effect started with Brandan Wright in 2006. Wright committed to rival North Carolina in a stunner after including Duke in his four-team list.
Next was Patrick Patterson in 2007. With Duke in his final three in a highly publicized recruiting battle that included Florida and Kentucky, the highly-touted power forward opted for the Wildcats and the closer proximity to his West Virginia home.
That was soon followed by Greg Monroe choosing Georgetown in 2008 and then Kenny Boynton committing to Florida the next year, both players that received an inordinate amount of interest from Duke.
Four severe blows to the program.
Finally, from the class of 2010, Duke was on the short list of the nation's top point guard prospect Kyrie Irving: an immensely talented player who was viewed among many circles as a "can't-miss recruit" for the Blue Devils.
And that they didn't.
In October of 2009, Irving committed to Duke ending a four-year drought of unsuccessful recruiting efforts among the elite and beginning a string of good fortunes for the program, which included the 2010 national championship.
A member of St. Patrick High School as a junior and senior after transferring from Montclair Kimberley Academy, Irving was thought as an immediate impact recruit with expectations that consisted of leading Duke to back-to-back championships in his freshman year, becoming the No. 1 overall NBA Draft selection, capturing the NBA Rookie of the Year award and eventually going on to an all-star caliber career.
After leading St. Patrick to a 24-3 record and the Union County Tournament championship while averaging 24 points, five rebounds and seven assists per game, Irving was selected to play in the 2010 McDonald's All-American Game and the 2010 Jordan Brand Classic, in which he received co-MVP honors. He also won a gold medal with the United State Under-18 team at the FIBA Americas Under-18 Championship.
Unfortunately, his one and only season at Duke was hampered after suffering severe ligament damage in his right big toe that sidelined him indefinitely in his ninth game of the year. Over the course of the first eight games, however, Irving was undoubtedly the best player for the Blue Devils, averaging 17.4 points, 5.1 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game as he was quickly making a strong case of being named the Naismith College Player of the Year and the NCAA Freshman of the Year.
Returning from injury in time for the 2011 NCAA Tournament, Irving played limited minutes in Duke's first two games of the tournament, which included wins over Hampton and Michigan. In the Sweet 16 against Arizona, Irving's role expanded, although the Blue Devils were stunned by the Wildcats as Irving finished his college career with a scintillating 28-point performance.
Despite coming up short in leading Duke back to the Final Four in 2011, Irving went on to become the No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick of that year while earning Rookie of the Year honors for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
While it's difficult to label a player as a program-changer in an 11-game college career, Kyrie Irving was just that: a program-changing point guard enabling Duke to return back to a level of recruiting glory that had alluded them in recent years.