High school recruiting has come a long way. From the days of bare minimum media attention to today where social networks, a vast assortment of recruiting publications and recognition from the media is highly warranted, the landscape of recruiting has become the driving force behind college and professional athletics.
For the Duke Blue Devils, they've experienced an inordinate amount of success on the recruiting trail that has spanned for decades. Year after year, highly coveted recruits have viewed the Duke basketball program in Durham, N.C. as a preeminent step towards paramount player development, major national media coverage and above all else, excellence.
With that being said, how do you go about selecting five Duke recruits that exemplified greatness while being attached with an excessive amount of hype and expectations to succeed?
That is an extremely tough question to answer. Nevertheless, it has to be done.
Without further ado and through careful consideration, these are the five most heavily hyped recruits in the storied history of the Duke basketball program.
Agree or disagree? Be sure to express what you think in the comments section. Also, to add to the debate, include your five most heavily hyped Duke recruits.
If this list was expanded to comprise the 10 most hyped recruits in Duke history, the following five players would be included:
(In alphabetical order)
- Luol Deng
- Grant Hill
- Christian Laettner
- Austin Rivers
- Jay Williams
Before becoming the greatest point guard in the history of the Duke program, Bobby Hurley's legacy began as a pint-sized freshman at St. Anthony High School in Jersey City, New Jersey under the tutelage of his father and Hall of Fame head coach Bob Hurley Sr.
Regardless of his 6'0", 165-pound stature, Hurley was a transcendent point guard that possessed an abundance of natural gifts separating himself as an elite performer of his time. He was the game's equivalent of a modern-day van Gogh, as the basketball court became his personal canvas. Seeking a desirable need to evolve as a player game by game, year by year, his vision, creation and distribution of the basketball was unlike nothing that was ever seen before.
Throughout the course of his four-year career at St. Anthony, Hurley amassed an astonishing 115-5 record while leading the Friars to four consecutive Parochial state championships. As a senior, he led the school to a perfect 32-0 record, its first Tournament of Champions title and a No. 1 overall ranking in the country behind 20 points, eight assists and three steals per game.
Hurley was highly regarded as one of the two best point guards and players in the country in 1989.
Along with former Georgia Tech great Kenny Anderson, Hurley was a heavily sought-after recruit by virtually every major Division I program. This included Mike Krzyzewski's Duke Blue Devils, who opted to pursue the services of Hurley over Anderson.
Recruited with the opportunity to emerge as the starting point guard from day one and to give the Blue Devils a necessity that would allow them to capture an ever-elusive national championship, Hurley was Krzyzewski's primary target from the class of 1989. With that interest and amount of trust invested in the four-time high school state champion, Hurley chose Duke as his college destination.
The recruiting efforts of Coach K and his coaching staff paid dividends, as Hurley responded by guiding the Blue Devils to three Final Four appearances and back-to-back championships in 1991 and 1992, earning Final Four Most Outstanding Player honors as a junior. He remains the all-time assists leader in the NCAA (1,076) and finished a decorated college career with his jersey retired into the rafters of Cameron Indoor Stadium.
In a time where witnessing an outstanding, young high school athlete occurred by only attending games as a spectator and from traditional word of mouth that culminated in intrigue and mystery, the recruiting scene was essentially nonexistent.
However, through those words that traveled from mouth to mouth, one player was the talk of most of those conversations. He was a 6'7" dynamo from West Philadelphia High School. His name was Gene Banks.
Gene Banks became the story in the city of Philadelphia during his high school playing days in the 1970's, trumping that of the professional sports teams, inlcuding the Eagles, 76ers, Phillies and the Flyers whom of which had developed their own storylines at the time.
Why? Because Philadelphia was a well-known hotbed for high school basketball. Thanks in large part to Wilt Chamberlain, the city's most famed star who went on to an NBA-superstar career of epic proportions.
Without question the best player the city had produced since the days of Chamberlain, Banks exhibited a rare mix of finesse and power within his game that served as the foundation for West Philadelphia's success.
Behind Banks' heroics, he led West Philadelphia to national prominence in the mid-1970's amassing a 79-2 overall record and three city championships in his three-year high school career. Due to its overwhelming success combined with a gymnasium that struggled to seat more than 100 fans, the Speedboys began opening for the Julius Irving-led 76ers at The Spectrum.
Banks went on to become the state of Pennsylvania's first McDonald's All-American in 1977 and the very first McDonald's Classic Most Valuable Player.
Heavily recruited, Banks signed with Duke and then-head coach Bill Foster after dreams of turning an inferior program into a legitimate Final Four contender, making him the first high-profile recruiting target in school history.
As a freshman, Banks was named the ACC Rookie of the Year in 1978 while guiding the Blue Devils to the national championship game. He ended his tenure in Durham as a two-time NCAA All-American and remains as one of the most important figures not only in the city of Philadelphia but in the history of the Duke basketball program as well.
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.
He possessed an array of skills and remarkable talent that likened him to that of a younger Larry Bird. Comparisons, at the time, that were considered the ultimate compliment to a rising high school star.
Danny Ferry was groomed for a successful college career and eventual NBA stardom as a 6'10", 235-pound big man at famed DeMatha Catholic High School. The son of 10-year NBA veteran and two-time NBA Executive of the Year, Bob Ferry, the younger Ferry excelled at the high school level under the guidance of the legendary Morgan Wootten, considered in most coaching circles as one of the very best the game has seen.
It was during his celebrated four-year high school career that illustrated how prized of a recruit Ferry had become. Behind his play, the three-year starter helped lead DeMatha to three league championships and one national championship in 1984. As his reputation of a high-level recruit grew into his senior season, Ferry was recognized as the Parade Magazine Player of the Year, Mr. Basketball USA and USA Today High School Boys' Basketball Player of the Year in 1985.
Duke took quick notice.
Throughout the course of his final high school season, the Duke coaching staff was on the scene scouting the highly-touted prospect for virtually all 34 games that Ferry played in that year. Ferry's recruitment quickly became a national story when he announced that among his final three schools were ACC rivals Maryland, North Carolina and the Blue Devils.
His recruitment came to an end in April of that year, as Ferry signed with Duke at a press conference in his native state of Maryland.
Ferry went on to appear in three Final Fours while at Duke, winning numerous Player of the Year awards and becoming the first player in ACC history to accumulate more than 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 500 assists in his college career. Additionally, Ferry had his jersey retired at the end of his senior season.
While many will point to Johnny Dawkins, Coach K's first pivotal recruit from the historic class of 1982, as Duke's arrival onto the national scene in college basketball and recruiting as a whole, Danny Ferry was the guy that changed the program's overall perception as the nation's most coveted and premier high school recruits began to view Duke as a national powerhouse on the court and on the recruiting front.
When you're considered as "the best high school basketball player since LeBron James," that attracts some attention. When you've been distinguished as a top high school recruit since before your high school career, that speaks volumes. When you talk about hype, no other player that has signed their national letter of intent to play for Duke University has received this much hype and staggering expectations than Jabari Parker.
After showing significant interest in the Chicago native since his freshman season, Duke beat out the likes of BYU, Florida, Michigan State and Stanford for the services of one of the most highly sought-after recruiting targets in recent memory. It was a momentous recruiting victory for the Blue Devils who had viewed Parker in the same light as the all-time greats before him.
A four-year starter at Simeon Career Academy, Parker became only one of two players in the history of Illinois high school athletics to start for four consecutive state championship teams. His accolades are an endless list of unmatched and impressive feats. Among those are National Freshman of the Year, National Sophomore of the Year, National Junior of the Year, 2013 National Player of the Year and a repeat recipient of the Illinois Gatorade Player of the Year and Illinois' Mr. Basketball.
Possessing a game similar to that of a Paul Pierce or Carmelo Anthony, Parker will undoubtedly be considered as the go-to option for Duke in the 2014 season. As an immediate impact player, his addition to the Duke basketball program will allow them to be a prime contender for a national championship.
Outside of his skills and talent, however, lies his greatest asset; remaining humble. We've read the stories on how Parker was essentially a waterboy for the Simeon JV squad during his career, or how he will be the first to tell you amid all of the expectations, that he has accomplished nothing at the college level.
He is a true competitor, first and foremost, and is focused on being a leader that wins games for his team. Individual honors are impressive, yes, but in Parker's eyes, a championship holds much more value than any sort of award.
Through all of the documentation, the magazine covers, the rankings, the expectations and yes, the hype, Jabari Parker's relentless pursuit of retaining that elite status is guided by an unparalleled mindset: a mindset that keeps Parker grounded and well-aware of the goals ahead of him.
Whose the No. 1 most hyped Duke recruit in history? Jabari Parker, and it's no contest.