Duke Basketball: 5 Early Storylines from the Blue Devils' 2014 Recruiting Trail
The Blue Devils are happy to have a stacked team heading into next season. Yet Duke is intent on continuing to attract top high school talent. With all the uncertainty surrounding underclassmen that will surely attract attention from the NBA, Duke may need a serious infusion of new talent.
There are numerous storylines surrounding Duke’s 2014 recruiting. Each one not only has it’s own interesting narrative, but it speaks to the Blue Devils’ future plans.
Will Tyus Jones Commit?
Coach K loves a good point guard. At the Nike EYBL Session 2, Duke’s head coach watched Jones’ entire game. The Blue Devils are pushing hard for Jones, and it would seem that he’s the number one point of emphasis for Duke’s 2014 recruiting class.
There are two reasons to go all in on Jones. The first is that he’s an incredibly talented point guard. Jones can score for himself, but his real strength is his leadership on the court. He creates easy buckets for teammates and wills his team to wins over stronger opponents (via Scout). That combination of intelligence, heart and skill makes Jones the premier point guard in the class.
Aside from his obvious value as an individual player, Jones continues to insist that he’s likely a package deal with Jahlil Okafor. Okafor is regarded by Rivals.com for one as the nation’s top high school player. Adding Okafor at center and Jones at point guard would dramatically improve the fortunes of any team in the country.
There’s no question that Duke would love to get a commitment from Jones and then have Okafor follow the point guard to Durham. But even if Duke just gets Jones, Coach K and his staff would be over the moon. He’d be a perfect point guard for Duke, and if he stayed for three years, he’d potentially grow into a Blue Devils legend.
Are Jones and Okafor Really a Package Deal?
Even in the post-LeBron James “The Decision” era, it’s hard to believe that two guys would agree to commit to play hoops at the same college. Ask yourself how many of your best friends from high school went to the same college as you. And Jones and Okafor aren’t even high school friends; they’re buddies from the basketball circuit.
No one is questioning their friendship, but the idea of hitching your wagon to someone else’s star sounds like a better idea that it might actually be.
For one thing, Okafor has a better shot at being a one-and-done than Jones. Recent draft history suggests that wing and post players are far more likely to be a top pick than point guards. So is Jones going to pick a school to accommodate his friend and then stick around for a year or two longer than Okafor?
Another problem is finding a school that’s a good fit for both of them. For instance, Duke probably wouldn’t bench Quinn Cook in his senior year to start Jones. Okafor, on the other hand, would likely find little resistance between him and a starting spot for the Blue Devils.
In the end, both Jones and Okafor are good players. And it’s easy to forget when they have men nearly four times their age drooling over them that these are two teenagers. So while it’s a cool idea, there are a lot of logistical problems that stand in the way of these two guys going to the same college.
They keep insisting that the likelihood of them being a package deal is extremely high. We’ll see. Duke’s focus on Jones could either split the two, allow them to get both or leave the Blue Devils to miss out on both players.
Which, If Any, Forward Will Duke Get?
The Blue Devils have already acquired a commitment for Grayson Allen and, as I’ve mentioned, Jones and Okafor are Duke’s primary recruiting targets. That’s a shooting guard, a point guard and a center. So who is going to be the forward that the Blue Devils lure to Cameron?
The four forwards to have received offers from Duke are Justise Winslow, Kevon Looney, Trey Lyles and Theo Pinson (via ESPN).
Per Scout.com, Kentucky and Louisville are strong contenders for Lyles, and Winslow seems to be leaning toward Arizona (per Blue Devil Nation). Duke isn’t favored to get either of those two guys unless the Blue Devils dramatically change their recruiting strategy and do some serious convincing.
Pinson is from Greensboro and the local prospect is allegedly high on the wish list for NC State. Indiana is also pressing for Pinson’s services. Moreover, Blue Devil Nation claims that Pinson is the sort of recruit who wants to be coddled by his suitors. As a result, Duke’s interest in Pinson has cooled.
Looney, on the other hand, is a player that the Blue Devils covet, and a coach of his says that his recruitment is wide open (via The Detroit News). Though (per ESPN) he’s attracted interest from a wide array of teams—including Michigan, Michigan State, Louisville and Kansas—Duke is still very much in the running for Looney.
Looney would be a real asset for Duke. He’s a power forward who enjoys playing in the post. He’s described as a relentless rebounder and a guy who can score in a variety of ways (via Scout).
That kind of contribution would be ideal for Duke. If Coach K can land him to go with Okafor, or just Looney by himself, then the Blue Devils will have a good post presence going forward.
How Will Duke Manage the Available Scholarships?
One of the many, many obnoxious things about the one-and-done rule is that teams with underclassmen superstars can’t be sure how many scholarships they have to offer.
Currently, Duke has made eight scholarship offers including the one accepted by Grayson Allen. However, Duke will only have four open spaces for scholarship players from graduating seniors. Tyler Thornton, Josh Hairston, Andre Dawkins and Todd Zafirovski will open up the only guaranteed roster space for the 2014 class.
Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood and Rasheed Sulaimon could potentially give the Blue Devils the opportunity to sign more players. For now, however, Duke must offer scholarships to players without knowing the specifics of position needs or how many players they can take in.
Even if there is a mass exodus in 2014, the Blue Devils will have a pretty versatile stable of players including Alex Murphy, Semi Ojeleye, Quinn Cook, Matt Jones, Amile Jefferson and Marshall Plumlee. Still, Duke certainly needs a point guard once Cooks leaves.
That position and others will need to be addressed. Doing so might requiring offering scholarships to players after underclassmen have declared for the draft.
So getting a variety of different positions in this offseason would help ensure that any last second additions can simply be cases of adding the best recruit available without having to go after specific positions.
Is Duke Getting Any Four-Year Players?
Duke isn’t Kentucky. The Blue Devils have won each of their four championships due in large part to contributions from upperclassmen. Four-year players have been integral parts of Duke’s success even as college basketball has tipped toward an overwhelming preference for one-year superstars.
By utilizing players who stay in school for three to four years, Duke’s coaching staff has an opportunity to develop players that may not have been at the top of their recruiting class. This also ensures that the Blue Devils don’t suffer from seasons like the one Kentucky just experienced. A roster that doesn’t turnover every season grants stability to the program.
So it’d be a positive if Duke procured a couple of players that project as players who will stick around for a full career.
Grayson Allen, who has already committed to Duke, is likely such a player. The shooting guard should be around for a while. That’ll give him time to develop his three-point shot, his ability to drive the lane and the basketball IQ to get open off screens. By the time Allen is an upperclassmen, he could be a complete player.
Kevon Looney possibly projects to be a long-term Blue Devil, but Duke’s other recruiting targets like Okafor and Jones are likely one to two year players at best.