Even top-of-the-line luxury cars need a sales pitch to close the deal with prospective buyers. Obviously it’s easier to make the case for a Tesla than it is for a pre-owned piece of junk. Fortunately, Duke is more in line with a Lamborghini than a Lancer.
Of course, the Blue Devils are competing with other top-flight teams for the signatures of the nation’s best high school players. So what can Duke sell to prospective players that differentiates the Blue Devils from everyone else?
Each player is different, so the pitch is tailored to specific situations. That being the case, these are the sales pitches Duke can make to the top recruits drawing interest from the Blue Devils.
Pitch: You get to play point guard at Duke under Mike Krzyzewski.
Playing point guard at Duke is one of the most coveted positions in all of sports. A Duke point guard gets to learn the game from Mike Krzyzewski, who himself played point guard under the guidance of Bob Knight. That’s quite the lineage.
By all accounts, Jones is a really smart basketball player. He understands the game and is skilled enough to contribute in nearly every stat category.
In a lot of ways, Jones has the potential to be the most complete point guard since Jason Williams. He’s athletic on defense, finds teammates with well-delivered passes and can score from beyond the arc or off penetration. If Jones were to put all those assets to use inside the Duke system with the insight provided to him by Coach K, he’d quickly become the nation’s best college point guard.
Beyond the prestige, there’s a practical advantage to playing for Duke. As the most recent NBA draft showed, taking point guards with a high pick has gone a bit out of fashion for NBA teams. Unless the player is an obvious otherworldly talent like Derrick Rose, NBA GMs and coaches aren’t willing to take on the project of tutoring a young player until he’s NBA ready.
Playing at a big program against big competition and doing so under Mike Krzyzewski would alleviate some of the concerns NBA teams have about picking a point guard. At Duke, Jones could improve his understanding of the game and prove his skills against top-notch opponents. In the short term, that would improve his draft stock. In the long term, it would make him the sort of player who could muster an extremely impressively NBA career.
Pitch: You’ll be the focal point of the offense.
The incentive for Okafor to commit to Duke is pretty simple. The Blue Devils will have some solid post players in 2014, but none of them compare to the potentially dominant force of Okafor. As a result, Okafor would immediately become the primary option in the post.
Duke proved last season that Coach K was willing to run offensive sets through the post. The much-maligned Mason Plumlee was the beneficiary of this emphasis on inside scoring. Okafor is much more of a traditional post player than Plumlee, who preferred to play facing the basket. Therefore, Okafor and his post moves in the paint would be a focal point for the Blue Devils.
Another benefit to Okafor’s central role on the team would be on defense. Given Duke’s commitment to man-to-man defense, Okafor would often find himself rotating to weak-side help. That would make for plenty of blocked shot opportunities. He’d also likely pad his stats with rebounds as he collected missed three-point shots and defensive boards.
In all, Okafor would be a game-changer for Duke is such a way that he’d immediately be of immense importance. That would allow him to truly showcase all the facets of his game and prove that he can carry a team. NBA clubs would be salivating over his stats, the pedigree he’d get from playing under Coach K and his ability to handle the pressure of being a team’s centerpiece player.
Pitch: You’ll rack up rebounds and develop an outside shot.
Right now the scouting report on Looney is that he’s a monster rebounder. He’s a 6’8” forward with boatloads of athleticism and enough strength to compete in the paint. Wherever he goes, he’ll make an impact on the boards, but at Duke, he’ll distinguish himself even more.
In 2014, Duke may or may not retain the services of Rasheed Sulaimon, but they will have Matt Jones, Alex Murphy, Grayson Allen and other perimeter players. Not all of those three-pointers go in, and the resulting rebounds will be up for grabs. Looney’s ability to slice toward rebounds would be highly valuable at Duke and give him eye-popping stats for a future in the NBA.
Going to Duke would also benefit Looney by allowing him to address the weakest part of his game.
Currently the biggest knock on Looney is that he doesn’t have a consistent long-range shot. If any school likes shooting from the outside, it’s Duke. As a Blue Devil, he’d be the beneficiary of quality coaching and he’d be surrounded by good shooters past and present.
Given his size, Looney will need to develop the ability to score from outside the paint. Duke offers the type of offense that will allow him that space to develop. Programs like Michigan State and Georgetown are more likely to stuff Looney inside. At Duke, he’d be encouraged to become a more versatile player.
Looney has the talent to eventually play in the NBA, but he needs to demonstrate a diversified skill set at the college level. Duke’s system and coaching style suit that development. Hence, a commitment to Duke would be in Looney’s best interest and obviously would benefit the Blue Devils.
Pitch: You’ll team up with Rasheed Sulaimon.
Admittedly this isn’t the greatest of pitches. But the truth is that Winslow is leaning toward playing at either Arizona or Duke. The Wildcats have a good program with a good coach and a share of the national spotlight. Though Arizona is behind Duke is each of those categories, the Blue Devils need to offer something the Wildcats can’t.
Apparently Winslow and Rasheed Sulaimon are friends. Both guys are from Houston, and Duke has used Sulaimon to pitch the merits of being a Blue Devil to Winslow.
Whatever the off-the-court relationship, a Winslow-Sulaimon partnership on the court would be something special. Both guys are adept slashers who can score from anywhere on the court. Both are athletic defenders. That tandem would make Duke’s wing players a cut above everyone else in the country.
Winslow isn’t a Wildcat yet and Duke needs to pull out all of the stops to get him to Durham. The allure of playing with a fellow Houstonian and a similarly skilled wing player might mean something to Winslow. Certainly adding Winslow to an already talented Duke team would make the Blue Devils a top title contender. That surely has some appeal to any recruit.