Duke haters across the country need to get their jokes in now in the aftermath of the Blue Devils’ NCAA tournament loss to Mercer because Mike Krzyzewski’s team could very well be No. 1 in the country next season.
The reason behind that lofty hypothetical ranking is Duke’s incredible recruiting class, which was on full display at the McDonald’s All-American Game on Wednesday in Chicago.
While the West knocked off the East 105-102, it was the individual performances that were of more interest. Duke basketball was certainly impressed:
With that in mind, let’s dig into some individual grades for each of the Duke recruits at the McDonald’s All-American Game.
Jahlil Okafor, West Team: A+
The MVP of the game deserves an A+, simple as that.
Jahlil Okafor dominated down low throughout the contest to the tune of 17 points and seven rebounds. Big men don’t often leave their mark in all-star game settings, which is a further testament to just how great Okafor truly is on the block.
Michael O’Brien of the Chicago Sun-Times pointed out that Okafor was the first Chicago player to turn in a performance like that at the McDonald’s game since Eddy Curry in 2001:
Okafor battled with Myles Turner a handful of times in the post, which was one of the most anticipated matchups for the entire contest. Okafor ultimately got the best of Turner and the East team by throwing down a go-ahead dunk with less than 40 seconds left to give his team the lead for good.
Grayson Allen, West Team: B-
Grayson Allen gets a B- simply because he didn’t have quite the statistical impact on the game as the other future Blue Devils, but he was still impressive in his time on the floor.
He finished with four points, one assist, one rebound, one block and two steals, but his most notable impact on the event was his dunk contest win, as the McDonald’s All-American Game's Twitter account demonstrated:
During the actual game, Allen showed his versatility by contributing across the stat sheet on both ends of the floor. That versatility will be critical coming off the bench for Duke next year because Allen will fill in for a number of spots when various players need a blow.
Tyus Jones, East Team: A
While Okafor was impressive down low, Tyus Jones controlled the tempo of the game from the perimeter for the East squad.
He finished with seven points, two rebounds and an incredible 10 assists on the night and used his ability to slash into the lane and then kick out to open teammates when the opposing defenders collapsed.
Jones’ ability to distribute the ball to so many talented players during the McDonald’s game served as something of a preview for next year when he is controlling Duke’s attack. Jones knows there will be a ton of talent surrounding him, as he told Ben Roberts of the Lexington Herald-Leader:
There's nothing we can really do about it. People are going to have their expectations, and all we can do is go in there and work hard. If we're the preseason No. 1 team, that means we'll have a target on our backs. We have to go in there ready to work. Ready to stick together as a team, and hopefully have a great season.
In addition to his impressive play during the game, Jones won the skills competition on Monday.
Justise Winslow, East Team: B+
Justise Winslow sometimes gets lost in the shuffle when discussing the Duke recruiting class, but he is the uber-athletic swingman who will score from all over the floor next season.
He flashed some of that potential at the McDonald’s All-American Game when he tallied nine points, three rebounds, one block and one steal. His athleticism and length were on full display on both ends of the floor throughout the contest.
While his scoring ability will obviously help the Blue Devils, it is Winslow’s potential on the defensive side and on the boards that will be critical. Duke struggled in both of those departments last year, so Winslow will certainly have a role in 2014-15.
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