When deciding on a college to attend, high school recruits find they have plenty of factors at work inside their heads. Playing on television, competing for championships and vying for playing time are just a few of the many things weighing on the minds of most recruits who have yet to pick a college.
While most athletes consider many of the same factors, they often weigh the importance of those factors differently. The challenge for college coaches is finding out what recruits are looking for most in a school and spinning their school as the best possible provider of it. For elite programs that offer all the best perks, picking the most strategic recruiting pitch can be the only way to stand out from other big-time programs.
In recent years, head coach Mike Krzyzewski and his assistants have proved they know how to impress top recruits and bring them to campus.
They have lured recent blue bloods such as Kyrie Irving, Austin Rivers, Jabari Parker and, this year, Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones. Certainly the tradition at Duke gives them an advantage, but the coaching staff has been able to beat out programs with similar histories for many of the aforementioned players.
With only one commitment in the 2015 class so far, here are the pitches the Duke staff should be using for some of the players currently considering becoming a Blue Devil.
Chase Jeter: Success in Developing NBA Players
Chase Jeter, a 6’10” power forward currently ranked 13th in his class by ESPN, might be Duke’s current primary target. Jeter visited Duke last March, his only official college visit so far. To lock him down, the coaching staff may want to pitch the recent NBA success of former Duke big men.
Last year, Mason Plumlee was named to the NBA All-Rookie Team after being a first-round pick. His brother, Miles, averaged more points in the NBA last season than he ever did for Duke. Lance Thomas also played two seasons in the NBA after a career as a role player for Duke.
Duke can use the success of these recent players to its advantage when recruiting players like Jeter. He definitely has the potential to be a future NBA player but is no lock.
Convincing him that Duke gives him the best chance at a high-paying basketball career would go a long way toward bringing him to campus for a visit that lasts years instead of days.
Ivan Rabb: Maximum National Exposure
While Duke may be able to help Jeter make his way into the big league, Ivan Rabb knows he can get there himself.
Rabb is currently the No. 1 player in the class of 2015, via ESPN, and is a likely one-and-done player on the college level. He is apt to receive a lot of attention from the media no matter where he decides to play, but the level and type of exposure he would get at Duke would best prepare him for his NBA career.
Duke plays almost all of its games on national television, usually partakes in a prestigious preseason tournament and always plays at least one showcase game in the New York area early in the season. These are all great chances for players to show their skills to a wide audience and play in world-famous arenas.
However, the best advantage Duke could offer Rabb would be the amount of pressure Duke faces game to game due to the public’s general distaste for the Duke program.
Every true road game Duke plays brings out the best in the opposing team’s crowd, as well as the team. If the Blue Devils travel to Virginia Tech or Boston College in January, they face a much harsher crowd than playing a midseason NBA game in January. In addition, any Duke loss is a huge story and dominates the next day’s headlines.
Duke players have to learn the professional attitude of bringing their best every time out. Rabb would have to learn this at Duke and would be better prepared to play with more intensity when he does reach the NBA.
Attending Duke would provide a lot of challenges for Rabb but could ultimately prepare him best for a future in basketball.
Brandon Ingram: Immediate Playing Time
Brandon Ingram is a 6’8” prospect rated 12th-best in the country, according to ESPN. Because of his size, wingspan and shooting ability, Ingram projects as a potential small forward or stretch power forward in college. The two forward positions are Duke’s two biggest areas of need in the near future, and Ingram could see playing time immediately for Duke in 2015.
Duke has gone small a lot in the past few years, sometimes going entire seasons without having any wing player with size play a meaningful role. These lineups have had decent success in terms of outshooting other teams, but they’ve also been burned by taller wing players like Derrick Williams or Harrison Barnes. Duke needs players who can muscle up on defense, and Coach K’s love of shooting gives Ingram an advantage.
By the time Ingram reaches campus, Duke will have Amile Jefferson, Justise Winslow and Semi Ojeleye as options at the 3 and 4 positions. Jefferson never even considers taking jump shots, Ojeleye barely saw the floor as a freshman and Winslow is not projected to be a shooter in college.
Coaching the NBA players on Team USA has taught Coach K the advantage that comes with playing a shooting power forward. Ingram could step in and play a role similar to Ryan Kelly’s if he can show an ability to defend bigger players while being comfortable on the perimeter on offense.
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