The State of Duke Basketball: 2010
To put it mildly, Mike Krzyzewski is trying to make a bold statement with his 2010 recruiting class.
The last few seasons of Duke basketball, though respectable in terms of wins, have failed to live up to the standards set by the success of previous Blue Devil teams.
After losing (handily) to Villanova in last season's Sweet 16, Krzyzewski admitted that the talent level in Durham just isn't where it needs to be, and it seems he's trying to change that with an ambitious 2010 recruiting class.
Few Duke recruiting classes been as hotly anticipated by the Blue Devil faithful, especially when they are still more than a season away, but the "potential" class (there are several key recruits that still haven't committed) that Duke is putting together for the season after next could be what vaults the program back to the top of college basketball.
In terms of sheer importance, the 2010 class will be key to the Blue Devil's immediate future as a program.
The core of Duke's current team will move on after this season. Jon Scheyer, Lance Thomas, and Brian Zoubek will graduate. Kyle Singler could be a lottery pick (depending on his season) and leave early for the NBA.
With the recent departures of Gerald Henderson and Elliot Williams, it's possible that the Blue Devils could enter the 2010-11 season with just a few players with significant starting experience (Nolan Smith and, likely, Mason Plumlee).
Duke's 2010 class, then, will need players talented enough to make a serious impact as freshman, as Duke will be short on talented and experienced upperclassmen, especially if Singler leaves early.
To that end, Krzyzewski is shooting for the stars, attempting to bring in Duke's best class in years.
So far, the Blue Devils have three 2010 commitments in Andre Dawkins, Tyler Thornton, and Josh Hairston. Dawkins, the highest rated of the three, is likely to enroll at Duke early however, making him a part of the 2009 recruiting class (it's still not official though, meaning he's a part of the 2010 class until that happens).
It should also be noted that transfer Seth Curry, though technically part of the 2009 class as well, will also be available in 2010.
Dawkins could be the one of the most talented guards Duke has had this decade.
He's definitely the best shooter Duke has recruited since J.J. Redick, and he'll be the most athletic guard on Duke's roster whether he comes this year or next. His size (a legitimate 6'4" to 6'5") combined with his range and leaping ability will give him all the tools to be a dominant shooting guard in the ACC.
Tyler Thornton is a pure point guard with a reputation for being a defensive specialist (Duke fans should be excited to know that he has been known to shut down 2010 UNC recruit Kendall Marshall).
Thornton will likely draw comparisons to players such as Sean Dockery (and perhaps even Steve Wojciechowski). Thornton may not break any scoring records at Duke, but he has all the intangibles to make him an effective point guard and role player.
Hairston is sure to be compared to Lance Thomas when he arrives in Durham. They have the same lean build, and both are geared more for speed than strength.
However, the Thomas comparison isn't entirely accurate beyond the look of both players. Hairston is known to have great moves in the post (a consistent weakness of Thomas) and a fairly good touch on his jump shot.
Unlike Thomas for most of his career at Duke, Hairston won't need to be the primary option in the post, and his offensive skill set will make him a deadly second option alongside Mason Plumlee down low.
While Dawkins (the sole member of the 2009.5 recruiting class), Thornton, and Hairston already make up a solid recruiting class for the Blue Devils, the most important targets of Duke's 2010 recruiting class are still undecided.
The current focus of Krzyzewski's attempt to build his best incoming class in a decade is on two players—Harrison Barnes and Kyrie Irving.
Barnes is the top-ranked player in the class, a combo forward with a seemingly limitless skill set.
He can handle the ball, shoot, drive, and sky above the rim without much apparent effort. So far, his game has drawn a lot of comparisons to guys like Grant Hill (which says a lot).
He also has a competitive edge that puts him on another level than most top players.
Quite simply, Barnes would be the biggest commitment the Blue Devils have landed this decade (if he commits of course).
Duke has been involved with Barnes' recruitment for a long time, and Barnes has taken several unofficial visits to Durham (including last season's Duke vs. Carolina matchup at Duke in which Barnes sat behind the Blue Devil bench wearing a Duke shirt).
Barnes has been adamant that he will take a number of visits and explore all of his options before choosing a school. Nevertheless, several recruiting experts believe that Duke is in his top two (along with Kansas) and that he is a Duke lean at this point. Obviously, that's all here-say until he commits.
Irving is an elite point guard the likes of which Duke hasn't had since Jay Williams.
Though his game isn't similar to Williams in any obvious ways, Irving has shown a remarkable ability to take over games in his summer performances this year.
He's currently the second-highest rated point guard in his class (behind Brandon Knight), and he has recently stated that Duke and Indiana are his top two choices at this point in the recruiting process (that's been suspected for some time) and that he will definitely visit Durham officially this fall.
What's perhaps most interesting about the recruitment of Barnes and Irving is that the two are friends who have publicly talked about how much they enjoy playing together.
In fact, the latest buzz in the Duke blogosphere is that Barnes and Irving have requested to take their official visits to Duke together (i.e. at the same time).
Whether or not that is logistically possible (or whether it turns into a dual commitment) remains to be seen, but Duke fans have to be excited about the implications of such a visit if it happens.
A commitment from Barnes and Irving would be the biggest news Duke has had in years, and something that would certainly propel Duke's 2010 class to the level that Kentucky's current incoming class seems to be geared for.
With months before the start of the 2009-10 season, a lot can happen to influence the decisions of both Irving and Barnes.
No matter their decision, Duke fans can't fault Coach K for giving this recruiting class his all.
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