Prior to the start of last season, Duke's recruiting strategy was changing. "Updating" might be a better word.
Duke's recruiting struggles in recent seasons had been well.documented.
Several top recruiting prospects went elsewhere, leaving the Blue Devils one or two key pieces short of being serious championship contenders.
Head coach Mike Krzyzewski added a full-blown Midnight Madness event, started going after one-and-done talents, and even hosted an elite camp last summer.
The Blue Devils have done a lot to make themselves more attractive (not that the school wasn't already one of the easiest sells in college basketball) to top recruits in the last year.
The retooled recruiting strategy and the momentum they gained from winning last season's title are paying big dividends in Durham recently. In other words, Duke is back on top of college basketball, and recruits are taking notice.
With the addition of guard Quinn Cook to Austin Rivers and Michael Gbinije, the Blue Devils have three of 2011's top 25 players (according to Scout.com) locked up.
Cook made his decision public Thursday.
He gives the Blue Devils another five-star point guard to either back up Kyrie Irving next year, or fill his shoes if he decides to declare for the 2011 NBA Draft, which seems likely.
While Cook isn't quite as athletic as Irving, he has a fantastic reputation as a playmaker and team leader.
He has great court vision and passing abilities, and his shooting touch keeps defenders on their toes.
He'll join Rivers, Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins as Duke's most dangerous outside shooters.
If Irving stays for the 2011-12 season (an NBA lockout is the only thing that might keep him in Durham for more than one year), he and Cook would give Duke two of the best point guards in the ACC at the same time.
Cook's recruitment had a lot of twists and turns, especially recently.
Most thought he was all but a lock to commit to Duke at the Blue Devils' Countdown to Craziness event a few weeks ago.
But when Myck Kabongo de-committed from Texas and listed Duke as a school he was interested in, it looked like Cook's time frame on deciding would be extended so he could see where Kabongo would go. (There was even talk that he could end up at North Carolina if Kabongo was Duke bound.)
Coach K didn't seem to like the idea of Cook slipping away and secured a commitment by letting Cook know that the Blue Devils were sticking with him as their top choice. Kabongo has since recommitted to Texas.
Cook, along with Gbinije and Rivers, gives the Blue Devils a fantastic haul of backcourt players in 2011.
Gbinije committed to Duke shortly after the Blue Devils beat North Carolina by 32 points at Cameron on Duke's senior night. The versatile wing was on hand for the lopsided victory.
At one point, Gbinijie was a huge North Carolina lean. The Tar Heels didn't have a scholarship to offer him, but the perception was that as soon as one opened up, Gbinije was on a short list to receive an official offer.
As the Blue Devils intensified their recruitment efforts, Gbinijie decided not to wait for a spot to open up at North Carolina and chose, instead, to spend his college days on the other side of basketball's greatest rivalry.
Gbinije is one of the more versatile players in the 2011 class.
He is a 6'6" wing who can score in a variety of ways. He is extremely crafty around the basket (think Jon Scheyer) and can shoot from the perimeter with consistency.
With Kyle Singler gone, he'll have a chance to be a significant contributor on the wing early on. He may not start over Ryan Kelly and Josh Hairston, but he'll certainly compete for serious minutes.
The biggest recruit in Duke's 2011 class happens to be the biggest recruit Duke has landed in a long time, even bigger than Irving if you go by the recruiting rankings — he is the No. 1 recruit in the nation according several recruiting sites.
Rivers may be the most offensively gifted players to come to Duke in a long time.
He is an exceptional long-range shooter and equally effective slashing to the basket. He has the athleticism to finish above the rim and the the skill set to play either guard position.
What makes Rivers so special, though, is his ability to create his own shot.
He has a fantastic handle and, more importantly, an uncanny knack for creating just enough separation from his defender to get his shot off.
Rivers will likely be Duke's go-to scorer right away. He certainly has the ability to carry the offensive load at the college level.
After this season, Duke will lose stars Singler and Nolan Smith. They could lose Irving and Mason Plumlee to the draft as well, depending upon how well those two perform and whether or not an NBA lockout happens.
Teams normally see a big drop after the departure of so many top players, and Duke will certainly experience some dropoff in 2011. (How could they not?)
But hand it to Coach K. He has gone out and recruited a class that will fill the void of those departures (and potential departures) about as well as could be expected.
Duke may not start 2011 as the top-ranked team in the nation, but they won't be too far off with the influx of talent coming to Durham next season.
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