Duke Basketball Recruiting: Early Wish List for Class of 2017
Duke has a loaded roster heading into the 2016-17 season, but the recruiting cycle never stops. If head coach Mike Krzyzewski wants to keep the program on top, he had better do his best to lock up more top players in the 2017 class.
According to DraftExpress, the Blue Devils have four potential first-round picks in 2017, including No. 1, No. 3 and No. 8 overall. This is great for their chances next year, but it also means the team will lose quite a bit of talent at season's end.
The good news is Duke is heavily in contention for the services of many of the top players in the 2017 class. If at least a few of them head to Durham, this team will once again be a national title contender, regardless of who stays or goes next spring.
Some of the decisions are a long way away, but here is a look at a few potential targets for Duke going forward.
Everyone in the country wants to sign DeAndre Ayton, the consensus No. 1 player in the 2017 class, according to 247Sports. The problem is, while Duke made the forward's recent cut of nine teams, the team is instead focusing on other options at the moment.
One of those options is the No. 2 player in the class, Mohamed Bamba, a prospect with as much upside as anyone in the country.
Bamba currently stands at 6'11" with an incredible 7'8" wingspan, per DraftExpress, and he uses his length all over the court. He is already an advanced rebounder and shot-blocker and should be able to contribute in these areas right away. He also has the tools to be a force offensively as an inside scorer who can also make a jump shot or find teammates with his above average passing ability.
While Duke makes a lot of sense for the big man on the court, he also discussed the off-court benefits of the program back in March, per Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv.
"Duke is a great program and they have something that I'm looking into just as much as another school, more of an alumni base," Bamba said. "I want to have a huge sense of pride that I'm an alum of this university or that university."
This recruiting competition could come down to Duke and Kentucky, but Bamba should be priority No. 1 this offseason.
You never know what will happen with "package deals" featuring two elite players going to the same school, but Wendell Carter stated without hesitation that he and Gary Trent Jr. will definitely be going to college together, per Zagoria.
Zagoria also noted that Duke is the favorite for the duo while quoting Carter in saying, "It would be great to go there. They have a great track record of getting players to the NBA."
Of course, Duke is one of the few teams to successfully complete one of these recruiting tandems by bringing in Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones in 2014, which seemed to work out pretty well for the Blue Devils. While Carter and Trent play different positions, there is still plenty to like about the combination.
Even if Carter decides to make a decision on his own, Coach K will make sure he can do what it takes to get the forward on campus. The 6'10" player might be the most advanced of the big men in this class, with the ability to score either with his back to the basket or facing up and knocking down a jumper. Beyond being a major threat offensively, he also knows how to be in the right position on defense and should rack up plenty of blocks during his freshman season.
Duke will not only battle Kentucky for Carter's services but also Harvard, which is trying to put together a monster class. Either way, it remains worth monitoring going forward.
Gary Trent Jr.
Trent deserves his own mention because he is more than just a throw-in to complete a deal for Carter. The reality is Trent is one of the best perimeter players in the entire class.
Listed as the No. 10 player overall on 247Sports, the 6'5" guard is already a terrific scorer who knows how to get his shot off from anywhere on the court. His length and athleticism help him remain productive as a slasher or in transition, but he also has a beautiful stroke that allows him to knock down either mid-range jumpers or deep shots from beyond the arc.
He still needs to learn how to play within a system on both sides of the ball—the Blue Devils coaching staff won't let him chuck up shots whenever he thinks he is open—but Trent's upside as a pure scorer in unmistakable.
While Trent has similar interests in teams as Carter and even Bamba, analysts appear to have much more faith the shooting guard will end up at Duke. According to 247Sports, all 17 experts who have placed a "crystal ball" prediction have him eventually signing with the Blue Devils.
Whether Carter joins him or not, this would be a great addition for Duke.
Coaches who have been around for a long time know the types of players they want on their team because they simply fit the system. For example, Krzyzewski has had an impressive run on long, smooth, scoring wings who can score in a variety of ways and play either the 3 or the 4.
Jabari Parker and Brandon Ingram fit this description. Jayson Tatum will take on the role next year. In 2017, that job could go to Kevin Knox.
Knox is a 6'8" forward who loves to attack the basket but is more than capable of stretching the floor and hitting shots from the perimeter. His listed weight of 195 pounds suggests he needs to add some strength before consistently producing in the ACC, but the physical tools are there for a great, and probably short, college career.
Knox certainly has interest in the Blue Devils and really enjoyed his in-home visit from assistant coach Jeff Capel back in April. As Jason Jordan of USA Today reported, "2017 five-star wing Kevin Knox on his in-home with Duke: 'It was a 10 out of 10.'"
On the other hand, his father admitted in late April, "When he says he’s wide open, we are," per Ben Roberts of the Lexington Herald-Leader.
A commitment is still pretty far away, but Duke has to feel good about its chances with the talented small forward.
D.J. Harvey is hard to get a read on, both as a prospect and with his recruitment.
ESPN's Paul Biancardi reported in May the 6'6" guard cut his list to nine schools with Duke being among the remaining teams. Fans should also feel good about the fact Kentucky isn't one of those remaining options.
Still, he has been relatively quiet about where he wants to go, and it seems any of the choices are reasonable ones.
Meanwhile, we don't even know yet what kind of player Harvey can be at the next level. He has everything you look for in a perimeter player, from athleticism to shooting to passing ability to defensive prowess. When he puts it all together, he has the potential to be a star both at the college and professional levels.
The problem is he hasn't had the aggressiveness you want to see from a player of this ability. He took a backseat to Markelle Fultz this past season, and while he now has a chance to shine as the senior leader at DeMatha Catholic, it remains to be seen whether he has the alpha mentality.
Harvey is clearly someone you want on your team with his ability to fill the box score, but his actual production remains a mystery.
Although not as highly rated as some of the others on the list, Deng Gak is the type of raw, high-upside center who might need time to develop but could be a star within a few years.
The 6'11" Sudanese-Australian currently plays his high school ball in New Jersey and has already made quite an impression from those who have watched him play.
Eric Bossi of Rivals.com recently tweeted a short scouting report, saying, "Deng Gak can really move from rim to rim. Lacks bulk but he tracks ball well and picks up easy buckets because of his activity."
The center was also quite excited to pick up an offer from Duke last month, explaining his conversation with Krzyzewski, per Olgun Uluc of Fox Sports.
"I spoke to him for the first time yesterday! You’re never really ready for it when you pick up the phone and it’s Coach K," Gak said. "... The offer is huge. It lets you know that all of your hard work doesn’t go unnoticed, and that you’re definitely on the right track."
Other teams will eventually take notice of the fast-rising big man, who already has offers from Connecticut and Kansas, among others. Indiana and Louisville also remain in the hunt. Still, this could be a quality under-the-radar addition that pays off down the line.
Duke will probably need a point guard in this class, and while there are some quality options, none will be easy to get. Trae Young and Troy Brown are possibilities, but the competition will be high. Therefore if we are going to shoot for the stars, you might as well go after the best, which in this class is Trevon Duval.
Duval is the type of explosive athlete you rarely see in a true point guard outside of Russell Westbrook or pre-injury Derrick Rose. He can attack the basket as well as anyone and will finish with some highlight-reel dunks along the way.
Meanwhile, he can also distribute the ball like a real point guard, getting others involved no matter where they are on the court.
The problem is unlike other recruits, Duval will not be impressed by the legacy of a team like Duke or Kentucky.
"Consistency is important in this process not names," Duval's father Trevor said this past winter, per Zagoria. "We're not caught up in the big names, we're have to go with who's recruiting him the hardest."
The coaching staff might have to put in extra work to get a commitment from the Delaware native, but it would certainly be worth it.
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