This is how myths are made. The aura of invincibility that Duke has made manifest to rest of the country when it comes to recruiting remains even a year later with this '03 class.
That is why it is imperative that Arizona (or Texas, for that matter) winds up signing Houston's Ndudi Ebi, a 6'9" wing forward with exceptional talent and an all-around game that almost surely guarantees him a starting job from his first day on whichever campus he chooses. It's important because Ebi is one of three players that Duke hand-picked from this class. One of those three, Minnetonka, MN PF Kris Humphries, already committed to the Blue Devils, making Duke seven for its last seven.
Ebi and fellow WF prospect Luol Deng (Blairstown, NJ) are the remaining two must-gets for coach K and his staff. Landing those two, who are generally regarded as the two best college-bound players in America, would be an overwhelming coup for Duke. Essentially, the message it would send is that who Duke wants, Duke gets, period.
The last thing the rest of the college basketball world wants to see is Krzyzewski introducing himself to a top prospect in a particular class and having the following conversation.
Coach K: "Hi, I'm Mike Krzyzewksi, you're coming to Duke and playing for me."
Recruit: "Um, okay. Sounds good."
Coach K: "Good, see you in September."
This is why keeping Ebi away from the evil that is Blue Devil basketball is a must. It would help to dispel the Duke myth. The aforementioned aura of invincibility would crack and lead other programs to challenge college basketball's most dominant program over the last 15 years for recruits. And to have legitimate hope for winning some of those battles.
Ebi has already made an official visit to Arizona this past April and he returned from a trip to Duke August 25th. His visit to Texas was scheduled to take place the weekend of the time Cat Tracks went to press.
A source close to the Arizona basketball program informed Cat Tracks that as he was leaving campus, Ebi told Lute Olson that he would, "be back after (his) visits", and that he said, "I want to be a Wildcat". Of course, that was nearly six months ago and he has yet to come back or commit to becoming a Wildcat.
The potential for Ebi signing with Arizona is good, or at least a lot of the signs point in that direction. His AAU coach is Hal Pastner, father of Arizona assistant Josh Pastner. Ebi has known Josh for years thanks to his connection with the Houston Hoops. Also, Pastner was Ebi's shadow over the summer, following the prized recruit literally everywhere he went for games or drills. No matter where he looked, Ebi would see Pastner standing front and center in his Arizona gear.
Duke, on the other hand, waffled a bit during the summer, trying to determine whether or not to take Ebi or Deng. At one point it seemed that the Blue Devils had made up their mind to go with Deng, a player very similar to Ebi but 30 pounds heavier. Now, apparently, the talent-rich team from Durham, NC, has elected to try and sign them both.
Considering the fact that the already-committed Humphries is also a 6'8"-6'9" combo-forward, one realizes that if Duke were to land all three of its targets, the victory would be monumental in terms of a psychological advantage over the other 300-some Division I teams in college basketball.
Even in this day and age of early entry into the NBA, Duke would be poised to reload with the nation's best talent every year if this continues. The defections that kill most programs would have minimal effect on the three-time National Champions. Unless America wants to witness another John Wooden and UCLA dynasty unfold before its very eyes, someone is going to have to come in and land a recruit that Duke wants.
That starts now with Ndudi Ebi. And what better team to do it than Arizona?
**[This story also appears in the September issue of Cat Tracks Magazine. For more stories like this one, subscribe to the monthly magazine by e-mailing the office at Cattracks@cattracks.net]**
Contact Ben Hansen at AZPointGuardU@yahoo.com