How the elite were built: Star Recruits

This year seven teams have dominated college basketball. In this series takes a look at how all seven were built and came together. In part I the focus is on Arizona, Duke, and Kentucky who have built their teams with elite recruiting.

Probably the most fool proof way to build an elite team is to stack elite recruit after elite recruit. For Sean Miller, Mike Krzyzewski, and John Calipari that is exactly what they have done. At Arizona, Duke, and Kentucky respectively, the trio have loaded up on McDonald’s All-Americans, and that has them amongst the nation’s elite.


When you look at the Arizona rotation in general nine guys see the floor for the Wildcats. Of those nine, there are four five-star recruits (three of them McDonald’s All-Americans), another four, four-star recruits, and only T.J. McConnell who transferred I from Duquesne wasn’t considered a high level prospect.

This is important because on the vaunted Arizona frontline, the Wildcats are loaded with elite level talent. Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski down low were both top 10 targets coming out who could have gone virtually anywhere in the country, and then the two stud wings, Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, each were McDonald’s All-Americans who were as heavily recruited as any.

By having such a collection of talent and size up front, the Wildcats have been able to overwhelm opponents. In the backcourt things aren’t quite as loaded from a recruiting perspective, but Miller and his staff still have some very highly touted players.

Wings Elliott Pitts and Gabe York weren’t top 75 recruits, but each was in a four-star recruit who was seen as someone who could score and stretch a defense. Also freshman point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright was a top 50 recruit, and one of the best pure point guards in the class.

Now star floor general T.J. McConnell was an under the radar prospect who transferred in after playing two years at Duquesne, but it is easy to see why Arizona is an elite team given the level that Miller and his staff have recruited at.


What the Blue Devils lack in sheer quantity, they more than make up for in quality. In fact Krzyzewski and his staff have recruited as well as anybody, and every scholarship player who is eligible on their roster participated in the McDonald’s All-American Game.

In the backcourt, one that is considered by some to be the best in the country, there is a top 10 recruit in Tyus Jones, a top 25 player in Matt Jones, and then a top 40 prospect in senior Quinn Cook. While Cook fell slightly outside the general range you find most McDonald’s All-Americans, he still made the game, and obviously has asserted himself as a very fine college player. Also the Blue Devils have top 25 raked freshman Grayson Allen who gets limited minutes, but is still in the rotation.

In the frontcourt is where things get downright silly and embarrassing in terms of the riches that the Blue Devils have. Of course they are led by No. 1 ranked prospect Jahlil Okafor, and next to him is a top 25 player in Amile Jefferson and a top 10 prospect in Justise Winslow.

In fact the only prospect on the Duke roster who fell outside of the top 50 was Marshall Plumlee, but he still got the benefit of the doubt as a McDonald’s All-American and provides the Blue Devils with an athletic and physical presence on the low block to replace Okafor.

Clearly Duke is recruiting as well as anybody, and with a coach like Krzyzewski in charge, it is easy to see why they have been elite this season.


Like Duke, Kentucky has been the gold standard when it comes to recruiting and their roster shows that with eight McDonald’s All-Americans in their rotation of nine of players.

The backcourt is incredibly impressive for the Wildcats. Both Andrew Harrison and Aaron Harrison were top 10 prospects and provide the size, athleticism, and skill to be tough matchups every time they are on the floor. When one of them comes off the floor and five-star freshman Tyler Ulis comes in, arguably the player with the best floor vision in the country comes in.

Then there is the lone four-star prospect, and he finished just outside of five-star range at No. 28 overall, Devin Booker is on the wing knocking in shots at an elite level. At this point Booker is asked mostly just to catch and shoot, but he is doing it at such a high level, that some are thinking he could end up as a one and done prospect.

Things don’t get any less loaded in the frontcourt where Karl-Anthony Towns was a top 5 prospect and he is flanked by top 20 prospects in Trey Lyles and Dakari Johnson. Johnson is as big a human as there is in college basketball, and Towns along with Lyles are super skilled at the power forward position and are likely to be NBA first round draft picks.

The lone non five-star is the late developing Willie Cauley-Stein. Even though he didn’t garner McDonald’s All-American honors or finish as a five-star, Cauley-Stein was still considered a top 50 prospect and has more than capitalized on his outlandish potential.

Things are so loaded up front that five-star and McDonald’s All-American Marcus Lee hasn’t been able to get consistent minutes despite showing potential when he has been in the game.


As three of the top five teams in the country, this trio combines for so much talent that will likely get to the NBA in short order that it is very simple to see why they are dominating college basketball. All three teams are well coached and loaded with talent, and that has their fans thinking about a Final Four at minimum with eyes on the National Title.

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