Huge recruiting weekend in Durham

After several years spent recruiting Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor, and Justise Winslow, the Blue Devil coaching staff will have the chance to make closing arguments this weekend as the five star trio officially visits Durham.

The Duke coaching staff will welcome five star prospects Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor, and Justise Winslow to Durham on Friday afternoon as the trio of high majors embark on a joint official visit. Each player has visited Duke multiple times unofficially on their own, but none have ever hinted at being close to a commitment.

Now, however, each of the three players seems to be zeroing in on a decision. One likely to occur within two weeks of the visit to Durham. With that in mind, here's a brief summary of each player's recruitment heading into the weekend:

Justise Winslow: The Houston native has made several visits over the past few weeks. He visited Texas A&M on Sept 14th, Florida on Sept 21st, UCLA on the 28th, and then Arizona last weekend (Oct 18th). While most analysts believe this race comes down to the Blue Devils and Wildcats, Winslow has also spoken highly of Florida in recent interviews. Arizona has been recruiting him the longest of the schools he chose for officials, and the relationship with Coach Sean Miller is paramount in the Wildcats' perceived strength.

"Coach Miller was one of the first coaches and programs to come out and recruit me," Winslow told TDD, "so there's definitely a pretty decent relationship there."

If it does come down to the Duke and Arizona, Winslow has noted a subtle difference in the recruiting approach taken by the two programs in terms of potenital role at the collegiate level. Duke has indicated Winslow would fill the role of players such as Gerald Henderson - an athletic, live body who plays a number of positions, but primarily considered a wing. Meanwhile, Arizona has pitched the role of Winslow as more of a shooting guard, his likely position at the professional level. When he sat down with us earlier this summer, he indicated a definite preference, but followed it up with a caveat:

"I definitely see myself playing the scoring guard role because of my size and skill set. In college, that's where I'm going to play. But I'll need to continue working on my skills because if I'm able to reach the NBA, that's where I'm going to be playing."

"At the same time, at a lot of schools, a wing is the same thing as a guard. They are really interchangeable, and schools are recruiting me to be a wing which can be a 2 or a 3 in their offense."

Perhaps one of the more fluid components of the Winslow-Duke recruitment has been the idea of pairing him with the potential package deal of Okafor and Jones. Jones has admitted being in favor of Winslow joining him and Okafor this weekend, and the three players have openly discussed the idea of a package deal - but unlike the other two, Winslow is not committing to the idea.

"We've talked about it, but we haven't talked about when we're going to decide or how we're going to do anything. The thing with Tyus and Jahlil is that they are pretty set on going to school together, and I've talked with them about it but I have to do what's best for me and they each have to do what's best for them, so if we decide to go play together it would be great, but we have to do what's best for each other and our families."

Jahlil Okafor: The nation's top overall prospect will exhaust his official visit allotment this weekend. He's already visited Baylor (Aug 30), Kentucky (Sept 9), Arizona (Oct 11), and Kansas last weekend with Jones. The visits to Baylor, Kansas, and Duke will all coincide with Jones visiting, which would suggest it could be a three team race between the Blue Devils, Bears, and Jayhawks...but only if Jones and Okafor are serious about playing togehter. There have been a number of recruiting analysts who speculated that when decision time approaches the duo will go their separate ways. However, Okafor disputes that.

"Weíve narrowed it down pretty much to the same schools and weíre pretty much on the same page right now," said Okafor. "So, there's nothing I can think of that would have us splitting up, unless itís a family emergency type of thing, but I couldnít really see anything."

So why do Okafor and Jones want to play in college together?

ìI think first off it starts with him being a true point guard,î Okafor said. ìThe first game [at USA Basketball] he had 10 assists in eight minutes. That speaks for itself. Me being a true big man I think we would really complement each other well.î

"Off the court we are the best of friends," he added. ìEverybody here at USA basketball knows thatís my best friend and Iím his best friend. They always know we are together. We go eat together. They put us in the same room. With us having such good chemistry on the court and liking each other so much off the court, itís perfect for us.î

Where things may get interesting with the nation's top overall big man is the timeline of committing. At the USA Basketball Camp he indicated he is open to signing in the spring.

"[Signing early] was the plan, but talking to my dad, he told me I still might not be ready. That's kind of true because I still don't know where I want to go yet. I would like to get it out of the way and announce early, but it's not looking good right now."

Okafor clarified those comments a day later.

"Itís just such a huge decision, my dad doesnít want me to rush anything, he wants me to make sure that I told him when I was ready and what school I want to go to. November might be the date, but my dad, heís kinda doubtful, and heís not sure Iíll be ready, but I think I will be. Iíve got two more official visits to take, then I think Iíll have my mind made up."

Assuming the visits to Kansas and Duke cleared his head enough to move into the decision making process, Okafor's decision could set off a chain reaction of big man commitments. AAU teammate Cliff Alexander and fellow five star prospect Myles Turner all have some overlap in terms of school lists, but neither prospect is expected to play for the same program next year. Turner, who is also being heavily recurited by Duke, is not expected to make a decision until the spring, while Alexander, who is being heavily pursued by Kansas, will announce in the early signing period.

Tyus Jones: The third and final piece of this weekend's puzzle may also be the the key ingredient. Unlike the other two, Jones has not exhausted his five official visits. Instead, the top five prospect has taken three visits to date - to Baylor with Okafor on Aug 30 and to Kansas last weekend. Jones has also taken unofficial visits to Minnesota. After being pursued by Kentucky, Jones eliminated the Wildcats after UK accepted the commitment of Tyler Ulis. Like Winslow and Okafor, Jones hasn't been a stranger in Durham for unofficial visits over the years, and he's been the point guard Mike Krzyzewski has recruited exclusively since the commitment of Quinn Cook back in the class of 2011. In short, Jones has been "Coach K's guy" for nearly three years.

"Itís a good feeling just because itís always good to know you are a priority, and he has definitely made me a priority throughout the whole recruiting process, so itís a good feeling just to know that they really want you bad and that you are a priority to them."

"They are always successful," Jones said. "Coach K is arguably the best coach of all time. You just learn so much from him and playing under him. For myself, heís been able to do well with guards and he produces guards. Thatís what I like about him."

Like Okafor, every interview with Jones is almost guaranteed to check on the status of the package deal. And, like his friend, Jones continues to repeat the same mantra.

"Itís still on," Jones said. "We are still planning on doing it. We are going to make it happen."

"I think itís pretty much we are looking at where we both fit in,î he added. ìWherever we feel is the best for the both of us. Like I said, we are going to make it work."

When pressed on package deal, Jones said the percentage of them playing together was "99-percent," while Okafor told that it was "99.9-percent."

And while the weekend visit to Duke has always included Okafor, the addition of Winslow was a later development. But, as he told TDD, it was a product of some discussion between all involved parties.

"Yeah, weíre definitely excited about that. He gets to join us at Duke when we take a look at it, weíre looking forward to it. I know they just finalized the visit, but we had been talking about him coming with us for awhile now, but I know they were just able to set it up now recently. I think it was kinda me doing it, talking with him about it, then the Duke coaches mentioned it as well and it worked out for all of us."

Jones has long since insisted on his desire to have the recruiting process completed during the early signing period, and that remains a priority for him.

Iím going to decide somewhere at the beginning of November,î Jones told ìI donít have a specific date yet. Iím trying to figure that out. Finishing out these visits and then make a decision.î

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