Duke will welcome five star prospects Harry Giles, Tyus Battle, and Dennis Smith, Jr to Cameron Indoor Stadium tonight for the annual Countdown to Craziness event. Each of the players is rated among the top prospects in the country by Scout.com with Giles checking in at No. 2 overall and the nation’s top power forward; Smith at No. 7 and the nation’s No. 2 point guard; and Battle at No. 9 overall and the nation’s third best small forward.
Here’s a brief synopsis of the three’s recruitment:
The visit from Battle has been planned for quite some time, having been set up in August when the prospect returned from participating with USA Basketball. It also came on the heels of Duke making the formal scholarship offer - something that had been a somewhat foregone conclusion after three years of recruiting.
“They’ve recruited Tyus since he was a freshman,” said the prospect’s father, Gary. “We had relationships with, and I actually used to train Luol Deng, I used to work him out. Duke I don’t think was too aware of it back then, but I had that connection to Duke with Luol and also with Jay Williams, he trained in the same gym that Tyus trained him when Tyus was real young, like four or five years old when he was going into his freshman year at Duke. Tyus was initially recruited by Chris Collins through the relationship we had with Luol Deng and then Chris leaves and it was Wojo who continued it by communicating with us on a pretty regular basis and then of course with Coach K and Coach Scheyer and Nate James, all the guys are talking and involved with Tyus.”
Over the course of the relationship, things have continued to strengthen with the program in Durham, and the communication has stayed strong.
“I talked to Coach K back on the phone during the Peach Jam and he told us that he wanted to have an open dialogue and stay in communication and he really likes Tyus as a player. He thinks Tyus is a Duke player, he fits in there well, and Coach Scheyer and I talk pretty regularly and he’s been very open with me and he’s answered my questions and I’ve done the same for him.“
BATTLE AT USA CAMP:
Giles has been the top player on the Duke board in the class for quite a while and the Blue Devils have deployed associate head coach Jeff Capel on the trail. The early returns have been positive as Giles noted the program’s level of interest in him.
“Duke is making my a priority for sure. So is Carolina, those two schools and UK as well.”
“Really Duke is making me more of a priority than anybody because they text me every day,” Giles said. “They check on how I’m doing. It’s more than just about basketball so it’s good. [Coach Capel’s] a great guy. He’s funny. He’s a great dude. It’s a real good relationship. I like him a lot.”
Saturday’s visit to Cameron will be the third straight season the five star player has journeyed to Duke for Countdown. He’s also attended multiple games throughout the last two years in Durham - most recently he was on hand for Duke’s 93-81 win over the Tar Heels on March 8th.
DENNIS SMITH, JR
The explosive scoring point guard’s recruitment continues to gather momentum as the five star prospect will, once again, venture to Cameron. Like Giles, Smith was on hand for the Duke-UNC game in March, and has maintained contact with the Duke coaching staff since that time.
Since the end of the summer Smith says he has noticed coaches from NC State, Duke, and Florida at his school for open gyms. He’s visited each of those schools with the most recently trip being to Florida where Smith hit it off with Coach Billy Donovan.
“Coach Donovan is real cool and really down to earth, he has a pretty good sense of humor and he told me that you always have to try and make things fun, no matter what you are doing. He seems like that kind of guy. He said I’m their #1 priority guy at my position and I had already had an offer from them.”
It’s a similar story with NC State as the Wolfpack look to make a big splash in the current junior class.
“They told me they want me to come in and be the guy at the point guard position, they want guys who play for them who want to be different, like they want the in-state kids who really want to come to NC State. It was a nice pitch.”
Smith says his relationship with Duke has continued to grow, with contact between himself and coaches Capel, Scheyer, and Krzyzewski. And, like Giles, Smith says Capel is a guy he can relate to.
“I talk to Coach Capel the most, he’s from Fayetteville, so it’s easy for him to understand what the process is for me. He understands being a small town kid who is highly recruited, what the thought process is and all that.”
Duke, of course, had to play a bit of catchup after Capel and Coach Krzyzewski spent the summer with Team USA. Once they returned home, the coaches headed out on the trail and stopped by Smith’s school for a visit.
“The visit went well, they came down and talked with my dad and they talked with me. They are a pretty cool coaching staff. They said I’m a priority recruit at the point guard spot right now in 2016 and they are looking forward to recruiting me, Harry (Giles) and Jayson (Tatum).”
Duke has also offered the nation’s top rated point guard, Derryck Thornton, which led to speculation that the Blue Devils were in a situation to choose between the two prospects. However, that may or may not be the case as Duke has deployed two high major point guards on the court at the same time before when Jason Williams and Chris Duhon teamed up for the 2001 and 2002 seasons.
“They said they think I could definitely play either guard spot but I would definitely be a point guard and there’d be times where I could go off the ball because they would want me to score as well.”
Dennis Smith Summer Video:
Another 2016 expected to attend is Sacha Killeya-Jones, a 6-foot-10, 210 pound power forward out of Lynchburg (Va.) Episcopal. Killeya-Jones attended North Carolina’s season opening scrimmage recently and has offers from Wake Forest , Virginia, Virginia Tech and Notre Dame, as well as VCU. He’s also getting heavy interest from Georgetown and UNC.