Recruiting Battleground: Duke vs. Kentucky

Ask any high major recruit who the top two programs in the country are and you’ll likely hear two names:  Duke and Kentucky.  Over the past season recruiting cycles the two programs have been mainstays among the top of the class rankings.  And there’s been a lot of cross over as the two powers have recruited many of the same players.  Here’s a rundown of some of those mutual recruitments over the last few years.


Alex Poythress (UK) - A 4.0 student in high school, Poythress was heavily recruited by Duke, but the interested was never really reciprocated.  The Blue Devils were admittedly late to the recruitment, and that late push actually included a potential secondary recruiting violation surrounding the timing of a recruiting phone call compared to when a the player had completed his plat at a venue.   By September of 2011 Poythress had narrowed his list to Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt, and Memphis.  

Ranking:  No. 7 |

Amile Jefferson (Duke) - Jefferson was a top 20 recruit in the class of 2012 and went all the way into the Spring before committing to Duke.  He narrowed his list down to a final group of Villanova, Ohio State, North Carolina State, Kentucky and Duke in January of 2012.  He eventually narrowed things all the way down to Duke, Kentucky, Ohio State, Villanova, and NC State before picking the Blue Devils.

Ranking: No. 21 | 

Other common recruits no longer on the roster:  None

Final Tally: Even


Marcus Lee (UK) - Duke was in serious need of a center in the class of 2013 and Lee was a guy who caught Coach K’s eye early on.  Duke pursued Lee and made a strong early impression, but even in those early days the presence of Kentucky loomed.  In fact the player’s elder brother (who has coordinating the recruiting process) told TDD that the only potential game changer offer would be from the Wildcats.  That offer soon came and Lee cut his list down to California, Louisville, and Kentucky in September of 2011. 

Ranking: No. 24 | 

Other common recruits no longer on the roster:  Julius Randle (UK), Jabari Parker (Duke)

Final Tally: Kentucky + 1



Other common recruits no longer on the roster:  Trey Lyles (UK), Karl Anthony-Towns (UK), Devin Booker (UK), Tyus Jones (Duke), Justise Winslow (Duke), Jahlil Okafor (Duke)

Final Tally: Even


Jamal Murray (UK) - Murray mentioned Duke on Twitter after the Blue Devils evaluated him (and after Tyus Jones had moved on following the national championship).  The Blue Devils never really engaged in his recruitment and never offered a scholarship.  Instead the Duke coaching staff prioritized and eventually landed Derryck Thornton. 

Ranking: No. 12 | 

Brandon Ingram (Duke) - Ingram’s recruiting stock rapidly rose throughout last year’s high school season and ended with the North Carolina native ranked third overall in the class of 2015.  Before making his announcement, Ingram had visited Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, North Carolina State and UCLA.  He ended up choosing Duke in late April.

Ranking: No. 3 | 

Luke Kennard (Duke) - The five star scoring guard grew up in a house of Kentucky fans and was heavily recruited by John Calapari.  The Kentucky coach even pressured Kennard for a commitment on his first unofficial visit to Lexington.  Many thought soon after the Kentucky offer that he would pick the Wildcats, but that did not happen. Kennard went through the process, and soon Ohio State, Duke, and Kentucky emerged as a clear top three during his junior season.  Kennard made one official visit to Duke for the Blue Devils game against North Carolina. That was the only official visit Kennard took, though he took numerous unofficial visits to both Kentucky and Ohio State during his junior season.

Ranking: No. 22 | 

Derryck Thornton (Duke) - Thornton had been considered the top point guard in the class of 2016 for more than a year and had every high major in the country after him.  Kentucky and Duke were both early offers and the two battled interest from Michigan, Louisville, Arizona, California, USC, Miami, UNLV and NC State.  Eventually the relationship with Jon Scheyer and Jeff Capel along with Coach K proved to be the difference in the recruitment and it became clear that the Blue Devils weren’t going to finish second in this race.  Soon after, Kentucky began to focus exclusively on Murray.

Ranking: No. 11 | 

Final Tally: Duke +3


Harry Giles (Duke) - The nation’s top overall recruit was recruited by every high major program in the country and the Wildcats were among his final five schools.  However, Giles committed to Duke in November.  Reportedly the Kentucky official visit presentation of a potential role for Giles left much to be desired.

Ranking: No. 1 | 

Jayson Tatum (Duke) - Rated as one of the three best players in high school basketball and, perhaps the best overall scorer, Tatum also had offers from every high major in the country including Kentucky.  In April the Blue Devils paid Tatum a recruiting visit fresh off winning the national title and that meeting turned the trick for Duke.  After that Tatum spent a lot of time recruiting his buddy, Giles to play at Duke.

Ranking: No. 3 | 

Wenyen Gabriel (UK) - Much like Ingram a year ago, Gabriel was one of the fastest rising recruits after a wonderful string of summer performances.  With Duke looking likely to land Giles and Tatum, Gabriel found a more attractive situation and depth chart in Lexington for his projected one year of college (the same length expected of Giles and Tatum). 

Ranking: No. 10 | 

Sacha Killeya-Jones (UK) - Duke pursued SKJ early in the recruiting process before the 6-foot-10 power forward committed to Virginia.  After backing off that decision, there were unconfirmed (and ultimately false) reports of Duke reigniting interest, but that never happened and it SKJ and UK quickly moved forward with a mutual pursuit.  

Ranking: No. 29 | 

Final Tally:  Duke + 1

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