With a loaded roster in Durham this season, there’s a lot optimism and excitement surrounding the Duke Basketball program at this moment. But what does the future hold for head coach Mike Krzyzewski and company?
The nature of beast for the elite high major programs is to prepare for major roster turnover each and every year. Last year Duke was forced to replace four starters from the 2015 National Title team and was left short handed for most of the season. Fast forward to the current season and Duke will rely heavily on one of the nation’s best recruiting classes which will provide as much depth as any Blue Devil team in the last 20 years has enjoyed.
But, Duke could also be facing a mass exodus again. Especially if the season progresses as many think and hope it might. Depending on NBA defections and attrition, head coach Mike Krzyzewski could lose as many as four of his six freshmen along with two seniors, and a junior.
That leaves as many as eight potential scholarships open for the 2017-2018 season, which is why Duke is pursuing a large number of prospects in the current crop of seniors. Here’s a look at the players you need to know:
The top target on the board remains five star big man Wendell Carter, ranked as the No. 4 overall prospect in the nation by the national recruiting team. Carter may have fallen from the No. 3 spot to fourth, but he still remains as the top target on the board for Coach K and company. Many believe Carter will ultimately decide between Duke and Harvard.
A five star player that attracted high major attention is Gary Trent, Jr who moved 12th in the latest Scout rankings. Trent has prototypical size and can be a big time scorer. And, he and Carter have openly discussed playing together in college. While it’s not the sure-fire bet of the Okafor-Jones tandem for Duke in 2015, both five star prospects say they are very serious about the possibility.
Trent recently cut his list to a final five of Arizona, Duke, Kentucky, Michigan State and UCLA.
With Frank Jackson’s potential on full display in Durham this year and Derryck Thornton’s sudden departure, it’s no surprise that Duke is looking to add another ball handler in the class of 2017.
After surveying and tracking a number of prospects, Duke has seemingly gone “all in” with Philadelphia’s Quade Green. Ranked as the nation’s fourth best point guard and No. 25 overall player, Green recently cut his list to a final nine consisting of Duke, Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky, Villanova, Xavier, Arizona, Temple, and Louisville.
Coach K has compared Green to former Blue Devil Quinn Cook.
On the wing Duke has put in a lot of time tracking five star forward Kevin Knox out of Tampa. Knox is built like and has the game of many combo forwards who have excelled at Duke in the past. He’s recently reduced his list to a final 10 which includes the Blue Devils and he’s already visited Durham once and was on the phone with Coach K in Rio.
Knox has indicated he is in no rush to make a decision and will likely not decide until the Spring.
Another player that will likely wait until the late signing period is the second best player in the class, Mohamed Bamba. Duke is convinced and has discussed the idea of pairing Bamba with Carter at the collegiate level in what would be one of the most devastating front courts in the country.
At the Team USA Camp this summer the 6-foot-11 five star center said he was going to slow down and re-evaluate his recruiting process while also taking a more active role. When he announces his reduced list, look for Duke to be safely included.
Bamba is also AAU teammates with Quade Green.
A new name that has popped up recently is small forward Jermaine Samuels who began fielding Duke interest near the latter part of the summer. Built it the most of former Blue Devil wing turned assistant coach, Nate James, Samuels is expected release a reduced list of school soon. Many believe that if Duke offers, the Blue Devils could ascend to a position of authority in this recruitment.
Samuels is rated as a four star prospect and the No. 42 overall player in the country. He is considered the No. 8 small forward in the nation.
The newest offer in the class went out on Wednesday night when Coach K offered four star shooting guard Alex O'Connell of Milton High. The 6-foot-6 Georgia shooting guard is rated as the nation's No. 62 overall prospect and the 17th best shooting guard.
Other players who have fielded various levels of Duke interest since the start of the AAU season in the early spring include No. 10 overall, Hamidou Diallo, No. 36 Tremont Waters, and No. 43 D.J. Harvey. Another Duke target in the Spring was former four star PF Deng Gak who was reduced to a three star prospect and is now out of the Top 100.