Deng Is A Prime Duke Target

Duke's 2003 haul won't need to be quite as big as its 2002 effort. With six players coming in next fall, the search for prospects won't be nearly as exhaustive as this year. However, you can bet the Blue Devils won't rest until they add another wing athlete.

It's a little early to try and predict exactly how many grants the Blue Devils will have to offer to members of the Class of 2003. However, once that number is determined, go ahead and subtract one scholarship from the total. Lee Melchionni, a small forward and member of the Class of 2002, will definitely be placed on scholarship for his sophomore season, thus taking up one of the available rides.

Though Duke's haul won't be nearly as bountiful in numbers as this year's "Selected Six" it will contain a handful of talented players. One of the positions Duke will address is the perimeter slot, likely with emphasis on the small forward position. Enter Luol Deng.

The 6-7, 215 pounder plays his high school basketball at Blairstown (NJ) Blair Academy. He first drew national attention with his inspired play at the 2001 Nike All-American Camp. Since July, college recruiters have worn out a path to Blair.

"He's doing great," said Blair coach Joe Mantegna. "He's averaging almost 30 points a game and Charlie's [Villanueva] averaging 26 points a game. They've been the best players on the court in almost every game we've played."

Deng is a terrific athlete, as uncovered at Nike. He'll slash and drive, generally looks like a big-timer, and that's why many of the elite schools have him marked as a priority. The Blue Devils, especially in the last few seasons, have experienced tremendous success when they target guys early and Deng looks to be high on their list. So, how does one say "No" to Duke these days?

"How do you say no to Michigan and Tommy Amaker?" Mantegna said. "How do you say no to Virginia. Granted, Duke is Duke. He's probably going to take an unofficial in December and he's going to see [North] Carolina while he's down there. That's a tough place to say "No" to also. With his final seven or eight schools I don't think he's going to be able to make a bad decision."

Mantegna is quick to point out that there are not final seven or eight schools just yet and the process won't be rushed with Deng.

"His brother [Joe Deng at Fairfield] went through the process so he understands what's going on. We're looking for the best basketball schools with the combination of coaching and basketball."

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