Recruiting Run Down: 2007

With the commitment of one of the top targets in the class of 2007 to Illinois coming on Sunday night, the Blue Devil recruiting board has undergone some rather drastic changes for those used to the usually benign flavor of Duke recruiting. So which prospects are on top of the board? Which ones have appeared? And which direction is Duke likely to go in 2007? TDD runs it down.

Searching For A Top Drawer Forward: It should be no surprise that Kyle Singler continues to top the wish list. The 6-foot-8, 200 pound Medford, Ore. native continues to see his stock hold as one of the top 10 overall prospects in the class, while also watching the list of potential suitors. Another forward on the board is 6-foot-7 Californian Taylor King who originally committed to UCLA but decided to reopen things later on.

It is conceivable that Duke could look to add both players, but a lot would have to happen with the current Blue Devil roster before that scenario could play out as scholarships and available space could become issues. Though some consider them similar players, that's not the case according to Telep.

"King is a rhythm shooter who tends to score his points in bunches. Singler is a grade better athlete and has a longer, and more versatile body (he is a high school quarterback). Both can shoot it, but Singler is more mobile."

Duke was one of the first to identify Singler and have stayed on him since that time prompting many analysts to call him Duke's top target in the class of 2007. The positive vibe goes both ways as Kyle reported to Steve Clark in a late August interview.

"Growing up, when I first got exposed to watching basketball on TV, Duke was always the team that I watched," said Singler. "Once I started playing, I used to think to myself that when I practiced, I was practicing to be a Blue Devil. I just love Coach K and the Duke program; they recruit good people and have good people around the program, which is something I really admire."

On the other hand, the relationship between Duke and King wasn't as evident until King trekked to Durham for an October unofficial visit. There he had a chance to see the campus and take in the Blue-White scrimmage while getting a feel for head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

"Coach K is a no-nonsense kind of guy," said King. "He explained to me what they are looking for in my class, and how they think I could fit in with who they are trying to bring in – he thinks I could compliment Kyle very well."

Replacing Gordon: With the sudden news of Eric Gordon committing to Illinois, the recruiting focus will likely switch to a pair of guards who, like Gordon, can play off the ball or handle it. With a traditional pass first point guard like Greg Paulus on the roster, bringing in a player who can light up the score board and someone who can comfortably handle the ball in relief and alongside Paulus.

Enter Oak Hill's Nolan Smith and Washington, D.C.'s Chris Wright (pictured right) – a pair of top backcourt prospects with several high major offers. They also bring two different styles of play to the table according to's Dave Telep.

Nolan Smith is a big wing who is transitioning to the point and his versatility and overall package make him one of the most attractive guards in America," said Telep. "Chris Wright is a point blank sniper on the perimeter who is rounding out his game as a driver. Smith holds an advantage in the size department."

Smith, who has long been considered a lock to attend Louisville in the footsteps of his father, former NBA'er Derrick Smith, is a surprise to many Blue Devil faithful. However, sources have indicated that the younger Smith is "far from a lock" to attend any school at this point. The Smith camp also has a connection to the current Duke coaching staff as the elder Smith played with current Duke associate head coach Johnny Dawkins with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Meanwhile, Wright has long been associated with Duke dating back to camping with the Blue Devils during the summer of his freshman season along with current Blue Devil Eric Boateng and current commit Jonathan Scheyer – an experience that made an impression on the talented floor general.

"I've been a Duke fan all my life," Wright told Jeff Goodman in April at the Next Level AAU Event. "I like Coach K, I like the style of play. They get up and down the floor and run a lot of motion."

Wright averaged 22.7 points and 5.5 assists per game last season as a sophomore at St. John's College (D.C.). Smith scored 16.0 per game last year with Oak Hill.

Big Time Big Man: With the NBA a likely address for current freshman big forward Josh McRoberts when the class of 2007 arrives on campus, the need for another talented big man on the roster is apparent. By the time the class of 2007 suits up, Duke will have only two players on the roster who stand over 6-foot-7 in the form of junior Eric Boateng (6-10) and sophomore Brian Zoubek (7-1).

Enter Oregon's Kevin Love (pictured right), Texas' Gary Johnson, and Virginia's Julian Vaughn to the radar. Another diverse group that brings different strengths to the table.

"Kevin Love is the biggest post producer in the class," said Telep. "He's the guy who goes out and gets the double-double all the time like clock work."

"Gary Johnson is the effort and energy guy who busts his tail on both sides of the ball. He will have to find some counter moves to score versus size but he is strong and athletic."

"Julian Vaughn is the young man who is just scratching the surface and finding out how good he can be. He is a terrific face up player, and he's toughing it out inside and developing that aspect of his game."

While Johnson and Vaughn had previously been identified as Duke prospects, Love's name may raise a few eye brows after several analysts believed the Blue Devils had decided to go in another directions. However it would appear that both sides have continued to stay in touch and that Duke will, in fact, work hard to recruit the talented player.

"He's long mentioned Duke as a school he's interested in," said a source with knowledge of the situation. "They would be absolutely foolish to not take a look and recruit a kid like that. It's a safe bet that you will see Duke recruiting Kevin Love going forward."

As recently as the spring of 2005 Love referred to Duke as a "dream school" [link], but since that time it was uncertain if Duke was or was not recruiting him. Apparently that issue has been settled. It's also considered notable to those involved that Love is close with Singler.

Johnson, a 6-foot-7 rebounding machine from Texas, has also been a long time Duke target in 2007 after impressing Krzyzewski over the summer with the Houston Hoops AAU squad, and most recently in an open gym. Key opponents for the services of Johnson are expected to be Texas and Arizona.

Being considered primarily a rebounder by recruiting experts and coaching staffs is something Gary is working hard to change.

"I'm working on improving my dribbling and shooting every day," said Johnson. "When I'm on the court I'm out there to win and compete, but to take it to the next level I need to improve my skill set. I'm going to do that so I can hopefully make a case for the McDonalds Game next year."

Johnson averaged 16 points and 12 boards as a freshman at Aldine and followed that up with a 23 point, 14 rebound sophomore campaign.

Meanwhile, Julian Vaughn is a "local" prospect who has been to Duke many times for games in historic Cameron Indoor. Despite the many trips and the familiarity of the Blue Devil program, Vaughn has yet to be extended a scholarship offer.

"I've got offers from a lot of schools," Vaughn told TDD. "Michigan, Illinois, Miami, Maryland, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Kansas, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Ohio State, Wake Forest, Boston College, Notre Dame, Clemson, Georgetown, and NC State. But Duke hasn't offered me, and neither has North Carolina. I think they are both going to evaluate me more and then go from there."

The lack of offers certainly haven't helped either of the Tobacco Road powers move into a favorable position with him, but then again Vaughn says it hasn't hurt them either.

"Those teams have to be more selective of who they offer because everyone grows up wanting to go to a school like Duke or UNC. So take a bit longer before they offer. I understand that. Right now everyone is on the same page, and there's no leader or anything."

Vaughn is considered a five star prospect by and the sixth best power forward in the country.

For more on the class of 2007 recruiting, users can check out TDD's '07 Recruiting Board or the Database.

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