Two New Prospects In Hoops Class of 2009?

At this point in the season it's clear that the Blue Devils are searching for someone, anyone, to take the reigns at the point guard position. Looking past the 2009 season refocuses the program's need for a true point guard - starting with the 2009-2010 season. To that end the Duke coaching staff may start looking at some late options.

A quick rundown of Duke's potential backcourt rotation for the 2009-2010 season seems heavy on talent and would be the envy of several programs. Three positions to be split amongst seniors Gerald Henderson, Martynas Pocius, and Jon Scheyer; along with junior Nolan Smith and sophomore Elliot Williams. Before pointing out the obvious lack of a true point guard, it's also important to mention that both Henderson and Pocius could elect to move on from Duke next season - Henderson via the NBA and Pocius as a graduating senior thus foregoing his remaining year of eligibility.

Even if both return the team would lack a true pass first point guard. And while both Scheyer and Smith have handled the role this season, neither appears well suited for the job on a permanent basis. With that in mind Duke has begun re-evaluating the class of 2009 in hopes of finding a potential high major floor general to add.

Obviously the list of available players begins with local Raleigh product John Wall, who maintains Duke interest, but has yet to be formally offered a scholarship. Until that development occurs, the Blue Devils will continue to be thought of as a second tier option for the nation's top point guard. And given the lateness of Duke's entry into the Wall sweepstakes as well as the lessons of the past few years in regards to a narrow recruiting net, it now appears there are two new targets showing up on the Duke recruiting radar in the class.

The top prospect is Birmingham (Ala.) product Eric Bledsoe - a 6', 160 pound pass first point guard out of Parker High School. Rated as a four star prospect and the nation's No. 8 point guard, Bledsoe originally committed to Mississippi in October before having second thoughts. Now he's got several high majors sniffing around including Florida and Memphis along with other programs such as Baylor, UAB, Alabama, and South Florida.

While Duke has yet to make an offer, the Blue Devils did have assistant coach Nate James front and center as Parker High took the court on Friday night in the Alabama State High School playoffs. Bledsoe scored 11 points, dished out three assists and collected five steals in front of the Duke assistant. For the season he's averaged 21 points, eight assists and five steals per game.

The other potential prospect hails from a Blue Devil recruiting hotbed - Chicago, Illinois - home of Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski and former high school stomping grounds of players who chose Duke such as Jon Scheyer, Sean Dockery, Corey Maggette, Shaun Livingston, Michael Thompson, and even Duke assistant coach Chris Collins. The latest potential focus is combo guard Darius Smith out of Marshall Metropolitan High.

At 6'2 and 180lbs, Smith can play either the point or scoring guard position and has drawn rave reviews for his ability to get into the lane and to the basket with superior athleticism and creativity. Originally thought to be headed to play for Tubby Smith at the University of Minnesota, Smith opened his recruitment in late November and has been inundated with interest from schools all over the country.

"I don't want to name the schools because I don't want to leave anybody out," Smith told Scout's Evan Daniels. "But the different conferences [with schools showing interest are the] Big Ten, Pac-10, Big East, SEC and ACC," Smith said. "I'm getting calls from a bunch of different schools in different conferences."

Somewhat of a late bloomer on the national stage, Smith has averaged just over 20 points per game while adding eight rebounds, eight assists, and four steals per game this season. With that kind of nightly production, it's no wonder his biggest fan is also his high school coach.

"He's a warrior," says Marshall Head Coach Henry Cotton. "We call him Mr. Stats, because he's going to fill up the stat sheet and put something in every category. Most players put something in rebounds and points. He's going to go out and rebound, score, have a lot of assists, steals and blocks. He fills it up."

As with Bledsoe, the Blue Devils have yet to extend an offer to Smith. In fact Duke hasn't had a staff member on hand to see the talented guard in action. That'll change next week, however, as the Blue Devils dispatch members of the coaching staff to watch and evaluate.

After viewing Smith, a decision of where the recruiting trail will next lead will likely be made and made quickly as Duke continues to search for the next great lead guard in Durham.

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