Now What?

The news began to leak out late Monday night. The top point guard in the class of 2009, John Wall, had decided to cast his lot with another school. The next logical question becomes "What Next?" for Duke.

The first logical question seems to center around a potential short term solution at the point guard position. While there are markets overseas, don't expect the Blue Devil coaching staff to go in that direction. Instead Duke will enter the 2009-2010 season with just three guards on the roster in the form of Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith, and Elliot Williams. Most likely two of those three will be in the starting lineup. The other will be the sixth man.

Of course, most programs would love to have Duke's "problem" of three former McDonald's All-Americans in the rotation. But the standards in Durham aren't similar to most programs. Especially when the program hasn't been past the Sweet 16 in five years. Then there's the concern of potential injury - something not uncommon in recent years. The stark reality is that Coach K and company are one poor landing or misstep from having exactly zero depth in the backcourt.

In 2009 one roster change is going to see Kyle Singler moving from the post to his projected NBA position of small forward. Most likely he'll have senior forward Lance Thomas lining up at the power forward position. The primary post position will be split between senior Brian Zoubek and the Plumlee brothers.

The wildcard here will be incoming freshman Ryan Kelly. At 6'10 he may immediately enter the program as the team's best perimeter shooter - which is why every major program was working in his recruitment. Kelly also has a decent enough handle to come in and spell Singler at the small forward position or at least to allow him to slide to the big forward spot if needed.

Next season could be one of second chances for junior Nolan Smith. The 6'2 guard beat out a three year starter in 2009 for the point guard position. But inconsistent play ended up forcing Smith to the bench as a reserve scoring guard while Jon Scheyer moved over and assumed the role of lead guard. While Scheyer's numbers improved, the offense still had pockets of inefficiency and a pace limit that was exploited routinely against Villanova in the NCAA Tournament. Paramount to Duke's success in 2009-2010 will be Smith's ability to make the transition to the lead guard and to sustain the transition.

Moving on from the immediate circumstances, the Blue Devils have re-evaluated the way in which the program recruits. The class of 2009 featured several talented lead guards including and apart from Wall. However, for most of the 18 months preceding Wall's decision, Duke focused their attention primarily on Florida's Kenny Boynton while maintaining secondary options. Unfortunately those secondary options began committing to schools who viewed them as primary targets. As the months rolled by, Boynton's value to Duke continued to rise and rise. Once Boynton began to favor Florida over the Blue Devils, the simple fact was that Duke was in trouble in 2009.

Those same mistakes don't appear to be repeating themselves in the class of 2010, however. The Blue Devils took a solid four year type in Tyler Thornton early on. Now the attention is being focused on a talented threesome of Brandon Knight, Kyrie Irving, and Ray McCallum - in that order, rated as the nation's three best point guard prospects in the rising senior class. Each of which has acknowledged the Duke recruiting press. Knight has been recruited for more than a year at this point. Irving recently noted that Krzyzewski has taken a personal hand in his recruitment.

Adding any of the three along with the class's top prize, Harrison Barnes, would immediately cure a lot of ills in Durham. And, the idea of not putting all the "eggs in one basket" represents a marked change by the Duke coaching staff when it comes to recruiting. Some will say it's a good thing that the Blue Devils are "casting a wider net". Some will disagree and claim that Duke is a perennial top 10 team which clearly defeats the premise that recruiting needs a shot in the arm.

Either way, it's a change in an effort to avoid what happened in 2009.


Blue Devil Digest Top Stories