Each year, Countdown to Craziness is one of the grandest stages of the season, allowing the program to sell itself with a rock-show-like performance.
The magnitude of this season’s kickoff ceremony, however, separates itself from most years. The Blue Devil coaching staff will host one of its most star-studded recruit lineups in recent memory—Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor and Theo Pinson of the 2014 class, as well as sophomore Karl Towns.
Since all of the nation’s other top programs held their Midnight Madness celebrations last Friday, Duke has the luxury of less competition for hosting five-star recruits in its season-opening event.
Jones—the No. 1 point guard and No. 2 overall player in the class of 2014 according to ESPN.com—is making his first trip to the Duke campus. The 6-foot-1 point guard possesses an uncanny feel for the game, a unique ability to make his teammates better and is capable of taking over games himself with his diverse scoring arsenal.
Head coach Mike Krzyzewski has been in hot pursuit of Jones for quite some time and even opted to forgo recruiting 2013 point guards altogether in hopes of bringing the Minnesota product to Durham to be the team’s lead guard of the future.
Jones’ close friend, Okafor—the top-ranked power forward and No. 3 overall player in the class of 2014—will make his second unofficial visit to Duke this weekend. At 6-foot-10 and 270 pounds, the Chicago native is one of the premier post players in all of high school basketball due to his NBA size, impeccable low-post footwork and great shooting touch around the basket.
Usually package deals in recruiting rarely transpire, but Jones and Okafor might be the exception to the rule. On numerous occasions, the two have publicly stated their desire to play with one another at the next level, further illustrating the importance of the two’s time together this weekend.
“There’s been some talk about these two kids legitimately having the kind of relationship where they might go to school together,” ESPN senior recruiting analyst Dave Telep said. “If you get Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor, you have two key components to winning a national championship.”
From nearby High Point, N.C., Pinson— the No. 2 small forward and No. 8 overall player in the class—rounds out the juniors attending. Living in close proximity to the school has allowed the versatile 6-foot-6 wing to visit campus multiple times throughout his high school career. The athletic slasher is also strongly considering local rivals N.C. State and North Carolina.
Last, but certainty not least is Towns—the No. 1 overall player in the class of 2015. The sophomore is as seasoned as an underclassmen could possibly be and Krzyzewski knows that first-hand after coaching against the 6-foot-11 combo forward a few months ago. Playing for the Dominican Republic national team this summer gave Towns the unique opportunity to face off against Krzyzewski’s U.S. national team in a July exhibition game with the Americans preparing for the Olympics. Against the NBA’s best, the 16-year-old Towns finished with three points, two rebounds and an assist in 9:24 of action.
This weekend will be Towns’ second unofficial visit to Duke since August, which seemingly puts the Blue Devils in an ideal starting position to court the New Jersey product in the coming years.
SLIDESHOW: TOP COUNTDOWN TO CRAZINESS MOMENTS
2012/10/19 Top Countdown Moments - Images by Duke Student Publishing Co. Duke Chronicle
Getting these four highly touted prospects to visit Friday night promises to be a pivotal step in the recruitment of each.
“Midnight Madness is something that Duke makes a priority,” Telep said. “And it’s worked well for them in the past.”
Recruits and fans alike will have much to look forward to Friday night. The intra-squad scrimmage will be the first and only chance this season to see Rodney Hood, who transferred to Duke from Mississippi State this summer and will be forced to sit out the 2012-13 season due to NCAA transfer rules.
Additionally, freshmen Rasheed Sulaimon and Amile Jefferson will make their career debuts. After redshirting last year, Alex Murphy is another player that the Blue Devil faithful is anxious to see in action. And the Cameron Crazies will get their first glimpse of a healthy Quinn Cook at the starting point guard position.
After suffering a stress fracture in the second left metatarsal of his left foot last week, Marshall Plumlee remains in a walking boot and will not play in the scrimmage. Senior guard Seth Curry, who is dealing with a leg injury, will be limited.
As a fanfare spectacle, Countdown to Craziness will likely have little, if any, influence on the outcome of this season for the Blue Devils. It does, however, provide quality entertainment, dunks galore and the celebration of a new season. And even though tonight’s event may not impact hanging banners in Cameron Indoor Stadium this season, it could very well do so in years to come.