With the NCAA tournament said and done, Duke will join other elite teams in turning its attention to battles for blue-chip recruits.
Having already signed ESPN 100 No. 3 player Wendell Carter and No. 8 Gary Trent Jr., the Blue Devils will look to attract other top prospects to pair with the duo. The ability of the two to sell the Duke program to other recruits will be critical if the Blue Devils hope to replenish a roster that could see Luke Kennard and Grayson Allen both leave for the NBA on top of Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles.
At 6-foot-9 and 254 pounds, Carter could replace Giles and Amile Jefferson's post presence next season. The McDonald's All-American forward is strong and quick and could fill the void Jefferson leaves on defense. Trent Jr., is a big shooting guard at 6-foot-5 and has the potential to be an elite scorer alongside his friend, Carter.
Despite its already impressive recruiting haul, after going all season without a true point guard, it comes as no surprise that Duke is zeroing in on Trevon Duval, the top point guard in the 2017 class. Two days after the loss to South Carolina in the NCAA tournament's Round of 32, the Blue Devil coaching staff visited the 6-foot-3 IMG Academy guard in Florida March 21.
The No. 4 player in the ESPN 100, Duval has clear potential—ESPN scouts compared his athleticism to that of Russell Westbrook. But to realize his full potential, he needs to refine his shot and pick up some of the subtleties of the point guard position.
Duval had a strong performance at the McDonald’s All-American game March 29, scoring eight points to go along with three assists. But he struggled in the Dick's High School Nationals on March 30, seeing his team eliminated in the quarterfinals as a two-seed. Although he scored 14 points, Duval struggled from deep, shooting 25 percent and ultimately fouling out with two minutes left in the fourth quarter. He could only watch from the sideline as Greensboro Day closed out the game to win 59-40.
Despite his early exit, Duval has a sense of humor. On April 1, he announced that he would be narrowing his list down to two teams later in the day. However, he disappointed anxious fan bases across the country by later conceding that it was just an April Fool's joke.
The Wilmington, Del., native has not given a timetable for when he will announce his decision.
Along with recruiting a point guard, Duke is also heavily involved with center Mohamed Bamba. The 6-foot-11 New York native boasts a 93-inch wingspan and is an elite rim protector and finisher. He impressed at the McDonald’s All-American game with 17 points on 70 percent shooting as well as five rebounds and four blocks.
Bamba’s presence in the paint would be a boon for the Blue Devils, who struggled with rebounding at points this season. He is down to Duke, Kentucky, Michigan and Texas, yet has not given a date for a decision.
“With Duke, you get something a little bit different because you're getting three different brands—you're getting the University, you're getting the program, and you're getting Coach K,” Bamba said to Kentucky Sports Radio following the McDonald’s game. “Coach K has his own global brand, which is pretty outstanding.”
But Marques Bolden’s announcement that he will return to Durham next year could make head coach Mike Krzyzewski's pitch to Bamba slightly more difficult. With his talent, Bamba might not want to fight for minutes.
On their swing in Florida to visit Duval, the Blue Devils' coaches also paid forward Kevin Knox an in-home visit.
The No. 7 recruit in his class according to ESPN, a Knox and Carter pairing down low could be lethal with Knox's rebounding capabilities. He also demonstrated his ability to compete with the best, scoring 15 points in the McDonald's All-America game.
Unlike Duke's other targets, Knox has offered a specific timeline for his decision and is expected to announce his destination after the Jordan Brand Classic April 14.
The 6-foot-8 scorer is deciding between the Blue Devils, North Carolina, Kentucky and Florida State. The 2017 champion Tar Heels pose a threat to Duke, pitching him as a perfect replacement for star Justin Jackson, who is expected to go to the NBA.
However, the Blue Devils are still considered the favorite to land Knox, according to 247sports' crystal ball.
"They want me to come in and fill Jayson Tatum's spot. They're waiting to see what Luke [Kennard] and Grayson [Allen] have to do as far as if they're staying or leaving. Gary [Trent Jr.] and Wendell [Carter] have been in my ear the whole weekend," he said to 247Sports.
Outside of the class of 2017, Duke received good news pertaining to the top player
New top 6pic.twitter.com/hyoOEaiy02— Marvin Bagley III (@MB3FIVE) March 31, 2017