Upon Further Review: Duke's best recruiting class ever

The Best... ever?

That was one of the many catchphrases used to describe the class of 2001. First it was Battier, then Avery, Brand and finally Burgess. It was a class that any school in the country would dream of getting just once in its school history. But not Duke.

Today the Blue Devils will have an unprecedented sixth recruit verbally commit to the class of 2006. And for the icing on the cake, five of those six are ranked among the top-30 high school seniors in the country.

First it was JJ Redick, then Michael Thompson, Lee Melchionni, Sean Dockery, Shelden Williams and as of today, Shavlik Randolph.

You think Melchionni doesn't realize how good this class is? Guess again. The NCAA has a rule stating that a school may only give out five scholarships in one year.

So Melchionni, whose father Gary was a star for Duke in the early 1970s, said that if necessary, he would pay his own way for a year. This would allow Duke to bring in Randolph on scholarship.

This leads to an important question: Is the class of 2001 still Duke's best recruiting class ever?

Well, lets look at the match-ups:

Point Guard--Avery vs. Dockery

Avery entered Duke as a run-and-gun point guard known for his quickness, court awareness and exceptional strength. As a high school senior, he averaged 17 points, seven assists, five rebounds and four steals per game.

Dockery is known as an unselfish offensive player who can knock down the three with Chris Duhon-like accuracy. As a junior in high school, the Chicago native averaged 21 points, nine assists, eight rebounds and five steals per game.

Verdict--Avery and Dockery are of similar size and ability. Dockery was Duke's first choice for point guard all along, while Avery was second after Baron Davis. Still, both players are top-caliber and had/will have an impact on the Duke program. Draw.

Shooting Guard--Redick

The class of 2001 did not have a shooting guard, but of course, Duke already had Trajan Langdon. Then again, basketball analysts have compared Redick to Langdon, some even saying that Redick is a better shooter.

Being the first to commit to the sensational class of 2006, Redick got Duke off to a great start. The 6-foot-5 guard is known as an extremely good passer and a leader on the floor, a quality Krzyzewski looks for in his players.

Verdict--Advantage 2006.

Forward--Battier vs. Randolph and Melchionni

What is there not to say about Battier? When he entered Duke he hoped to bring versatility, saying he would do anything the team wanted him to do. He also brought intelligence and an excellent understanding of the game. Battier might have said it best when he commented, "I'm a jack of all trades but a master of none."

Battier was the first to verbally commit to Duke and like Redick, Michigan's Mr. Basketball got Duke off to a great start. Battier was also actively involved in recruiting Brand to come to Duke.

The last, but definitely not least, Randolph is the crown jewel for Duke. The 6-9 forward has a superb all-around game that makes him an inside-outside threat similar to Battier. The Raleigh native averaged 27 points and 13 rebounds as a junior and was at one point thought to be considering the NBA.

Randolph's stock dropped this summer as he battled an ankle injury, but many scouts still consider Randolph one of the best players in the country and a huge pick-up for Duke.

Melchionni is a top-100 player who won't single-handedly win Duke a title, but can contribute to a national championship team. As shown by his willingness to walk-on for a year to allow Duke to recruit five other players, Melchionni exemplifies a true team player.

Verdict--Battier and Randolph is a match-up for the ages. Both players were highly touted and have talent in every facet of the game. Not even Melchionni can break this tie. Draw.

Forward--Brand vs. Williams

Possibly one of the best players ever to take the floor for Duke, the Peekskill, N.Y. native was the dominant post-presence Duke needed. At 6-9 and 260 pounds, Brand had great strength and physical stamina to go along with a 7-4 wingspan. Brand was known as a ferocious rebounder whose prowess on the boards was credited to rebounding fundamentals and his strong will to get the ball.

Williams is rated by many as one of the top-five players in the country, and the highest of the Blue Devils. The talented 6-9 power forward is a proven low-post scorer and shot-blocker who puts up big numbers. In addition to going inside, Williams can step outside and shoot the trifecta.

Verdict--Both have 7-4 wingspans and incredible strength. Williams has a polished inside game comparable to Brand's and a better jump shot that extends to the three-point arc. Williams is called "Landlord" because he owns the paint. Advantage 2006.

Center--Burgess vs. Thompson

The top-ranked prospect by USA Today, 6-11 Burgess averaged 26 points and 11 rebounds as a senior in high school. The Irvine, Calif. native was the last to join the class of 2001 and tabbed by one analyst as "one of the most skilled big players that I have seen in 22 years."

The 6-10 Thompson averaged 26 points, 11 rebounds, and four blocks per game as a junior. The Chicago native is known as a player with the ability to be a dominant presence in the paint.

Verdict--Burgess was the top-ranked high schooler in the country and he knew it. He had all the skills to make a dominant basketball player. Thompson is good, but not that good. While Thompson's impact will probably be more than Burgess', he is not as talented coming into school. Advantage 2001.

So there you have it: 2001 vs. 2006. Now for the tough part--who's the best ever? I am going to say 2006 by a slim 2-1 margin with two ties, but only time will tell. With the imminent departure of Williams and possibly Boozer to the NBA, the class of 2006 will make a name for itself right away.


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