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Boateng to bolster frontcourt

Help is on the way. Eric Boateng, the nation�s second best center prospect, committed to Duke Wednesday and will get playing time as soon as he arrives next fall. Boateng will complement already committed Josh McRoberts and Jamal Boykin in Duke�s frontcourt of the future.

Note to the Blue Devils’ depleted roster: Help is on the way.

After getting burned by Luol Deng and Shaun Livingston last year, head coach Mike Krzyzewski decided on a simple new recruiting strategy: Take more players.

So far, the fruits of that strategy are evident. At this time last year, Duke had two commitments in the class of 2004 with hopes for possibly two more players. Now, the Blue Devils have already secured four players—and they are looking to sign at least one more before closing their recruiting efforts in the class of 2005. In fact, if Krzyzewski can secure commitments from two more high school seniors, he might enter the 2005-2006 basketball season with a full complement of 13 scholarship players—something Krzyzewski has never had in 24 years of coaching.

Boateng, whose recent commitment is a step in that direction, and fellow future freshmen Josh McRoberts and Jamal Boykin will provide badly needed frontcourt depth. If Shelden Williams leaves early for the NBA, the Blue Devils will have just two returning frontcourt players—Shavlik Randolph and David McClure.

Despite Boateng’s lofty ranking—he is rated the nation’s No. 2 center and No. 19 prospect overall by theinsiders.com—he is not an immediate impact recruit. Although Boateng has the requisite size and post moves to help him become a big-time college player eventually, the London native is still raw and not fully adapted to the American game after only two years of high school basketball in the United States Additionally, Boateng still needs to work on many of the cerebral aspects of the game—what St. Andrew’s basketball coach Bob Rue called “processing the game at a high level” when discussing his star player. Although necessity will get Boateng playing time as a freshman, his inexperience will limit his immediate impact on the Blue Devils.

That inexperience, however, could be a blessing in disguise for Duke. Not only would it keep Boateng at Duke for more than one year—an especially important point for a team in need of continuity in the wake of the Shaun Livingston and Luol Deng’s departures—but it would also give Krzyzewski the opportunity to develop other big men alongside Boateng.

Of the other two frontcourt players the Blue Devils currently have committed, McRoberts will have the most immediate impact. After impressing coaches this summer, McRoberts rocketed up player rankings for the class of 2005, ending as the No. 3 player in the class in both rivals.com and theinsiders.com’s latest listings. Playing alongside the do-it-all forward provides Boateng the opportunity to benefit from McRoberts’ passing ability, and playing with Boateng gives McRoberts the opportunity to roam outside the paint where he can better show off his skills.

The presence of Boateng should not affect Boykin as they play different positions. Although Boateng is more of a pure center, Boykin is more of a combination forward, said his AAU coach Dinos Trigonis. Consequently, although both Boykin and Boateng may play similar roles as they both develop—hard-nosed defenders and rebounders—they should be able to play with one another.

In fact, Duke has not yet finished with recruiting efforts to bolster its frontcourt in 2005. Snohomish (Wash.) power forward Jon Brockman appears to be receiving the brunt of the Blue Devils’ recruiting interest. The 6-foot-7 big man, prized for his physical and relentless style of play, would also be able to play with Boateng and McRoberts in a frontcourt rotation, and Boykin’s versatility would also allow Brockman and Boykin on the floor together. Additionally, Boateng’s commitment is particularly important from a recruiting standpoint because it now allows the coaching staff to focus more of its efforts on luring Brockman to Durham.

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