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Versatile forward Boykin picks Blue Devils

Jamal Boykin, a 6-foot-7 forward who knew he wanted to attend Duke from the moment he stepped on campus, verbally comitted to the Blue Devils in the recruiting class of 2005. The California native is a self-proclaimed natural leader, and his AAU coach says he is a versatile offensive threat who also plays hard nose defense.

Sometimes dreams really do come true.

Jamal Boykin grew up an admirer of Duke basketball. As a freshman on the Fairfax (Calif.) High School varsity basketball team, he dreamed of donning a Blue Devil uniform. Now Boykin, a consensus top-100 recruit in the class of 2005, will get his chance.

A 6-foot-7 power forward, Boykin verbally committed to the Blue Devils July 31 over interest from Louisville, Boston College, Georgia Tech, Michigan, Illinois and Pittsburgh. He becomes Duke’s third commitment in the class of 2005, joining point guard Greg Paulus and forward Josh McRoberts.

Boykin, a Los Angeles native, gave the commitment via phone immediately after receiving his scholarship offer from head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

“I was waiting for the call,” an excited Boykin said. “I was ready to take [the offer] right then and there.”

Boykin grew up a Duke fan after watching Christian Laettner’s game-winning shot in the 1992 East Regional Final against Kentucky. He visited the campus before his sophomore year and immediately knew he wanted to attend.

“I’ve always been a fan of winners,” Boykin said. “After I had a chance to go up to Duke.... I was hooked and said that this is where I wanted to be.”

That feeling was reinforced through his recruitment, where Boykin said that Krzyzewski distinguished himself from other college coaches.

“Other schools offer early and [offer] a lot of kids,” Boykin said. “With Duke, [Krzyzewski] makes sure he takes time to know the kids so he knows what he’s getting. It made me feel special and unique because he didn’t just offer me a scholarship like everyone else; he really took his time to watch me play.”

Krzyzewski evaluated Boykin as a small forward on the Belmont Shores AAU team, where he drew comparisons to a former Blue Devil great for his savvy and versatility.

“I play the three and the four,” said Boykin, who also plays center on his high school team. “Coach K said I play a lot like Shane Battier.”

Much like Battier, Boykin hopes to begin his college career as a solid role player.

“I can see myself as someone who gets a lot of rebounds and plays good defense in the early years,” Boykin said. “It’s all really up to the way I work and the opportunities I get.”

According to Belmont Shores AAU coach Dinos Trigonis, he also has the potential to grow into an outstanding defender for the Blue Devils. Although he currently plays more like a power forward more than a small forward, Boykin is developing the necessary skills to play both positions.

At this year’s summer Nike camp, Boykin had the opportunity to guard many of the nation’s top players, such as small forwards C.J. Miles and Martell Webster. According to Trigonis, Boykin did a very good job defending against both.

“He’s getting a lot faster and a lot more agile year-to-year,” Trigonis said. “A lot of that is due to his work ethic and his propensity to get better.”

Additionally, Boykin exhibited Battier-esque qualities last year in leading his Fairfax High School team to the California state championship.

“Every team that I’ve played on I’ve always been a leader,” Boykin said. “To lead, whether it’s basketball or in the classroom or just with my friends, is a huge part of my character.”

Trigonis, who has coached Boykin since he was a freshman, reinforced Boykin’s leadership abilities.

“He’s a very coachable young man,” Trigonis said. “He’s what I would call... if not the best, one of the best players Southern California has ever produced in terms of intangibles.”

Partially because of those intangibles, Trigonis believes Boykin has the potential to become the next name in a long line of Blue Devil greats.

“I believe that he’ll be a very good basketball player for Duke and a very good ambassador for Duke, both short-term and long-term,” Trigonis said. “He’ll be remembered very well at Duke.”

Right now, however, Boykin is just looking forward to getting on campus.

“It’s amazing because I’ve actually dreamed more for playing for Duke than for the NBA, so this is really a dream come true,” Boykin said. “I can’t wait to play for them.”

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