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Duke nabs dynamic trio for '06

The first dominoes fell last week for Duke’s 2006 recruiting class and they undoubtedly made an impact.

Chicago star Jon Scheyer announced May 17 his plans to attend Duke, breaking the hearts of Illinois faithful. The following day, head coach Mike Krzyzewski secured a verbal commitment from touted Philadelphia guard Gerald Henderson. Then Friday, mammoth New Jersey center Brian Zoubek did the same, giving Duke three probable McDonald’s All-Americans, all ranked within the nation’s top 25 according to Scout.com, in as many days.

Recruiting maven Krzyzewski has seen his share of improbable commitments. But even he must be shaking his head at this coup. Within three days, Duke’s recruiting class went from no commitments to one of the nation’s top three.

Each prospect fills a specific Duke need. Scheyer has the length and versatility to play both guard positions and the skills to match his athleticism. A good three-point shooter, he is well-suited for the Duke motion offense. Moreover, Krzyzewski has to love Scheyer’s leadership qualities—the Chicago-area star almost single-handedly led Glenbrook North High School through the playoffs to a state championship, scoring 134 points in three games.

Meanwhile, Henderson fills the biggest hole in the Duke lineup by providing the Blue Devils with a slashing wing forward. The son of former Celtics and 76ers guard Gerald Henderson Sr., the 6-foot-5, 200-pound Henderson Jr. is certainly athletic and has the strength to get to the basket. In addition, Henderson excels in two categories that should bring a smile to Krzyzewski’s face—last season, he led his team in rebounding and charges taken.

At 7-foot-1, 270 pounds, Zoubek gives the Blue Devils something they have not had in more than a decade: a true 7-footer in the low post. Although he may not be as athletic as Henderson or Scheyer, Zoubek’s size and fundamentals could make him a crushing rebounder and defender by the time he steps on campus. And with a 1,360 SAT score, Zoubek should have no trouble digesting Duke’s playbook.

Equally important to their commitments, each of the recruits projects as a three-to-four-year collegiate player, giving Duke an opportunity to have a potentially historic team when the classes of 2005 and 2006 become upperclassmen.

At 6-foot-5, 175 pounds, Scheyer must add muscle before he can consider a leap to the NBA. Henderson must tweak his perimeter shot, and Zoubek must develop more athleticism before he can leave college.

This gives Duke unparalleled luxuries both on and off the court. The commitment of three top-25 prospects in the class of 2006 mitigates the experience crunch the Blue Devils will soon be facing. Duke expects to have no seniors and just two juniors, DeMarcus Nelson and Dave McClure, in 2006. But the presence of at least seven projected All-Americans should give Duke plenty of talent to make up for its inexperience.

In addition, Krzyzewski will have the opportunity to shuffle his lineup. In 2006, Duke could start a traditional lineup of projected All-Americans in point guard Greg Paulus, Nelson, Henderson, Zoubek and power forward Josh McRoberts.

But Duke could also play four guards—Nelson, Paulus, Scheyer and Henderson—or three players taller than 6-foot-10—Zoubek, McRoberts and center/forward Eric Boateng—and still field five McDonald’s All-Americans on the court.

On the recruiting trail, Krzyzewski can now risk pursuing possible NBA draft picks knowing he has three blue-chippers safely in tow. The Blue Devils may still look for a power forward as insurance in case McRoberts leaves Duke.

Because of the other commitments, top-10 prospects such as Brandan Wright and Thaddeus Young could now figure more prominently into Krzyzewski’s recruiting plans and will likely receive more of Krzyzewski’s attention.

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