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Meet the Class of 2014

In the wake of a national championship-winning season and the departures of Jon Scheyer, Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas, Duke looks to retool with an elite recruiting class. Ranked No. 6 in the nation by ESPN, the class features point guards Kyrie Irving and Tyler Thornton alongside athletic forward Josh Hairston.

Irving, seen by many as the gem of the group, is expected to have a huge impact during his freshman year.

“They are bringing in a player that can change the complexion of their team, [and] potentially alter talent in the league,” said Scout.com’s National Recruiting Director Dave Telep. “Kyrie Irving is as big an ACC recruit as you can have. He gives this class... all of its swagger.”

While fans may lament the loss of Scheyer, who ranked fourth in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio, Telep believes Irving has the talent to pick up where the senior left off as the Blue Devils’ starting point guard.

“When you lose a guy like Jon Scheyer, the guy has to be replaced, and now he has been replaced with a guy that has even more basketball talent,” Telep said. “He’s a multi-handed player in the lane, he’s starting to shoot the ball exceptionally well. This is the best point guard they have had come into their program in a while, and he will be expected to deliver and he will deliver. He’s got big shoes to fill but he can handle it and he’s ready to do it.”

Irving’s physical skills have drawn rave reviews around the country­—but for former Duke star and current ESPN analyst Jay Williams, his mental toughness stands out.

“First of all, he has drive,” Williams said June 2. “Secondly, he has a very old school mentality. He’s very explosive and very quick, but he understands how to change speeds. He has the [youth] of someone his age with the mentality of that guy in the park that’s 35, 36 [that] understands how to play, which is phenomenal for somebody his age.”

While Irving is the headliner, fellow newcomers Hairston and Thornton will also be counted upon this season to produce for the Blue Devils.

Hairston, currently ranked No. 19 in his class by ESPN, has also been pegged for the USA Basketball U-18 team, where he will play alongside Irving. Hairston sports a 6-foot-8 frame and promises to give opponents fits with his ability to play both inside and on the perimeter.

“He is a very versatile player; [he] can play inside and out.... [He] has developed into a very solid perimeter player,” said Stu Vetter, Hairston’s coach at Montrose Christian School. “He plays very hard. He plays with a lot of passion. I think he will come in and make the adjustment to the college game. I think he has the ability to be a very good player for Duke.”

The 6-foot-2 Thornton will spell Irving for minutes this year. Thorton, who faced off numerous times against incoming North Carolina and McDonald’s All-American Kendall Marshall during his high school career, will not be fazed by ACC play, according to Telep.

“He’s a guy who’s going to have a nice career at Duke,” Telep said. “He’s going to be a team-first guy who understands his role, who is going to be great in the locker room. He’s going to fight.”

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