The 2014 recruiting primary

Tyus is one of many highly-touted recruits Duke is rumored to have in its sights for 2014.
Tyus is one of many highly-touted recruits Duke is rumored to have in its sights for 2014.

So, who remembers the 2012 Republican presidential primaries?

In case you forgot, here is a quick recap of some of the relevant things: Mitt Romney was the early favorite. Then Rick Perry surged ahead in the polls. He fizzled. Next it was Herman Cain’s turn to take the lead. He fizzled too. Newt Gingrich then assumed the presumptive throne before Rick Santorum captured some of his supporters and then held a brief lead. Romney ultimately won.

Keep in mind, a lot of this happened even before a vote was cast. And a lot of this, for some reason, reminds me of the current basketball recruiting landscape. Many of the top class of 2014 recruits have yet to commit, and in the horse race to get them, there seems to be a new favorite every day.

If you’re not plugged into the recruiting circuit, here are some things you may or may not know according to various reports:

  • Duke’s one commit for next year is guard Grayson Allen
  • Duke remains in contention for Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, Kevon Looney, Myles Turner, Justise Winslow and Reid Travis
  • Okafor, a big man, and Jones, a point guard, are best friends and have stated on numerous occasions they plan on going to college together
  • Plans sometimes change
  • Duke has long been considered the favorite for the Okafor-Jones combo, which is seen as the prize of the recruiting class
  • Okafor’s father told ESPN in August that he is upset by the rumors that Duke is the favorite
  • According to Fox, the “word behind the scene is that” Kansas leads for the top three big men in the class: Okafor, Cliff Alexander and Turner
  • Jones and Okafor already visited Baylor together and will also visit Kansas and Duke together
  • Kentucky is also definitely in the hunt for Okafor but recently secured a point guard recruit, likely meaning Jones will not go there
  • Duke will be the last school the two visit together and sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes it’s not

Confused yet? That’s because it’s pretty confusing.

Like primary polls in a field with multiple candidates—with the recent New York City Democratic mayoral primary serving as another example—the favorite seems to change every day. And just because a new favorite is anointed every single day, doesn’t actually mean there’s a new favorite.

Polls are a snapshot of a moving race, and so are these recruits’ college decisions. And for the same reason that somebody has no reason to tell the truth to a pollster, we may never know what exactly is going on in the heads of Okafor and Jones until they make their decision(s).

And we’ve barely even touched on how most recruiting reporting is done, which involves citing unnamed sources and people familiar with the matter more often than the players themselves. When the recruits don’t know where they want to go, how can their supposed confidantes? This isn’t to criticize hordes of tireless reporters and message board posters who have legitimate sources and cover the beat tremendously. Instead, it’s to point out: No matter how hard we try or how many different ways the questions are asked, we may not know exactly what’s going on with these guys.

And you know what? That’s perfectly fine.

Sometimes what gets lost in all of this is something we once knew but choose to forget: We’re talking about teenagers. Many of these student-athletes will play professional basketball, but at its core, this is a decision made by a teenager about where he will go to college. And it’s probably pretty fun for them to make that decision on national television after months of hype that they may or may not have wanted, so it’s understandable when Okafor’s father says “it’s taking the fun out of the process.”

The good news for Duke fans is that yes, the Blue Devils have arguably been the favorite since the beginning for Okafor and Jones. They also appear to be in a pretty good position with Looney and Travis.

The bad news: it’s confusing and subject to change, so what we “know” today may be wrong tomorrow, and we probably won’t actually know until they announce their decisions.


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