First, let’s provide the backstory. On March 8, 2015, Trae Young—yes, that Trae Young, the Atlanta Hawks point guard and former Oklahoma sensation—sent this direct message to @dukebasketball, The Chronicle’s Twitter account for Duke men’s basketball coverage:
When I first found this message while scrolling through our account’s old DMs, a lot of thoughts raced through my mind. Firstly, I noticed the fact that we can no longer direct message Young, a product of the recently-turned-superstar turning off the feature that allows users he does not follow to message him. What a shame.
Secondly, what big win was the Norman, Okla. native talking about? Well I did some simple research and saw that on March 7, 2015—just hours before Young’s message—No. 3 Duke had defeated No. 19 North Carolina 84-77 at the Dean Dome—the Blue Devils’ second victory over the Tar Heels on the year. Tyus Jones led all scorers with 24, while Quinn Cook, Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow added 20, 14 and 13 apiece. Just less than a month later, Duke finished off its 35-4 campaign with a win against Wisconsin to capture the program’s fifth national championship.
Thirdly, at the time of this message, who was Trae Young? In the spring of 2015, Young would’ve been a sophomore at Norman North High School, three years before he would light the college basketball world on fire at Oklahoma. In fact, the future All-American wouldn’t even commit to the Sooners for nearly another two years. Hence, the question I figure you all are thinking by now: Did The Chronicle failing to respond to Trae Young’s direct message in 2015 cost Duke any chances it had of acquiring the star point guard?
Yes, it’s completely fair to assume this direct message fiasco had absolutely nothing to do with Young’s recruitment. I mean, the Blue Devils were bringing in the nation’s No. 1 point guard recruit—and No. 6 overall recruit—in Trevon Duval. Meanwhile, Young sat all the way back at No. 23 in ESPN’s rankings for the Class of 2017, behind other facilitators such as Collin Sexton and Jaylen Hands. Why would Young want to be a backup for the Blue Devils—who also had No. 8 overall recruit Gary Trent and senior captain Grayson Allen manning the wings—when he could be an instant starter for the Sooners?
When you look at the actual commitment dates, however, Young announced his decision to play for Oklahoma on February 16, 2017—three months before Duval announced his choice to head to Durham. Furthermore, head coach Mike Krzyzewski extended an offer to Young on June 22, 2015—over 16 months before Duval picked up an offer from the five-time national champion. And with big man Wendell Carter Jr.—later joined by a reclassified Marvin Bagley III—manning the middle for that 2017-18 Duke squad, don’t you think Coach K would have preferred the sweet-shooting, playmaking Young over the slashing Duval who ended up shooting 29 percent from downtown?
The theory: Young spurned the Blue Devils, salty over our failure to respond to his congratulatory direct message during the midst of his high school playing days, deciding to stay home and play for the University of Oklahoma instead of the greatest college basketball program of all-time.
Just imagine the endless possibilities—Trae Young tossing lobs off the backboard to Bagley and Carter; defenses squirming to defend the best post duo in the country while also trying to guard Young 35 feet from the basket. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind a sixth national championship banner would be hanging from the rafters of Cameron Indoor Stadium.
So to Young, Krzyzewski, and all the Duke fans who now missed out on that beautiful yearlong display due to our incredible lack of judgement on the morning of March 8, 2015—we are sorry. We couldn’t be more sorry.
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