When it comes to Duke recruiting, almost all the focus surrounds which future NBA star will grace Cameron Indoor Stadium. However, there are also blue-chip recruits coming to Durham in many sports other than men's basketball. With early signing day in the rearview mirror, the Blue Zone takes a look at the Class of 2020.
Despite Duke's reputation as a basketball school, its most impressive recruit plays baseball. The Blue Devils landed Jordan Walker, Perfect Game's top recruit in the nation. It would be a major coup if he ever stepped foot on Duke's campus, but lucrative MLB signing bonuses nearly always await top recruits. As such, it is hard to rank recruiting classes until June, when we know who’s going to college and who’s going to the pros. Duke does have another pair of top-200 recruits to lead its class, which currently ranks 29th in the nation and ninth in the ACC.
In desperate need of a point guard, Duke signed Vanessa DeJesus, a five-star point guard out of California ranked No. 37 in her class, according to ESPN. With DeJesus as its only commit, the Blue Devils’ class ranks in the bottom third of the ACC, while at least five other ACC squads are ranked in the top 20 nationwide.
Duke did some impressive work in the 2020 class, leading to one of the ACC’s best incoming groups. Three top-50 players—Alayna Burns, a midfielder/forward from New Jersey, Barbara Civitella, a midfielder from Pennsylvania, and Shealyn Tatara, a defender from Pennsylvania—lead a class that includes five top-100 recruits. With four top-100 2021 recruits already committed to the Blue Devils, they’ve already got a good head start on next year, also.
With starting quarterback Quentin Harris graduating, Duke needs talent and depth behind center. Leading the Blue Devils is Luca Diamont, a quarterback rated as a four-star by ESPN. Diamont turned down Alabama, Mississippi and Mississippi State to play for the Blue Devils and is the No. 18 dual-threat quarterback. Two top-150 wide receivers, Jontavis Robertson and Malik Bowen, also headline Duke’s class of 2020.
A respectable three-person class is headlined by two top-ranked golfers, Ian Siebers and Jimmy Zheng. Siebers hails from Washington and ranks No. 14 in the class of 2020 on average, according to the American Junior Golf Association and Golfweek of USA Today Sports, while Zheng is a New Zealander who ranks an average of 22nd.
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Phoebe Brinker, a Delaware native who was selected as a first-team junior All-American this past year, ranks fifth by the American Junior Golf Association in this year’s class. Anne Chen, a Texas native, is a former first-team junior All-American as well. They'll join Duke's most recent national champion squad.
Most of Duke’s 2020 classes are based more on depth than top-end talent, but the men’s lacrosse team clearly didn’t get the memo. A sextet of top-50 recruits is headlined by top recruit Brennan O’Neill, a former Penn State commit, and also includes two of his St. Anthony's High School teammates in Jase Naso, the nation’s top face-off specialist, and Aidan Danenza. This haul, which ties for the most five-star commitments in the country, somehow ranks only 15th nationwide and fifth in the ACC, according to InsideLacrosse. But with the Blue Devils' commitments from each of next year’s top two recruits, their run of dominance has no end in sight.
Three men’s lacrosse commits from St. Anthony’s High School on Long Island weren’t enough. Duke women’s lacrosse joined in on the St. Anthony's love, getting a commitment from Katie DeSimone, a classmate of the new men’s lacrosse recruits and the No. 5 high school player in the nation, according to InsideLacrosse. She’s joined by Izzy Marsh, a four-star attackwoman from Maryland, and they lead the 14th-best class in the nation and sixth-best in the ACC.
The Blue Devils have secured one of the best classes in the nation, according to TopDrawerSoccer of Advanced Sports Media, and Duke has signed four four-star or better recruits. Peter Stroud, one of only two five-star recruits in the Class of 2020 going to college next year, leads the class, coming off of a season spent playing in the Premier League for West Ham United.
Grace Watkins, a forward from California, and Emily Royson, a defender from New Jersey, headline the class. The soccer recruiting process is still going strong, meaning many girls are uncommitted, but the Blue Devils appear to be adding a bevy of formidable talent to their squad.
Claire Davidson, the No. 35 recruit in the nation and 17th-best pitcher, according to Extra Inning Softball, headlines the softball recruiting class of 2020. Davidson is a left-hander from Florida and was a second-team USA Today All-USA player last year. Five other commitments round out the 44th-best class in the nation and sixth-best in the ACC.
Swimming and diving
There is a great divide between the sexes in swimming and diving. The men received commitments from five top-1,000 swimmers, according to CollegeSwimming. The women, on the other hand, signed five out of CollegeSwimming’s top 150 recruits, including Catherine Purnell, ranked No. 50 in the nation.
Following up 2019’s second-best class in the nation was going to be a tough task for the Blue Devils. But head coach Ramsey Smith's personal dedication made the difference in signing Niroop Vallabhaneni, a five-star from Arizona and Duke’s only recruit in the class of 2020. This comes in addition to the signings of ESPN commentator Dick Vitale's grandsons, Connor and Jake Krug.
Track & field/Cross country
Neither men’s nor women’s track and field made waves with their recruiting classes, but neither did most of the other ACC teams, according to MileSplit USA. Duke did receive commitments from a few notable runners, however, including Jack Kovach, a distance runner from Illinois, Charlotte Tomkinson, a distance runner from California, and Brianna Smith, a hurdles runner and jumper from Pennsylvania who chose Duke because of coach Shawn Wilbourn’s vision for her training and development.
It was not a spectacular year for the ACC as a whole when it came to recruiting, and Duke was no exception. It signed Camille Nazor, a top-50 recruit from Louisville, according to VolleyballMag.com, but she marks the beginning and end of the class. Nazor led the Blue Devils in assists this past season.