It’s a day ending in “y,” and you know what that means: Duke is out recruiting top prospects. The Blue Zone takes a look at a slew of possible future Blue Devils, as well as who won't be making it to Durham.
Ziaire Williams (No. 7, SF, 2020)
First, the bad news.
Ziaire Williams, a five-star recruit in the class of 2020 and the seventh-ranked overall prospect by ESPN, has dropped Duke from his list of schools in consideration. The small forward had been considering the Blue Devils since last summer, but recently trimmed down his list by one.
With Jalen Johnson’s ranking falling recently, 2020 projects to be Coach K’s second straight year without a top-five recruit, the first time Duke has gone back-to-back recruiting classes without someone from the top five since 2008 and 2009.
Jalen Johnson (No. 15, 2020)
Next, some not-bad news.
Despite a tumble in the overall rankings, Johnson did receive some good news for himself: he can play basketball.
More specifically, he has been granted eligibility to play for Nicolet High School this year. His eligibility was of concern due to his transferring multiple times and playing for USA Basketball, but a resolution to that case has put the headliner of the Blue Devils’ 2020 class back onto the court.
Class of 2021
Now for the good news: even if 2020 is a down recruiting year, 2021 might rival 2017 and 2018 for Duke’s best freshman class this century.
A.J. Griffin marked the first top-10 player in the class to commit, though he's fallen to No. 11 in the rankings since verbally agreeing to become a Blue Devil last November. And Duke is considered the frontrunner for two of the top three players in the class, Jonathan Kuminga and Patrick Baldwin Jr., by both 247Sports and Rivals. Baldwin in particular has teammate and Class of 2020 Blue Devil Jalen Johnson in his ear, and told the Chicago Tribune Wednesday, “Overall I like Coach K and Coach (Jon) Scheyer.” Another top-five recruit from the class, Paolo Banchero, took an official visit to Durham last fall.
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With guards Max Christie and Kennedy Chandler also favored to land in Durham, Duke could end up with six top-16 players, though the Blue Devils could potentially end up with none if the NBA Draft opens up to high schoolers by 2021. (Duke is unlikely to receive commitments from those five in particular anyway, since it would have three top-11 small forwards, and either one wouldn’t come or the 6-foot-9 Baldwin would play power forward.)
That’s the worst-case scenario. Best-case scenario is that Kuminga reclassifies into the Class of 2020 and takes one of Duke’s still-open scholarships for that year. Though he said last October that he’s staying in his current class, it’s still a possibility, and could make the 2020-21 Blue Devils a whole lot more exciting.
Emoni Bates (No. 1, SF, 2022)
RJ Barrett. Marvin Bagley III. Nerlens Noel. Anthony Davis.
These are the only high school recruits from the past decade comparable to Emoni Bates, currently the consensus top recruit for the class of 2022. Just four months removed from gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated as a 15-year-old, Bates is a high school force reminiscent of Zion, and he just put up 63 points and 21 rebounds. Recruiting reports are hard to come by at this stage, and even harder to verify. That’s why ESPN can report that Duke has extended an offer to Bates, while neither 247Sports nor Rivals have a clue. Regardless, getting Bates would likely be the second coming of Zion Williamson, a prospect wholly unfair to the rest of the country.
Nevertheless, it seems like a very realistic possibility that the age requirements for the NBA Draft are changed by 2022 at the latest. We’ll have to wait and see, but it could be more likely than not that the NCAA never gets to enjoy Bates.