With a thus-far disappointing 2020-21 season, many Duke fanatics are already setting their sights on a return to the top of the basketball world through next year’s team. At the moment, Duke has received commitments from Paolo Banchero and AJ Griffin, both top-15 recruits.
However, don’t expect these two to be the only big names joining the roster next year. Duke is still listed as the top choice for two more top-20 recruits in Patrick Baldwin Jr. and Trevor Keels.
Just days ago, Baldwin, who sits just behind Banchero as the No. 4 high school player, said that he is "75 percent sure" he knows where he would like to play next year. While Duke is still heavily considered to be the favorite, it should not be forgotten that his other option would be to play for his father’s program at UW-Milwaukee. His size and elite shooting would be huge for a Blue Devil team that has had its struggles shooting from range in the past few years.
According to 247sports' Crystal Ball, Duke was the legitimate frontrunner for Baldwin just a few days ago, with five analysts predicting Baldwin would end up at Duke. But now, 247sports' analysts are split 3-3 on Duke and UW-Milwaukee, likely a result of Jalen Johnson's surprise decision Monday evening to opt out the rest of the college basketball season. Johnson and Baldwin played AAU together in high school, with Baldwin telling The Chronicle over the summer that Johnson's experience at Duke will have a "huge impact" on his decision.
As for Trevor Keels, his latest national ranking has him slotted at No. 19 in the country. He is still the fourth-rated shooting guard in the 2021 class, and maintains the 100% Duke crystal ball prediction. There is no news on when he plans to make his decision, however.
So far this season, Keels has led Paul VI High School to a 7-4 record and to becoming the No. 2 ranked school in Virginia. Keels’ ability to shoot and create space would benefit an offense that has had its struggles in the half court this season.
Banchero has expressed his attempts to continue recruiting five-star talents to next year’s Duke team. He has been very vocal in his support for the Blue Devils this year, as well. Before the first matchup with North Carolina, Banchero posted a picture of him in a Duke jersey dunking in front of what appears to be a Tar Heel crowd.
He has dominated the competition in high school, averaging 22.6 points and 11 rebounds per game in last year’s season. His fellow commit, Griffin, was also dominant his junior year, putting up 17.3 points per game along with 8.8 rebounds.
For those who have already given up on the hopes for a sixth championship this season, next year’s team should open some eyes. If Duke is able to get commitments from Keels and Baldwin, this class has the potential to gain the hype seen during the Zion Williamson era.
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Editor's note: This story was updated Tuesday morning to note the change in Baldwin's Crystal Ball predictions following Johnson's decision to opt out of the rest of the season.