It isn’t yet basketball season, but Duke’s trio of top-tier recruits is already sharing the court.
Friday and Saturday’s annual Iverson Classic played host to incoming Blue Devil freshmen Paolo Banchero, A.J. Griffin and Trevor Keels as the nation’s top high school basketball players gathered in Memphis, Tenn., for a weekend of first-class competition. For Duke fans, it was an exciting event that brought together the core of Duke’s third-ranked 2021 recruiting class for the very first time, with Banchero and Griffin joining forces on Team Loyalty to face off against Keels and Team Honor.
Barring a late commitment from Patrick Baldwin Jr., the No. 4 ranked prospect in the class of 2021, the trio of Banchero, Griffin and Keels is set to headline a packed group of Blue Devil newcomers that also features four-star guard Jaylen Blakes, Marquette transfer Theo John and Davidson transfer Bates Jones.
Banchero would ultimately collect 15 points Saturday in a high-scoring 143-131 loss to Team Loyalty—led by top-ranked recruit and Gonzaga commit Chet Holmgren—but the highlight of the weekend for the Blue Devils was Banchero’s victory as the “King of the Court” in a 1-on-1 tournament Friday. There is not a whole lot to be learned from this type of pickup basketball, but it was certainly a welcome sight for fans and lends a bit of credence to Banchero’s already solid reputation as a do-it-all big man ahead of his looming arrival in Durham.
While in most years, viewers would get the opportunity to see Duke’s top recruits showcase their talents in longer established All-American games like the McDonald's and Jordan Brand events, the Iverson Classic was uniquely able to take place amid COVID-19 this year and earned a special spotlight as a result. Now that the moment has passed, we must wait a while longer to see these premier prospects hit the court once again—and with much higher stakes.