Most would say that it is common knowledge that Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski can recruit. You don’t win 939 career games and four national championships without thoroughbred type players. More than 40 McDonald’s All Americans have signed with Duke during Coach Krzyzewski’s tenure so getting the best to play for him is not at all farfetched, but this class may be different. The Blue Devils have had star studded classes before like in 1999, bringing in Jay Williams, Carlos Boozer and Mike Dunleavy Jr., but there is something special about the class of 2014.
Arguably one of Duke’s greatest classes ever considering their history seems overly dramatic when you say it, yet the players that have committed aren’t just your dime a dozen All Americans, they’re program changers. When I say program changers I mean it from a need base, Duke is going to fill several voids that have sorely been needed. Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, Justice Winslow and Grayson Allen are the players committed for the class of 2014 and all four young men bring a specific needed skillset to Duke.
Now package-recruiting deals are not strange in college basketball but usually it involves a star player with a good player who is a best friend or a family member. These sort of deals do not usually included two top five players, besides the Harrison twins of Kentucky but they fall into the family category. Jahlil Okafor, from Whitney Young High School in Chicago, and Tyus Jones from Apple Valley High School in Apple Valley, MN have made it clear that wanted to play together.
Okafor, a 6-foot-10 center prospect gives Duke what they have been lacking since the days of Shelden Williams, a dominant, impact post player. No offense to the Plumlee brothers, but that has always been an Achilles heel for Duke, the lack of an inside presence on both ends of the court.
Tyus Jones is more of a classic point guard prospect in the sense that he doesn’t wow you with elite size at 6-foot-1, but he does impress with his cerebral gameplay and leadership. Now I know the question most people might ask when they hear that a player is cerebral and has great leadership skills; can he put up good scoring numbers? The answer is yes, but Jones’ game is to be enjoyed by a real basketball fan because for as many things he does that do show up the box score, there are just as many things that don’t show up.
Justice Winslow from St. John’s High School in Houston, Texas could have also been mentioned as part of the Okafor-Jones package, for his commitment came from his relationship with both Okafor and Jones through the summer AAU circuit. The 6-foot-6 forward prospect is the type of guy Coach Krzyzewski loves, a strong, tough defensive minded guy that can do a bit of everything. Winslow is a good scorer but needs to work more on his jumper and has a mindset that will instantly get him on the court at Cameron Indoor; he will not hesitate to take a charge.
Finally, Grayson Allen from the Providence School of Jacksonville in Jacksonville, Florida is a 6-foot-4 shooting guard prospect who fits that classic Duke mold, a deadeye shooter with a high basketball IQ. Allen, who is also a 4.0 student, will naturally draw comparisons to former Duke great J.J. Redick with his size and shooting ability, but Allen has more athleticism than Redick at this point. Allen will need to get more aggressive and maybe show some selfishness to balance out his team-first approach to the game.
These four players will all have a huge impact at Duke from day one I believe due to need and the competitive mindset of these guys. Is this the best recruiting class ever for Coach K and Duke? Well time will truly tell, but on paper, this class is somewhere near the top.