Five Recruiting Stories to Follow

On January 8, top 30 small forward Roscoe Smith shocked no one in committing to the Connecticut Huskies, the program that made him a priority from day one. While eliciting groans from Duke fans who had cautiously hoped that Smith would choose the Blue Devils, it was far less devastating than Harrison Barnes’ unexpected choice to be one of Roy’s Boys. I personally expected Smith to be the final target, and if he chose elsewhere, for our already stellar three-man class to be finalized.

Luckily, Coach K’s new (and welcome) “wide-net” recruiting strategy is craftier than I thought. 2010 is still wide open. Here are some players and stories to follow this spring and beyond.

1. Carrick Felix: Out of Nowhere

Felix is a super-athletic small forward at the College of Southern Idaho. Never heard of it? That’s because it’s a junior college (and it’s in Idaho). Duke’s staff, particularly assistant Nate James, has been in touch with Felix for several weeks now about visiting Duke this spring. Recruiting JuCo players is new territory for Coach K, and may seem dangerous to the casual observer, as many kids end up at these schools due to academic issues. Felix reportedly has no such issue with grades. He comes from a military family and apparently is very disciplined and hard working. As it stands, his only official offers come from Kent State and Idaho, although bigger names have been knocking of late. Making the jump to a national powerhouse like Duke would be a dream come true for Felix, and would help improve his skill set to match an NBA-level athleticism. Moreover, his size (6’6”) and defensive prowess could earn him playing time immediately on a team lacking at small forward—particularly if Kyle Singler goes pro.

If all goes well with admissions,  I think Felix is the player most likely to join Irving, Thornton, and Hairston in this class.

2. Terrence Ross: Villain to Hero?

Terrence Ross, scout’s number 21 shooting guard, had committed to ACC foe University of Maryland in April 2009. But the New Year brought Ross’ decision to re-open his recruitment. Since then, several high major programs (Kansas and Kentucky join Duke) have offered Ross in an attempt to provide a last-minute boost to their recruiting classes. In a recent interview with HighSchoolHoop, Ross stated that he felt he had made he decision too soon and jumped at the opportunity to play in the ACC. At the time, Maryland was the only conference squad to offer him. Now that that’s changed, Duke could possibly be his final destination.

Unlike Carrick Felix, a relatively off the radar player, Ross’ talent has been well documented as a rising star at Rockville, Md.’s Montrose Christian, a perennial powerhouse. He’s extremely explosive and possesses a sweet, Dre-like jumper from 3-point land. Ross decided to take the ’09 summer off from AAU play to focus on personal improvement—a mature decision not always made by other high schoolers. This extra work, along with a a stellar senior season at Montrose should pay off and move him up  in the final rankings.

So what are Duke’s chances? The X-factor here could be Josh Hairston, Ross’ teammate at Montrose and longtime member of our 2010 class. Ross mentioned that Hairston has been talking to him about Duke for a while now. Moreover, our success in recruiting DMV-area players has been staggering over the past several years—Smith, Dawkins, Hairston and Thornton all hail from that area. Ross could provide instant offense with his shotmaking ability and athleticism. Let’s hope Maryland’s loss is our gain.

3. What’s up with Quincy Miller?

In the past few months, rumors have floated freely about 2011 star power forward Quincy Miller, many fueled by his often hilarious and rarely serious Twitter account. Most of the college-related content boils down to a heap of praise for two schools: Duke and Kentucky (although my favorite comes during UNC’s recent loss to Georgia Tech: “Haha so UNC is getting blasted again? Wow”).

Miller has visited both Kentucky and Duke for games—including an appearance behind the bench on Sunday night for the Wake blowout. (side note: a certain C-T member made a sign for Q: ‘We Want the Young Truth,’ which is Miller’s nickname. He liked it.)

Some Duke fans anticipated an early commitment from Miller. He’s established a legitimate relationship with the coaching staff and has a world of respect for Coach K. But he is also enjoying the attention of many high major programs, especially Coach Calipari’s hype machine at Kentucky. In an era of Skyped commitments and unreal expectations, it’s actually refreshing for me to see a player enjoy the recruiting process and explore his options. I expect Miller to hold off on making a decision for a while. He’s a terrific player, and one worth waiting for. Hopefully he chooses the right, um, shade of royal blue when that time comes.

4. The Rivers Runneth to Durham?

Austin Rivers just seems like a Duke kid. Good hoops genes? Check: his father coaches a certain Boston professional sports dynasty and his brother Jeremiah is a starter at Indiana. Penchant for the big stage? Check: he dropped 46 to lead Winter Park over 16th ranked Wheeler in December. A solid writer (think Redick’s poetry)? Yep. He writes a diary for HighSchoolHoop.

As most recruitniks know, Rivers verbally committed to the homestate Florida Gators over a year ago. But at the suggestion from Doc he decided to check out other schools. Well, just one school actually. And that was Duke.

The thought of Austin teaming up with Irving, Dawkins, Curry, and Thornton in our 2011-12 backcourt makes me salivate. At 6’4” Austin has the size to dominate smaller guards coupled with the quickness to blow by taller players. He has an unconventional but effective jumper that he releases snappily, making it almost impossible to guard. Sometimes he looks like a more disciplined And-1 star. He’s the real deal and a unanimous top-5 recruit in 2011. See video evidence here.

This is one of the best recruiting stories of the year, and of particular interest to people who have followed Duke recruiting for a while. Many fans felt stunted by current Florida freshman guard Kenny Boynton chose the Gators over Duke two years ago. While Boynton was never committed to Duke, the general consensus was that he favored the Devils until Billy Donovan made an excellent sales pitch (that may or may not have included Nerf guns) and wooed him to Florida.

If Rivers decides to come to Duke, it would certainly feel like vindication for the Boynton fiasco. Rivers plans to be at the UNC game in Cameron—let’s show him that the best basketball is played in the ACC.

Side-note: Rivers recently injured his ankle in a game against Gonzaga and Tyler Thornton. We wish him a full and speedy recovery so he can be back dunking on people (see the video).

5. Or could it be Zeigler?

The aforementioned “wide net” strategy is in full effect at Duke. The recruitment of Trey Zeigler, a standout shooting guard from Mt. Pleasant, Mich. is further evidence that the coaching staff is no longer content targeting a handful of players per year.

Like Felix and Ross, Zeigler would provide a boost in the middle. He has size at 6’5,” a powerful body, and a solid outside jumper. He is also taking over point guard duties this high school season, which will improve his ballhandling and leadership—two qualities valued at Duke.

Assistant coach and former physical glue guy Nate James is taking the lead on Zeigler’s recruitment: he and Coach K visited Zeigler last week. Zeigler could play a similar role as James, a key component of our 2001 National Championship squad.

Zeigler may be the longshot of this group—he is very keen on Michigan, UCLA, and Michigan State. If he chooses Duke, he’d likely contribute in his first season. And we’d have another ‘Z’ to cheer for. Win win.

To Conclude…

Wow, doesn’t if feel nice to be optimistic this late into a recruiting process? As crushed as we all were about Barnes’ choice—which was difficult to say the least—it seems to have lit a fire under the coaching staff. The competitive fire that smolders in Coach K has erupted, and our recruiting will only benefit. Adding one or more of Felix, Ross or Zeigler will boost next year’s already loaded squad to even further heights. Watch out, Roy.

One more thing: I can’t get enough of Irving. K1 is a future superstar.


Crazie-Talk aspires to cover all aspects of Duke Basketball, including recruiting.  If you have any news you’d like us to cover in more depth, send us an e-mail at email@crazie-talk.com.







Moving On…

After a long roller coaster ride of a recruitment, Harrison Barnes chose North Carolina.

It’s over. And it’s time to move on. Duke fans have every right to be disappointed, angry, indignant—but there’s nothing we can do here.

The good news is our committed class of 2010 is excellent. We all know about Kyrie Irving. Josh Hairston’s move to Montrose Christian is paying dividends, a storied program which will prepare him for the college ranks. Tyler Thornton is getting ready for another season in the competitive DC Catholic League, preparing to lead his Gonzaga squad to a league championship.

And we have an opportunity to add to the class with the ongoing recruitment of top 30 small forward Roscoe Smith, a talented wing player from Oak Hill Academy. Roscoe is down to a final three of UConn, Duke, and Georgetown, and plans on waiting until the spring signing period to make his choice. Despite the miss on Barnes, we have an excellent group of recruiting coaches, and have a great chance at bringing Smith in. He has noted an antagonistic relationship with Barnes, and he would relish the opportunity to match up with him in the ACC.

Harrison is a great player, and we wish him a long and healthy career.

But he’s a Heel now, and the only thing we can say to Heels is:

Go To Hell, Carolina.

Check out the video below for highlights of Roscoe Smith. Enjoy.

The Kyrie Irving Effect

When Kyrie Irving committed to Duke this past week, the casual basketball fan may have asked, “What’s his game like? What can he do as a Blue Devil?”

In my opinion, the benefits that Kyrie brings to Durham are at least threefold: immediate talent, short-term and long-term recruiting.

Talent

Kyrie is a tremendous point guard. His high school coach, Kevin Boyle, said that Irving would be “as good as anybody who’s played in New Jersey.” That’s high praise in the context of Blue Devil history, considering the guards responsible for Duke’s three national titles, Bobby Hurley and Jason Williams, are both Jersey products.

Perhaps Boyle simply spoke too soon. Irving has gotten much, much better in the past year.

In August, Kyrie won MVP honors of the Nike Global Challenge by leading USA’s East squad to a comeback victory over a talented Canada squad. The event is arguably the most challenging prep showcase of the summer; not only are players representing themselves, but their country as well. Kyrie not only outplayed the competition, but he stood out on a team that also featured fellow 2010 top-10 recruits Josh Selby, Tobias Harris and Will Barton, cementing his status as an elite prospect.

Just days after his Duke announcement, Irving dominated the Eddie Griffin Challenge, an event that pits New Jersey and Pennsylvania high schoolers against each other. Again, Kyrie stole the show by taking over down the stretch and carried the New Jersey seniors over the Pennsylvania seniors. Kyrie dropped 12 assists to go along with 19 points, showing the Duke faithful what they have been missing since Chris Duhon – a true point guard.

Of course, Irving must improve some aspects of his game. To excel at Duke, he will have to improve defensively. Coach K demands a lot of his lead guards on defense (remember the way Ewing hounded Felton in the final seconds at Cameron in ’05?). In that same vein, Irving must hit the weight room if he wants to match up with bigger guards. If he can put on some weight and round out his game on the defensive side, he can become an All-ACC player.

On his Twitter, Kyrie loves to use the phrase “Hungry and Humble,” or H&H for short. This is the best attitude a Duke point guard can have. With the target on your back at all times, you must have the fire to win and the courage to keep getting better. With Kyrie’s natural talent and competitive drive, there is no limit for him at Duke and beyond.

Short-Term Recruiting

Kyrie’s commitment makes Duke’s 2010 class a solid three-man group thus far, as he joins Josh Hairston and Tyler Thornton in an already talented class.

But even the mild ACC fan has heard the name Harrison Barnes. After committing on Thursday, Kyrie told Highschoolhoop: “Harrison, he’s like a big brother to me and we talk all the time. He’s his own man and he’s gonna make his own decision. Whatever decision he makes, I’m gonna be happy for him.”

Despite Irving’s guarded attitude on Harrison’s recruitment, the possibility of having his “big brother” (and top high school player in the U.S.) at Duke with him must be exciting.

Barnes has been our number one target all along; Andre Dawkins pledged to get Barnes to Duke months before enrolling early. So could Kyrie’s commitment push Harrison over the edge? On paper, adding Barnes would make next year’s Blue Devils among the most talented teams in Duke history. The guard core is already staggering: Irving and Thornton will join Nolan, Andre, Seth and a potential national player of the year in Kyle Singler (we can dream).

Irving will be the primary ball handler as soon as he is ready. Harrison’s versatility would permit him to play anywhere from the 2-4 spots, the ideal “combo guard/forward” with which Duke teams have thrived in the past (read: Grant Hill and Shane Battier). The two would make for scintillating Chronicle headlines for  years to come.

During Kyrie’s visit to Duke, a sign hung over the archway on Towerview Drive that read, “NJ Guards Win Championships.” While Barnes watched Duke beat Pfeiffer on Saturday, students raised a banner reading, “The Tradition Continues,” with Harrison flanked by photos of national champions Hill and Battier. Could the potential point guard-wing forward duo of Irving and Barnes lead Duke to similar success?

Long-Term Recruiting

Duke’s recruiting misses of the past 5 years have been well-documented. As such, Kyrie’s commitment represented a overpowering sense of satisfaction for hardcore Blue Devils, myself included. I had to watch “Duke locks” like Kenny Boynton and Greg Monroe go elsewhere. That’s all water under the bridge now! Kyrie is a top-5 player in the class of 2010, and may end up as the nation’s best high school point guard by the time the all-star games roll around next spring.

What effect will Irving have on future recruiting? Quickly, let me say that that depends entirely on how he plays in college. If by some diluvian catastrophe Kyrie doesn’t perform well at Duke, it would reflect poorly in future recruiting. But let’s be honest, is that even possible? Recruiting guru Dave Telep recently told us via Twitter that Kyrie would be a “9+” out of 10 in college. The best validation of Kyrie’s potential to lead this team is Coach K’s decision to let him wear #1 at Duke, something that apparently has never happened in Coach’s tenure. If we don’t trust K’s judgment in handing Irving the reins, what are we (and the Olympic team) doing?

So barring freak accident or hurricane, Kyrie will be a star and leader at Duke. The championships Duke has the potential to win in Kyrie’s tenure will continue to rejuvenate its image for recruits.

Perhaps equally important: Kyrie’s “hungry and humble” attitude will also motivate high school athletes to avoid the sketchy route of other star players and focus on improving their game and preparing for college. Irving is reportedly a great student at St. Patrick’s, and the quality Duke education he will receive will only further his success in the NBA and beyond. He is an innovator, too, using Twitter and live UStream broadcasts to connect with the fans. Kyrie has expressed his interest in studying journalism in college, and I could see him becoming a great basketball analyst following his NBA career. The possibilities for a young man like Kyrie are endless.

Duke fans have established a schema of the players who are “Duke kids.” Kyrie is certainly one of those—his work ethic, intelligence, and responsiveness to the big stages of basketball fit perfectly in the our tradition of talented guards.

Hopefully, Irving’s choice to attend Duke will represent a paradigm shift in our recruiting. Hopefully, everyone will want to be a Duke kid.

Video: Kyrie’s MVP highlights from the Nike Global Challenge.

Crazie-Talk is active in covering this exciting time in Duke Basketball: a new season, recruiting success, and more. Check back here and on our Twitter for frequent updates.