Duke is De-Felixed

A day after Carrick Felix’s sudden de-commitment from Duke, mystery continues to abound as to who or what—exactly—was the impetus for the sudden change. Various college basketball outlets and message boards postulated that grades, tricky transfer credit issues, or even sheer distance from Idaho to Durham may have played into Felix’s choice.

But the likely cause is much simpler. The ubiquitously great blog The Dagger noted today that the return of Kyle Singler—and the concomitant effect of less available playing time at the small forward position—made Felix re-think his commitment to the Blue Devils.

OK. Playing time, the primal need of all blue-chippers, was the root cause. And we understand. You only get one chance to go from unheard-of JuCo star from the wild west to a high-flyer at a D-1 school. Felix is being realistic here. Coach K’s bench is usually short, with the rotation usually whittled down to seven or eight players by season’s end—the Title run is case in point.

And next year’s pool of talent is outlandishly deep. Even if Felix would have been Singler’s only ‘natural’ backup—he’s 6 foot 6—there’s no telling exactly how much burn he would get. Perhaps during Singler’s rest periods K would prefer to go small with Irving, Smith and Curry/Dawkins, leaving a combination of Plumtrees, Kelly and Josh Hairston to man the paint. It is foreseeable that Felix could be bumped from the lineup due to sheer plenitude of players, at least during the first of his three seasons of eligibility.

So, with K’s first JuCo recruit suddenly out of the picture, where does Duke stand? I’m not too worried about Kyle’s stamina—the Iron Man-esque performance he put on en route to Tournament M.O.P. dispelled the myth that Singler ‘tires out’ at the end of the season. As I said above, even with Kyle out of the game we will have ample speed and scoring ability with the five-headed guard core. The 2010-11 Devils will have plenty of firepower, Felix or no Felix.

The open scholarship also opens up options for the next two recruiting classes.We currently have two players in the truck for 2011: power forward Tyler Adams and wing Michael Gbinije. The coaching staff is also going hard after two of the top 5 prospects in the country—forward Quincy Miller and combo guard Austin Rivers. Many people, including Rivers’ AAU coach, think that the son of Doc will land in Durham. Miller is more nebulous, and his ties to John Calipari and Kentucky are strengthening.

Best case scenario, we land Miller and Rivers to go along with Gbinije and Adams. That’d likely be a top-3 recruiting class along with the hauls of Kentucky and UNC, each of which have already scored commitments from top-10 talents for 2011.

If Miller winds up in Lexington, we have another spot open for the 2011 class. I suggest we go no-holds-barred after 2011 five-star point guard Quinn Cook. Cook is from the Duke recruiting hotbed D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area, plays in the famed DeMatha program, and is a close friend of Nolan Smith. So Cook has ties to Duke, and let’s be honest—Kyrie Irving will be in the position to jump to the NBA after two seasons in Durham. “Duke point guard” is a legendary title for an athlete, and Cook is a great option to pair with Tyler Thornton should Irving jet to the league earlier than expected.

So in the end, Felix’s surprise non-matriculation will not hurt Duke that much. The extra scholarship will be useful in the next two classes of recruits—2012 is particularly loaded at the wing position. Nonetheless, it is unfortunate that this didn’t work out. Felix will find his niche at some school—probably out west somewhere—but he probably won’t get the chance to play for a coach like K or for a team as high profile as Duke. I feel like Carrick would have earned a healthy chunk of minutes by the 2011-12 season, but perhaps the young man wants to start right away. We wish him good luck in his NCAA career.

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.