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.
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.
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