This past weekend officially kicked off the all important AAU Basketball season where the top prospects play for the various power shoe companies. While Duke is indeed a Nike school, other show companies have plenty of targets making this a summer where more than one circuit is important to their wish list. Blue Devil Nation takes a look at the current state of recruiting while giving you a look at names firmly on the radar along with a few that could be soon. We'll add more information as we learn it on the premium message board for paying members this week. But for now, here is a breakdown and some thoughts from week one.
The Duke coaches were out in force in the opening week of the AAU season and for good reason. This was their only opportunity to get first hand views until July of this year. Several prospects impressed, while others firmly fitted their name on the short list and we take a look at the results, laced with some thoughts on where some kids might stand in the pecking order.
Brandon Ingram made an impression on the staff with his versatility. IMO, Ingram[private] has the potential to fill a role in time and to be a complement player on a teams roster. While he is still quite slender, his strength is a bit deceptive in that he is quite lean. Ingram is playing on the Adidas circuit with Stackhouse Elite (yes, Jerry Stackhouse AAU team). He showed better on the board than many though possible over the weekend where he saved his best game for last tallying a stat line of 10 points, 9 rebounds, 9 assists, 3 steals. Ingram holds a Duke offer and the school is definitely in my opinion, at the top of his list.
Many wanted to see Chase Jeter play as well this past weekend, but the Duke offer has a nagging injury and was held out for precautionary reasons. Jeter continues to speak highly of Duke and in my opinion, he's the Blue Devils to lose but he, like the aforementioned Ingram is an Adidas kid and with him being highly ranked and sought after there is pressure from the shoe company to hold off on a decision. Despite that, Jeter maintains it will be a July decision at the latest and he could commit sooner rather than later in that many feel he will be in Durham. An active big man with a great attitude has many suitors, but Duke was in early on this one and they're in solid shape.
Rounding out prospects on the Adidas circuit who have interest in Duke, is Josh Sharma, a 2015 power forward from Northfield, MA. Somewhat new to the radar, Duke is evaluating his game at this time and only time will tell if they turn the heat up. Sharma is not a flashy player but more of one who feels a role and he had a good but not great weekend in the Adidas Gauntlet event held in Dallas, Texas where Mike Krzyzewski and Jeff Capel watched his game.
Adidas also features some top rated underclassman, namely, the uber talented Thon Maker. Maker, a seven foot player with an outside touch and a good handle for a big man, was his usual self and he drew the attention of Calipari, Coach K and Bill Self. This one will be a tough get in that both Kansas and Kentucky are set to go all in.
Josh Langford who is balling for the Atlanta Celtics was quite impressive. The Duke target put up superior numbers of 16.6 ppg, 4 plus boards ad 3 assists over the weekend. Many will remember the Celtics AAU team from the Bob Gibbons Days where their team was always stacked with the likes of many a pro future player. Langford did nothing to hurt his high ranking. Langford visited Duke in an unofficial capacity in March.
A player who blew up with gaudy numbers was Junior Smith, a North Carolina native playing in the Adidas circuit. He had high games of 24 and 37 and showed the anility to really find the open man while scoring. Yes, that's attractive. He's from Fayetteville, N.C. and is a point guard. I can hear those saying, finally another PG on the radar. Anyhow, after this weekends performance he blows up and the hype heightens. To early to tell of his interest in schools per sources, but we should be hearing a lot more here soon.
A note of interest is that I cannot remember this many Duke prospects on the Adidas circuit in some time. So, this circuit is one to watch along with the Nike EYBL this year. Another not is the Duke use to be an Adidas school before switching to Nike. I took a picture with Coach K during an Adidas local event way back in 1983 that I covet. And yes, I was holding a box of the former Adidas Superstar shoe, perhaps the first premium shoe on the sneaker market way back in the 70's.
Anyhow, on the the Nike EYBL circuit. It didn't take long for new Duke Assistant Jon Scheyer to get his feet wet as he was the first on the scene for Duke in Sacramento. He of course, took in Luke Kennard, a recent verbal to Duke. Kennard started slowly but warmed up as the weekend went by and played better in front of Krzyzewski, once he arrived. Kennard likes to battle. He's competitive and that showed with his work on the glass. Yes, the boards. He showed the ability and hustle to average 5.5 rpg including a 7.5 average when Krzyzewski was on him.
Face it. The Nike circuit known as the EYBL will always be the main fruit tree for the staff and they had three coaches there by Saturday. For those wondering three of the four coaches can be out at one time on the circuit. Anyhow, enter Ivan Rabb, a talented power forward who plays for the traditionally talented Oakland Soldiers AAU team. Rabb was quite impressive but supposedly had an injury. His numbers and board work were impressive.
A lot of people, including myself to some degree were surprised by Duke's offer to Henry Ellenson of Wisconsin Playground Elite. Well, this weekend, he proved why Krzyzewski was high on him by putting up solid numbers across the board. Try 11.8 ppg and just under 10 boards on average and you can see why teams want to plug this guy into their system. Ellenson plays within his game structure which is attractive. On e thing I have learned in ten plus years of covering the AAU circuit is that Coach K can spot talent and that it often rises to the top after he gives them a stamp of approval.
But when it comes to the Nike circuit this year, all eyes from Duke fans should focus on the Class of 2016 which holds some ridiculous talent.
Let's start with Harry Giles. This kid has been to many a Duke game and Coach K has formed a phenominal relationship with the talented prospect. Giles still has not returned to the court and this is not unusual for a player of his skill set. He blew me away during last seasons Peach Jam and I hope he plays with the older kids this year to get a better gauge for his immense talent. Anyhow, any time you see K and Giles the in the same building, you soon see them nod and smile at one another. It took Giles a nano second to recognize Coach K when he enters and AAU event. I'll let you read between the lines on the value of that. Anyhow, we'll see Giles in action soon as he makes his return to the court.
And then there is Jayson Tatum. This young prospect likes Duke and Duke likes him and they are firmly on what will be his final cut in my opinion from reading the tea leaves. I have taken a hiatus from Twitter for a bit, a self imposed break. But I returned yesterday to find he re-tweeted one of my tweets speaking if Duke and their interest in him. Anyhow, four sold games from Tatum who I like more and more as I see his talent and demeanor. Kentucky, Kansas, Florida and Duke have offered and he is big on Team USA duties. Slender but talented 6-8ish wing is but a mere 16 years young.
Once Scheyer went home, James was out and he took in Diamond Stone who gave quite the impressive effort. Some have asked if Duke will continue to recruit Stone if they get Jeter and the answer is a resounding yes. Stone is just so talented and he'll very much remain on the Duke radar. Malik Newman was also Jayhawk Invitational.
I will update with with more information as it becomes available on the members message board. [/private]