It never fails to amaze me how a simple comment or tweet in this case can send various fan bases into a frenzy this time of year. Yesterday, Evan Daniels of Scout tweeted that Kansas was the leader for three of the nation's top front court prospects, including Jahlil Okafor. The less grounded fans took to social media and [private]various message boards in a panic that Duke was destined to lose Okafor, a big time prospect the Blue Devils covet. While there is no doubt that Kansas is in the race, there is no reason to believe with any sense of certainty that they land more than one or two at best of the prospects mentioned.
Fans freaking out is not uncommon. Every year fans get antsy as the big time prospects near their decision and for good reason to a certain degree. Recruiting is a bit liquid in nature and things can turn on a dime, but let's not forget that Duke has spent a lot of time with all of their main targets.
Folks have heard me say "let it play out," on more than one occasion over the years and I am offering that advice again. Between now and the time Okafor, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow, Kevon Looney, Reid Travis and Myles Turner decide, there will be more tweets which make you uncomfortable but being a bit seasoned in my coverage has taught me to not overreact.
And if you perpetuate the rumors, it is almost a certainty that prospects will in time hear of them and be forced to address them. In fact, there are some folks who now intentionally create accounts on social media posing as fans of a certain school only to start to harass a key prospect.
I think it's clear that Duke is in the running for all of the aforementioned prospects I listed, but they will not get them all but they'll surely get their share.
I could speculate a lot here but I've found that too can lead to grief. For example, if I say Okafor is not a sure thing, many will take that as I no longer feel good about him landing in Durham.
Still, I will attempt to clarify the situation.
Word got out from a parent that he thought Duke was the leader and that got turned on its head in the age of instant media. Some Duke fans are uncomfortable being considered the leader and for good reason. In today's recruiting environment and or the AAU trail, there are a ton of folks who are not what you might consider traditional media asking questions. One of the things which I have found bothers prospects over years of experience covering them is being asked non stop questions like, "Many feel Duke is the leader, is that true?" Then there are those who land one of these young mens' phone numbers and they call despite the word that the camp may have shut things down. This creates pressure and a constant question in a specific manner can be annoying, so I think it's fair to say teams do not exactly want that to happen.
It wasn't that long ago when Duke was long considered the leader fort Greg Monroe who ended up at Georgetown. I sat and watched for two years at people pounding this young prospect with Duke is the leader questions. At first he took this in a good manner, but towards the end of his recruitment it clearly bothered him and John Thompson Jr. swept in and took advantage of the situation. The cold hard fact is that perception can be a problem.
Now I am not saying Jahlil Okafor is in the same boat as Monroe, only a similar one and his camp has now shut things down with media and I personally think that is good for the Blue Devil chances.
So, Kansas is the leader? I think that's a good thing that tweet went out. As long as his recruitment has gone on and the fact he wants to make a decision in some public manner be it on the ESPNU recruiting show or another venue means he doesn't want to tip his hand.
One of the things which gets to me is when these kids are not allowed their day in the sun. We have purposefully sat on information knowing a kid would select Duke in an effort to see that happen. But more often than not, it still leaks, usually from an assistant coach from one of the schools the prospect rejects and in one case a family member getting a little rub in the palm.
Trying to understand recruiting in this day and time can be maddening. Patrick Patterson chose Kentucky over Duke and Florida a few years back. His mom Tywanna Patterson gleefully exclaimed during a press conference "We shocked the world," and they did. The Patterson's made two schools feel like it was down to them and even told the Gators staff they were coming there per an impeccable source. We all know that Patterson chose Kentucky and for him but his family was deceptive in the process and wasted the recruiting budgets of schools without a seconds thought despite knowing what the intent was to be.
The Patterson's were a typical family with concern to enjoying the process and while I do not agree with their methods of handling the situation, the key word is enjoy here which is what all these kids are trying to do.
But one must realize that these kids are far older than their age in the way they handle things. Adults have questioned them non stop on the AAU circuit and they become media savvy.
With twitter being so big, prospects have learned to use this tool in a more efficient manner and that has put a dent in many of the pay sites who can no longer break news as they once did.
No matter how a prospect goes about their choice of announcing their collegiate destination, they all want to enjoy the moment and that means they want a surprise.
Now there is more news that Okafor and Tyus Jones may choose a different school, but that in no ways means it will happen. It is but another nugget of many that will come out before their respective decisions are made.
Duke offers an immediate spot for Okafor to step in and he could play with his long time friend Tyus Jones. That's alone is an attractive situation and reason for Duke fans to relax and to ... .. .... ...!
That's right! Let it play out. [/private]