A recruiting wishlist for Duke

Updated: April 15, 2015
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Tyus Jones has completed the trifecta now. The NCAA Final Four most outstanding player has announced that he will join fellow Duke freshmen Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow in entering this June’s NBA Draft. The three are just the sixth, seventh and eighth Duke freshmen to ever leave after one year under Mike Krzyzewski, the first being Corey Maggette in 1999.

While two, if not three, of the moves were expected, it leaves Duke fans wondering how the holes will be filled, even if the Blue Devils don’t reach the same heights as this year. There may be no 2016 national title in Durham, but who should, could or can fill out the roster?

Duke’s unofficial tagline through the recently finished 2015 national title run was “eight is enough.” But as four of those eight, including graduating senior Quinn Cook, now leave campus, how will the holes be filled?

Marshall Plumlee and Amile Jefferson will return for their senior years, Matt Jones is a sophomore and Grayson Allen will be a sophomore trying to follow up his stellar tournament appearance. But that leaves, as math dictates, just four scholarship players. The team will add four other players, that we know of, to the roster to bring the total to eight. But is that eight going to be enough?

The four Duke adds

Sean Obi is someone that you know if you watched the NCAA Tournament, you may just not know it. Obi was the always sharply dressed 6-foot-9, 270-pound gentleman on the end of the bench, always just as excited about the games as the guys on the floor. Obi sat out the 2014-15 season after transferring from Rice. The Nigerian native will be just a sophomore when he is able to play next season and just the fifth guy to ever transfer in from a Division I institution under Coach K.

Though just a two-star player coming out of high school, Obi used his wide body to dominate on a struggling Rice team as he was their only bright spot before transferring. He averaged 11.4 points and 9.3 rebounds per game with 11 double-doubles. He was part of the Conference USA All-Freshman team in 2014. A completely different player and body type than Okafor, Obi will still help shore up holes inside and be huge to help Duke reassert themselves as a top rebounding team in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Chase Jeter is Okafor-like. The 6-foot-10 center from Las Vegas’ Bishop Gorman High School is about 50 pounds lighter than Okafor was at this same time during his senior year, but what he lacks in size and maybe strength as a replacement for Okafor, he makes up for in foot speed. But weight can be worked on, and there is no doubt Jeter hits the weight room when he arrives on campus. Either way, the addition of Obi to add to Plumlee inside takes care of some of the girth. He is a gifted shot blocker and defensive stopped, some parts in the same vein as former Kentucky standout Anthony Davis. No, Jeter may not be on either Okafor or Davis’ levels but he is growing and getting there.

Luke Kennard is a smooth lefty out of Ohio, who’s game is comparable to former Duke star Kyle Singler in a lot of ways. He is more finesse than the gritty Singler, but he gets to the basket well and can shoot the ball. His mid-range game is smooth.

Justin Robinson, the son of NBA great David Robinson, will join the team as a preferred walk-on. But don’t expect the 6-foot-7 forward from San Antonio (TX) Christian to play much as a freshman. He is a strong athlete who really could develop in Coach K’s program over the years, and may earn a scholarship as an upperclassman, but provides no immediate help for the Blue Devils.

Now that those eight are locked in, here is a wishlist to fill out the roster, in order of desire. To fill out the roster to 10-12 scholarship players, the Duke coaching staff has their hands full over the next two to four weeks.

1. Brandon Ingram

Ingram is the crown jewel remaining in the Class of 2015 for what fits the Duke mold. The Kinston, North Carolina native has narrowed his school choices down, with Duke in the mix and hopes to decide by the end of April. At 6-8 and 190 pounds, he is a little thin but can get up and down the court and score in transition. He is no Winslow, but can help significantly fill that role just as Jeter can help replace Okafor.

Immediately, Ingram would battle with fellow McDonald’s All-American Kennard for a chance to start at small forward. Duke’s retention of assistant coach Jeff Capel, who was offered the Arizona State job, was huge as he’s been recruiting Ingram, and the loss of Capel could have been catastrophic. Ingram also noted during the McDonald’s All-American game at Jeter and Kennard were recruiting him the hardest of all of the fellow All-Americans. Though he is not ranked in most Class of 2015 top 10’s, Ingram has always been one of the threats on both ends of the floor in this group. Even though he is not the highest-rated unsigned guy out there, he has to be the most sought after.

2. Derryck Thornton

Currently part of the 2016 recruiting class, the Chatsworth, California native could be a huge get in the next month. Thornton has been long rumored to potentially reclassify to the 2015 class. While a lot of guys, like Fort Wayne, Indiana’s Caleb Swanigan (headed to Michigan State), do this early to have a senior season full of opportunities, like the McDonald’s All-American game, Thornton waiting may just work out for Duke.

With Tyus Jones’ exit, the biggest hole in the Blue Devil lineup for 2015-16 is at the point guard spot. They’ve gone without a true point guard in the past with success in current assistant coach Jon Scheyer, but that is not ideal. Sure, Allen could probably handle the bulk of the ball handling but you really want him to be able to work off the ball like he did in the national title game. Duke coaches are rumored to be heading to Thornton’s hometown on Monday for a visit, and perhaps could persuade him to do so.

2.1 Jamal Murray

While Thornton’s game is a better fit for the Blue Devils, Murray would be a great addition at point guard if he, like Thornton, chooses to reclassify. Chances are, you only get one of these guys and 247 Sports is reporting that Duke offered Murray, still officially part of the 2016 class, a scholarship on April 15. Murray is a smooth 6-5 combo guard and would run the point strong at Duke if they can’t get Thornton.

The downside is, however, that as a combo, he is more naturally a shooting guard than a point guard at this point and with Duke loaded with scorers, including Allen, going into next year, do you really want a shoot first kind of point guard? Murray has been high on Oregon in the past and if Thornton reclassifies, I doubt he strays away from his liking of the Ducks.

3. Tyler Dorsey

If neither of your point guard options reclassify, is it too dirty to try and woo Dorsey, who has already committed to Oregon? Dorsey ranks 38th overall nationally and the 10th best shooting guard in California according to the ESPN 100. However, he is a lot like Murray in that his ball handling is also on a pretty special level.

Duke has shown a lot of interest over the years in Dorsey but never offered him a scholarship. Would that change now that they have so much athleticism, playing time and a point guard role to fill? While committed to Oregon, Dorsey has made news for choosing not to sign a national letter of intent, meaning he could still opt to go elsewhere. Would Duke’s need for him be enough to lure Dorsey to the ACC, where he was only offered by Louisville?

4. Thon Maker

Outside of Ingram, Maker is the only player Duke has a scholarship offer out to in this class. He is a freak athlete at 7-foot tall and will have the capability of changing the game no matter where he goes. The knock on Maker is whether or not he is ready for a program that is already big-time as opposed to a place like Indiana University, where he could grow as they try and rebuild the program.

He has a lot of raw attributes that he could work on at Duke, however. While Indiana, considered one of his leading schools, would rely on him immediately, at Duke he could be in a frontcourt rotation with Jefferson, Plumlee, Obi and Jeter, and have some time and space to develop. He also wouldn’t have to be in the game in the most critical of times.

5. Malik Newman

Nobody seems to know what Newman is going to do. His father recently told a Mississippi newspaper that his son has no plans to make official visits to any schools due to his busy schedule. He’s played in the McDonald’s All-American game, the Nike Hoops Summit and will play in this weekend’s Jordan Brand Classic. He’s made unofficial visits to Kentucky, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and LSU, and lists only those schools as well as Kansas and North Carolina State as options.

However, Duke is never truly not an option, until they really aren’t an option. With all of the questions surrounding Newman and even the possibility that he may turn pro overseas, instead of college, he is the class’ biggest question mark. On the court, he has good length and can be explosive in scoring. He is a Winslow-type player. As a small forward, he could easily start at Duke, and playing time is always a big intrigue.

6. Nick Noskowiak or Damontrae Jefferson

Neither of these guys are on Duke’s radar or really what you would expect them to bring in. Noskowiak, however, is a four-star point guard and Jefferson isn’t far behind. These are valid options of true point guards, still ranked in the top 100 of the 2015 class that Duke could fall on to fill a void if other options, at the point specifically, fall through.

Jefferson may be too small to play at a big-time college (his best offer is from New Mexico) at 5-foot-8, but as a stop gap he could work. If Duke goes in either direction however, Noskowiak is clearly the better choice. He is sitting on 10 offers, including ACC opponent Virginia Tech and perennially decent Xavier, after being released from a commitment by Coach K’s old cohort Steve Wojciechowski at Marquette.


Photo cred (Photo of Brandon Ingram by CBS Sports)

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