NCB On The Trail: Duke Blue Devils

Heading into this season, Duke’s depth was supposed to be one of its biggest advantages -- especially on the perimeter. Discussions about whether Grayson Allen would get enough minutes and whether Rasheed Sulaimon would become one of the best sixth men in the country were commonplace.

Mike Krzyzewski had more options than nearly every other coach in the country when it came to adjusting his style or personnel. He could go small, he could go with two big men, he could use two point guards, he could flood the court with shooters.

[+] EnlargeJustise Winslow, Rasheed Sulaimon
Brad Penner/USA TODAY SportsThe dismissal of Rasheed Sulaimon (right) has left Duke with only eight scholarship players after a string of transfers and early departures to the NBA.
Yet as the stretch run nears, the Blue Devils are down to just eight scholarship players and won’t be making any additions moving forward. There are no players coming back from injury or suspension, no midseason players becoming eligible. It will be one of the biggest storylines over the next two months as Duke competes for a national title.

Of course, it hasn't really impacted the Blue Devils yet -- they are 3-0 since Sulaimon was dismissed, including a road win at Virginia and a home demolition of Notre Dame -- but it’s worth exploring nonetheless. How exactly did Coach K and Duke get in this position?

Duke Blue Devils announce top-10 class

November, 12, 2014
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Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski announced the signing of two ESPN 100 prospects on Wednesday as the week-long early-signing period kicked off.

Joining the Blue Devils in 2015 will be ESPN 100 center Chase Jeter (No. 9 overall) and ESPN 100 shooting guard Luke Kennard (No. 26).

"We are excited about Luke and Chase joining our program," Krzyzewski told the school's website. "Both of them are terrific young men as well as extremely talented players. They will fit well into our team as well as the Duke community.

Chase is a natural athlete that runs well, catches well and he’s a really good talker. I like everything about Luke Kennard. He's a natural athlete and a competitor."

Coach K's class is currently ranked No. 9 on ESPN.com.

Top 5 committed prospects of 2015 

July, 7, 2014
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With the recent commitment of Daniel Giddens to Ohio State, 33 of the top 100 players in the Class of 2015 already have verbally committed, even though the July evaluation period is just beginning. These prospects sometimes get less media attention because they have already made their decisions, but they are still being constantly evaluated by our staff.

Let’s take a look at five committed prospects from the 2015 class who are performing well and could see jumps in their rankings:


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Coach Mike Krzyzewski has been the head coach at Duke since 1980 and has coached dozens and dozens of players who have made an NBA roster. He is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame and will go down as one of the all-time great coaches in college basketball. There are many factors behind his enormous success, one of which is how well he has recruited over four decades at Duke. He has had some outstanding assistants, but they have come and gone while he remained the face of the program and the reason why prospects still come to Duke.

In college athletics, overall success is a direct correlation of a coach's ability to evaluate, recruit and secure the very best student athletes.

Recruiting Philosophy

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NBPA Top 100 Day 1 news and notes 

June, 19, 2014
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- The opening day of the 2014 NBPA Top 100 not only brought out some of the nation’s top prospects in the 2015, 2016 and even 2017 classes, but some recruiting news as well.


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As the Class of 2016 ESPN 60 takes shape, there are indications that there are key players at every position who could be special. The star power is intriguing, and we are discovering more talent each weekend. We'll be keeping a close eye on this class throughout the summer.

Dennis Smith Jr., a prospect not many outside of North Carolina know about, has become a top-10 player and is the best point guard in the class. As a rising junior, his recent performances on the spring circuit have made some lasting impressions, and he still has plenty of room to grow. As a sophomore, Smith averaged 17 points and 9 assists per game. Simply put, he has impressive tools, instincts and basketball IQ at a young age. The future looks extremely bright for this young guard.


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Biancardi's Breakdown: Ivan Rabb 

June, 3, 2014
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After a long and detailed conversation about the nation’s best prospects, Ivan Rabb holds on to his No. 1 spot as we launch the new ESPN 100 for the Class of 2015.

Why he is No. 1: Many factors go into being tabbed the nation’s top prospect such as strong performance, consistent production and potential. At 6-foot-11 and 210 pounds, Rabb has all the physical markers to impact a game. Rabb has mobility and an enormous wing span (7-4). He utilizes those features along with speed and lateral quickness to protect the basket, outrun opponents and score the ball. It’s his efficiency that is impressive, as the majority of shots come inside the paint. After 16 games in the Elite Youth Basketball League, he had made more than 60 percent of his field-goal attempts, per GameChanger stats service.


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Class of 2014's best rebounders 

May, 8, 2014
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Members of the Class of 2014 have (mostly) made their decisions. Which incoming freshmen should you get to know? Here is a look at the best rebounders -- and one name to know in 2015:

1. Jahlil Okafor, Duke
Okafor is as wide as a door and next to impossible to keep from a rebound that comes off the glass within reach of his suction-cup hands. Okafor is strong and physical and in the best shape I have seen him, and his motor is hitting on all cylinders.


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Class of 2014's best passers 

May, 5, 2014
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Members of the Class of 2014 have (mostly) made their decisions. Which incoming freshmen should you get to know? Here is a look at the best passers -- and one name to know in 2015:

1. Tyus Jones, Duke
He is the consummate point guard. His passes are always away from the defense and he has that snap on the ball that you just can’t coach. On the fast break, he will come to complete stop and let the trailer fill the lanes and make a precise pass for a layup or 3-point shot. In tight quarters he can penetrate and pitch effectively by making a soft pass or a bounce pass and he demonstrates the outstanding vision, poise and patience to be a great set-up man. Some players pass to get rid of the ball, but when Jones passes, it usually leads to an assist.


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With Myles Turner's commitment to Texas serving as an unofficial close to the 2014 recruiting class, it’s time to focus on the 2015 crop.

Here are 10 questions that the recruiting world will seek to answer in the next year:

1. Will it be one and done?


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It’s been a busy month for the top high school seniors in America.

First, it was the McDonald’s All American Game, then the Nike Hoop Summit and finally last week’s Jordan Brand Classic.

While these all-star-style games are mostly about show and only rarely about competition, they also serve as the first real opportunity that NBA scouts have to evaluate these prospects.

With the vast majority of the NBA’s 30 franchises having a consistent presence at all three events (both games and practices), we spoke to front-office personnel from five different teams to see their first impressions of the top players in the ESPN 100.

Here’s what they had to say:


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Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation national recruiting director Paul Biancardi a question about basketball recruiting? Tweet it to @PaulBiancardi using the hashtag #AskCoachB.
What a great question! I believe it's important to select the one player who has unique size, skill and the physical tools to be special.

And that player would be Jahlil Okafor, and here's why.

He possesses a combination of unique size with sure hands, and he has a fluid post move in which he uses his footwork to beat his defender. He is a special player who can make the opponent change its game plan. With his size and excellent low-post skills, you can count on him every night. Plus, he is extremely intelligent.

He dominates the game in the paint by producing consistently and working hard on the glass.

The Jordan Brand Classic featured much of the nation’s top talent.

Obviously, a number of players operate at the same position. That said, each brings a different aspect at the spot. Let’s take a look at some of the best and break down how they are different and impactful.


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Jordan Brand Classic standouts 

April, 20, 2014
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The Jordan Brand Classic was played at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Friday.

This game is always filled with future NBA talent and usually has the No. 1 pick in a future NBA draft.

Twenty-two of the country's elite players went head to head for likely the last time before they meet again in college. There were so many impressive plays and highlights, so let's take a look at what we learned from the event.


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Jordan Brand Classic matchups to watch 

April, 17, 2014
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The Jordan Brand Classic features the best talent high school basketball has to offer. Here are some of the most intriguing potential matchups in this terrific annual event, which airs Friday night at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

Tyus Jones (Duke) vs. Tyler Ulis (Kentucky)

This matchup will be the battle for who can get the most assists. Both are terrific pass-first point guards who can play fast or slow. They can make open shots in order to keep the defense honest, and their decision-making on the offensive end of the floor is excellent, as well. Ulis can apply more heat on the ball defensively, while Jones is stronger and the better finisher in heavy traffic. It will be interesting to see who makes the fewest mistakes with the ball and who will win the assist category as Jones and Ulis push each other on both ends of the floor.


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