NCB On The Trail: Duke Blue Devils

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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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I don't believe Jabari Parker's decision on whether to turn pro has any bearing at all on the college decision of ESPN 100 No. 2 overall prospect Myles Turner.

Turner wanted to finish taking his visits and then try to figure out what his best option would be. He is done with visits; now it’s time for him to weigh all the pros and the cons. He is looking for a situation where he has a strong relationship with the head coach and the overall chemistry of the team. Furthermore, he wants a coach who has proven track record developing his players over the course of a year or over time, and preparing them for the next level will be important.

Whether Parker stays at Duke or declares for the NBA draft won't affect Turner's decision. His list of schools is still the same: Arizona, Duke, Oklahoma State, Ohio State, Texas, SMU and Texas A&M. Look for him to make his decision sometime after the Jordan Brand Classic game, which is at 7 p.m. ET Friday on ESPN2.
Want to ask ESPN RecruitingNation national recruiting director Paul Biancardi a question about basketball recruiting? Tweet it to @PaulBiancardi using the hashtag #AskCoachB.

The two best prospects were Jahlil Okafor for the USA Team and Karl Towns Jr. for the World Team.

Okafor displayed his dominating low-post game and was virtually unguardable. He produced double- figure points (14) and rebounds (10) in only 27 minutes of play. If he gets into optimal physical condition, he can decide his future.

Towns was the only player on the World Team who could score with either hand. Okafor made it difficult for him to score because of his franchise size. He was in foul trouble most of the game so he had to sit and lost some of his aggressiveness.

Towns' future at Kentucky and beyond is extremely bright.

When you look ahead to the college game next season, Okafor should be battle-tested and ready to produce at a high level at Duke.

Towns has all the upside you could ever want in a big man. When you combine his size, shooting skills and impressive basketball instincts -- along with his defensive upside -- he could be really good at Kentucky.

With plenty of hard work and sacrifice in the offseason, they could be two of the better players in college basketball next season.
PORTLAND, Ore. -- In the 17th annual Nike Hoop Summit on Saturday, the USA team defeated the World team 84-73 for the first USA win since 2011. The USA squad featured a balanced attack as four players scored in double figures: Justise Winslow (Duke signee) led the USA team with 16 points, Jahlil Okafor (Duke) and Kelly Oubre (Kansas) each scored 14 points and Tyus Jones (Duke) added 13.

Let's take a look at what we learned from this year's Hoop Summit.


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Scouting the country each year I’ll not only see players’ skills, athletic ability and basketball IQ, but I’ll also witness their character along the way. This year’s class might not have any NBA superstars at the moment, but it will have difference-makers for the college game, both in the short term as well as those who will make a difference in time because of their character traits combined with their talent.

As we wrap up the Class of 2014, here are my five final thoughts:

1. The land of the giants

[+] EnlargeJahlil Okafor
AP Photo/The Sun News/Charles SlateDuke center signee Jahlil Okafor finishes the season as the nation's top prospect.
When you look at the top of a class it's so rare to have three post players sitting in the top three spots. Jahlil Okafor, who held the top spot for much of the season, finishes the season as the nation’s top prospect. The center from Chicago is a dominating presence in the paint. A Duke signee, Okafor led his high school team to a 4A state championship and was named the McDonalds Morgan Wooten player of the year.

He is special because he scores down low in the paint with his back to the basket. His combination of size, touch and fluid footwork is too much for one defender and when he doesn’t score, he attracts a double-team, which gives his team an advantage. He operates with patience and poise and when he reads the double-team he will accurately pass out to the open man. Defensively he guards the post and is improving at ball-screen defense as he is a barrier to the rim for his team.

Myles Turner, the nation’s No. 2 prospect, challenged hard for the No. 1 position and shows a big upside. Turner, who is uncommitted, is an elite shot-blocker and scores baskets with a soft touch and range. Cliff Alexander is going to be an absolute difference-maker for Kansas with his ability to rebound, finish and block shots, and he does it in an aggressive manner. Trey Lyles is one of the most skilled post players in this group and his future teammate at Kentucky Karl Towns Jr. has franchise skill-to-size ratio. Thomas Welsh is a fundamentally sound big who will anchor the middle at UCLA.


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CHICAGO -- Wednesday marked the 37th Annual McDonald's All-American game featuring the top high school boys basketball players in the country. The game took place at the United Center, home of the NBA’s Chicago Bulls.

Best low-post player: Jahlil Okafor


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McDonald's Game players to watch 

April, 2, 2014
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The basketball world will be watching the 37th annual McDonald’s All-American Game on Wednesday night (ESPN, 9:30 p.m. ET) from the United Center in Chicago.

The 24 players selected to participate have already received the greatest honor in high school basketball, but with practices having started, they’re quickly realizing that this week is as much about things to come as it is a celebration of their careers to date.

The game isn’t just a chance for these players to excite their future fan bases, but also to perform, in many cases for the first time in their career, in front of NBA scouts and front office personnel expected from all 30 teams. It all but ensures a competitive few days of action as the players are always anxious to make a good impression.

That type of environment is also ideal for our ESPN RecruitingNation staff as we take one of our final looks at the top players in the country before ultimately putting the Class of 2014 player rankings to bed. With that in mind, we asked our team of evaluators which player they were most interested in observing this week:


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Video: Duke recruit wins dunk contest

April, 1, 2014
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video ESPN 100 No. 6 shooting guard Grayson Allen won the dunk contest at the McDonald's All American Game. The Duke signee clinched the crown by dunking over No. 1 recruit -- and future Duke teammate -- Jahlil Okafor.
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CHICAGO -- The prestigious McDonald's All American Game annually brings together the best talent in high school basketball, all on one stage. Here are a few game matchups to watch for this year's star-studded event, which can be seen live on ESPN Wednesday night at 9:30 ET.


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Now that the Blue Devils have secured a commitment from ESPN 60 shooting guard Luke Kennard, their focus in the 2015 class will be on landing some size to blend in with their strong perimeter talent.

Jahlil Okafor could certainly be on his way to the NBA draft after next season, and that would just leave Amile Jefferson and Marshall Plumlee in the post for Duke.

Besides Chase Jeter, other top 2015 frontcourt targets include ESPN 60 No. 1 recruit Ivan Rabb, Diamond Stone and Skal Labissiere.

That group of players possesses the size, rebounding, shot blocking and scoring Duke needs inside.

The Blue Devils are also still in the running for ESPN 100 center Myles Turner, the No. 2 prospect in the 2014 class. Turner will make his college decision sometime in the late signing period this spring.

And as we look down the road at the Class of 2016, Duke's priorities are in-state prospect Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum from Missouri.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski and his staff are landing some of the nation's premier talent in hopes of keeping Duke in contention in the powerful ACC.
Five-star shooting guard/smaller forward Luke Kennard, the No. 24 player in the ESPN 60, has committed to Duke over North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio State, Michigan and Louisville to give the Blue Devils one of the best wing scorers in the country regardless of class.


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Recruit and return: Duke 

March, 21, 2014
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To return to the NCAA tournament, a team needs contributions from both returning players and incoming recruits. Here's a look at Duke and its chances of dancing again in 2015.

Quick references:
2013-14 roster
2014 recruiting

Possible 2014-15 starting five:
G: Tyus Jones
G: Quinn Cook
G: Rasheed Sulaimon
F: Amile Jefferson
C: Jahlil Okafor


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Roundtable: Future NCAA tourney stars 

March, 18, 2014
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March Madness is in full swing with conference tournaments and selection Sunday giving way to the opening rounds of the NCAA tournament.

With each possession of each game now carrying far greater magnitude, championships are being decided by the players and teams that are able to control their emotions and execute under intensity and pressure.

Coaches go to great lengths to simulate these types of scenarios during the course of the year. Programs such as Kentucky and Connecticut actually monitor their players’ heart rates during games and practices, measuring and ultimately trying to reduce the variance as much as possible, while other coaches dedicate a huge amount of practice time to late-game situations in hopes of relieving the pressure of a potential tense moment, replacing it with a sense of preparedness.

Ultimately though, so much of being able to thrive in high-intensity situations comes down to a player’s DNA, and that is something that can be evaluated during the recruiting process, especially at this time of year, when high schools are going through their own postseason tournament runs.

With that in mind, we again went to our team of experts at Recruiting Nation and asked them which current high school prospects are built for future March Madness success, specifically in the game’s most critical minutes.


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The recruitment of Myles Turner is heating up.

[+] EnlargeMyles Turner
Kelly Kline/Under ArmourMyles Turner is the biggest name left on the 2014 recruiting board.
As the second-ranked prospect and best available player left in the ESPN 100, Turner has his choice of the most prestigious programs in the country, and he’s seen several of them in person in recent weeks.

Turner took an official visit to Duke last weekend to take in its victory over North Carolina and was at Kansas a few days earlier. Having previously taken official visits to Ohio State and Oklahoma State, he’ll save his fifth and final visit for Texas, but also might still take an unofficial trip to Kentucky before making his decision.

Turner is scheduled to participate in the McDonald’s All-American Game, Jordan Brand Classic and Nike Hoop Summit this spring, where he’ll play alongside several potential future teammates. With that in mind, here’s a breakdown of where he might fit in best, taking into consideration both each program’s likely personnel as well as their typical style of play:


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Roundtable: 2014 defensive standouts 

March, 11, 2014
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There are a lot of different ways to win in college basketball, but one of the few staples of virtually all good teams is a commitment to defense.

Ironically, good individual defenders never seem to get the credit they deserve, and that can even be true with the recruiting process. Standouts on offense are not only easier to recognize, they’re also easier to quantify with basic statistics. There’s also a popular sentiment among college coaches that they can teach a player to defend if they have the proper physical tools.

The reality though is that college-ready defenders are perhaps even harder to find than college-ready scorers or playmakers, which should in turn make them that much more valuable. With that in mind, we went back to our team of RecruitingNation experts and asked them to pinpoint the defensive game-changers in this year’s ESPN 100:


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