Duke Basketball: Introducing Next Year's Freshman Class

Glynn Williams@@GlynnMWilliamsFeatured ColumnistApril 16, 2014

Duke Basketball: Introducing Next Year's Freshman Class

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    Stephan Savoia

    Mike Kryzyzewski and his coaching staff have managed to pull off an almost impossible feat: out-recruiting Kentucky.

    Duke will be bringing in the No. 1 recruiting class in the country next season. The four freshmen Duke is adding will bring in a variety of skills as each plays a different position.

    While these players have yet to receive a high school diploma, they have already made headlines during recent national television appearances.

    All four players were McDonald’s All-Americans, and they dominated the event. Grayson Allen won the dunk contest, Tyus Jones took the skills competition and Jahlil Okafor was named MVP of the game.

    Duke’s fourth recruit, Justise Winslow, recently led Team USA in scoring in a televised win over a team of international prospects at the Nike Hoop Summit.

    The Blue Devils will be counting on the incoming freshman to make major impacts next season. Let’s take a closer look at each player and what they could bring to the team.

Jahlil Okafor

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    Okafor is the gem of the class. Ranked No. 1 overall on every recruiting list you can find, he will enter the season as the top candidate to be picked first overall in next year's NBA draft.

    Okafor is not known as an elite athlete, but Eric Bossi of Rivals.com believes he makes up for it with strength and great fundamentals:

    Jahlil Okafor is one of the most skilled and poised back to the basket centers to come along in some time. He establishes and holds positions, finishes with either hand and is a great rebounder. Okafor isn't a high flyer but fully understands how to use his skill and size advantage.

    Duke has not employed many back-to-the-basket scorers in recent seasons with the exception of Mason Plumlee’s senior year. This has allowed for the Devils to play fast, but it has also been a crutch for Duke.

    Without a post presence, Duke has not been able to get other teams' players in foul trouble. The Devils have also relied heavily on the three-pointer recently, sometimes shooting their ways out of games.

    With Okafor, Duke will have a player who can get them easy baskets and draw fouls. He can serve as a run stopper when an opponent is heating up and will clean up on the glass both offensively and defensively.

    Look for him to have an immediate impact on the team and potentially be one of the best players in the country.

Tyus Jones

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    Tyus Jones is a top-five prospect and unanimously the top point guard in this years’ class. Jones and Okafor were considered a “packaged deal” during their recruitment and announced their decisions to attend Duke at the same time.

    Having two freshmen with that type of chemistry is great for a team, but Jones is more than just Okafor’s sidekick.

    Jones is to the point guard position what Okafor is to playing center. He is not the fastest or most explosive point guard around, but he is an extremely smart player who always seems to know exactly what to do.

    The most exciting thing about Jones for Duke fans is that unlike Okafor, Jones may be around for a few years, as explained by Michael Visenberg of NBADraft.net:

    While he has great vision and an advanced understanding of the game, there are still questions around his eventual NBA projection. He is not a particularly explosive leaper and does not really blow by the opposition. His outside shot is solid, though he can definitely work on consistency and shot selection. Lack of size also could end up making life a tad difficult at the next level, as he had his passes knocked down quite often even in this setting. Even so, Mike Krzyzewski is getting a gamer who should make an immediate impact. It is no guarantee that Tyus ends up being a 'one-and-done' much less an eventual first rounder, though he seems to have a chance down the line to turn into the type of cerebral floor general that NBA teams covet.

    Jones had a great showing playing for Team USA at the recent Nike Hoop Summit. He put up 13 points, six assists and five steals against the international team and played a team-high 32 minutes.

    Duke already has Quinn Cook at point guard, but Jones will receive immediate playing time. After watching Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright lead Connecticut to a national title, Coach K may even play the two together for extended periods next year.

Justise Winslow

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    Like Jones, Justise Winslow had a great game at the Nike Hoop Summit, scoring 16 points off the bench.

    Winslow, ranked No. 15 by ESPN, is a strong athletic wing player who projects as a rugged defender. Standing 6’6” and weighing 218 pounds, he will arrive in Durham with a body ready-made for ACC play.

    Last season Duke had two scorers on the wing in Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker. Both players dazzled offensively, but neither was known as a lock-down defender. Winslow’s defensive ability will allow him to compete for playing time immediately as Coach K will be looking to improve on last season’s defensive woes.

    According to Scout.com, "Winslow has a very advanced skill level. He doesn't necessarily have a true position, but his talent and athleticism give him the ability to play and defend the one, two and three."

    Duke’s plethora of scorers was both a blessing and a curse this past season. The Devils appeared unstoppable at times but were unable to keep themselves in games once the shots stopped falling.

    Duke needs players who can impact the game without having the ball in their hands, and Winslow can provide just that.

Grayson Allen

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    The last recruit in Duke’s mega-class is Grayson Allen, a 6’3” shooting guard from Florida ranked No. 21 by ESPN.

    According to Scout.com, Allen will bring a mix of skills to campus that will allow him to contribute to the team in a variety of ways:

    Allen is a good, solidly built athlete who's at his best in transition. He runs with a smooth stride and is an explosive leaper off of one foot, and accordingly he has graced numerous YouTube highlight reels. He's also a very good ball-handler. So good, in fact, that we initially listed him as a combo guard.

    Fans will be excited for Allen’s acrobatics and high-flying dunks, but he will face bigger hurdles than the other recruits when trying to earn playing time next season.

    Duke brings back shooting guards Rasheed Sulaimon and Matt Jones next season, and with Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones also in tow, Allen may start the season as Duke’s fifth guard. Duke normally does not have deep rotations, so Allen may be relegated to spot duty and playing at the end of blowouts.

    While Allen may not make an impact next year, this year proved that a team needs some players who will stick around and learn the system in order to be successful.

    Allen will be a very good player down the road, but fans should curb their enthusiasm about his impact on the team next season.