With little warning, an unlikely foe challenges Duke basketball recruiting.
The Blue Devils and Crimson Tide don’t cross paths too often on either the football or basketball recruiting trails. That makes sense, of course, considering the Alabama football program is infinitely more attractive than the relatively dumpy facilities and gridiron tradition in Durham. Meanwhile, Duke basketball far outshines the historically ho-hum hoops show in Tuscaloosa.
Look, all but two Alabama basketball seasons this century have ended with double-digit losses. Compare that to Duke’s mark of only two seasons with double-digit losses across the same span, and consider that both of those L totals were only 11.
You get the idea.
However, entering the second season under a youthful up-and-comer in head coach Nate Oats, Alabama appears on the verge of making some serious noise in the recruiting department. Trying to build on a 2020 class that ranked No. 12 in the country, per 247Sports, the Tide staff has suddenly entered the conversation of potential top hauls for 2021.
Last week, Oats kickstarted the class with a commitment from four-star small forward Jusaun Holt. Then the mega prize came on Saturday when he reeled in the nation’s No. 1 point guard, five-star JD Davison, who ranks No. 9 overall on the 247Sports 2021 Composite, has a 44.5-inch vertical, and is Alabama’s highest-rated backcourt pickup this century not named Collin Sexton.
Shortly after the announcement, Tipton Edits tweeted a brief quote from the explosive creator that outlines his plan to help his new coach construct a dream class. Both names Davison mentioned just so happen to be two of the four prospects still weighing Duke basketball offers:
“Hopefully, we get Caleb Houstan and Charles Bediako.”
Any chance Alabama ends up with one or both of the Duke basketball targets?
Granted, neither Caleb Houstan, a five-star small forward who ranks No. 8 overall, nor Charles Bediako, a five-star center who ranks No. 23, sits atop Duke’s wishlist. Mike Krzyzewski seems more focused on the other two prospects left on his radar in five-star small forward Patrick Baldwin Jr., who ranks No. 1, and five-star shooting guard Trevor Keels, who ranks No. 16.
Even though the Duke recruiters are in ideal shape with early pledges from five-star forwards Paolo Banchero and AJ Griffin — No. 3 and No. 6 on the composite, respectively — it’s worth noting that Davison now represents the nation’s only other commit among the top 10. Plus, now more than half of the top 25 is officially off the board.
And the surge from the Tide could equate to the Blue Devils falling short in both of their secondary pursuits.
First, Oats & Co. has long held the 247Sports Crystal Ball lead for Bediako, who’s down to a top 10 of Alabama, Baylor, Duke, Maryland, Memphis, Michigan, Ohio State, Southern Cal, Tennessee, and Texas. The 6-foot-11, 220-pound nimble big man would fit well as a centerpiece down low for the notably uptempo Tide; moreover, he’s reportedly friends with a few of Bama’s current freshmen.
As for Houstan, the versatile wing plans to name four finalists on Wednesday; with few hints to date, evident in his empty Crystal Ball, that list is difficult for anyone to predict. Yet it’s conceivable the 6-foot-8, 205-pound sharpshooter would enjoy partaking in the bucket feast that Oats’ style encourages, particularly in light of the speedy Davison extending an invite for him to join the fun.
At this time, it’s not at all clear when Bediako or Houstan intends to choose a winner.
But to summarize, while Alabama isn’t anywhere close to Duke’s neighborhood in terms of basketball success, Oats has now become a hot new name for the Blue Devils to look out for in 2021 races and beyond.
Stay tuned to Ball Durham for more Duke basketball recruiting news and views.