Tonight’s Big Ten/ACC Challenge Main Event: Previewing Duke at Wisconsin

Posted by Alex Moscoso and Brad Jenkins on December 3rd, 2014

As the ACC and the Big Ten teams get together on the hardwood this week, ACC and Big Ten microsites writers Alex Moscoso and Brad Jenkins have teamed up to break down the match-up between Wisconsin and Duke, the main event on the final night of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

Frontcourt

Alex Moscoso: Duke has a special player in center Jahlil Okafor, the likely #1 overall pick in next year’s NBA Draft. But as far as the best frontcourt in basketball, I submit there’s no unit with a better combination of talent and experience than the Badgers’ group of Frank Kaminsky, Nigel Hayes and Sam Dekker. All three will play in the Association and are familiar with one another’s tendencies from a full year together on the floor. For the season, they’re combining to average 42.9 PPG (57.5 percent of the team’s output) and 20.6 RPG. While Kaminsky and Dekker are likely to be Naismith finalists, Hayes has also garnered widespread acclaim for his improved play as a sophomore – specifically, his newfound ability to hit the deep ball on occasion (35.7%) and better defensive play in the post. His transformation from talented prospect to contributing factor has made this frontcourt almost invulnerable. The trio will certainly have its hands full with the athletic duo of Okafor and Justise Winslow, but the Wisconsin big men should wear these young Blue Devils out by hitting some threes and forcing them to guard the entire half-court – from the rim out to the three-point line.

Frank Kaminsky (yes, it's true) exploded for 43 points on Tuesday. (Getty)

Frank Kaminsky  and the Badgers “are coming” for Duke on Wednesday night, in what is one of the best non-conference games this season. (Getty)

Brad Jenkins: To say this is a match-up of Duke’s young talent versus Wisconsin’s veteran frontcourt is an oversimplification. The Badgers’ big guys are not only experienced but they are extremely skilled and more athletic than most realize. Duke’s two freshman starters up front, Okafor and Winslow, are both considered one-and-doners, and they play the game with a physical and mental maturity rarely seen in college rookies. On the one hand, Okafor has good footwork around the basket that should force Wisconsin into more double-teaming than normal. On the other hand, Winslow is a bit of a wild card in this game, as the Badgers don’t have a player who can match his combination of size and athleticism on the wing. The veteran Dekker, a tall forward with decent lateral quickness, will probably get the assignment, but he has been nursing a nagging ankle injury and may not be at 100 percent. Look for Winslow to aggressively attack the Badgers off the dribble as a way to create offense when the Blue Devils are otherwise stymied. Wisconsin normally protects the defensive glass as well as any team in the country, but watch out for Amile Jefferson on the weak side if Okafor demands major attention. So far this season, the 6’9” junior ranks third nationally with a 21.9 percent offensive rebounding rate. Read the rest of this entry »

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Duke’s Defense: Much Better This Year, But Good Enough?

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on December 1st, 2014

Sunday afternoon in Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski won the 990th game of his career, 93-73 over Army. This game was a matchup of the only two schools that Krzyzewski has coached, and he was proud of both of them afterwards. In the postgame press conference, the veteran coach heaped praise on the Black Knights, and talked about how impressed he is with the job Army’s coach Zach Spiker is doing at West Point, where Krzyzewski played in the 1960’s and coached for five years before coming to Duke in ’80. Army came in to the game undefeated (5-0) and hung with the Blue Devils well into the second half before freshmen Jahlil Okafor (21 points) and Tyus Jones (16 points, 10 assists, 0 turnovers) helped push the game out of reach. Duke has now won its first seven contests, all by 10 or more points, and along with the highly touted freshmen class, the improved Blue Devil defense has been the story so far.

Matt Jones (#13) and Amile Jefferson (#21) are part of an improved Blue Devil Defense. (Photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images North America)

Matt Jones (#13) and Amile Jefferson (#21) are part of an improved Blue Devil Defense.
(Grant Halverson/Getty Images North America)

Krzyzewski has long been lauded as a great defensive coach, and he has won many conference and national championships with stellar play on the defensive end, but that was not the case at all in 2013-14. Last year the Blue Devils ranked #116 in adjusted defensive efficiency, easily their worst finish since Ken Pomeroy started tracking the metric in 2002. There were many reasons cited for that weak performance: youth; not enough interior size; and a general lack of team toughness. Although they are still relatively young, Duke seems to have solved the size and toughness issue, at least so far. Last season, the problems surfaced early, giving us an indication that something was amiss with Duke on the defensive end. First there was the 94 points scored by Kansas in an 11-point Champions Classic Jayhawk win, and then even more troubling, Vermont hung 90 on the Blue Devils in a narrow one-point loss to Duke in Cameron. Duke went on to a fine 26-9 season but was plagued all year by having such an unreliable defense. Now after seven games in 2014-15 let’s look at how some of Duke’s defensive numbers compare to the first seven games from 2013-14 and with last season’s final stats:

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ACC Stock Watch – Week Two

Posted by Lathan Wells on November 28th, 2014

We here at RTC hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving holiday. Of course, we kept on our eye on ACC hoops for you while you were eating and possibly dabbling in the football-viewing arena. It’s only week two in the season, but there continue to be teams and players who are continuing to excel or providing disappointing early returns. Below is this week’s ACC Stock Watch:

Trending Up

  • Duke. Sure, they’re obliterating lesser competition, but their win over Stanford in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic was a great sign because Jahlil Okafor was not dominant and yet the team was composed and beat a good Cardinal team. Tyus Jones (roughly five-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio through six games) and Justise Winslow (14 points per game on 45% shooting thus far) continue to show that they are beyond their years as freshmen and can help cover for a game where Okafor doesn’t play up to his standards.
Trevor Lacey had a sensational second week to keep the Wolfpack undefeated on the year (APPhoto)

Trevor Lacey had a sensational second week to keep the Wolfpack undefeated on the year (APPhoto)

  • Trevor Lacey, NC State. Lacey was billed as an impact freshman, and he certainly had an impactful week for the Wolfpack. Lacey averaged 23.5 points per game in NC State’s two wins over South Florida and Richmond this week, and even spent a large portion of the time handling the ball in lieu of Cat Barber. Lacey has hit the ground running, and has presented a great second option for Mark Gottfried at the point if Barber is playing erratically.
  • Justin Anderson, Virginia. As discussed here after last Friday’s win over George Washington, Anderson has tied for or been the lead man in scoring for this team in every game this season. Last year’s Sixth Man of the Year followed up a solid start to the season last week with a perfect shooting night against Tennessee State (7-7 from the field, 5-5 from three) to notch 20 points. Anderson might be the hottest player in the conference right now not playing in Durham.

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Rushed Reactions: #4 Duke 81, #19 Michigan State 71

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on November 18th, 2014

Tommy Lemoine (@hoopthink) is in Indianapolis for the Champions Classic games tonight.

Three Key Takeaways:

Duke big man Jahlil Okafor played big on Tuesday night. (247sports.com)

Duke big man Jahlil Okafor played big on Tuesday night. (247sports.com)

  1. Duke freshmen are as good as advertised. As good as the Blue Devil freshmen were against Presbyterian and Fairfield, they were even better against Michigan State – which says a lot, considering the obvious step up in competition. Jahlil Okafor was dominant early on and nearly unstoppable when he caught the ball within a few feet of the basket. Justise Winslow’s ability to get to the rim and create his own shot proved critical in squashing several would-be Spartan runs. And Tyus Jones – held scoreless in the first half – almost single-handedly put the game on ice, scoring six of his 17 points within two possessions of Jahlil Okafor leaving the floor with four fouls. All told, the highly-touted newcomers combined for 49 of Duke’s 81 points and more than lived up to their preseason billing.
  2. Sparty will be just fine with Travis Trice at the helm. There was a quiet sense of panic among Spartans fans following the team’s narrow victory over Navy on Friday night, especially with Duke right around the corner. And while Michigan State lost tonight’s game – outplayed, to be sure – it looked more like the top 20 Big Ten contender many people pegged it as in the preseason. Travis Trice, who carried the load against the Midshipman over the weekend, was again the lifeblood for the Spartans’ offense (despite shooting 1-of-5 from deep), creating baskets with his penetration and directing traffic each time down the floor. His final stat line – 15 points, six rebounds and eight assists – demonstrates his all-around importance to the team’s performance. He, Denzel Valentine and Branden Dawson should keep the Spartans competitive in the Big Ten race, especially when the team returns to full health.
  3. Quinn Cook is more than capable playing off the ball. With Tyus Jones joining the fold, guard Quinn Cook has played off the ball much more frequently this season – a role he relished on this night. The senior shot 7-of-12 from the field, including 3-of-4 from deep, and tallied 17 points to go along with four assists and zero turnovers. If Cook continues producing at that level alongside Jones, the Blue Devils will be even more offensively dynamic this season.

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Duke Gets a Passing Chemistry Grade… So Far

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 18th, 2014

Duke has been very impressive so far this season, winning handily over Presbyterian on Friday and stomping Fairfield on Saturday. Both of those games were played in the cozy confines of Cameron Indoor Stadium, but before the Blue Devils face their first stiff challenge of the young season against Michigan State tonight in the Champions Classic (ESPN 7:00 ET), let’s look at what we have learned about Duke so far.

Freshman Justise Winslow Has Been Aggressively Attacking the Basket in Duke's Early Games. (Mark Dolejs - USA Today Sports)

Justise Winslow Has Been Aggressively Attacking the Basket in Duke’s Early Games. (Mark Dolejs – USA Today Sports)

  • Jahlil Okafor is the real deal, but so is Justise Winslow. Okafor has been every bit as good as everyone expected. In the first two games of his career, the Chicago big man has averaged 18.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 1.5 blocks per game while making an outstanding 17-of-20 shots from the field — these proficient numbers earned him the first ACC Freshman of the Week award this season. In the future, Okafor’s primary competition for that honor may be his teammate Winslow, who is also playing very well on both ends of the floor. He has scored on frequent aggressive drives and shown a better than advertised outside shooting touch, going 3-of-5 on three-point shots. He also gives Duke an athletic lockdown wing defender, the likes of which hasn’t been seen in Durham since Nate James. A great thing about being on press row in Cameron Indoor is how close you are to the action — up close, the maturity of Winslow in both physique and focus in his eyes is obvious when he’s in a defensive stance. That’s why he’s already been showing up in a handful of 2015 NBA mock drafts as a first-rounder. In fact, the whole freshmen class has an impressive level of maturity. Point guard Tyus Jones is off to a solid ball-handling start — passing for 12 assists while only committing three turnovers — and Grayson Allen is excelling in Duke’s up-tempo style with his great athleticism.

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ACC Preview: Duke’s Burning Question

Posted by Lathan Wells on November 11th, 2014

This team preview is part of the RTC ACC microsite’s preseason coverage. You will find a list with links to all the team previews on the ACC Microsite Preview Page, located here.

Can Duke’s veterans adapt to, and excel in, new roles?

All of the pre-season talk, and rightfully so, concerning Duke has been focused on the incoming freshman class Mike Krzyzewski has assembled. Jahlil Okafor, the most dominant incoming true center the Blue Devils have procured in some time, has garnered numerous accolades already in being named pre-season ACC Freshman of the Year by the ACC media and even the Associated Press pre-season Player of the Year. Freshman Tyus Jones, part of a “package deal” recruitment with Okafor, looks to be the starting point guard when the season begins this week. And wing Justise Winslow showed the defensive prowess expected of him, along with the scoring acumen, in the exhibition season to also merit a spot in the starting lineup.

Quinn Cook will have to acclimate to playing without the ball in his hands more often this year (SI)

Quinn Cook will have to acclimate to playing without the ball in his hands more often this year (SI)

While the freshman class is a sterling one, this team still maintains a number of veterans who will be familiarizing themselves with new roles. Senior Quinn Cook, one of the team’s two captains, was the starting point guard for most of last season and surely thought he’d seize the reins this year prior to Jones’ commitment. He’s now likely relegated to a spot coming off the bench and occasionally playing off the ball when he and Jones are on the court together. Cook, to his credit, has said all the right things about occasionally deferring to a freshman, but it’s still going to be a challenge to acclimate to the mindset of providing offense off of the bench, oftentimes from the off-guard position.

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Who’s Got Next? Justise Winslow to Duke, European Commitments, & the Class of 2017…

Posted by Sean Moran on November 27th, 2013

whosgotnextWho’s Got Next? is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you an overview of what’s going on in the complex world of recruiting, from who is signing where among the seniors to discussing the recruitments of the top uncommitted players in the country. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Foul dedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: Scout.com used for all player rankings.

Justise Winslow Lands in Durham

Last Thursday afternoon, five-star small forward Justise Winslow announced his intention to play for Coach K and the Blue Devils. The 6’5” Winslow is currently rated as the No. 10 prospect in the country and No. 4 small forward in the class of 2014. With the commitment, Duke wrapped up an extraordinarily successful seven-day period which started out when the Blue Devils received commitments from the top player in the country in center Jahlil Okafor as well as the No. 2 ranked point guard in Tyus Jones. Winslow is set to join a talented team next year that will have numerous options on the perimeter in juniors Rodney Hood, Rasheed Sulaimon and Alex Murphy along with sophomores Matt Jones and Semi Ojeleye. Playing with talented wing players is nothing new for Winslow who played AAU ball the past two years with two other top 10 talents in Kansas commitment Kelly Oubre and North Carolina commitment Justin Jackson. Just like AAU play, Winslow brings a different skill set to the table when compared to his wing counterparts.

On the offensive end, the Houston native can do a variety of things. With his chiseled frame, he uses his notable strength advantage to crash the glass, score down low and finish with contact. He is tough to guard off the dribble and can often finish with a powerful dunk. Winslow is also fairly adept at handling the ball and using his passing ability to find cutters or shooters on the perimeter. On the defensive end, Winslow can guard numerous positions. He is quick enough to stay in front of most guards and strong enough to battle most big men in the post. This past spring and summer, Winslow’s versatility was on full display as he averaged 14.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and a couple steals per game. The main weakness in his game right now revolves around his outside shooting. Although still a work in progress, he shot just 31 percent from the three-point line in AAU play. Winslow’s weakness will be offset by the numerous Duke players who can already shoot from the outside and his versatility will be used elsewhere. This past summer Winslow played on the U-19 USA World championship team and was one of only two high school players to make the team (along with Okafor). He averaged almost 10 points per game there and the time he spent playing against older players proved that he will be more than ready to contribute next year in Durham.

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Seven Sweet Scoops: Winslow to Duke, Turner Plans to Visit Stillwater, and More

Posted by Sean Moran on November 22nd, 2013

http://rushthecourt.net/mag/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/7sweetscoops.png

Seven Sweet Scoops is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you seven notes from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Fouldedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: Scout.com used for all player rankings.

1. Dukes Scores Again With Winslow

Justise Winslow brings a powerful game to Duke’s #1 ranked recruiting class.

The Duke recruiting run is still going strong with this week’s commitment of five-star forward Justise Winslow. One week after landing the package deal of Jahlil Okafor (#1 overall – 2014) and Tyus Jones (#4 overall – 2014), Duke picked up the No. 10 ranked player in the class of 2014 and No. 4 small forward. Over the past year rumors popped up about Winslow joining both Okafor and Jones in college as they were all familiar with each other from USA Basketball. Winslow did his due diligence on schools in taking over 20 college visits including official trips to Duke, Florida, Stanford, UCLA and Arizona. Winslow stands 6’5” and with big, broad shoulders he is one of the strongest kids in the high school ranks. A jack of all trades, he also averaged 14.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game throughout the spring and summer AAU season. With the commitment, Winslow gives Duke three players in the top 10 as well as four-star shooting guard Grayson Allen (#36 overall) in their 2014 class. With the clear cut No. 1 recruiting class the Blue Devils are more than ready to compete for national titles over the next few years.

2. Myles Turner Schedules a Trip to Stillwater

Seven-foot center Myles Turner, the top uncommitted prospect in the class of 2014, scheduled his second official visit for Oklahoma State on December 6 when the Cowboys take on South Carolina in the Big 12/SEC challenge. The No. 2 overall player in the country had a meteoric rise to the top of the rankings this spring and summer when the five-star Texan came out of nowhere and started dominating the AAU circuit. Turner has a 7’3” wing-span and is one of the best shot-blockers in the country. He can run the floor, post up, and shoot from all parts of the court as well. His first official visit was to Ohio State and he is also considering Kansas, Texas, Duke, and Kentucky. Oklahoma State is a guard-oriented team this year with Marcus Smart and Markel Brown but with their impending departures, Travis Ford would have no problem making next year’s team revolve around the talented Turner.

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What to Make of Duke’s Monstrous 2014 Recruiting Class

Posted by Christopher Kehoe on November 22nd, 2013

Mike Krzyzewski is on top of the world. At 66 years old, most people would be retired or nearing the golden age of relaxation and 4:00 PM dinners. But not Krzyzewski; he is gaining a second wind and dominating the recruiting landscape like few senior citizens before him. On Thursday afternoon, Duke landed five-star wing prospect Justise Winslow from the Lone Star State, which by itself would be enough to build around for most programs, but Winslow instead is the third five-star recruit and fourth top-30 recruit Duke has landed in the 2014 class.

Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow & Tyus Jones on their official visits to Duke (credit: News Observer)

Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow & Tyus Jones on their official visits to Duke (credit: News Observer)

Just last Friday Duke landed the second-best point guard and fifth best prospect in the entire class in Minnesota point guard Tyus Jones. Jones is a pass-first point guard who makes everyone around him better. And it doesn’t hurt that he is best friends with and the first half of a package deal featuring center Jahlil Okafor. Okafor, who many have dubbed the best back-to-the-basket big man prospect since the Sacramento Kings’ DeMarcus Cousins, is the top-ranked prospect in the 2014 class. Krzyzewski put it best when he said it was ‘three years of hard work’ paying off in the end with the signings of both players. The addition of 6’6” wing Winslow this week rounds out an already extremely potent recruiting class for the gold medal-winning coach. Winslow brings a physicality and athleticism that will have him poised to challenge for a starting position on the wing from day one. He has a college-ready body and is an extremely tenacious perimeter defender who will relish the easy looks provided by Jones’s penetration and double teams on Okafor.

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Seven Sweet Scoops: Reid Travis Announcing Today, Kentucky’s Top Class & More…

Posted by Sean Moran on November 8th, 2013

7sweetscoops

Seven Sweet Scoops is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you seven notes from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Fouldedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: Scout.com used for all player rankings.

1. PF Reid Travis Set to Chose From 3 Schools

Continuing the trend of commitments, four-star power forward Reid Travis is set to make his announcement today at 3:30 PM CST. Travis is a 6’7”, 240-pound power forward from De La Salle (MN) High School who is currently ranked as the No. 7 power forward in the class of 2014 and No. 40 prospect overall. He is set to choose between his hometown Gophers, Duke and Stanford. Coming out of his junior season, Travis was ranked No. 95 in his class but impressed college coaches and scouts throughout the spring and summer in AAU games and camp tournaments. Playing for the Howard Pulley Panthers Nike AAU team alongside Tyus Jones (#4 overall – 2014), Travis averaged 19.2 points and 8.7 rebounds per game while shooting 51.7 percent from the field. In today’s day and age, Travis is the rare power forward that likes to work inside-out. Physically, he is one of the strongest players in the class of 2014 and uses his strength down low to overpower opponents for layups or short jump hooks. When not in the post, he also has a nice shooting touch out to 15 feet. When it comes time to choose a college, Travis has three strong options:

  • Minnesota – The hometown school first started recruiting Travis under former head coach Tubby Smith. When Richard Pitino took over the job, Travis became his top priority and the most likely of the Minnesota Big Three (along with Jones and shooting guard Rashad Vaughn) to stay in Minnesota.
  • Duke – Coach K started to recruit Travis after watching him during his scintillating performance at the Nike Peach Jam tournament in July. Last week the Blue Devils lost out on power forward Kevon Looney (#14 overall, #2 PF – 2014), but would love to add the Minnesota duo of Travis and Jones.
  • Stanford – Travis took an official visit to Stanford on October 18 and is attracted to the academics offered by the university. With a commitment, Travis would be the Cardinal’s third Top 100 recruit in 2014 and perhaps the most important.

2. Kentucky Back on Top

North Carolina had claimed the top spot in the 2014 recruiting rankings for quite some time with earlier commitments of five-star point guard Joel Berry (#21 overall, #3 PG), five-star small forward Justin Jackson (#9 overall, #3 SF) and four-star small forward Theo Pinson (#27 overall, #10 SF). With its most recent commitment from Trey Lyles (#8 overall, #1 PF), Kentucky made its way past UNC into the number one spot in the rankings, the spot they’ve held since 2009 when John Calipari first brought in stars John Wall, Eric Bledsoe and DeMarcus Cousins. The Wildcats now have two fivestar players in Lyles and center Karl Towns (#11 overall, #4 C) and two four-star guys in point guard Tyler Ulis (#29 overall, #6 PG) and shooting guard Devin Booker (#31 overall, #5). All four players are not considered explosive athletes and in turn are not a lock to become one-and-done like most of Calipari’s previous top recruits. What this means is that this talented class could stay in school for a bit longer than normal and could replicate the success of UNC’s top-ranked class in 2006 which eventually won a championship in 2009.

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Seven Sweet Scoops: Okafor and Jones Visit Duke, Cliff Alexander Off to Illinois, and More…

Posted by Sean Moran on October 25th, 2013

7sweetscoops

Seven Sweet Scoops is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you seven notes from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Fouldedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: Scout.com used for all player rankings.

1. The Package Deal: Okafor and Jones Visit Duke

Where will Okafor and Jones be playing together next year?

The much anticipated weekend has arrived for Coach K and Duke. The top-ranked center and point guard in the class of 2014 are taking their official visits to Durham, North Carolina, today. Package deals in college basketball are often talked about but rarely come to fruition, especially one involving such star power. Jahlil Okafor, a 6’11” center out of Chicago, is the top ranked player in the country, and his buddy Tyus Jones, a 6’1” point guard out of Apple Valley, Minnesota, is the fourth-ranked player in the country. Both seniors have indicated that they will attend college together and have whittled their list of potential suitors down to three. Last week Kansas played host to the duo, but this week Duke gets to take its crack at selling the duo on moving east. With Okafor’s size and strength he is almost unguardable in the low post and would provide Duke with its best low post presence since the Carlos Boozer days. Jones would provide Duke with its best point guard since Jason Williams and he has long been discussed as the overall best point guard in high school basketball dating back to his sophomore year. Along with these two players, five-star small forward Justise Winslow (#9 overall, #3 SF) from the class of 2014 will also make the trip. His recruitment was discussed last week. All in all, it’s a huge weekend in Durham.

2. Cliff Alexander Makes His Last Official Visit

Cliff Alexander, a five-star power forward from Chicago, is staying in-state this weekend and making the two-hour drive south down to Champaign for his last official visit to Illinois. Alexander is a 6’8” manchild who is currently the No. 5 prospect in the class of 2014 and eerily reminiscent of L.A. Clipper DeAndre Jordan. Over the past few weeks Alexander and his family have taken in the sights and sounds of Midnight Madness at Memphis and Kansas. A decision is expected in November with Illinois, DePaul, Arizona, Kansas, Memphis, and Michigan State all receiving interest. Expect John Groce and the Illinois coaching staff to pull out all the stops this weekend for Alexander. While the Illini already have a strong recruiting class in 2014 with four-star power forward LeRon Black (#46 overall, #9 PF) and four-star point guard Quentin Snider (#31 overall, #7 PG) committed, Alexander would be the crown jewel. He can run the floor, block shots and dunks everything around the basket. His offensive skills outside the paint are rapidly improving and he put himself in the conversation for the number one player in the country. Not only would Groce get a player with future NBA talent, he would also lay claim to Illinois becoming a major player for all that Chicago talent.

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Seven Sweet Scoops: Big Blue Madness, Visits for Top 10 Recruits, & Georgetown vs. Indiana…

Posted by Sean Moran on October 18th, 2013

7sweetscoops

Seven Sweet Scoops is a weekly column by Sean Moran, the RTC recruiting guru. Once a week he will bring you seven notes from the high-stakes world of college basketball recruiting. We also encourage you to check out his contributions at The Intentional Fouldedicated to recruiting coverage and analysis. You can also follow Sean at his Twitter account @Seanmohoops for up-to-date news from the high school and college hoops scene. If you have any suggestions as to areas we are missing or different things you would like to see, please let us know at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

Note: Scout.com used for all player rankings.

1. Big Blue Madness

Big Blue Madness is Always a Sensory Extravaganza

Big Blue Madness is Always a Sensory Extravaganza

Since the arrival of John Calipari at Kentucky, Big Blue Madness has been the event to visit as a recruit. Last year it was current Kentucky freshmen Andrew and Aaron Harrison, James Young, and Marcus Lee that showed up in Lexington and this year it will be a new batch of fresh faces. Attendees expected at Rupp Arena include some of the biggest names from the 2014, 2015, and 2016 classes, including one of UK’s 2014 commitments in point guard Tyler Ulis (#29 overall, #6 PG). Ulis and Big Blue Nation will do their best to impress senior small forward Stanley Johnson, power forward Trey Lyles, and shooting guard James Blackmon Jr. Johnson is the top small forward in the country; however he still has a ways to go with his decision. Right now the big fish for Kentucky are Lyles and Blackmon, both of whom committed to Indiana early in their high school careers and later de-committed after their junior years. Lyles is a 6’9” power forward who is ranked seventh in the country and is the most fundamentally sound post player in the senior class. Blackmon stands at 6’3” (#56 overall, #10 SG) and is one of the best long distance shooters in the class. Kentucky is thought to be the leader for both of the Indiana natives.

2. Stanley Johnson – Making the Rounds

As noted above, Stanley Johnson is taking his official visit to Kentucky for its Midnight Madness this Friday. Johnson is currently the top rated small forward in the country and No. 6 overall. The California native also took an official visit to Arizona last week for their Red-Blue game and watched former AAU teammate and soon to be freshman sensation Aaron Gordon win the team slam dunk contest. The other three schools still in contention for Johnson’s services are Oregon, Florida, and USC. While schools such as Arizona, Kentucky, and Florida are used to getting top 10 recruits, a commitment for the Trojans or Ducks would represent a landmark victory for either of those programs. Johnson is a bulldozer in the open court and considered one of the strongest perimeter players in high school. With his strength and improved ball-handling ability, he can get to the rim at will. Along with his skill set, he is also a winner. In 2012 he won a Nike AAU championship with the Oakland Soldiers and followed that up by leading Mater Dei to a California state championship. All five schools will take their best shot at landing Johnson over the next few months.

3. Myles Turner Off to See Columbus

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