If you thought college basketball would be getting a reprieve from Duke next season following the graduations of Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly, think again. In fact, the nation’s top-ranked team could be even better one year from now.
The Blue Devils scored one of the jewels of the high school senior class on Thursday, adding Chicago basketball wunderkind Jabari Parker to a roster that figures to be longer, deeper, more athletic, versatile and better defensively than the current bunch ranked No. 1. Welcome to the ACC: Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Louisville and Notre Dame. Your goodie bag upon arrival: a first-hand look at a throwback Duke team that harks back to the late 90s.
Stellar recruiting classes don’t always guarantee forthcoming dominance. Just ask UCLA or this year’s Kentucky. Replacing impact upperclassmen, especially in droves, can set a program back even in years when the incoming talent seems more than capable of filling the void. Just ask North Carolina.
Duke will certainly feel the losses of its three departing seniors at season’s end. You don’t replace the top center in college basketball, a deadeye shooter with the last name Curry and one of the top stretch-4s in the sport without skipping at least a beat. Lucky for Duke, Coach K has just the right pacemaker to get his Blue Devils back in rhythm.
Enter, a blue-chip super-recruit who has drawn apt comparisons to Paul Pierce and Carmelo Anthony, who is seeking his fourth state title at a school that had never before won three in a row. Parker has graced the cover of Sports Illustrated as just a fledgling teen. He remains the only player to ever start at Simeon Academy—the same school that produced Derrick Rose—as a freshman.
Forever earmarked as the No. 1 option on a team replete with college-bound stars, Parker will not be alone in terms of star power at Duke next season. In fact, he likely won’t even be the best player on the team.
Enter, the top transfer in college hoops, a player whom Duke staffers swear would be an All-American this season. The boundless talent of Rodney Hood was lost on last year’s cluttered Mississippi State team. It won’t be next season at Duke.
Hood is sitting out the 2012-13 season in accordance with NCAA rules governing transfers, but the former Bulldog will be primed to burst onto the scene in approximately the same fashion Wes Johnson, a similar player, did at Syracuse in 2009-10. Remember that comparison. Together, Hood and Parker should provide an offensive dynamic comparable to the Otto Porter, Greg Whittingon one-two punch at Georgetown.