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Why Marques Bolden Puts Duke in a Win-Win Situation

Marques Bolden
Photo: Brian Spurlock-USATSI

When Marques Bolden announces where he’ll be playing his college basketball, it will be one of the most anticipated recruiting announcement in the past few years.

The 5-star center from DeSoto, Texas, is reportedly deciding between Duke and Kentucky, and is one of the few remaining elite projects in the 2016 class who has yet to make his college choice.

However, unlike most years when Duke is targeting the top ranked player at his position in a class, the Blue Devils find themselves in a unique position with Bolden and the team’s projected roster for next season.

Whether Duke adds Bolden to the mix or he elects to play at Kentucky, this can be a win-win situation for Mike Krzyzewski and his program.

If the Blue Devils get a commitment from Bolden, which I believe is a long shot, it means they’re adding a 5-star center to a rotation that will already include Amile Jefferson, Chase Jeter and incoming 5-star freshman Harry Giles.

As John Watson of The Devils Den said in our recent interview with him, Bolden is a potential one-and-done talent who will be part of the rotation at either Duke or Kentucky, so he could certainly bring value to next year’s team.

Yet, it’s not like he’d be stepping into a situation at Duke where the team is desperate for his production.

Getting Amile Jefferson back as a redshirt senior next season gives the Blue Devils a huge lift in the frontcourt, and Coach K will have the flexibility of rotating Jefferson, Giles and Jeter, who began to make significant progress down the stretch last season. There’s also the likelihood of Duke occasionally using a smaller lineup that utilizes the athleticism of Giles and Jayson Tatum.

Marques Bolden joining the Duke rotation next season would simply be an additional weapon for a squad already projected to be the preseason favorite to win the 2017 national championship.

That’s probably the side of the story that gives Duke fans optimism, but I think Duke fans can still be excited even if Bolden elects to become a Kentucky Wildcat.

I’m not just saying this as a way to give a rosy perspective if Duke misses on Bolden. Considering the next two years, it could help the Blue Devils stay in great position.

As I mentioned previously, Duke is already in good shape with the frontcourt next season. If Chase Jeter can become more consistent and stay out of foul trouble, it gives the team a true center who can protect the rim and operate in the paint.

Harry Giles and Amile Jefferson are more versatile big men who can play either post position and flourish in the transition game. Jefferson was one of the best rebounders in the ACC last season before his injury, and Giles has all the tools to become a superstar at the college and NBA level.

If they can stay healthy, it’s a championship caliber frontcourt, even without Bolden.

It’s also a frontcourt that would likely need to be rebuilt for the 2017-18 season. Amile Jefferson will have exhausted his eligibility and Harry Giles is projected as a top pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.

Fortunately, Duke is reportedly in good position with Wendell Carter and Mohamed Bamba, two 5-star bigs in the class of 2017. Both are top 5 players in the class who are expected to be immediate impact players at the college level.

Because Marques Bolden is such a wild card and it’s uncertain whether he’d be able to play his way into the NBA after one season, it could create challenges for Duke to get Carter and/or Bamba for the 2017 freshman class.

It’s much easier to see a scenario in which Carter and Bamba join the Duke program and become major contributors if Bolden isn’t part of the picture.

As frustrating as this recruitment has been for Duke fans, it’s important to remember that the Blue Devils are in a great position. We can already be excited about an incoming class that currently includes three 5-star prospects, along with two other guys who could help the program over the next four years.

The possibility of adding a 5-star center makes next year’s team even more imposing, but if he ends up going to Kentucky, there’s no reason to panic. It could just open the door for another opportunity.

It sure is nice to have options.