Monday’s announcement from Brandon Ingram that he would be committing to the Blue Devils capped off an incredible past month for the Duke basketball program.
Between winning the national championship on April 6, retaining Jeff Capel as Associate Head Coach after being offered the Arizona State head coaching job, having three likely first round picks declare for the NBA Draft, and landing three commitments for the class of 2015, Duke has been the talk of college basketball over the past month.
After the announcements of draft declarations from Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow, and Tyus Jones, many believed the Blue Devils could go through a rocky transition next season after losing so much production from this past year’s national championship team.
However, as he often does, Mike Krzyzewski figured out a way to reload.
Though Duke missed on landing 2015 5-star center Caleb Swanigan, the program added depth by securing a commitment from 6’11”, 270-pound 3-star center Antonio Vrankovic.
Then, Coach K made the big splash in the recruiting world that will have the Blue Devils in position to potentially repeat as national champions.
With the point guard situation looking somewhat dire for Duke next season, the staff managed to persuade 5-star point guard Derryck Thornton into reclassifying from the class of 2016 into this year’s class and joining the program next season.
Thornton gives the Blue Devils one of the best incoming point guards in America and allows other guards like Grayson Allen and Luke Kennard the ability to remain in their more natural off-guard positions.
The decision by Thornton also helped sway 5-star small forward Brandon Ingram into committing to Duke, which gave the Blue Devils the No. 1 recruiting class in the country this year. With his decision to come to Durham, it solidifies another incredible recruiting class for Coach K and puts the team in position to compete for the ACC and national championships in 2016.
Ingram was the final piece to that puzzle.
At 6’8”, 200 pounds, Ingram is a versatile forward who’s one of the best wing players in the 2015 class. He’s ranked in the 247Sports Composite as the No. 4 overall player in the country, and was one of the most talked about players during the All-Star game circuit because of his athleticism and scoring ability.
While he’s a very different player from Justise Winslow, particularly because Ingram excels more offensively while Winslow’s more natural strength was on defense, Ingram is similar to Justise in that he’ll be a weapon Coach K can use in a variety of ways as a match-up problem.
His length offers him the opportunity to get off his shot against smaller to defenders, and I see him being a very effective weapon when teams try to play zone against the Blue Devils. Between Ingram’s ability to create and being surrounded by shooters like Grayson Allen, Luke Kennard, and Matt Jones, Duke should have an extremely potent wing attack.
The addition of Ingram also takes the pressure off the Blue Devil post players. Though I think Amile Jefferson is underrated and can increase his scoring production when necessary, he, Marshall Plumlee, and Chase Jeter can focus on asserting themselves with tough defense and rebounding. They’ll get their opportunities to score around the basket, but Duke appears to now have three primary scoring options in Allen, Kennard, and Ingram, and a natural distributor in Thornton.
With the additions of Thornton and Ingram in the past week, Coach K has gone from having a Top 25 caliber/Sweet 16 capable team next season to having a group that will likely find itself in the Top 5 or 10 of most polls and a Final Four candidate once again.
However, now begins the difficult process of bringing a team together that can eventually evolve into a champion next April. We had the opportunity to watch that amazing process this past season. Let’s hope we get to watch it again.