Caulton Tudor

Devils, Coach K end hectic week with a recruiting win

Posted August 14

When news broke Sunday that high school star Tre Jones had made a firm recruiting commitment to Duke, the Blue Devils’ basketball program again demonstrated its ability to absorb a punch and bounce right back.

Jones, generally rated among the top dozen high school seniors in the nation, announced for the Devils at roughly the same time Mike Krzyzewski was ending a difficult week by undergoing a second knee replacement surgery in less than two years. Counting Sunday, he’s now had six surgeries since the start of the 2015-16 season.

Through a school news release Sunday, Duke doctors proclaimed the latest procedure a success and said the 70-year-old Hall of Fame coach would be able to initiate rehab therapy almost immediately.

It had been a hectic few days for Krzyzewski and his team. On Thursday, plans for the sudden right-knee surgery were announced in conjunction with another announcement that a planned team exhibition trip, which was to begin Aug. 17, to Dominican Republic, had been cancelled.

With one of Duke’s youngest, least experienced teams ever about to open preseason camp in October, Krzyzewski and his staff had looked forward to the exhibition games as a bonding opportunity and important period to evaluate an entirely different chemistry from the 28-9 (11-7 ACC) team of ’16-’17.

That part of it was lost with the cancellation, but Jones’ decision to follow the same collegiate path as his older brother Tyus (2015 Final Four most outstanding player) added new talent for the future.

Jones, a 6-1 playmaker from Apple Valley, Minn., averaged 20.4 points and 7.3 assists as a junior and was deemed the nation’s most impressive overall guard by some recruiting pundits during the summer AAU season.

The targeted Duke point starter for the upcoming season is 6-3 freshman Trevon Duval, seen by many as a one-and-done talent. The backup could be another frosh, 6-2 Jordan Goldwire, but Jones looms as the ’18-’19 starter if Duval does exit after one season.

The next piece in puzzle could be 6-11 Marvin Bagley, currently rated as the No. 1 prospect in high school but just as likely to enter college later this month. He’s interested in Duke, Arizona, Southern Cal and UCLA.

The Blue Devils also are in the running for top-10 wingmen R.J. Barrett (6-6, Montverde, Fla.) and Cameron Reddish (6-8, Norristown, Pa.). Seven-footer Moses Brown (Jamaica, NY) still has Duke on his radar as well.

Meanwhile, Jones’ decision should settle anxious Duke fans, some of whom fear their coach’s continuing medical developments might lead him to retire suddenly. In a statement to ESPN, Jones certainly didn’t come across as a player who expected to be playing for anyone other than Krzyzewski in college.

“Duke’s the best fit. They’ve had a vision for me since they offered me in 2015 … Coach K told me how I could be a great leader,” Jones said.

Krzyzewski won’t be coaching forever, of course. But if the knee rehab goes smoothly, he should be stronger and more comfortable for the near future and as long as so many top high school players still want to play for the Blue Devils, the incentive for him to work on and win on likely will be strong.

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