Thursday, August 17, 2017

David Duke Talks Providence, Final Five

One of the primary questions enveloping David Duke's recruitment is a question most incoming senior prospects must eventually entertain.

 Every playmaker at Duke's level, every kid who eventually evolves into a hotly-pursued recruit nationally, must answer it.

Should I stay close to home or go elsewhere?

Soon enough, Duke could decide to leave the cozy confines of his home city. Or, he could stay and embrace the homegrown star role.

Currently one of the most highly regarded late-blooming point guards remaining in the Class of 2018,  Duke is very much representative of his home state of Rhode Island.

The two-way guard has developed a tight bond with the Providence coaching staff. Of course, his homeland is emblematic of the support system he's established as a talented and uber-athletic guard.

Yet there is the allure and undeniable pull of higher-profile programs which traditionally produce top-shelf, NBA-bound guards.

"Ultimately, I think my decision is going to come down to my feel for the school," said Duke, who has trimmed a long list down to five.

"It's also going to come down to who is recruiting me the hardest and who will contribute the most to my player development. Really, how well I fall into place there is important."

Duke added to his offensive arsenal this summer, incorporating a once-lacking mid-range and deep jumper.

"I've always been told that's been one of my weak points and an area I could do better in," said Duke, referring to his shooting ability.

"So I wanted to show I could do a little more than just score on the drive. I worked a lot on it and really tried to improve on it as the summer progressed."

Yes, Ed Cooley and the Friars bolstered their chances tremendously in gaining a commitment from A.J. Reeves.

 A four-star small forward with a wealth of scoring tools and bouncy athleticism,  Reeves chose Providence over Virginia, Villanova, and Louisville. Reeves, Duke's teammate on Mass Rivals AAU, possesses the star clout to instantly raise the profile of the program.

Duke, who has blossomed into one of the country's elite on-the-ball defenders, has narrowed his choices down to Providence, Florida, Villanova, Indiana, and Virginia Tech.

He made this final five official recently. Providence has been there early and often,  albeit Florida and Villanova have appeared to up their ante in recent moments.

 Duke described all five as even, with each program trying to gain the upper hand over the other four.

"Jay Wright was at a lot of games during the course of the summer," said Mass Rivals AAU coach Vin Pastore, who has coached Duke, A.J. Reeves, and Providence commit Makai Ashton-Langford these past few years.

"Sometimes location can work for you and sometimes it could work against you. With David, I think the kid is fond of his home state. He's fond of the coaching staff. The real question is, does he want to stay that close to home? I think Providence has put a whole lot of time into him. It's no secret. They've surely got some competition. Villanova has a reputation for having some of the best guards in the country."

Duke cited his relationship with the coaching staff and the Friars' consistency throughout the process as  pivotal factors.

"I mean they've put in a lot of effort," Duke said of the potential next door destination.

"Them being at almost every AAU game of mine, being at my home games and away games, it pretty much shows they've prioritized me and it means a lot. Right now, I don't have any visits set. All of the (five) programs are pretty much moving at the same pace. Now that I've narrowed it down to five, each school is really trying to do something extra to get me over there."

Long, heady, and capable of tearing into the teeth of the defense and finishing with either hand acrobatically, Duke has authored quite the summer.

He proved himself as a vastly improved defensive presence in both Italy and at the prestigious NBPA Top 100 camp.

Duke also converted turnovers into fast break buckets as effectively as anyone at the camp, which took place at the University of Virginia. Duke's ball handling, bolt-quick first step, and finishing ability were all on display throughout.

"He's continued to develop as a lead guard and when you put his upside into the equation, I think he's as good a prospect as anyone in the country in that position," said Pastore, whose club went 13-6 while playing a schedule rife with national powers this summer.

"In today's game he's a point guard that is a huge threat to score the basketball, which is very much aligned with today's NBA guys. Yet what continues to separate David from most of his peers is the fact that he's elite on both sides of the ball. He showed a great knack for being able to get steals, tipping balls, and making plays this summer. The fact that he was the guy with the ball in his hands all the time, it showed he could initiate and get people involved and also go score a bucket when he needs to."

Duke depicted it as an up-and-down summer, with his defensive acumen and drastically improved confidence shooting the ball showing out in the end.

"At first, playing overseas (in Italy) I really had to adjust to a different type of style," Duke recalled. "I struggled a little bit in South Carolina. But the next weekend in Florida, I played really well and just got my confidence back 100 percent. I think I finished out strong, I'd say I played good on defense and was able to show how I can impact the game on that end."