Pencil in Duke as the early frontrunner for the 2015 national championship.
The No. 1 overall recruit in the class of 2014, center Jahlil Okafor, and the top point guard and No. 4 overall recruit, Tyus Jones, simultaneously committed to Duke on an ESPNU broadcast. That puts the Blue Devils in the drivers seat to land the top 2014 class and see the benefits on the floor for the 2014-15 season.
Duke has landed four top-five prospects since ESPN began its top 100 rankings in 2007 forward Kyle Singler (2007, No. 4), point guard Kyrie Irving (2010, No. 3), point guard Austin Rivers (2011, No. 3), forward Jabari Parker (2013, No. 2) and now Okafor and Jones.
Their package deal is believed to be the first among top prospects from different states, and it was something Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski encouraged, Okafor said.
Both Jones and Okafor cited Krzyzewski as a main reason for their decision.
With Duke I felt more comfortable going to play with the winningest coach in college basketball, Okafor said. And me personally getting a chance to help Coach K (win) his 1,000th game that was the tipping point for me.
Neither one had to sell the other, Jones said. They both agreed that was the best fit for them to go and make an impact in their freshman year while also growing as players and people.
Hes a legend, Jones said of Krzyzewski, who hasnt targeted any other point guard in two years, since he first saw Jones as a rising sophomore. He has a great basketball mind, and I feel like I will be able to learn a tremendous amount under him.
With Okafor, a 6-foot-10, 265-pound center from Chicagos Whitney Young High, the Blue Devils have a true center who will demand double teaming in the post (something this years team does not have). He was also AAU teammates on Mac Irvin Fire with current Duke freshman Jabari Parker.
A polished low-post player, hes blessed with a wide body, outstanding hands and the footwork to make a low-post move, ESPNs national recruiting director Paul Biancardi said on the broadcast. The reason hes special in the painted area, because he can make and maintain contact to create those passing angles.
And in Jones, Okafor will have a pass-first point guard to get him the ball. Jones, who stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 175 pounds, hails from suburban Minneapoliss Apple Valley High.
Hes extremely poised, hes extremely mature, and the thing I love about him, he runs a team, ESPN analyst Jay Williams said. He gets everybody involved consistently. And as a point guard, thats the one thing you want. You want everyone to love to play with you.
While current Duke wings Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker will most likely have the opportunity to be high picks in next springs NBA draft, its a near-certainty that Jones and current point guard Quinn Cook will anchor the Blue Devils backcourt next year. Williams, who played at Duke, cited the year he and Chris Duhon played together as evidence that Krzyzewski can work with two talented guards. That resulted in Dukes 2001 National Championship.
The last major recruiting target for Duke this cycle is small forward Justise Winslow, who took his official visit with Okafor and Jones. Stanford and Arizona are also in the mix for the No. 14 overall prospect.
With Jones and Okafor, Duke now has three Class of 2014 commitments, as the pair joined Jacksonville, Fla, shooting guard Grayson Allen.
The commitments from Jones and Okafor, who became close playing for USA basketball, continue an unprecedented run of success for Krzyzewski, 66. First came the 2008 Olympic gold medal in Beijing. Then there was the 2010 National Championship, his fourth. He won Olympic gold again in 2012 in London, and has as good of chance as any coach to reach the next two Final Fours and beyond.