Duke has offered basketball scholarships to 11 players in the class of 2019, and 10 of them are five-star recruits.
Joe Girard III is the lone four-star and isn’t even in the top 100 of players in the class of 2019, according to 247Sports. Girard (6-1, 178) is the No. 115 player in the nation and the 13th best combo guard. Ranked as the No. 4 player in New York, Girard also has a skill set that none of the 10 five-star players with Duke offers can brag about.
Aside from being a sharpshooter who averaged 50 points per game as a junior, Girard can throw a football.
In fact, he’s really good with a football in his hands, throwing for 1,911 yards and 24 touchdowns last season, leading Glens Falls (N.Y.) Senior to a 13-1 record. Girard is so good that several schools are recruiting him for his talents on the basketball court and the football field.
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UMass, Tulane and Penn State have expressed interest in Girard playing both sports. Even Syracuse has hinted at Girard splitting his time between football and basketball. That wouldn’t be new to Orange coach Jim Boeheim, who watched Donovan McNabb briefly play both sports while at Syracuse in the mid-90s. McNabb eventually gave up basketball to focus on football and would go onto become a first-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles and spend 13 seasons in the NFL.
If it works for Boeheim would it work for his good friend, Blue Devils’ coach Mike Krzyzewski? Like Boeheim, it’s not foreign to Krzyzewski after coaching Reggie Love, who came to Duke on a football scholarship and was a basketball walk-on as a freshman. Love was on the roster when the Blue Devils won the 2001 national title and eventually became a team captain.
It’s too early to tell if Girard will do both at Duke like Love -- or, like Love, end up working for a U.S. president - but the rising senior is impressed with the Blue Devils’ program.
“It’s just amazing, it’s a storied program,” Girard said. “If you’re thinking college basketball a lot of times you’re thinking Duke basketball. Just to know my name was in their mouth at one point is just amazing. To get the opportunity to play there and be a Blue Devil is obviously something I’m going to remember forever.”
Girard said football hasn’t come up when he’s talked with the Duke coaches. A name, however, that has come up is Greg Paulus. Paulus played basketball for Krzyzewski from 2005-2009, and after graduating from Duke, played one season of football for Syracuse, starting at quarterback.
Girard, who was named Player of the Year (football) in New York last season, was recruited by Paulus, who has been a basketball assistant at Ohio State, Louisville and now George Washington.
“Greg played football and basketball just like me,” Girard said. “He had offers for football, I have offers for football, so when I get those comparisons it’s usually him, Jimmer Fredette or (Syracuse assistant) Gerry McNamara. If I can be half as good as all three of those guys I will be satisfied with that.”
Girard’s dad, Joseph Girard, Jr., feels like if his son ends up at Duke, then he would be 100 percent committed to just focusing on basketball.
“We understand that, and we get that,” the elder Girard said.
His story is similar to current North Carolina guard Andrew Platek, a rising sophomore for the Tar Heels. Platek, like Girard, is a New York native and played for City Rocks, the same EYBL team Girard suited up for this summer. Platek was a three-star recruit coming out of high school and many wondered where he would fit in coming to an elite program like North Carolina. With a who’s who of five-stars on Kryzewski’s wish list, many ask the same question about Girard, who trains at the same facility as Platek in the off season.
“I think it’s my leadership, my shooting ability, just the way I can score,” Girard responded when ask what made him a target to the Duke staff. “I can lead a team, that’s what they recruited me for, one of those glue guys. They are going to get the one and done and five-star kids, but they need someone to (build) around every year. They have guys coming in and guys leaving so they said I was going to be one of those glue guys, multiple-year guys. They compared me to Quinn Cook, Greg Paulus, Bobby Hurley, just people like that.”
Girard hasn’t reached out to Platek about playing basketball in the Tar Heel state, saying their workout sessions are all about business. However, that doesn’t mean Girard isn’t familiar with how serious fans take basketball in North Carolina.
“It’s just amazing. I would compare it to New York, it’s probably equal,” Girard said. “There are years when North Carolina is better, there are years when New York City is better, it’s just give and take. They always have great players.”
In February Girard became the all-time leading scorer in the history of New York prep basketball. So what’s the secret to averaging 50 points an outing?
“I guess just playing in the right system. I play in the right system for me, and that’s what I have to do in college as well,” Girard said. “Run and jump (defense) and shoot a lot of 3s, like to run and down the court, I think we averaged 89 points. I have the ball in my hands 90 percent of the time so I have the opportunity. The coaches all believe in me and nobody gets jealous, that’s why it has worked out for the best.”