There's a lot of buzz about the proposed package deal of Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor, and Duke is definitely in the mix. And for any of the schools, it's hard not to be excited or, barring that, nervous anyway.
Okafor is not just physically advanced, he has serious post skills. He's been called the most promising and skilled center prospect in 20 years. At 6-10 and 265, he is a load in the paint. The biggest complaint anyone has had about him is that he could be in better shape but so could almost every high school kid.
Jones has been compared to Jason Kidd, and if you remember a younger Jason Kidd, that's very high praise. Kidd was unbelievably smart and in many ways was the model for point guards. He had almost no interest in scoring; we remember watching in the Olympics when he would give the ball up to a teammate on the break and keep the other guys happy.
Actually, Dennis Rodman was a bit like that with rebounding. He just wanted to catch it; he was happy to let other guys score.
If Jones has that kind of game he's going to be really impressive. What we like is that everyone compliments his intelligence. Point guards can really take a team to a new level. Think of Kenny Anderson in college, Bobby Hurley, Jason Williams, Chris Duhon as a senior, Jon Scheyer...if you want to go back a bit think of Ernie DiGregorio, a talent whose injuries robbed us of greatness. He was a brilliant, brilliant player who could pass through a whole team.
Anyway, they have a lot of thinking to do yet. If they do pick Duke though, it's going to be a great day in Durham.
That leads to another really interesting question: who had the biggest reaction when they announced for Duke? Not the best career or best rankings. Who generated the most excitement?
To us there are two primary candidates: Gene Banks and Danny Ferry.
Ferry's recruitment was a huge battle with UNC and Dean Smith at the peak of his career. Winning that battle was huge not just for Coach K but for maintaining the level of the program he established in the early '80s.
As big as that was, though, Banks was a bolt out of the blue.
In 1977, there were three dominant players: Banks, Albert King and some guy from Michigan named Magic. Schools like UNC, UCLA, Maryland, Notre Dame and a handful of others were seen as the prime suitors.
Duke? A total afterthought. So when Bill Foster managed to get Gene Banks' attention, and then to have the audacity to actually sign him, well, it was huge. Ticket sales went through the roof.
It's hard to imagine now, but in the '70s, you had no trouble getting tickets. As a matter of fact, UNC fans got plenty of them for the Carolina game.
Banks changed all of that, in record time. It was an unprecedented turnaround in spirit and expectations.
Of course, for all we know (Al Featherston could probably tell us) the commitment of Bill Bradley, before he changed his mind, might have been more intense. Think of it: Duke would have had the first triplets, years before Arkansas's: Bradley, Jeff Mullins and then, quite late in the process, Art Heyman, who was heading to UNC before changing his mind and picking Duke.
Heyman and Mullins helped to put Duke in a different orbit like Banks would do in the '70s; with Bradley, they would have challenged UCLA and Ohio State for dominance.
Of course, the real game changer came in 1980, and with a good bit of skepticism: Coach Who? As we now know, hiring Mike Krzyzewski was the biggest and most transformative move in the history of Duke athletics. You could make an argument for Wallace Wade, but we'd say K has proven to be more important.