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Duke Recruiting: How would Xavier Booker fit in the 2023 Class?

There will be fierce competition for the fast rising big man

Syndication: The Indianapolis Star
Cathedral High School’s Xavier Booker (34) defends as Lawrence North High School’s CJ Gunn (4) takes a shot on Wednesday, March 3, 3021, during sectional play at Indianapolis’ Arsenal Tech High School.
Robert Scheer/IndyStar via Imagn Content Services, LLC

With five of 247 Sports’ Top 25 2023 recruits committed, it would have been reasonable to think Duke’s Jon Scheyer had already finalized his second recruiting class. That changed when Duke offered Xavier Booker last week in the hopes of securing a sixth member of what could be a historic group.

Until that point, Booker’s recruitment was a largely mid-western affair, with Michigan State seen as the favorite for his services (Spartan fans see him in the mold of Jaren Jackson Jr., who impressed in his one year at Michigan State before excelling in the NBA alongside Ja Morant in Memphis), and Indiana, Ohio State, and Illinois also pursuing him strongly. But the landscape of Booker’s recruitment changed when he rocketed up the 2023 rankings, including jumping a seemingly unprecedented 87 slots in 247 rankings to be the No. 4 player in his class.

One might understandably ask how Booker would fit with the 2023 Blue Devils given the likely glut of talent at the power forward position. There’s a non-zero chance either or both of Kyle Filipowski and Mark Mitchell could be sophomores on the 2023-24 squad, while Duke already has commitments from power forwards Mackenzie Mgbako (himself a Top 5 recruit) and Sean Stewart (another huge riser up the recruiting rankings, now 247’s No. 11 recruit in the nation). Both Mitchell and Mgbako are versatile enough that they could play more as an oversized wing, with Mgbako in particular projecting as a small forward at the NBA level. Even still, that would leave Booker seemingly competing with Stewart, at minimum, for minutes at power forward.

The Booker offer makes more sense if the Duke staff views him as someone who can play center in college, especially considering that has been a conspicuous hole in the 2023 class. Booker is 6-foot-10 and reportedly still growing, and while he’s primarily been scouted as a perimeter big, evaluators are noting his improving defensive ability at the rim and ability to rebound in traffic and room to put weight on his currently skinny frame. If Booker continues to grow, he may be more valuable to NBA teams as a stretch-5 than a stretch-4.

And by all reports that’s what Booker is: a stretch big. That’s exactly what he told “I’m a stretch-big. I can shoot the ball, stretch the floor, bring the ball up the court, take my defender off the dribble, and facilitate. I’ve gotten stronger recently, which has built my confidence in my game. I like watching Giannis Antetekoumpo, how he creates contact, Kevin Durant with his ball-handling, and how he creates off the bounce.” Booker may not project as an NBA center, but his height alone makes him a viable option there at the college level.

With Ryan Young likely to be a sixth-year senior on the 2023 team, Booker could conceivably split time at the 5 with the experienced and more traditional center, while also getting minutes at the 4. The pair could form a three-man rotation with Stewart at the two big positions while freeing up Mgbako to create mismatches as a wing. The question, though, would be how Booker would hold up defensively in the ACC, especially since Young is also not known as a defensive stalwart.

Regardless, Scheyer has shown an ability to convince top talent to come to Durham regardless of apparent positional conflicts (see the commitments of Caleb Foster and Tyrese Proctor, both of whom project as point guards at the NBA level, in the 2023 class). For his part, Booker seems authentically interested, telling On3 before the offer that, “They should come in and offer soon; at least, that is what I am hoping. I mean, it’s Duke.”

If Scheyer can pull this coup, he’ll have secured a promising and versatile modern big to compliment an influx of perimeter talent in the 2023 class; the fact that he’ll be stealing a perceived Michigan State lean to do so would be icing on the proverbial cake.