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Duke Recruiting: Does Mookie Cook Fit in 2023?

Plus, JP Estrella is inching closer to becoming a Blue Devil

Syndication: Arizona Republic
AZ Compass Prep varsity basketball player, junior, Kylan Boswell, 23, and junior, Mookie Cook, 1, practice at the AZ Compass Prep gymnasium the week of the Hoophall West tournament Az Compass Basketball.
Megan Mendoza/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

We don’t know much about how Jon Scheyer will coach the Blue Devils in games this fall, but if it’s anything like how he recruits he should be relentless.

That’s certainly how he’s pursuing the final pieces in his 2023 class, a group that many thought might be cemented quickly after early commitments from consensus 5*s MacKenzie Mgbako and Sean Stewart, plus top guards Caleb Foster and Jared McCain. Now, it’s looking more and more likely that 4* center JP Estrella, who is rising quickly up the recruiting rankings, may soon become the fifth member of the class: he recently picked up a third “Crystal Ball” prediction for Duke, and will reportedly visit the Blue Devils at the end of the month. If Estrella wants to make his decision before his senior season begins, as reported by Andrew Slater, all the momentum appears headed towards Durham.

But even that may not satisfy the Scheyer recruiting machine. The newest name of interest is Mookie Cook, a player ranked among the Top 10 in his class by most recruiting services. Cook committed to Oregon back in March, but reopened his recruitment at the end of June. While Duke was not one of Cook’s original suitors, Scheyer quickly made it a point to attend his debut at the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL).

The 6-foot-8 small forward has the length to be a plus defender and has the reputation as someone who hustles and plays team basketball. While he’s shown potential as a deep shooter, Cook has yet to showcase a consistent offensive game. But he’s a well-rounded young man, who later this summer will play a young LeBron James for the upcoming film “Shooter Stars.”

As is to be expected, all the usual suspects have jumped back in to Cook’s recruitment, which begs the question of how he would fit at Duke. Assuming Estrella ends up in Durham, Duke’s incoming class could conceivably see the floor together: Foster at the point, McCain as a shooting guard, Mgbako on the other wing, Stewart as a power forward, and Estrella at center. If Cook can further refine his outside shot and the footspeed to defend opposing guards, he could slot in as an oversized “2” (like Wendell Moore often was last season, and how Dariq Whitehead may be used this year) alongside Mgbako, who has a bigger body but the developed perimeter shot that makes him an ideal bigger wing or stretch 4.

This would relegate McCain to a sharpshooter’s role off the bench, a role that may better fit his status as a 4* recruit who projects as a multi-year player given his lack of positional size (McCain stands 6-foot-2). However, McCain was amongst the most impressive players at the NBPA Top 100 camp, including showcasing lead-guard skills. If McCain continues his ascent during his final high school season, he may demand significant minutes as soon as he steps foot in Durham.

This creates a conundrum: if Cook projects more as a traditional small forward, or McCain earns significant minutes at shooting guard, Cook might be competing with fellow Top-10 prospect Mgbako for minutes as the traditional small forward. And none of this considers the minutes that potential returnees like Jeremy Roach, Tyrese Proctor, and Jaden Schutt would demand on the perimeter.

In short, at first glance it might appear that there might be too many cooks in Duke’s perimeter kitchen in 2023. That said, Scheyer hasn’t shied away from a recruiting battle yet in his tenure, even when there’s apparent positional overlap. Cook is talented enough that his presence would improve Duke’s 2023 squad, even if the fit isn’t immediately apparent.