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Duke Recruiting: Duke Vs. UNC On The Trail

Plus, what this might mean for 2023 target TJ Power

Syndication: Worcester Telegram
Worcester Academy’s TJ Power takes the ball to the hoop after getting past Cushing Academy’s Chase Ross.
Photo/Steve Lanava / USA TODAY NETWORK

Jon Scheyer has put the world on notice that his debut recruiting class was no fluke, with a 2023 haul that is on track to compete for the top group in the country. TJ Power, considered by some services to be a 5* forward, appears to be Scheyer’s primary target to round out the class. And his decision could be coming sooner rather than later, with Power expected to make a decision at some point in September.

What’s fascinating is that Power’s recruitment could come down to a Tobacco Road battle, with Duke perceived as the favorite in his recruitment but UNC not too far behind. So that begs the question, what have the historical trends been when Duke and North Carolina battle head-to-head for recruits?

On3’s Jamie Shaw had a similar question, and dug into the last 10 years of recruiting data to find out. And while one must take the results with a grain of salt given the recent coaching changes at both programs, the trends notably point towards Duke’s shade of blue.

Over the last 10 recruiting cycles, the Blue Devils have pulled off an impressive feat of recruiting victories over their rival. In those years, Duke has signed 21 players also offered scholarships by North Carolina. In contrast, the Tar Heels have signed just seven players also offered by Duke. Duke has signed at least one player also coveted by North Carolina in each of the past 10 years, while the Tar Heels have pulled off the feat in only five of ten years.

These battles include some notable pickups for Duke in recent years. UNC offered both Dereck Lively and Mark Mitchell in the class of 2022, and Lively visited Chapel Hill; however, both Lively and Mitchell will wear Duke blue this fall. The Tar Heels also offered both Paolo Banchero and Trevor Keels in 2021. In fact, the most recent direct recruiting battle won by North Carolina was Walker Kessler in 2020, although that was arguably swayed by the fact that Duke had already secured it’s top big man target, Mark Williams, in that recruiting cycle.

What this means for Power is anyone’s guess given the ever-shifting landscape of college sports. Power has emphasized academics as a main factor in his recruitment, an obvious Duke strength. But with Scheyer yet to coach his first game, how he’s selling Power on his other focuses (mainly, freedom and versatility on offense) is unknown.

The factor that may benefit North Carolina is immediate playing time. At Duke, Power would likely be behind fellow 2023 recruits Mackenzie Mgbako and Sean Stewart on the depth chart at the forward positions. Meanwhile, the Tar Heel roster beyond this year is expected to be more fluid, with major attrition expected after this season and no forwards currently secured in the 2023 class.

Regardless, we should know the outcome of this latest data point in the Duke vs. UNC recruiting saga in the coming weeks.