Over the course of the last 5 or 6 years, coincident with the dreaded Tar Holes’ resurgence to national prominence, Duke has suffered an unprecedented number of recruiting disappointments or “whiffs”, from big names like Greg Monroe, Brandan Wright and Patrick Patterson to lesser known but potentially vital players like Greg Echenique and Kenny Boynton. Many in the fan base have blamed this on Coach K’s involvement with the U.S. National Team, and subsequent shouldering of the recruiting load by Mssrs. Wojo and Collins. Whatever the case, it was clear that the strategy they were employing was no longer working and that a change was in order.
For the most part, that strategy consisted of an all-the-eggs-in-one-basket approach, where Duke would take its time to vet a number of players at a given position, and then offer one player from that group a scholarship. This sort of elite approach was great because it lent value and prestige to the scholarship offer and allowed the 2 parties to form a solid relationship. Great, that is, provided that the recruit said yes (which, for a large part of K’s career they have). If they decided to go elsewhere, however, it left Duke scrambling to find a replacement. This often meant taking fourth or fifth options ( since the other choices had often already committed elsewhere) and led to a bevy of transfers, as non-Duke caliber players realized just how little playing time they were actually going to see.
Now, Duke seems to be utilizing a “wide-net” approach, actually extending scholarship offers to several players at one position of need, like Tyler Thornton and Kyrie irving or like Quincy Miller and Michael Gbinije for 2011-2012. With that kind of sea change at work, it isn’t altogether surprising to see Duke trying a little something different by looking to the Junior College ranks for the first time and inviting Carrick Felix, an uber-athletic wing from Southern Idaho Junior College, for an official recruiting visit. It’s hard to say whether this in and of itself marks a shift in strategy - after all, Coach K’s first (inbound) transfer, Roshown McCloud, has, in the decade since, been followed by only one other transfer. And, after all, the reason kids go to JUCOs in the first place is because they didn’t academically qualify to play D-1 coming out of high school, which de facto takes them out of consideration for Duke. It does seem to indicate that K and his staff are willing to comtemplate different methodologies for tackling issues that arise as the years progress (like K’s willingness to try Zone D in recent years, for instance). From a fan perspective this is really refreshing to see, and gives one confidence that, whatever bumps the program may encounter, the guy at the top is willing to tackle them in more than one way , especially when that way isn’t working.
Now, if we could just convince him to play his bench…