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Alex O’Connell gives Duke a great start to 2017


The Duke Blue Devils are bringing in a lauded group of freshmen for the 2016-’17 season. That’s all fine and dandy, but the assumption is that many of those talents are one-and-dones. Basically, it means Mike Krzyzewski has dipped his toes into normally John Calipari-dominated waters. Tremendously gifted recruiting classes are swell and all, but a lock-and-reload mentality is needed to sustain success.

Welcome, Alex O’Connell. The Duke basketball program shall embrace you with all its warm, tender, and loving care.

O’Connell becomes the first commitment of the 2017 class for the Blue Devils. ESPN has the 6-6 shooting guard ranked as the 88th-best prospect of his class.

This is obviously great news for Duke.

Yes, we can continue to pay attention to the upcoming season and all its potential promises of greatness, but that’s shortsighted. The aforementioned comparison to the Kentucky Wildcats and Calipari is genuinely in play here.

Big Blue Nation can ill afford to rest on its laurels. One great recruiting class of McDonald’s All-Americans is swell, but recruiting that way brings substantial roster turnover to a program. Churn and volatility enter the discussion. The quality of each year’s class has to stay ahead of that volatility.

This can now also be applied to Duke. Say whatever you want about Coach K adopting Cal’s one-and-done approach — as there are some “righteous” people who think one is doing it more (morally) correctly than the other, even magically — but the Blue Devils are going to be in this unforgiving position until Vampire K hangs up the whistle.

Considering many other power programs have already had a solid jump on the 2017 class, it was vital for Duke to strike at some point. Not only does it help that the Blue Devils landed a four-star recruit, but it highlights — at least to some small degree — that top-tier high school recruits believe Krzyzewski will be around for another full school cycle.

Even if not totally accurate, the mere perception of that — which O’Connell must believe since he committed — can make recruiting other four-to-five-star prospects easier down the road.

“They checked all the boxes for me,” O’Connell said to Scout, who broke the news. “The basketball opportunity, it’s in the ACC and the coaching staff. My dad, Julian Barfield and I feel very comfortable and it’s like a home away from home. Playing for Coach K, the strength of schedule and the NBA exposure, Duke has it all.”

Essentially, at least in the eyes of the now committed player, Duke still “has it” — though it is worth noting that very few believe the program actually “lost it.” Then again, with Coach K getting a bit longer in the tooth, an inevitable decline has to be expected at some point… but not now.

Circling back to the young man himself, O’Connell is actually a legacy player. His old man, Dave O’Connell, played for the Blue Devils from 1973 to 1976.

Alex’s skill set checks off all the prototypical Duke-related boxes one would expect. He has a smug looking face (kidding — KIDDING), and reportedly has some swag to his game (this part is not a joke).

It is also worth noting that grassroots folks believe he is a solid perimeter player with surprising athleticism who can add toughness to Duke. Sounds familiar, right? It calls to mind nearly every other Duke player in the history of the program.

Obviously, this is a relatively big get for Duke. Having zero commitments in the 2017 class prior to this wasn’t a great look. When you couple the kid’s commitment with the fact that many see him as a rising star — meaning that by the time this season is over, he will be projected far higher than No. 88 in the class — the Blue Devils are on track to keep on keeping on.

It’s amazing when you think about it. Duke offered this kid on a Wednesday, and it took him only a whopping two days to accept the scholarship.

Guess that means the supposedly aging Coach K does indeed have more things in common with Mel Gibson than the naked eye would lead us to believe…

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Alex O’Connell gives Duke a great start to 2017

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