UK Recruiting

Duke basketball text group could be beginning of another No. 1-ranked recruiting class

With 12 Final Four appearances and five NCAA championships, Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski is the most successful men’s college hoops coach of this generation. Krzyzewski turned 71 in February.
With 12 Final Four appearances and five NCAA championships, Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski is the most successful men’s college hoops coach of this generation. Krzyzewski turned 71 in February. Associated Press

A few months ago, highly touted basketball prospect Joey Baker committed to Duke.

Then, he got to work on the recruiting trail.

Baker — a 6-foot-7 forward from North Carolina, ranked No. 32 nationally in the class of 2019 by Rivals.com — formed a text message group with three other Blue Devils recruiting targets following his commitment, and he’s been helping out Mike Krzyzewski ever since.

One of those targets — five-star post player Isaiah Stewart — revealed the details of the text group during an interview with the Herald-Leader last week at a Nike league event in Indianapolis.

Stewart said that he and Baker are in it, along with top-10 prospect Bryan Antoine and All-America shooting guard Joe Girard, one of Stewart’s teammates on the Nike circuit.

So, it’s safe to assume Baker is trying to sell the uncommitted trio on Duke?

“Oh yeah, for sure,” Stewart said with a smile.

Girard confirmed.

“Joey’s trying to sell us all the time,” he said. “He just tells how great of an atmosphere is at Duke — that there’s nothing like it. And the one time I was there, he’s right. It’s a great atmosphere. There’s just something special there. He’s just trying to tell us that, if all four of us guys go there, we could do something special.”

Baker has since revealed that he will reclassify to 2018 and join the Blue Devils for next season — an announcement he made last week — but there’s no reason to think he’ll be giving up on his recruiting efforts.

Stewart — a 6-9 power forward from Rochester, N.Y. — is ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 10 overall player in the 2019 class. When asked if there’s anyone else in his class he’d like to play alongside in college, he immediately mentioned Girard, who recently jumped to the No. 79 ranking on the Rivals.com board and averaged 50 points per game as a high school junior this past season. Stewart also mentioned Baker and Antoine — the No. 8 player in 2019 rankings — as guys he’d like to team up with.

Antoine — a standout guard from New Jersey — was one of the first players in the 2019 class to earn a scholarship offer from Kentucky, though Duke is widely regarded to be the leader in his recruitment. He didn’t exactly deny it when asked about the Blue Devils last week.

“I hear it all the time,” he told the Herald-Leader. “Duke’s a great school. But I’m really not focused on stuff like that. I’m just trying to finish my AAU season. And once my AAU season is over, then I’ll start considering stuff like that.”

Antoine and Girard both said they will pick a school in time to sign early, during the November period. Stewart is undecided on a commitment date.

After losing out on the recruitment of Zion Williamson, who picked Duke, Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari was asked about UK’s recruiting on Monday.

The existence of this Duke group text follows a template set by the Blue Devils’ No. 1-ranked recruiting class of 2018.

Tre Jones — the top point guard in the class — was the Blue Devils’ first pledge in that one. Top recruit Cam Reddish committed to Duke a couple weeks after Jones.

Krzyzewski then had an in-home visit with Jones and said he was hoping to add No. 1 overall prospect RJ Barrett and top-five recruit Zion Williamson to the class.

Jones told the Herald-Leader a few weeks ago that he created a group text with Reddish, Barrett and Williamson right after that meeting with Coach K.

“We were able to build the bond ever since then,” Jones said. “All four of us just want to win, and so we talked about what we’d be able to do next year, and hopefully that will all end in us winning. We want to play together.”

Reddish and Williamson, of course, later signed with Duke, picking the Blue Devils over UK and others.

Baker’s group text appears to be following the same path. Duke is currently the Crystal Ball leader for Antoine, Girard and Stewart, and they could be the building blocks of the next great Blue Devils’ class.

Duke is also in with 6-10 power forward Vernon Carey — a major UK target and the No. 1 player in the Rivals.com rankings — as well as fellow five-star recruits Wendell Moore and Josiah James.

In fact, the Blue Devils are currently favored on the Crystal Ball pages of all threeof thoseplayers. Stewart mentioned that Duke’s coaches have been pitching him on teaming up in the frontcourt with Carey, something he’s expressed interest in.

“I have a great relationship with Duke. They talk to me pretty much every day,” Stewart said. “They have a great relationship with my family, as well. Things with them are going great.”

Antoine, asked what he’s looking for in a college as he makes his decision, mentioned familiarity with future teammates as a major point.

That could be a major point in Duke’s favor.

“The core guys — the people that come into the school in my year — I’m trying to go with people that I know,” he said. “You know, top players in the country.”

Bryan Antoine 007.jpg
Bryan Antoine is one of the top basketball recruits in the class of 2019. Kelly Kline Under Armour

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