On Monday, Wendell Carter Jr. turned the Duke exit wave into a full wipeout. The freshman center joined three of his freshmen teammates in declaring for the NBA Draft. With Grayson Allen graduating, Mike Krzyzewski’s entire starting lineup from a season ago is now gone.
Around these parts, we have become accustomed to such scenarios. Kentucky Coach John Calipari has lived off five-star prospects who succeed and proceed to the NBA green room. In recent years, however, Coach K has paddled the same high-stakes waters. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Dating back to Corey Maggette in 1999, Carter is the 16th Dukie to stamp himself one-and-done. The trend has escalated quickly. Eleven of the 16 have left over the past four years. Seven have left in the past two, including Carter, Marvin Bagley, Gary Trent Jr. and Trevon Duval this year.
By comparison, Calipari has had 23 one-and-dones at Kentucky, including six the past two seasons. Make that “at least” six, since PJ Washington could join Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Hamidou Diallo this year.
Like Kentucky, most Duke player moves have paid off. Jabari Parker was chosen No. 2 overall in 2014. Jahlil Okafor went No. 3 in 2015; Brandon Ingram No. 2 in 2016; Jayson Tatum No. 3 and Harry Giles No. 10 last year.
So how do Blue Devils fans feel about this? While a majority of Kentucky fans celebrate Calipari’s recruiting success, a slice has grown weary of the annual roster turnover. Does the same hold true at Duke?
“This is the constant back-and-forth on our message board that has played out since the 2015 season,” said Adam Rowe, co-publisher of TheDevilsDen.com, a Duke fan site. “There is a faction that has a backup quarterback syndrome affliction who feels that there is some sort of causation to the correlation of Duke adding multiple one-and-dones in a class that causes them to have issues during the regular season and into the tournament. There is another faction that understands Duke does and will always go after the best talent and they’re actually getting it recently.”
When it comes to Duke and Kentucky, Rowe sees similarities beyond crowded trophy cases.
“For programs like Duke and Kentucky, where it’s championship-or-bust every year, there will always be a section of the fan base looking for the easy answer to that specific season’s problems,” he said. “But the truth, as always, lies somewhere in between. Each season lives on its own, and each game in the single-elimination NCAA Tournament does, too.”
To Rowe, the secret sauce for success is based on the following factors: Elite point guard play, talented starting five, suitable depth, leadership and strong coaching.
“There are ways to make up for deficiencies in either area,” he said, “but saying that Duke or Kentucky can’t have success with a freshman-dominated lineup ignores Duke in 2015 and Kentucky in 2014 and 2015.”
I sense a generational divide. Older fans are more likely to complain about the one-and-done culture than younger ones.
“I could see that,” Rowe said, “but don’t really know the age of most of the people speaking about the topic. However, when someone is blasting the one-and-done strategy they are usually fondly recalling ‘the good old days’ when guys stuck around for more than a year.”
Plus, fans now have more avenues to voice their complaints — radio talk shows, message boards, Twitter, Facebook.
“People are venting in these forums and they’re looking for something to let off steam about,” Rowe said. “When Duke wasn’t getting the best recruits, fans were complaining that Coach K was spending too much time with USA Basketball and therefore couldn’t bring in the elite guys to compete with UNC, who was tearing through early entrants at the pace you now see Duke and UK do.”
After all, it’s always about next year. Scouting services rank Duke as boasting the No. 1 recruiting class for 2018-19. Kentucky is close behind at No. 2. Looks like we’ll be having this same debate this time next year.
Kentucky and Duke one-and-dones
Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Hamidou Diallo
Marvin Bagley, Wendell Carter Jr., Trevon Duval, Gary Trent Jr.
Bam Adebayo, De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk
Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles, Frank Jackson
Jamal Murray, Skal Labissiere
Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker, Trey Lyles
Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow, Tyus Jones
Julius Randle, James Young
Nerlens Noel, Archie Goodwin
Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marquis Teague
John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, Daniel Orton