Friar Basketball

David Duke Down to 5

David Duke Final 5

David Duke — ESPN’s 54th ranked recruit in the class of 2018, and quite possibly Providence’s top remaining recruit for the upcoming season — has narrowed his list down to five.

Providence is among the finalists, joining a list that includes Villanova, Florida, Indiana, and Virginia Tech.

We’ve covered Duke extensively in this space, but for those in need of a refresher, he is a 6’3 point guard from Providence who transferred to Cushing Academy last season. It was at Cushing where Duke’s game and national reputation took off.

He was named 2nd Team All NEPSAC in March, as he and league player of the year Wabissa Bede led Cushing to the Class AA championship. Duke scored 16 points in the title game against Tilton.

A week later Duke scored 21 points to lead Cushing to a victory in the first round of the New England Recruiting Report’s prep national title — a 77-70 win over Fork Union Military Academy — before falling to Putnam Science to close out their season.

Since the conclusion of the prep season Duke has received several honors, including an invitation to the NBA Top 100 Camp.

“It was a blessing,” Duke told the New England Recruiting Report when asked about the Top 100 Camp.

“When I heard I was invited, it was a true sign of my progress and a reward for all the work I’ve been putting in these past few years. I knew it would be a great opportunity to learn from the current and former NBA players on the Top-100 staff and also give me a chance to show what I can do.”

More recently, Duke was one of three New Englanders selected to play for the United States at Adidas Nations last week. Duke joined fellow Mass Rivals product and 2018 Providence commit AJ Reeves on USA Blue, averaging just shy of 10 points per game while making 43% from 3-point range (Reeves scored over nine points per game himself).

I had the opportunity to watch Duke a half dozen times at Cushing, and here is what I wrote in a Closer Look article earlier this year:

Firsthand Impressions:

This weekend I saw Duke play for the fifth time this season when Cushing rolled past Exeter. A member of Providence’s staff has been at each of those games, with the exception of when PC was in Milwaukee playing Marquette.

Duke was the best player on the floor when Cushing defeated Brimmer and May at the Zero Gravity Prep Classic in early December, and the same could be said in a win over fellow Providence native (and top-60 2017 small forward) Kimani Lawrence and New Hampton a couple of weeks later.

He was slowed a bit by an injured ankle when Craig Leighton and I watched him at the National Prep School Invitational, but by that point the secret was out. Duke is on his way to going from unranked to a potential top-50 prospect in the class of 2018. He reclassified before this season, so there were questions regarding whether or not he would return to the class of 2017 this spring, but with his stock continuing to rise it would be surprising to see him return to ’17.

Duke has a wicked crossover and is a well above average jump shooter. His athleticism leaps out, especially for a potential point guard at the next level. He finishes high above the rim. More subtly, Duke is comfortable doing things with his left hand. Not many young prospects pass effectively with their off-hand, but Duke does so, and on two or three occasions this season I’ve seen him try to dunk on bigger opponents with his left hand.

With Bede running the show at Cushing, Duke is playing off of the ball for most stretches this season, but he can play either guard spot.

The Bottom Line: Providence continues to pursue Duke heavily, led by assistant coach Brian Blaney. Blaney was in attendance this past weekend, and when Cushing played against New Hampton at Babson College in December. Ed Cooley and Jeff Battle joined Blaney at the Zero Gravity Classic in early December, and the entire staff sat behind Cushing’s bench at January’s National Prep School Invitational when Cushing defeated Rivers and Villanova commit Jermaine Samuels. Those were just the games that I was in attendance for.

The competition will only grow for Duke, as evidenced by a recent offer from Kansas. The Mass Rivals AAU program has seen several of its players explode nationally, most notably Wenyen Gabriel, who broke out in the summer of 2015 before committing to Kentucky, and Bede in 2016. PC was the first high major to offer Gabriel and made his final list of five before he opted for Kentucky.

2018 will be a critical class for Cooley and his staff. Cooley has a pair of highly regarded big men in 7’0 Dajour Dickens and top-100 power forward Nate Watson coming in next season. Now the challenge is adding the guards to complement them. It can’t hurt that Duke is a Providence native, but he also hasn’t provided any indication that he’d like to stay home.

A dream scenario for Cooley would be adding a pair of Mass Rivals teammates in 2018, as PC is battling hard for top-50 scorer AJ Reeves of Brimmer and May. Getting either would be a tremendous coup.

Providence already locked down Reeves in June, and if Duke were to commit, the Friars would be well on their way to a top 20 class nationally in 2018.

Twitter: @Kevin_Farrahar


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