Friar Basketball

David Duke’s Time is Here

Duke and Reeves Boston Globe

The upcoming season will be the ninth year of, and in that time nothing has exploded like the night David Duke committed to Providence.

Duke’s rise from a relatively unheralded star at Classical High School in Providence to a program-altering prospect was meteoric. The story of his commitment blew up to the extent that it did because it was about so much more than just an elite recruit coming to PC — it felt like the final step in Ed Cooley’s restoration of this program.

Early in his tenure, Cooley spoke of building the program brick by brick. It has been a long climb back to this point. From winning a Big East title to appearing in five straight NCAA tournaments to upgrading the facilities on campus, Providence was finally providing answers to the questions that dogged the program for the past two decades.

And while Cooley built the foundation, Kris Dunn provided the blueprint. It’s no coincidence that after Dunn graduated from Providence as a two-time Big East Player of the Year and a top five pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, the Friars recruiting fortunes in recruiting New England natives shifted so dramatically.

With a strong core already in place, Cooley nabbed three top 50 recruits from New England in a six month span. Duke was the final piece of a tantalizing roster on paper, and his massive talent, the potential of this roster, and his being a homegrown product was almost too much for Friartown to handle on the night of his commitment.

It was as though seven years of building came together on that Friday night in October. Dunn tweeted to him that night and said Providence is a place where he could be anything he wanted to be. Ben Bentil added that Friartown would help him grow tremendously as a player and a man.

The excitement apparently wasn’t limited to the fanbase.

So, what is Providence getting in David Duke?

Both the development of his game and his rise in the national rankings have been lightning fast. Providence became the first high major school to offer Duke a scholarship in May 2016. A few months prior he helped lead Classical to a state title and held offers from Brown and Bryant.

He transferred to Cushing Academy the following fall, and a month into that season word was out. UConn and Florida came calling in January, and the likes of Villanova, Syracuse, and Kansas were in by February.

Duke’s first season at Cushing was a success both personally and from a team perspective. Playing mainly off of the ball while Virginia Tech commit Wabissa Bede ran the point, Duke proved to be a defensive menace — long, athletic, strong, and aggressive. He had not been billed as the type of above the rim talent that he quickly showed at Cushing on the offensive end. He aggressively tried to throw down on people and shot it better than I had heard from deep.

Cushing took home the NEPSAC Class AA title in Duke’s first season of prep ball.

The keys were handed to him in year two. Cushing wasn’t as deep, experienced, or athletic as the year prior, but they made a run to the NEPSAC semifinals before falling to a St. Andrew’s team featuring a pair of elite players in Villanova commit Cole Swider and Syracuse pledge Brycen Goodine.

Duke was clutch in his final high school game — knocking down a pair of monstrous 3-pointers in the final three minutes, with the second one tying the game with just over two minutes to play.

While much will be made of Duke’s tremendous athletic ability, he has more subtle abilities that could make him elite. He’s capable of throwing 50 foot passes with his left hand and he is a good finisher with his off-hand as well. Like Dunn, he projects as a force on the defensive end — one who plays passing lanes well and, at times, completely befuddled young point guards at the prep level.

His experience at Cushing should pay early dividends. Not only was Duke in an elite league, but he spent full seasons playing both off of the ball and running the show.

Despite his youth, there is a very good chance Duke is on the floor at crunch time early — both due to his defensive ability and his consistency at the free throw line.

Versatility will be the name of the game this year in Providence, and with Duke’s size, athleticism and skill set, he’ll be a critical component of this team from the start.

Cooley promised to build it brick by brick, and in Duke he has a pillar.

Twitter: Kevin_Farrahar

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