Duke men’s basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski has announced the first two members of the Blue Devils’ 2021 freshman class with the signing of ESPN top-10 players Paolo Banchero and AJ Griffin.
Banchero, a 6-9 power forward from O’Dea High School in Seattle, Wash., is ranked as the No. 3 overall prospect in the class of 2021 by ESPN.
“We’re ecstatic about Paolo and his family joining our Duke family,” said Krzyzewski. “We believe that Paolo is a position-less player, although most believe that because he’s big, he’s a big guy. He is a fantastic basketball player with a very high I.Q. – in basketball and off the court. He is the ultimate team player.”
Griffin, a 6-7 small forward from Archbishop Stepinac in White Plains, N.Y., is ranked as the No. 9 overall prospect in the class by ESPN. Duke is currently the nation’s only program with multiple top-10 players in the 2021 class.
“AJ committed to us a long time ago,” said Coach K. “It’s been a dream of his to be a Blue Devil and it’s a dream of ours to have him in our program. He’s an outstanding basketball player that is also an elite-level athlete. He defies one position, and physically he’s ready to play right away. AJ is a very strong player, he’s fun to play with and we’re excited to have him and his family in our program.”
The Blue Devils, who have finished first or second in each of ESPN’s class rankings since 2014, are looking to extend that streak to eight consecutive seasons.
Paolo Banchero – 6-9 – 235 – Power Forward – Seattle, Wash. – O’Dea HS
- A five-star power forward
- Ranked as the No. 3 overall player in ESPN 100’s rankings for the class of 2021
- Ranked No. 1 in the state of Washington and No. 1 at his position (center) in the ESPN 100
- Named the Washington Boys Basketball Gatorade Player of the Year as a junior
- Became the sixth Duke commit in the past decade to earn MaxPreps Junior Player of the Year honors (Austin Rivers – 2010; Jabari Parker – 2012; Jayson Tatum – 2015; Zion Williamson – 2017; Vernon Carey Jr. – 2018)
- Averaged 22.6 points, 11.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.6 blocks per game his junior season at O’Dea
- Took part in the USA Basketball Men’s Junior National Team minicamp in July of 2019
- Also played quarterback for the O’Dea football team
- Will be Duke’s first player from the state of Washington since Quin Snyder (Mercer Island) in 1986-89
- Committed to Duke on August 4, 2020
- Chose the Blue Devils over Kentucky, North Carolina and Gonzaga, among others
AJ Griffin – 6-7 – 210 – Forward – White Plains, N.Y. – Archbishop Stepinac HS
- A five-star small forward
- Ranked as the No. 9 overall player in ESPN 100’s rankings for the class of 2021
- Also ranked No. 1 in the state of New York and the No. 1 small forward in the ESPN 100
- Won a gold medal with Team USA at the 2019 FIBA Americas U16 Championship, averaging 13.5 points and a team-high 3.3 steals per game in six contests
- Averaged 17.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.6 steals per game in 12 appearances his junior season at Archbishop Stepinac
- His father, Adrian Griffin, played 10 seasons in the NBA and is currently an assistant coach with the Toronto Raptors
- Committed to Duke on November 4, 2019
- Chose the Blue Devils over Kentucky, Kansas and Villanova, among others