With the Duke Basketball season fast approaching, I had the pleasure of discussing some of the incoming talent with 247sports’ Jerry Meyer.
Daniel: Thanks so much for making the time with Dukeblogger.com.
Jerry: Yeah no problem.
Daniel: It’s great to have you. Congrats on your great prediction with Bolden to Duke, I know you faced a lot of heat on that one.
Jerry: Haha yeah
Daniel: So, when watching and analyzing such talented high school athletes, what sets the top tier, McDonald All-American talents above the rest?
Jerry: Well, I mean not to be snide or disrespectful, but they’re just better. Every year when you have a class it’s all relative to that year, so some years McDonald’s guys might be better than other years but in a nut shell they are generally the top 24 players in that year’s class. There might be some outliers that are ranked a little lower who make it, but you know their just bigger, stronger, faster, or more skilled or more athletic and better basketball players.
Daniel: Speaking of the talent level of relative classes, where do you rank the talent level of the 2016 class?
Jerry: Yeah, I think it’s really good. I think it’s as good as… I think 2007, was a really strong class. You know, I would say this is one of the better classes and I’ve been doing this 14 years, so one of the better classes I’ve seen. I think 2016 is a very deep class. I think it has a lot of really good 5 stars, I don’t know if it has super super elite at the top 5 stars, like maybe some other classes, like 2007. So, I think it’s deep in that 5 star range, and I think it’s deep through the 4 stars, and you know really good 3 stars. It’s a real strong class. I think it is the best since 2007. That 2007 class was extremely strong.
Daniel: Who is your #1 guy in this class?
Jerry: Josh Jackson. And he’s our 247 composite #1 as well.
Daniel: So, this past year in college basketball, two highly touted big men in Chase Jeter and Skal Labissiere obviously had an adjustment period to the college level. Should fans expect to see the same adjustment phase for some of the top big men coming this year, like Bam, Giles, Bolden, and Allen?
Jerry: I don’t think so, because I think those guys are more physically developed as far as strength. I think the big thing that hurt Skal and Chase Jeter was a lack of physical strength, I think that’s the number one thing. That wasn’t the issue with Cheick Diallo, Cheick Diallo is more learning the system and Bill Self is very, very, very precise on defensive assignments, has the short leash and Cheick just could never really get it done in that regard. I think that Bolden, and Allen is a little thin but Bolden, Allen, Bam and Giles are way more physically ready, strength wise. So, I think it will be different, I think those guys will have significant impacts as freshmen.
Daniel: So shifting gears to Duke a little, how big of a get was Bolden for the Blue Devils and what do you make his role being with such a talented roster?
Jerry: Well, you know it’s like what I said commenting on Kentucky not getting Bolden, I think it’s kind of the same for Duke. Duke would have been very good and fine without Bolden, but with Bolden I think it gives them options and it gives them a whole lot of depth inside. The key option being Harry Giles won’t be relegated to just playing the 5. I still think Harry will play a lot of the 5, just cause the game is so trending toward small ball in general, and when you can play a player with the athleticism and the game that Harry Giles has at the 5, that creates a whole lot of issues for your opposition, and he can definitely guard the five, but with Bolden, you can go big and play him at the 5 and Harry Giles at the 4. I mean, Duke could play a very big lineup, even with Tatum at the 3, that’s a lot of size.
Daniel: For sure. Looking ahead at the class of 2017, who’s your pick to finish as 247’s #1 recruit?
Jerry: You know, right now it’s DeAndre Ayton, and I would expect it to be Ayton, I mean I guess I would have someone else as number 1, so right now I think Ayton, but you know there’s definitely some other guys that are tremendous prospects. Wendell Carter, for one, is a top Duke target and word out of Atlanta, I was in Los Angeles, but word out of Atlanta (in late May), Wendell Carter was tremendous. I think Michael Porter is a candidate. He’s extremely talented, and as skilled as he is at 6’9”, and with his athleticism I mean he’s just that prototypical stretch 4 or even play the 3 that’s so valuable in today’s game. Mohammad Bamba, that’s another name, a Duke target as well. You know, those are the four top players in the 247 sports composite that I would say are your four top candidates right now. I’m sort of sliding on Trevon Duval some. I think he’s going to slide down in my rankings, and in my personal top 247, that will push Carter up.
Daniel: Why do you think Coach Calipari and K have been able to dominate the recruiting world recently? Is that just a matter of tradition and programs?
Jerry: Yeah, I mean I think it’s kind of just several sort of obvious things. One, it’s Kentucky and Duke. Two, they are very good coaches, respected coaches, and very good recruiters. Three, I think being the national coach for USA basketball has been a great advantage of Coach K and Duke in recruiting and Calipari has branded Kentucky, you know you can argue how accurate it is, but there’s no doubt he’s branded it as sort of a breeding ground or a minor league or a one year stop-off to prepare for the NBA, and he’s selling that to a lot of recruits and a lot of recruits are buying that, they want that.
Daniel: Do you buy the growing rivalry between the two coaches?
Jerry: I mean of course there’s a rivalry. I don’t know if there’s a nasty rivalry, probably not. You know, the media over-blows stuff. A guy just makes a comment… what’s funny is the media’s so wide-stretched and so many outlets and with social media you know it’s almost like infinite. So, Coach K or Calipari says something in an article and then there’s like hundreds or thousands of articles written about that article and then there is 5,000 articles written about those hundreds and thousand articles, and it just goes on and on and on. And so much of a, you know, Cal just says one thing in one interview and millions and millions and billions of words are written about it and we talk about for days and Coach Cal’s probably not even thinking about it anymore. Hahah, he’s got a life, he’s coaching, he’s doing other things. He just says one thing, he moves on, and we, the media has to cycle it all through.
Daniel: For sure, and last question. What should Duke fans expect out of the freshmen coming in?
Jerry: Well, I think you got some really good ones. You know, Giles is a terrific talent. In my mind, head and shoulders, top big man coming into college and hopefully he’s healthy and all that, but I can’t predict that. Let’s hope he’s healthy, he’s going to be tremendous. Jayson Tatum is such a steady player, a reliable player. I think he’s gonna be great in the Duke system. I expect him to be very successful. I think Coach K will really utilize what he does well. Frank Jackson I am a huge fan of. I think in general, he’s underrated. Well, I have him significantly higher than other people. I think he’s outstanding. I think he’s the epitome of the modern day point guard. He’s physical, athletic, and can score from anywhere. And then also, is intelligent, can run a team and can pass the ball. And it’s just tough to be really good if you can’t score, even at the point guard position, so Frank doesn’t have to worry about that, he can really score. And then Javin DeLaurier… he’s got a lot of upside. He’s gonna be good and he’s a guy that’s not really talked about much. I can see him being a key factor in a handful of games next year, sort of like Grayson Allen was in that championship run. And Jack White, I don’t know much of him. I image he’ll be a four year player. I wouldn’t expect much right away, and hopefully he’ll contribute at some point in his career. Oh and then Marquis Bolden, I’ve had to talk about him so much lately, I’m trying to forget him I guess. Sort of already covered him. Outstanding player, skilled, and a lot of similarities to Jahlil Okafor as far as sort of that traditional big body, good with his back to the basket, sort of play around him type guy.
Daniel: Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us.
Jerry: Hey, my pleasure!