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Early lineup, captain predictions for Duke basketball

Now that Myles Turner is off to Texas, the 2014 recruiting cycle is done for Duke. And what a cycle it was, as the Blue Devils pulled in the consensus No. 1 class. Four McDonald’s All-Americans – point guard Tyus Jones, center Jahlil Okafor, small forward Justise Winslow and shooting guard Grayson Allen – will arrive in Durham this summer.

For those curious, Duke has nine former McDonald’s All-Americans in the mix next year, with the four newcomers joining Quinn Cook, Amile Jefferson, Rasheed Sulaimon, Marshall Plumlee and Matt Jones. That’s the same number Kentucky will boast, too.

Technically, the Blue Devils could add two more players, but there aren’t any obvious targets on the transfer market. So it’s likely that Duke will enter next year with the 11 scholarship players.

Bold prediction: The lineup combination of Tyus Jones, Sulaimon, Winslow, Jefferson and Okafor will be used most often.

I can’t imagine Duke going with a Tyus Jones-Cook backcourt for long stretches – that’s giving up a lot of size and reach, especially on defense. Defensive improvement likely will be a real point of emphasis, given how last season went, so enter Winslow, who might be the most versatile, gifted defender on the roster. Winslow won’t be counted on for any scoring, but Duke won’t need him for that, given its other options.

It’s hard to predict what next year holds for Sulaimon after his uneven past season, during which his minutes varied greatly. If he is playing the way he’s capable, the No. 2 spot should be his. If not, or if he finds his way back in Krzyzewski’s don’t-call-it-a-doghouse, look for Allen to push him. Or Matt Jones, who also wouldn’t need to score and could bring a defense-first mentality.

Bold prediction: Tyus Jones will become the first freshman captain in program history.

Why not? The college game isn’t what it used to be, when the guys like Shane Battier were staying around for four years. Looking to the point guard spot for leadership is natural, and Krzyzewski has already heaped high praise on his incoming star guard.

“He’s a pretty good leader,” Krzyzewski said in March before adding, “In fact, he’s an outstanding leader.”

It is going to be the freshman point guard’s team to run on the floor. Might as well give him the authority to do it.

(As for other candidates for captains, I’d say Jefferson and Cook, because it would be kind of awkward if the only senior wasn’t also one of the captains).

Beyond next year ...

First, I don’t think there is any way Okafor stays past his freshman year, so, at a minimum, there are three scholarships in play for the 2015 recruiting class, and that doesn’t count the one that is going to shooting guard Luke Kennard. Size is a priority for the 2015 class, as the Blue Devils’ top targets are post players Diamond Stone (6 foot 10, 246 pounds) and Chase Jeter (6 foot 10, 215 pounds). Jeter has taken his official visit, the weekend of last year’s North Carolina game.

Interestingly enough, Duke does not appear to have a point guard target for this class – yet. Tyus Jones certainly has the potential to be a one-and-done player, but that’s not a certainty. That will be an interesting development to watch this summer.

And if you want to look even farther ahead, two names to know for the class of 2016 targets are forwards Jayson Tatum (6 foot 7, 190 pounds) and Harry Giles (6 foot 10, 210 pounds). Giles, from High Point, has already attended several Duke games and should become a high-profile recruit as he continues to recover from knee surgery last June.

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