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Duke basketball recruiting: names to know for the classes of 2015 and 2016

While July is a wasteland for live basketball on TV, it is one of the most important months for college basketball coaches.

It’s a chance for staffs to attend AAU tournaments and camps, evaluating potential prospects and recruits during the month’s evaluation periods (July 9-13, 16-20 and 23-27).

Like a high school cafeteria, where a coach and his assistants sit is important – recruits are tracking which staffs, and how many members, are watching them play. A head coach can start the day in one city, say Milwaukee, and end it in another, maybe North Augusta, S.C.

Duke coaches Mike Krzyzewski and Jeff Capel did that July 17 (assistant Nate James went the opposite direction, swapping places with them). Welcome to the world of recruiting.

With the evaluation periods over, it’s a good time to take stock of where Duke stands on recruiting for the next two seasons. The 2015 class, nationally, is considered average, at best, but the 2016 class is loaded.

“It’s not even close,” Evan Daniels, a recruiting analyst for Scout.com, said of the two classes. “The 2016 class looks like a really good class, especially at the top. The ’15 class is good at two positions, the center position and the shooting guard position, but doesn’t have great depth.

“The 2016 class has great depth and is really, really good at the top. There’s some tremendous, elite-level guys in the 2016 class, no question.”

The most exciting guys on this list are just about to begin their junior year. More immediately, the Blue Devils have one commitment in the 2015 class and are heavy favorites to land another soon. Here’s a rundown of Duke’s recruiting board:

Class of 2015 commitment

Luke Kennard

6-foot-5, 185-pound shooting guard

Five stars, No. 19 nationally (all rankings from scout.com )

Kennard committed to Duke during March, picking the Blue Devils over Kentucky, his rooting interest as a kid. A left-hander, Kennard is one of the best 3-point shooters in his class. The Franklin, Ohio, native can play a little point guard, too, and is capable as a passer and with a pull-up jumper.

Class of 2015 top priorities

Chase Jeter

6-10, 225-pound center

Five stars, No. 9 nationally

Jeter, who is from Las Vegas, reportedly is making his college decision during the coming days and plans to announce his choice within a few weeks. Duke has been considered the odds-on favorite for some time, over the likes of Arizona, UCLA and Nevada-Las Vegas.

“He’s still growing,” Daniels said. “He has a nice frame. He’s really developed on the offensive end, and he’s developed one of the best jump hooks in high school basketball.

“He has really good touch around the basket, he contests shots. He can face up and make mid-range jump shots. He’s also a pretty good passer out of the post. I think there’s a lot to like about Chase Jeter. He has a lot of upside.”

Ivan Rabb

6-11, 220-pound power forward

Five stars, No. 3 nationally

Rabb runs the floor well and has nice hands for a big man, capable of reeling in passes in transition and finishing in the post. His athleticism helps around the rim, too, in terms of grabbing rebounds and blocking shots. Adding strength is his biggest need. His AAU program has strong connections to Arizona, and it’s unknown if the Oakland, Calif., native would leave the West Coast.

Brandon Ingram

6-8, 190-pound small forward

Four stars, No. 26 nationally

A long wing with the ability to pass and hit 3s over smaller defenders, Ingram is from nearby Kinston. His length is an asset on the defensive end as well. He could stand to be more consistently aggressive and add strength. Ingram will officially visit Duke on Aug. 7-9.

Other players of interest in the Class of 2015

Henry Ellenson

6-10, 235-pound center

Five stars, No. 7 nationally

Duke seems to have backed off Ellenson (Rice Lake, Wis.), one of the fastest risers in the rankings, of late.

Caleb Swanigan

6-9, 265-pound center

Five stars, No. 12 nationally

Duke was giving Swanigan (Fort Wayne, Ind.) a look at the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League Finals in South Carolina, but the Blue Devils haven’t offered a scholarship. Plenty of big-time programs, Michigan State among them, are interested, so it’s hard to imagine him in Durham.

Diamond Stone

6-10, 255-pound center

Five stars, No. 1 nationally

Another player who is a longshot to end up at Duke, as interest has faded on both sides. Stone, who lives in Milwaukee, wants to play with shooting guard Malik Newman, whom Duke is not recruiting.

Class of 2016 top priorities

Harry Giles

6-10, 215-pound power forward

Five stars, No. 3 nationally

Still on the mend from a serious knee injury (torn ACL, MCL and meniscus) that kept him out of games for 11 months, Giles of Winston-Salem has been Duke’s top priority in this class since his freshman year. He has the potential to score from anywhere on the floor and already possesses elite-level athleticism around the basket, grabbing rebounds and finishing plays with highlight-reel dunks.

Jayson Tatum

6-8, 190-pound small forward

Five stars, No. 1 nationally

“He’s had a tremendous summer,” Daniels said of the St. Louis native. “He’s so skilled at 6-foot-8, and he can play with the ball in his hands, he’s a really good passer, his mid-range game is really impressive. He’s a guy that just keeps getting better. He’s a hard worker, and you can tell he really wants it and competes.”

Dennis Smith Jr.

6-2, 175-pound point guard

Five stars, No. 6 nationally

Much as Duke identified Tyus Jones early and pursued him for years, the Blue Devils are following Smith of Fayetteville. Duke isn’t recruiting a point guard for the Class of 2015, either, which is part of the pitch to Smith.

“They’re certainly all-in on Dennis Smith, there’s no question about that,” Daniels said of the Blue Devils. “And they should be. Dennis is an elite-level talent, a terrific athlete, very good burst and explosiveness. He’s got good vision, he can pass. He has all the physical attributes that you want in a point guard. He can score the ball, too. He’s one of the best finishers at that position in the country.”

Other players of interest in the Class of 2016

Tyus Battle

6-6, 195-pound small forward

Five stars, No. 12 nationally

Another player Duke coaches watched closely at the EYBL Finals, Battle received his scholarship offer at the tournament. Battle, from Edison, N.J., is more celebrated for his defensive abilities than anything he does offensively, though he does have nice passing vision.

T.J .Leaf

6-10, 205-pound power forward

Five stars, No. 10 nationally

Duke offered a scholarship to Leaf, from El Cajon, Calif., last weekend, with the offer coming the day he survived the first cut for the USA basketball under-17 team preparing for the world championships (Tatum, Battle, Ellenson, Rabb, Giles, Stone and Swanigan also are at the camp). It’s early, but Leaf has length and athleticism and coaches are excited about his potential.

Thon Maker

7-foot, 200-pound center

Five stars, No. 4 nationally

It’s hard to know what to make of Maker’s recruitment. He is seriously considering reclassifying to the Class of 2015, and he hasn’t decided where he is playing high school ball next season. Maker, from Martinsville, Va., was at Duke’s version of midnight madness last fall and came back for another unofficial visit last month. He has a Kevin Garnett-like build – long, athletic and mobile.

Twitter: @laurakeeley
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