College basketball recruiting: Duke wins cross-country battle for five-star Mark Mitchell

Jon Scheyer’s hot recruiting streak continues as Duke basketball lands five-star Mark Mitchell on Friday.

In June, longtime Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski announced he would retire from coaching and that the ’21-22 season would be his final on the bench. This story has been told ad nauseam, and this retirement came as no surprise with his track record: 42 years, 1,100-plus wins, and a Basketball Hall of Fame induction. Krzyzewski has accomplished more than any coach in the history of the sport.

However, when he announced this was his final season, it did leave at least one question: How would Duke recruit?

This question could be asked from a few different angles. What level would the Blue Devils be able to recruit? Would Krzyzewski still be on the trail? Over the past 10 years, Krzyzewski has recruited at an all-time high. Duke has consistently been among the top five schools in the Rivals.com team recruiting rankings, with 21 players selected in the first round of the NBA Draft since 2011. Seven of those 21 picks were in the top three.

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Since the announcement

Duke has picked up right where it left off since Coach K’s announcement. Freshman forward Paolo Banchero is in the conversation for the No. 1 overall pick. Additionally, freshmen Trevor Keels and AJ Griffin, along with sophomore Mark Williams and junior Wendell Moore, are jostling for their first-round draft positions.

Duke has also secured several key commitments in the 2022 class, including Rivals.com No. 3 Dereck Lively, No. 5 Kyle Filipowski, No. 9 Dariq Whitehead and No. 82 Jaden Schutt. They have also received a commitment from the 2023 No. 11 ranked Caleb Foster, who could potentially reclassify to the 2022 class.

On Friday, Duke added to their list of future Blue Devils when Bel Aire (Kan.) Sunrise Christian senior Mark Mitchell announced his commitment over UCLA and Missouri. Duke now four players ranked in the top 11 of the class, an elite class in the first year of the post-Krzyzewski era.

Jon Scheyer hasn’t slowed down

In fact, Scheyer may have pressed the gas a little harder. The 33-year-old Duke graduate was appointed as Krzyzewski’s successor the same day he announced his retirement. There was never any question about who was up next. Krzyzewski announced he sit out this recruiting cycle and let Scheyer bring in his players.

With colleges allowed four coaches on the road, Krzyzewski sitting out allowed director of operations Amile Jefferson on the road. Along with assistants Chris Carrawell and Nolan Smith, Duke’s fearsome foursome has wreaked havoc in recruiting, landing most of the players they seem to target.

Previewing next year’s roster

Krzyzewski’s last year will coincide with grad transfer Bates Jones, Theo John and senior co-captain Joey Baker. With Banchero, Keels, Griffin, Williams and Moore possibly entering the NBA draft, Duke could lose up to eight players in the spring. The Blue Devils have eight players averaging over ten minutes per game this year, with a possibility of Jeremy Roach being the only rotation player returning.

Duke currently has five 2022 commitments and possible talks of Foster classifying up to 2022. Look for Scheyer and Co. to possibly target one or two more in 2023 who could classify up to 2022. They have current offers to No. 3 Mackenzie Mgbako, No. 5 JJ Taylor, No. 10 Gregory Jackson, No. 16 Jared McCain, No. 27 Matas Buzelis, No. 29 Taylor Bol Bowen and No. 58 Sean Stewart.

Not all players are candidates to classify up, but one or two from 2023 could. Scheyer may also target the transfer portal a the Blue Devils have used graduate transfers to fill out their roster each of the last two seasons with Patrick Tape, Bates Jones and Theo John.

Mark Mitchell’s addition

Mitchell missed all of this past summer due to elbow surgery. Stack that on top of COVID-19 cancellations, and 2022’s No. 11 player had largely been unseen over the past 12-to-18 months.

The 6-8 hybrid forward started this season off on a mission. Mitchell scored 22 against IMG, 19 against Oak Hill, and 23 against defending Tennessee state champion Christian Brothers.

Mitchell’s game is similar to the Thaddeus Young or Charles O’Bannon mold. He is a strong slasher with a bit of craft and a lot of explosion. This season, Mitchell has added some mid-range touch to his game, making him even more lethal when attacking in the halfcourt. Defensively, there is plenty of upside with his length and quick twitch. Mitchell has also shown some initiation chops and floor vision.

Why Duke?

“It was amazing getting to experience Cameron Indoor Stadium,” Mitchell said. “My favorite part of my visit was experiencing the Duke community; it was everything it was hyped up to be. We talked a lot about my role and how I could be used within next year’s team. I looked closely at my fit and chose the school that could get me most prepared for the next level.”

It’s a new slate for Scheyer. He will have a new roster, but the same Duke brand comes with the same Duke expectations.

Header image courtesy of Mark Mitchell’s personal Instagram account.