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Duke Loses Battle, Wins the War Against Kansas.

Okafor, left, and Jones will join forces at Duke

On Tuesday night, Kansas outlasted Duke for a 94-83 victory. Less than 72 hours later, Duke returned the favor. Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones, the number one and four recruits, respectively, on ESPN’s top 100 list, announced their decision to play for Blue Devils over the Jayhawks next season. Okafor, the top center, and Jones, the top point guard, will provide the Blue Devils with an inside-out 1-2 punch that they have lacked since the days of Sheldon Williams and J.J. Redick.

With the signing of Okafor and Jones, Duke has catapulted all the way up to the number two recruiting class in the country behind only Kentucky. Duke now has three commitments from players ranked in the top 25—Jones, Okafor, and shooting guard Grayson Allen. Allen, ranked number 24 in the nation by ESPN, committed to the Blue Devils Back in April.

Okafor and Jones had made it known that they were going to be a package deal. Okafor, speaking on ESPNU just after announcing his decision, said that the friendship between the two started in the third grade, and continued to grow over years of competing against each other. Honestly, I’m a little surprised that we don’t see more of these package deals. Obviously, the Harrison brothers committed together to Kentucky last year, but that’s clearly a different situation. A lot of the top high school players know each other already. Whether it be AAU tournaments, competitive summer camps, or youth national teams, many of these top recruits have been playing with or against each other for years. It wouldn’t surprise me if more recruits in the future start declaring themselves a package deal and try to compete for a championship together before going pro.

History suggests that Duke is a surprising landing spot for both Okafor and Jones. Both players figure to be one and done. Now obviously Coach K is one of the best coaches in the country. From the players’ standpoint, it makes perfect sense. However, since Coach K began his career at Duke, he has only had four players leave for the NBA after their freshman year. Since the 2006 draft, which was the first draft that didn’t allow players from high school in it, 51 players who left after their freshman year have been drafted in the first round. Duke, one of the premier programs in the country, has only had two of those players- Kyrie Irving in 2011, and Austin Rivers In 2012. Coach K finally seems to realize the importance of the one and done players. With Jabari Parker almost certainly going pro next year, and Okafor and Jones likely to be one and done a well, Coach K has finally adjusted to the current landscape of college basketball recruiting.

Looking ahead to next year, Duke might start the season the favorite to cut down the nets. Assuming that everybody stays other than Jabari Parker, Duke returns almost all of their key players. They will lose Co-captain Tyler, Thornton and Josh Hairston, and the little-used Andre Dawkins. Thornton, despite being a starter thus far, brings more to the team from an intangible standpoint than a talent standpoint. The same could be said about Hairston, who has been used as the first big off the bench this year. Next year’s starting five could feature Jones, Rasheed Sulaimon, Rodney Hood, and Okafor. Depending on how Coach K wants to play it, he could insert Quinn cook as another guard in that starting five, or go big and keep this year’s starting center, Amile Jefferson, in that role. With a big time recruiting class and the likeliness of talented players staying put in Durham, the future looks bright for the Blue Devils.