Duke still in driver’s seat of elite recruiting with commitment of five-star wing Jayson Tatum

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Jayson Tatum (Getty Images)

Duke landing a verbal commitment from prized five-star wing Jayson Tatum at Peach Jam Sunday morning is nothing new for the Blue Devils when it comes to recruiting. Mike Krzyzewski has been bringing blue-chip players to Durham since before Tatum was born. But by landing the St. Louis native and No. 3 overall player in the Class of 2016, the Blue Devils are sending a major warning shot that could have a large ripple effect in elite recruiting for this star-studded 2016 class.

The 6-foot-8 Tatum is part of a very strong top of the class and he’s the type of wing who could be a one-and-done player like Jabari Parker, Justise Winslow and potentially Brandon Ingram preceding him. Think about that for a second. The Blue Devils could potentially have four consecutive one-and-done players who pretty much played the same position.

And that’s not even considering the other integral parts of those Duke rosters that they built through quick recruiting.

Duke has sustained success in recent years by feasting on the one-and-done recruits that were previously running to Kentucky to play for John Calipari, culminating in the 2015 national title as Winslow, Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones all became first-round NBA draft picks after one year in school.

With Coach K’s title pedigree at Duke and USA Basketball background, he has carved out a prime spot at the elite recruiting table and this 2016 class could be his best group yet. When you factor in Duke having back-to-back No. 1 recruiting classes to begin with, this is no small feat.

The Tatum pledge means the Blue Devil coaching staff can now spend more time chasing other five-star prospects in the Class of 2016 to join him like five-star power forward Harry Giles, five-star point guard Dennis Smith and an additional big man. Both Giles and Smith happen to be North Carolina natives.

Much has been made of Giles and Tatum being a “package deal” but that’s simply a mislabeled term for the USA Basketball teammates’ general interest in playing with each other in college. Giles never considered Saint Louis and Tatum wasn’t considering some of the schools on Harry’s radar when Tatum released a final four of Duke, Saint Louis, North Carolina and Kentucky earlier this spring. So a “package” isn’t what the two friends are doing. They’re each making independent school lists and decisions.

But that doesn’t mean that Giles and Tatum haven’t spoken about joining forces in the ACC to play for Duke and it could end up happening since the duo has been close through their gold-medal winning experiences with the USA team the past few summers. With so much success already, the duo might want to try their hand at winning a national championship together and playing together at Duke could be the option that Tatum and Giles believe is the best option.

Smith is another development in the 2016 recruiting frenzy as Coach K and assistants Jeff Capel and Jon Scheyer all came to watch Smith’s Team Loaded North Carolina play on Wednesday night during the opening night of the July live evaluation period. Sending three coaches to one game is usually a strong message of an all-out effort to land a prospect, but keep in mind that many of Duke’s primary Class of 2016 targets were playing in the Nike Peach Jam, which didn’t tip 17U action until Thursday night while the adidas Gauntlet began play Wednesday night. Before July started, Smith indicated that Duke was still in the picture along with Florida, Kansas, Louisville, NC State, North Carolina and Wake Forest.

There are still many dominoes to fall before Duke would potentially cement a third consecutive No. 1 recruiting class, but landing Tatum puts them in prime position to do so. The Blue Devils already have one top-five 2016 national target in the fold and they are in very good position for Giles and Smith, the two in-state top-five prospects, as they’re also after other five-star 2016 targets such as guard Frank Jackson and center Marques Bolden.

Time will tell if Coach K can pull off potentially his greatest recruiting class of all time, but Tatum is certainly the start that Duke was looking for.