Duke needed Amile Jefferson, got him

May, 16, 2012
5/16/12
11:05
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I'm not sure how much Duke can use newly committed recruit, power forward Amile Jefferson, in the 2012-13 season. It strikes me as difficult to assume a player with such a slight frame (Jefferson is listed at 6-foot-7, 190 pounds) who is a "jump shot away from being special" (according to ESPN recruiting scouting analysis) will play alongside Mason Plumlee, and Duke's coterie of perimeter scorers, or whether Duke needs more of the stretch-forward role they got from departing senior Ryan Kelly, the apparent antithesis of Jefferson's game.

But in the end, it doesn't matter: Duke desperately needed to add to its 2012 recruiting class. On Tuesday, after one of the most drawn-out recruitments in recent history -- it feels like we say that every year -- Jefferson spurned NC State, Kentucky, Ohio State and Villanova. The decision was surprising; many expected Jefferson to commit to NC State, and Jefferson's mother even carried an NC State hat in her purse, just to be safe. In the end, Duke landed the No. 25-ranked player in the class of 2012, because Jefferson considered it a "once in a lifetime opportunity."

Clearly, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski's recruiting pitch got across.

The questions now are whether Jefferson can help right away, where fellow McDonald's All-American and shooting guard Rasheed Sulaimon fits in the backcourt, and so on. If Jefferson can excel as early as this season, all the better for the Blue Devils. If he can't, he provides the promise of well-developed talent as a sophomore, particularly after Mason Plumlee graduates. In either case, with a short bench, a lack of frontcourt depth, and the creeping suspicion that Coach K had (even briefly) lost the pace of the nation's best recruiters, Jefferson's commitment is as important for competitive reasons as it is symbolic ones. Where the pieces all fit remains to be seen.

It's probably fair to assume Coach K will figure it out. After all, there's a reason why his take-home got this big.

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