No team has ever recruited the three top-rated recruits in the country in the same year before Duke did precisely that over the course of the last several months. Having added all three of the top high school recruits in the country (and a fourth prospect ranked eighth overall), Coach K is staring down the barrel of what could be his most talented team of all-time, even with Marvin Bagley, Wendell Carter, Gary Trent, Jr., Trevon Duvall and Grayson Allen all likely headed to the NBA Draft this summer.
At this week’s McDonald’s All-American Game, one of those top 2018 recruits, Zion Williamson, put his team on par with another famous team of immensely talented freshmen: Michigan’s starting freshman quintet of the early 1990s.
“Coach K said, ‘I’m going for you, Tre (Jones), Cam (Reddish) and R.J. (Barrett), and you all can pick the fifth person,” Williamson told Basketball Insiders. “We’ll be the new Fab Five.”
And it all came together because of a group text.
“This goes to Tre,” Williamson said. “He was the first one to commit, and then Cam committed, but Tre always was always telling us how crazy it would be for us all to go to Duke. After those two committed, they created a group message, and honestly at first it wasn’t even about going to Duke. It was about us having fun with each other on the next level. Once R.J. committed, too, it was three-on-one.”
At that point, Williamson didn’t really have a choice.
“They threatened to kick me out of the group chat if I didn’t commit,” Williamson joked.
Number two overall prospect Cameron Reddish said the group text played a significant part in him choosing Duke, as well, though he says they never pressured Williamson to join.
“We didn’t want to pressure him because we know how it feels to be in that situation,” Reddish said. “Obviously there was a little of, ‘Come on, Zion. Do the right thing.’ But it wasn’t anything too major. We’re glad it worked out the way it did.”
Now, Williamson, Reddish, and Jones join top overall prospect R.J. Barrett on a Duke team loaded with swingmen. All three of them are either 6-foot-6 or 6-foot-7, and all three of them technically are slotted at either shooting guard or small forward. There’s some redundancy there, and the players themselves know it.
“To be honest, I have no idea how we’re all going to work together,” Barrett said. “That’s on Coach K. That’s going to be his job to figure that out.”
Reddish isn’t quite so worried about it.
“We all can pass, we all can shoot, we all can dunk,” he said. “We’re all naturally unselfish players, so we’re not worried about who’s going to score the most and things like that. We’re not into all that.”
All four players act like old friends already, even though they really haven’t spent much time together in person. They can thank the group text for that, but they also can thank Coach K for bringing them together. The chemistry is already palpable.
“I just trusted Coach K, Cam, and R.J. and Tre because a brotherhood stands for a lot,” Williamson said. “We’re all trying to get to the draft and we’re all trying to win, and we know that none of us are going to be allowed to lose in that setting.
“It just feels good,” Williamson added.
“It’s going to be fun, all four of us playing together,” Barrett adds. “Because of that group text we all got comfortable with each other even before we committed anywhere and definitely before we all got to hang out together here (at the McDonald’s All-American events).”
Will they be good enough despite their age to make real waves in college basketball season? They all seem to think so.
“I feel like we can win it all,” Reddish said. “If we can go in there and learn a lot really fast and trust the coaching staff, I bet we can be really good.”
When asked how opposing teams are supposed to game plan for a roster that talented, Reddish just smiled and said, “Good luck. I would say, good luck.”
The rest of the NCAA is going to need it.
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