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Florida Man: Recruiting class will shape Duke's future for years to come

Dereck Lively
Dereck Lively (Nick Lucero/

Coaching changes involving legends tend to be stormy.

The tempest that blew through North Carolina following Dean Smith’s retirement caused a few years worth of power outages. Indiana is still cleaning up the wreckage that Bob Knight’s departure left behind. Nebraska football may never recover from the aftermath of Tom Osborne.

Who knows how the Jon Scheyer Era at Duke will go? He’s not set to officially succeed all-time Division I wins leader Mike Krzyzewski until after the upcoming season, leaving plenty of moving parts. But when the dark clouds started to gather overhead in Durham, there was a plan in place.

The metaphor dictates that the Blue Devils’ top-ranked recruiting class is a hurricane kit of sorts, but when the program beat out Kentucky to land No. 3 overall prospect Dereck Lively on Monday, it began to feel more like a full-on forcefield.


RELATED: Duke lands five-star Dereck Lively

MORE CASSIDY: Awards from Double Trouble Academy

2022 Rankings: Rivals150 | Team | Position

2023 Rankings: Rivals150


When Scheyer’s first team takes the floor in October of 2022, it will do so with three five-star prospects and three of the top 10 freshmen in the country. Coaches that follow legends often fail because uncertainty takes hold quickly. High-level prospects don’t need to take risks. They can ride out their careers in more stable situations, and a team’s luster fades in a hurry when they elect to do so.

Perception is reality on the recruiting trail. The moment a program is perceived as “not the same without its old guard,” uncertainty rears its heads. One mediocre transition season turns into two, and a program that was once a magnet for top talent morphs into a fallback option. Things compound from there. Nip the shaky transition season in the bud, however, and you eliminate the risk. A program, regardless of tradition, can go from Jordan 1s to Sketchers in the hype scale in a hurry if it botches the exchange of power.

Duke has obviously avoided such a pitfall. The ultra-talented Lively - along with classmates Kyle Filipowski (No. 5 overall), Dariq Whitehead (No.9) and Jaden Schutt (No. 82) - should do plenty to excite Duke fans about the 2022-23 season, but should also work to relax them about the years that will follow. The latter is miles more important than the former.

It doesn’t feel like hyperbole to suggest that the ramifications of Lively’s commitment and the class Duke has assembled around the 7-footer will be felt for a decade. The Blue Devils haven’t just reloaded. They’ve re-stabilized the entire foundation of the program. For that reason, you can make a case that Scheyer’s top-ranked 2022 haul is the most important recruiting class in school history. The importance of connecting the past with the present can’t be overstated, and the Duke head-coach-to-be has done just that before he’s even taken the reins.

Few first-year head coaches have ever arrived in the big office equipped with so much talent. But it certainly seems like the scores of people hoping the most famous heels of the college basketball world will collapse when Krzyzewski and his 1,170 career wins walk away after the upcoming season are in for a letdown.