As the preeminent force in college basketball recruiting at the moment, the Duke Blue Devils and coach Mike Krzyzewski are in a constant race to unearth the next potential superstar.
That race has increasingly led them to Canada in recent years, with the quality of Canadian basketball on the rise and the country routinely producing some of the game’s brightest young stars. Case in point, Duke signee R.J. Barrett is a Canadian, and he was the consensus top prospect in the Class of 2018.
Barrett elected to further his basketball education by coming to the United States to play at basketball powerhouse Montverde Academy in Florida, but the fact remains he has a Canadian passport, and more and more of the game’s top players have that in common. So Duke is looking to set up shop in Canada.
The Blue Devils announced this week they will go on a three-game tour of Canada in August during exhibition season. They’ll play a pair of games just outside Toronto against Ryerson and the University of Toronto before ending their trip in Montreal against McGill, according to a report from Steve Wiseman of the Raleigh News & Observer.
Canada will be exposed to one of the most popular brands in American sports, and recruits in Canada will be able to get a first-hand look at the clout that follows Duke basketball wherever it goes.
Given that Canada has produced coveted recruits such as Andrew Wiggins, Trey Lyles, Tristan Thompson, Nik Stauskas, Tyler Ennis and now Barrett (among others) in recent years, Duke clearly sees an opportunity to find NBA-caliber talent with regularity up north. So the August trip is important.
The NCAA allows teams to make a foreign trip once every four years, and Duke gets up to 10 practices to prepare for the games on the trip.
And with such an enormous spotlight on Duke in Canada thanks to Barrett, the Blue Devils clearly see a window of opportunity to stake their claim on some of the country’s best prospects. In the next few recruiting cycles, that includes blue-chip prospects such as Jaden Bediako (Class of 2019) and Cashius McNeilly (2020), and there are sure to be more over time because it usually takes either a major international performance or an American showcase to gain notoriety.
Duke will not be deserting the state of North Carolina and other national recruiting hotbeds they’ve had success in to reallocate all their resources to Canada. However, as all those budding young Canadian players give rise to more robust youth and high school basketball programs in the country, the timing does seem right for Duke.
If Krzyzewski and Duke can go into Canada (proverbially since many Canadian stars wind up at American prep schools) and occasionally land one of the nation’s biggest stars, that gives them another leg up in recruiting.