Duke basketball signs second No. 1-ranked class in three years

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Thursday, November 16, 2023
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DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Duke men's basketball team already is considered one of the favorites to compete for a national championship this season, and the Blue Devils will likely remain in the national conversation after signing the No. 1-ranked recruiting class for 2024.

Head coach Jon Scheyer announced the signing of five key players during the NCAA early signing period.

The class would mark the third consecutive top-two class for Scheyer, after inking the top class for 2022 and the No. 2 group in 2023.

"I'm very proud of this group," said Scheyer in a news release. "There's great versatility, and each and every one of them brings a high level of competitiveness and toughness to our program. Just as importantly, off the court, they're all amazing people with great character. Their desire to win while helping to make their teammates better stands out, and I'm excited to have the opportunity to coach them. Our staff has done a fantastic job, and we're so excited to welcome these five to Duke basketball and the Brotherhood."

The class is led by No. 1 overall prospect Cooper Flagg and includes four ranked in the top 20 by 247Sports.

Duke-bound Cooper Flagg drives against Sunrise Christian at the Hoophall Classic on Jan. 16, 2023, in Springfield, Mass,
Gregory Payan

Four of the signees are rated as the top players in their respective states by ESPN or 247Sports.

Flagg, a 6-9 forward from Montverde Academy (Florida) through Newport, Maine is the well, flagship of this group.

"It's been an honor for me to get to know Cooper for some time now as a person", said Scheyer. "It speaks for itself who he is as a player - the competitor that he is and his incredible versatility. On the defensive end, he has an ability to block shots and defend one through five. And on the offensive end, he can really score, pass, handle - whatever you need him to do. He's going to bring an incredible competitiveness and toughness to our program that I can't wait to coach."

Flagg, a five-star prospect and the top player in the 2024 class was originally a member of the 2025 class before reclassifying in mid-August.

He was the first freshman to be named the Maine Gatorade Player of the Year, averaging 20.5 points and 10.0 rebounds while leading Nokomis Regional High School to a state championship. He transferred to Montverde Academy in 2022, averaging nearly 10 points, five rebounds and three assists.

Flagg, who committed to Duke on Oct. 30, made waves at the Nike EYBL Peach Jam event, where he averaged 25.5 points, 13.0 rebounds, 6.9 blocks, 5.7 assists and 1.4 steals per game, including a 38-point, 16-rebound, 12-block game, followed up by another triple-double in an elimination game.

Darren Harris, a 6-6 guard/forward from Paul VI Catholic in Fairfax, Virginia, is a four-star prospect ranked No. 45 by ESPN.

Paul VI's Darren Harris goes to the hoop against Roselle Catholic at the Hoophall Classic on Jan. 15, 2023, in Springfield, Mass.
Gregory Payan

"Darren is a guy that has been battle-tested for a long time," said Scheyer. "He's played for one of the premier high school programs in the country in Paul VI in Virginia and one of the premier EYBL programs in Team Takeover. He's a winner and he's a guy that steps up in the biggest moments. He's somebody who has dreamed about coming to Duke for a long time, so I know that he'll be all in when he gets here."

Harris was the first commit of Duke's 2024 recruiting class, initially committing on Oct. 22, 2022. He helped lead Team Takeover to eight wins at the EYBL Peach Jam, averaging 14.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. He scored 28 points on 10-of-15 shooting, including 5-of-7 from beyond the arc, in the EYBL Championship, earning MVP and All-EYBL First Team honors.

Paul VI Catholic has become a pipeline of sorts for Duke. Three other players from the school have joined the Blue Devils in recent years: Trevor Keels, Jeremy Roach and Harris' teammate and future fellow Blue Devil Patrick Ngongba II.

Harris is rated as the second-best player from Virginia according to ESPN, behind only his high school teammate and fellow future Blue Devil, Ngongba II.

Ngongba II is "the best big man in the country," Scheyer said.

At 6-11, the five-star center is rated as the No. 19 player nationally.

He had a breakout season for Team Takeover on the EYBL circuit, averaging 12.0 points and 7.4 rebounds. Ngongba II had a statement game against Phenom University with 33 points, 18 rebounds and five assists.

"He's a guy that can score inside and out," said Scheyer. "What we love about him is his incredible skill level. He's a great passer, he can really handle the ball, and he can shoot from three, as well as score inside - right hand and left hand. He has great footwork, he's a high-level rebounder. He's somebody, that when you play with him, he makes everybody better on the court."

Ngongba II, who committed to Duke on Nov. 4, has good bloodlines. His father, Patrick, played for George Washington University. His mother, Tajama, also played for George Washington and graduated as the school's all-time leading scorer with 2,134 career points. She also played two seasons in the WNBA.

The top-rated player in North Carolina is also staying home to play for Duke.

Isaiah Evans, a 6-5 guard-forward from North Mecklenburg High School in Huntersville, is a five-star recruit and is the No. 8 overall prospect, according to ESPN.

"Isaiah's highly skilled, very competitive, unbelievably versatile," said Scheyer. "He can score and shoot with the best of them and has great size for the position that he plays. He's somebody that can do a lot of different things when he gets to Duke, but his most underrated quality is his ability to pass. He's a really good passer, can make others better, and I can't wait to welcome him and his family to Duke in the fall."

Evans was named North Carolina Mr. Basketball and 2022-23 MaxPreps North Carolina High School Basketball Player of the Year after averaging 26.0 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists as a junior.

He averaged 43.8 points per game in the state playoffs in 2023, including a 62-point outburst in the fourth round of the playoff, where he led his team to a semifinal appearance.

He committed to Duke on April 27.

Kon II Knueppel, a 6-6 guard/forward from Wisconsin Lutheran in Milwaukee, rounds out the stellar class.

"What drew us to Kon was his competitiveness, his toughness, and his great feel for the game," said Scheyer. "He can shoot and score with the best of them but it's his ability to make others better, to pass and to handle, and be a tough competitor on the defensive end as well. That versatility, with the winning pedigree that he brings to the table, will be terrific for our program. He's a guy that believes in what Duke basketball is all about."

Knueppel, listed as the best player in Wisconsin, is the third five-star prospect in Duke's 2024 class and is ranked No. 16 nationally by 247Sports.

As a junior, he averaged 19.7 points, 9.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists as a junior. Playing for Phenom University, he led the Nike EYBL in scoring with 22.5 points per game, while shooting nearly 50% (.475) from beyond the arc.

Like Ngongba II, he comes from a basketball-rich family. His father, also named Kon, scored more than 2,000 career points at Wisconsin Lutheran College while his mother, Chari, is the all-time leading scorer in UW-Green Bay history with 1,964 points.

He committed to Duke on Sept. 21.