Duke Basketball Alum Benefits From Top-Tier Center's Reclassification

Former Duke basketball guard and assistant Johnny Dawkins has put together a strong roster for his ninth season at UCF.
Duke basketball guard Johnny Dawkins vs. UNC star Michael Jordan
Duke basketball guard Johnny Dawkins vs. UNC star Michael Jordan / Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Ninth-year UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins, one of 13 Duke basketball players with their jersey numbers hanging from Cameron Indoor Stadium's rafters, hasn't reached the NCAA Tournament since losing in dramatic fashion to Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, and the high-flying 2018-19 Blue Devils in the Round of 32.

But the 60-year-old Dawkins, who for many years looked like a leading candidate to be Mike Krzyzewski's eventual successor in Durham, has constructed what could end up being his most formidable Knights roster yet.

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Dawkins' cast received a big-time finishing touch on Thursday via the announced reclassification by the former No. 1 center in the 2025 class, 7-foot-2 sensation Moustapha Thiam, a Senegal native who spent the past two years at DME Academy in Daytona Beach and became UCF's all-time highest-rated recruiting prize with his commitment in October. As first reported by ESPN's Jonathan Givony, Thiam "will reclassify to 2024 and enroll at UCF this summer."

He appears to be the starting-caliber center Dawkins and his crew still needed to find for next season.

Givony touched on the significance of Dawkins' latest 2024-25 addition as the Knights, welcoming a handful of quality transfers but only Thiam from the recruiting trail, prepare for their second campaign since the program's move to the daunting Big 12:

"[Thiam] is coming off a strong spring on the Adidas 3SSB circuit with Austin Rivers SE Elite, averaging 15.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.7 blocks, and 1.0 steals in 28 minutes per game...Thiam is joining a UCF team that exceeded expectations last year, going 7-11 in its debut season in the Big 12...The Golden Knights returned their top two scorers from last season in starters Darius Johnson and Jaylin Sellers..."

Following more than a decade stint on the Duke basketball staff that began 12 years after the legendary guard scored a then-program record 2,556 points as a Blue Devil (1982-86), Johnny Dawkins earned his first head coaching job at Stanford in 2008. He landed at UCF in 2016.

His records at Stanford and UCF are similar, both just under 60 percent, as Dawkins now sits at 304-218 (58.2 percent) for his career.

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Matt Giles

MATT GILES

Matt Giles is the editor and publisher of FanNation's Blue Devil Country and All Tar Heels, covering the Duke Blue Devils and UNC Tar Heels on SI.com.