Duke Landing Elite Center Dereck Lively Was a Win on Multiple Levels

Lively's addition gives Duke the No. 1 recruiting class in the SI All-American team rankings.
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Three months after Duke announced that its Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski would retire following the 2021-22 season, his 41st, the picture of post-K life is beginning to become clearer.

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On Monday, Westtown School (West Chester, Penn.) center Dereck Lively picked the Blue Devils over Kentucky, North Carolina, Penn State, Florida State, Michigan and Southern California, giving Duke a firm grip atop the SI All-American team rankings for 2022.

Associate head coach Jon Scheyer, Krzyzewski’s successor, and his two-man staff of Nolan Smith and Chris Carawell, have been on a tear this summer, earning commitments from Montverde (Fla.) Academy shooting guard Dariq Whitehead and Wilbraham and Monson (Mass.) center Kyle Filipowski, two top 10 players in the impending SI99, plus another elite scoring guard in Yorkville (Ill.) Christian’s Jaden Schutt.

RELATED: Coach K's retirement won't deter elite recruits

The addition of Lively upgrades Duke class from strong to special, an even more impressive feat considering Scheyer and Co. managed to reel in the stars without the ultimate closer in Krzyzewski.

Krzyzewski made it clear at his retirement press conference that he wouldn’t be recruiting players that he wouldn’t be coaching.

Still, Lively told Sports Illustrated earlier this summer that Krzyzewski’s exit wouldn’t have any bearing on his decision because of his close relationship with Scheyer.

“When I think of Duke, I think of Coach K for sure, but I also think of Coach Scheyer,” Lively told SI. “Everyone knows that. Sadly, I won’t be able to be a part of Coach K’s legacy, but him leaving won’t deter anything for me with Duke. Coach K is an amazing coach but playing under Jon Scheyer is still a huge privilege.”

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Lively’s presence on both ends of the floor is a gamechanger for Scheyer, who will be able to explore multiple lineups and looks.

At 7-feet tall, Lively is a human shot eraser/changer on the defensive end. This summer he led the prestigious Nike EYBL in blocks, swatting away five a game. Offensively, he’s wildly versatile with the ability to step out and efficiently knocking down perimeter shots while managing his customary paint dominance.

That said, Landing Lively wasn’t just a win on the court for Scheyer; it was also a win for perception, giving him a high-profile win over Kentucky in his first battle with John Calipari and the Wildcats.

Lively only took officials to Duke and Kentucky, meaning, in the end, it was likely a two-horse race.

Scheyer talked to SI about the importance of landing an elite class in his first year at the helms.

“There’s no question, is definitely important,” Scheyer said. “The way our recruiting has worked, we need big classes every year. We’re fired up and ready to go.”

So far so good.