Real Deal in Town Tonight

So what do Jabari Parker, Jahlil Oakfor, Brandon Ingram and Jayson Tatum have in common?

The answer is too easy: All four played at Duke over the past four years before being selected as one of the top three picks of the NBA draft.

So what do Parker, Oakfor, Ingram and Tatum not have in common? Again, a layup of a question.

None of them played together at Duke.

The Duke way these days is to provide a way station for the best players in the country for that one season they’re required to spend between high school and the NBA. It used to be the Kentucky way, until Mike Krzyzewski tired of John Calipari getting his way with the top recruits season after season.

So now the Parade of the Bluest of the Blue Chippers passes through Durham on the way to NBA fame and fortune. And good for Krzyzewski. Those are the rules of today’s game, and nobody plays them better than the greatest coach in the history of college basketball.

The Blue Devil team that plays Wake at Joel Coliseum tonight also features a player who if you want to see in college you’d better see this season. They probably feature more than one.

But as good as Parker, Oakfor, Ingram and Tatum were – and again they were all good enough to be one of the top three picks in the NBA draft – Krzyzewski’s fifth-straight phenom is better.

Yes, I know both Parker and Oakfor were unanimous choices for first-team All-ACC, and Oakfor was even named Player of the Year while leading Duke to the 2015 National Championship. All that said, I never saw them do all the marvelous things on a basketball court that this season’s phenom, Marvin Bagley, III can do.

Parker, Oakfor, Ingram and Tatum were special players. Bagley is extra special.

Since 1999, back in the previous millennium, the ACC, believe it or not, has had only one player picked first in the NBA draft. And given that the player in question, Kyrie Irving, was limited to only 11 games at Duke because of an injury, he hardly counts.

I’m no expert on NBA basketball, but from what people who are tell me, Bagley is the odds-on favorite to have his name called first this June. Anybody who might pass on him would be risking the wrath of history.

Through his first 19 games of college basketball, Bagley is averaging 21.8 points and 11.4 rebounds – which not only leads the conference in both categories but makes him the only college player to be averaging at least 21 points and 11 rebounds.

He’s making 61 percent of his field-goal attempts and 34 percent of his 3-point tries. He has already put up 30 points in a game five times, most ever by a freshman, and he has 15 double-doubles.

Wendell Carter, Jr., a 6-10 freshman for Duke, is also a hell of a player. He’s so good he might be the best freshman in the league if not for this teammate named Bagley.

It’s too easy sometimes to forget how good a Parker, Oakfor, Ingram and Tatum were in college. Parker and Oakfor were beasts inside and Ingram and Tatum were supersized wings with the ball skills of a point guard.

Tatum, in looking back, didn’t even make second-team All-ACC last season. But by tournament time in Brooklyn last March, I thought he might have been the best player in the league. And if not the best, then the most talented.

From what I’ve seen of Bagley – albeit, all on television – he combines the skills of Parker and Oakfor with those of Ingram and Tatum. Crowd him and he’ll fly by for a dunk. Slough off, and he’ll drain a three.

And to think, if he had not reclassified, Bagley would be playing high school basketball. Tonight he’ll be playing at Joel Coliseum.

Catch him now. The next time Duke returns to Winston-Salem, Marvin Bagley III will be making some NBA team very happy.

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