Commitment Roundtable: Ngongba's fit at Duke, surprise factor, what's next?

2024 five-star big man Pat Ngongba has announced his commitment to Duke this afternoon. The Paul VI and Team Takeover standout chose the Blue Devils over the likes of Kansas State and Kentucky.

The MADE Hoops staff took on four questions surrounding Ngongba's decision.

1. On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being extremely surprised) how surprised were you that Ngongba chose Duke?

Colby Giacubeno: I'll go with a 6. In the days leading up to Ngongba's announcement, there were signs of Duke winning the pursuit, but leading up to his visit at Kansas State and shortly after, the Wildcats felt very confident in their chances. Ultimately it was the blue blood presence combined with the Paul VI pipeline to Durham that gave the Blue Devils the ultimate edge. Kudos to Kansas State head coach Jerome Tang and his staff for leaving no stone unturned in this process. In terms of longevity and consistency, they clearly put the most time in attempted to court Ngongba's services. 

Max FeldmanI'll put it a 4. In our recent roundtable predictions piece, I had Kansas State as my pick to win out here. They made it clear they were all in, even before his massive EYBL spring and summer with TTO. Tang and company have hit the ground running and that's been reflected on the recruiting trail, so the pieces were aligning for this to be their first real, big win against a national power. But at the end of the day, can't be too surprised when a high level prospect picks Duke. Scheyer and company rarely lose out when they lock in, and that's exactly what they did since missing on Flory Bidunga.

Travis Graf: 3 or 4. There was a lot of Duke smoke following his official visit, but then some Kansas State talk ensued for a few days. However, it always seemed like Duke’s to lose. 


2. In your opinion, is this just another example of where college basketball recruiting is going in terms of blue-blood programs having NIL to beat out any program that challenges for a prospect?

Colby Giacubeno: While NIL has already changed the recruiting landscape in the short time that it has been established, I wouldn't pin this recruiting win by Duke specifically to a dollar amount. Did it play a part? It's hard to completely rule it out, but I'd say it more so had to do with the historically great program that Duke is. Ngongba becomes a major piece of a loaded 2024 recruiting class and also has the comfort of making the move to the next level with his current high school and AAU teammate, Darren Harris.

Max Feldman: It's a piece of the puzzle, but wouldn't say it's a prime example of the times. Ngongba, one of the best big's in the country, isn't necessarily the level of prospect in my opinion that can go to any program and essentially regardless of the output in year one, will be a lottery pick a year later. For those elite level prospects, say a Markelle Fultz, a Ben Simmons, Cade Cunningham or Chet Holmgren, skipping on the opportunity to play at a blue blood program is largely understandable. For Ngongba, the system, the foundation and the track record of success are key in evaluating his trajectory. Bigger NIL doesn't hurt by any means and I'm sure it played a factor, but countless bigs have come through Durham and wound up in the first round of the draft within 1-2 years, whereas Tang hasn't quite had a prospect like the big man just yet.

Travis Graf: I wouldn’t even consider it NIL as much as I would just the heavyweight that Duke is in recruiting. They’re one of the few programs that very often lose out on a player they key in on on the trail. That, and him being from the east coast both had to play in a big factor. 
3. How do you feel Ngongba fits into the picture for the Blue Devils next year in a powerful 2024 recruiting class?

Colby Giacubeno: I think the addition of Ngongba is a massive addition (both literally and figuratively) for head coach Jon Scheyer and his staff. The 6-foot-11 center proved himself this spring and summer as one of the more efficient players not only at his position, but in the country. He mans the paint at both ends and over time, has proved himself as an above average passer when operating on the block. He has soft touch on over the shoulder hooks, dependable hands and has shown flashes of improvements popping out to the perimeter for an occasional three. Defensively he posseses instinctual timing on altering shots at the rim and uses his length to corral rebounds in bunches. He'll fit seamlessly next to the others such as Cooper Flagg, Kon Knueppel, Isaiah Evans and Darren Harris

Max FeldmanFits like a glove. Having a piece like Ngongba that can carve out space around the rim, create extra opportunities and finish with consistency alongside processors/playmakers like Flagg and Knueppel is a homerun. As a guy who may struggle guarding in space some early on as his body evolves, flanking him with a defender/athlete like Isaiah Evans and Cooper Flagg should alleviate things. I'd envision a Wendell Carter esque role for Ngongba with the group, obviously depending on the returners as well.

Travis GrafI like it for him and for Duke. He’s a low maintenance player that will be able to have a big impact without having plays drawn up for him. He fits in perfectly around the other pieces and the way I see the team being constructed, I believe he’ll be able to ease into the college game and develop rather than being thrown to the wolves.

4. Will this be the last prospect in 2024 for the Blue Devils?

Colby Giacubeno: As rare as it may seem to bring in six highly regarded recruits, I think this staff has shown they'll pull off anyone on their priority list. Of the players left on Duke's board, I think they sit in a good place with VJ Edgecombe. I'd expect for others involved with Edgecombe such as Kentucky and St. John's to use the crowded incoming Duke class as a strategy to work in their own favor, but all signs seem to point as Edgecombe joining as the sixth commit. 

Max FeldmanSticking to my guns here, I think so. Obviously things can change depending on how their underclassmen progress, but I think the roster is filled out with the four-man class, six returners and potentially a transfer piece or two.

Travis GrafI’ll say no. I like where they stand with VJ Edgecombe, who they were just in to see again this week. 

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