May 25, 2024

Pressure is on! Cooper Flagg already being hailed as college basketball’s best player, top 2025 NBA Draft pick


Cooper Flagg‘s high school career spanned two states on the opposite ends of the Eastern Seaboard and it was nothing short of spectacular. 

Yet, as of today, it means nothing since the biggest year of Flagg’s basketball life is quickly approaching. 

To say that the No. 1 player in the 2024 national recruiting class “still has a lot to prove” would be a ridiculous statement under normal circumstances. But, Cooper Flagg isn’t normal.

The 6-foot-9, 195-pound forward has been billed as a generational talent since his high school career began. He’s dominated in Maine, Florida and everywhere in between. He’s considered a one-in-a-lifetime athlete. 

Don’t believe me? Well, just take a look at Duke’s current roster reformation. 

The Blue Blood Blue Devils are no stranger to big commitments and No. 1 recruiting classes. Just in recent memory, we can rattle off several highly-touted high school players like who dominated at Duke before becoming NBA lottery picks: Jayson Tatum, Zion Williamson, Paolo Banchero, Brandon Ingram, RJ Barrett, Marvin Bagley Jr., Jabari Parker. The list goes on.

None have created the commotion that Flagg has. 

Flagg’s commitment to Duke ripped through Cameron Indoor Stadium like a coastal Carolina wind, clearing the way for his arrival. Many members of the “The Brotherhood” were forced to face the music — a seemingly unstoppable force is descending on Duke and it needs space to land. Seven players from Duke’s 2024 Elite Eight team, including promising forwards Mark Mitchell and Sean Stewart, entered the transfer portal. While the surface-level reasons may have varied, the root cause of their exit is Flagg. A player of his magnitude needs a team to be built around him and everyone on the roster has to buy into this concept.

In return, new portal finds like sharpshooter Mason Gillis from Purdue can space the floor for Flagg. Maliq Brown from Syracuse is expected to be shot in the arm for Duke as a gritty, two-way player who can form a frontcourt wall on defense with Flagg. Rising sophomore Caleb Foster will be thrust into the spotlight as one of Duke’s few returning pieces along with Tyrese Proctor, who decided to forgo the NBA Draft and lean into what’s happening in Durham.

As Jon Scheyer and the Blue Devils staff cobble together a roster that complements Flagg, the ante has been upped. His one year in Durham will be a prove-it campaign. Duke has built a win-now team. Flagg has all the chips. It’s all on his shoulders. 

He knows it and everyone connected to the program knows it. 

Jared McCain, a former Duke freshman and current NBA prospect, acknowledged the elephant in the room while talking to 247Sports’ Isaac Trotter at the NBA Combine.

“The people transferring in college, they’ve already proven themselves at the college level,” McCain said when discussing college’s NIL landscape. He then piled a heap of praise (or pressure) onto Flagg.

“Shoutout my guy Cooper Flagg — I think he’ll be the best player in college.”

McCain is only saying what everyone is thinking. In fact, by acknowledging the shadows, he might have taken some of the weight off Flagg’s shoulders. 

Now, no one is tip-toeing around the fact that there’s somewhat of a target on Flagg’s back. Even if he’s not the best player in college basketball next season, he’ll be judged as if he is. Flagg is supposed to be college basketball’s most electric presence since Zion was jumping out of his shoes. Right now, he’s penciled in as either pick No. 1 or 2 in the 2025 NBA Draft class and he already being hailed as a savior for NBA draftniks, aloe for the bad sunburn that is the 2024 draft class. The folks suffering through sloppy scrimmage after sloppy scrimmage at the NBA Combine this week at least have Flagg to look forward to. 

Flagg is an elite two-way player who makes for the best defender in the class,” says 247Sports’ Travis Branham, who pits Flagg in a battle with Rutgers-bound guard Ace Bailey to go No. 1 in 2025. “He’s also a versatile offensive weapon that can be used in a variety of roles. Flagg wins everywhere he goes and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to contribute to a winning team. …  If Flagg hits, then a franchise will get a cornerstone player who will be a multi-year NBA All-Star.” 

If he isn’t already, Flagg will soon be a multimillionaire. Not a bad life. But there’s a lot of pressure, too. 

Flagg could carry Duke and its heavy history back to the mountaintop to give the Blue Devils their first championship of the Scheyer era, swinging college basketball’s pendulum back from super seniors to diaper dandies. Or he could fail to meet expectations — as many top recruits have done so recently — and further prove that there’s a big difference between a great college player and a generational pro prospect (don’t take the strays personally, Messrs. Edey, Timme and Tshiebwe). 

Scheyer and Duke need Flagg to be as good as we all think he is. For the sake of basketball, it’d be a lot more fun that way. 





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