May 27, 2024

Five-star center Patrick Ngongba II announced his commitment to Duke on Saturday, giving the Blue Devils their second five-star pickup of the week and further solidifying their hold on the No. 1 recruiting class in the country.

Ngongba chose Duke over Kansas State and Kentucky. He also took visits to Michigan and UConn this fall. Kansas State recruited him the longest because of Ngongba’s strong ties to Jerome Tang and assistant coach Jareem Dowling, who was at North Texas when the Mean Green gave Ngongba his first scholarship offer.

But Jon Scheyer zeroed in on Ngongba as his top big man target and welcomed him on campus twice, including at last month’s Countdown to Craziness, when No. 1 recruit Cooper Flagg — who committed to Duke on Monday — was also in Durham.

“I chose Duke because it felt like home,” Ngongba told ESPN. “I like their plan for me, and I trust the coaches. It is a place where we can win and help me get to the next level.”

A 6-foot-11 center from Paul VI High School (Virginia), Ngongba is one of the few true post players in the 2024 class. He is ranked No. 19 overall in the ESPN 100 and the No. 3 center in the class.

Ngongba comes from a basketball family. Both of his parents played at George Washington, with his mother, Tajama, setting the program record for career points scored before being selected in the 1997 WNBA draft. She’s been a college basketball coach at five different schools since 2000, including a five-year stint as head coach at Radford from 2008-13.

“As parents, we were looking for coaches who would push Pat outside of his comfort zone,” Tajama Ngongba said. “Pat is a composed player who has a steadiness about him and tries to do the little things well.”

He enjoyed a breakout spring and summer playing for Team Takeover on the Nike EYBL circuit, averaging 12.0 points and 7.4 rebounds, shooting nearly 72% inside the arc. A 33-point, 18-rebound, 5-assist performance against Phenom University in late May opened eyes around the country.

Ngongba has improved both his game and body throughout the course of his high school career. With a 7-4 wingspan, great size, strength and sure hands, he operates best on the low block. He loves to score over his left shoulder with a jump hook. He has developed a face-up game, where he can make standstill 3s, short-distance drives and is very effective in dribble handoffs. He excels at finding open teammates and has the willingness and skill to deliver passes. He also displays strong passing instincts out of the low post.

Duke already had the No. 1 recruiting class in the country following Flagg’s commitment, but Ngongba gives the Blue Devils even more separation from No. 2 North Carolina. In addition to Flagg and Ngongba, Scheyer also has commitments from five-star wing Isaiah Evans, top-25 guard Kon Knueppel and top-50 guard Darren Harris. Duke also is considered one of two front-runners — along with St. John’s — for top-five wing V.J. Edgecombe, who visited Duke with the five aforementioned players for Countdown to Craziness last month.

“Darren Harris was recruiting me, and he is a good teammate,” Ngongba said. “I spoke with Cooper Flagg on my visit, and we talked about being a great frontcourt together. Next, I am trying to get V.J. Edgecombe and Dylan Harper.”

If Duke ends up with the No. 1 recruiting class in the country, it will be the sixth time since 2014 the Blue Devils have landed the top group — and the second time since Mike Krzyzewski announced he was stepping down in 2021. They’ve finished with a top-two class every year since 2014 — outside of 2022, when they were ranked No. 4.

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