Top Duke and Kentucky target Jonathan Kuminga set to headline Kyrie Irving Invitational | Zagsblog
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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Wednesday / June 3.
  • Top Duke and Kentucky target Jonathan Kuminga set to headline Kyrie Irving Invitational

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    By ADAM ZAGORIA

    Duke continues to prioritize Jonathan Kuminga, the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2021, and they have a built-in connection to boot.

    Former Duke star Kyrie Irving attended the same high school the 6-foot-8 Kuminga now attends, The Patrick School (N.J.).

    Irving, who continues to sit out for the Nets with a shoulder injury, recently helped run a practice at his alma mater and spent two hours with Kuminga and his teammates, who are ranked No. 3 nationally by USA Today.

    “He’s been helping on everything,” Kuminga said Wednesday at practice ahead of his team’s regular-season opener Thursday night in Elizabeth. “He really comes here and motivates us, tell us we gotta do this, what’s right for us. That’s pretty much what he’s been saying, and helping us on everything.”

    Kuminga and the Celtics will headline the Kyrie Irving Invitational on Monday night at Barclays Center when they face rival Roselle Catholic, ranked No. 23 by USA Today. The Lions feature Xavier-bound guard C.J. Wilcher, Florida signee Niels Lane, Binghamton pledge Richie Greaves and uncommitted five-star big man Cliff Omoruyi, who is being courted by Kentucky, Auburn, UConn and Rutgers among others. The game is set for 6 p.m. but will be shown on the YES Network at 8 p.m.

    The game is the first of several meetings this season between the two rivals. During a Fall League game in October, Kuminga went for 19 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists as the Patrick School beat Roselle Catholic, 68-57.

    “We’re so excited about that [the Kyrie Irving Invitational, being invited to that,” Kuminga said. “It’s big not just for me, but for the school and pretty much everybody on the team. I mean, we’re ready to play that game and just do our thing.”

    Kuminga, a projected Top 10 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft by ESPN.com, remains open in his recruitment, with Duke, Kentucky and Auburn among those on his list of 10 schools. He attended the Champions Classic last month at Madison Square Garden where both Duke and Kentucky played. Kentucky coach John Calipari and his assistants have also seen Kuminga several times this fall at the high school.

    The Celtics will play in the John Wall Invitational next week in North Carolina, and Duke and other schools may watch Kuminga there.

    A native of the Congo, Kuminga, 17, has the option of reclassifying to 2020, but has not yet indicated whether he plans to do so.

    Irving would probably love to see Kuminga choose Duke, but has advised him to keep his circle of advisors tight during the process.

    “Keep my circle small, listen to the right people and just keep doing my thing,” Kuminga said of Irving’s advice. “Keep playing my game, working out and everything’s going to be fine.”

    In the meantime, Kuminga is focused on winning games and titles with the Celtics, a program that has won six New Jersey Tournament of Champions crowns, five under former coach Kevin Boyle, now the coach of No.-1 ranked Montverde (FL) Academy, and one under current coach and school principal Chris Chavannes. That 2017 team that won the most recent title was co-coached by Mike Rice and was led by current Kentucky junior big man Nick Richards.

    Asked his goals this year, Kuminga said, “It’s pretty much get the championship, help this team out, help this school out to win the ring and pretty much improve my game.”

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.