Duke takes bold step into NIL landscape – The North State Journal

Duke’s hiring of Rachel Baker as the basketball program’s first general manager could help the program retain players like Trevor Keels (1) and Wendell Moore Jr. (0) when their NBA prospects aren’t as good. higher than someone like Mark Williams (15). (Tony Avelar/AP Photo)

When UNC and Duke played in the Final Four, the two teams were only separated by four points.

Once the season was over, however, the distance between programs seemed like a chasm.

It was business as usual at Duke, known for more than a decade for its reliance on single players leaving for the NBA after their freshman season. Sure enough, when the deadline to stay in the draft passed, three Blue Devils freshmen – Paolo Banchero, AJ Griffin and Trevor Keels – had left for the league, joining other first-year sophomore starters Mark Williams and junior Wendell Moore Jr.

In North Carolina, however, the situation was hardly normal. Armando Bacot, who narrowly missed out on ACC Player of the Year honors, and Caleb Love, a guard who carried the Tar Heels to victory with explosive outbursts at the UNC tournament, all two announced they were returning to Carolina for another championship run. . Another productive guard, RJ Davis, and Leaky Black, a senior who received an extra year of eligibility due to the 2020-21 COVID season, also opted to return. Neither was a sure thing.

Just like that, Carolina was poised to return, nearly intact, while Duke looked to its stellar freshman class, as well as a transfer squad, to rebuild, as it has done since Kyrie Irving wore dark blue.

The contrast could not have been more stark. UNC, long known as proponents of the old-school approach under former coach Roy Williams, has embraced the new college landscape, creating a framework to help support student-athletes seeking a income thanks to the NCAA’s new Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) rules. . Although the figures have not been released, there is widespread speculation that Love and Bacot will both be able to earn well over six figures while remaining at Chapel Hill for another year, matching or exceeding a potential salary from the G-League if they are not drafted in the first round.

While that wouldn’t have been enough to keep Banchero or Griffin at Duke – both should be high picks in the draft and earn the chance for generational wealth – Keels and Moore in particular may have been lured back. at Duke had a similar framework existed with the Blue Devils.

New Duke coach Jon Scheyer has taken steps to ensure future underclassmen won’t have to deal with the NBA’s ruling without an NIL backstop in place.

Scheyer announced last week that Duke had become the first NCAA team to hire a general manager, bringing in Rachel Baker to fill the role.

As Managing Director, Baker “will specialize in helping players improve their personal and professional skills, capitalizing on strategic partnerships, including NIL opportunities, and working to help players navigate opportunities and challenges. that come with being a student-athlete at the highest level. “, according to a statement from the school.

In other words, Baker will work to build that safety net, making sure Duke has the NIL opportunities that other programs enjoyed last year.

Baker is more than suited for the role. She spent eight years working for Nike and one in the NBA, focusing on sports marketing initiatives. Many Duke players will know her from her work for Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League, the summer league in which most of the top high school recruits play to help gain exposure.

Baker has also worked with NBA superstar Kevin Durant to help develop strategic marketing initiatives with Nike.

In other words, potential Duke recruits now have the opportunity to have their NIL marketing efforts supported by someone who has worked at two of the best marketers in the business – Nike and the NBA – and helped Durant to maximize its marketing opportunities.

“The state of college basketball is growing and changing at an exponential rate,” Scheyer said in the statement. “Rachel is a one-of-a-kind talent with a unique background that will provide our players and their families with an unparalleled resource and partner as we navigate the new frontiers of college basketball together. Through her work in the NBA and at Nike, she brings nearly a decade of basketball expertise to our staff, as well as her gifts in relationship and community building, leadership development and experiential marketing. We look forward to seeing what she brings to our program in this newly created position.

“I couldn’t be more excited to join Jon Scheyer and the entire Duke Basketball family,” Baker said. “We are in the midst of such a transformative moment – ​​not just for Duke, but for the college basketball landscape – and the chance to be a part of it is the opportunity of a lifetime. Duke Basketball has remained grounded respecting our history while writing the future of the game. I’m humbled and honored to join this tradition and can’t wait to get started.

The move should help Duke close NIL’s gap on the competition.

Now if only Baker could do something about those four points.

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