Michigan State felt a familiar sting on Thursday afternoon, the same sting that comes with falling short when going head-to-head with Duke.
Whether on the court or in recruiting, more often, it’s Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski that has had the leg up on MSU coach Tom Izzo.
On Thursday afternoon, Duke once again came out on top by securing a commitment from 6-foot-10 center Vernon Carey Jr., ranked the No. 1 player in the nation for 2019 by Rivals.com and the No. 2 overall player according to the composite rankings compiled by 247sports.com.
The Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native announced his decision in the gymnasium at NSU University School after having cut his list of schools down to three — Duke, Michigan State and North Carolina, though it was believed the final choice was between the Blue Devils and Spartans.
"The reason why I chose Duke is Coach K, just the recruiting class they're bringing in this year, Wendell Moore and Boogie Ellis, and hopefully some guys can come with me," Carey said on SportsCenter. "They see me as a positionless player, they said I can be anywhere on the court. That worked well with me."
Carey would have been the highest-ranked player ever to commit to Michigan State under Izzo since player rankings began. In 2003, guard Shannon Brown was ranked No. 3 by Rivals and No. 4 in the composite rankings. Michigan State landed two top-10 players in each of the previous three classes, including Miles Bridges (No. 10) in 2016 and Jaren Jackson Jr. (No. 6) in 2017.
Carey took three total trips to East Lansing, including two official visits, the last of which came on Nov. 10. It was the last official visit for Carey, who also took trips to Duke, North Carolina, Miami (Fla.) and Kentucky. Two weeks ago, he announced his three finalists.
Michigan State’s 2019 class has just one player signed — 6-7 Malik Hall, the No. 53 player in the nation. Michigan State also has a commitment from 6-2 guard Rocket Watts. The No. 32 player in the nation was the first player to commit to MSU’s class, but did not sign in the early signing period. He has reiterated since then that he remains committed to Michigan State and will sign in the spring.
In the meantime, Michigan State’s pursuit of several other top recruits continues, including that of 6-9 Isaiah Stewart, the No. 6 player in the nation. He is playing this season at La Lumiere in La Porte, Indiana — the school that produced Jaren Jackson Jr. — and took an official visit to Michigan State in October. He’s also visited Duke, Syracuse, Kentucky and Washington.
With Carey headed to Duke, it could open the door for Stewart to commit, though it’s hardly a guarantee as Duke has been pushing hard to land Stewart, as well.
The Spartans are also in on 6-5 guard Anthony Edwards of Holy Spirit School in Atlanta. He announced last month he was reclassifying from the 2020 class to the 2019 class and that Michigan State is among the teams that have made the shooting guard a priority.
Edwards is the top-ranked player in the country, according to 247Sports. He’s announced his final eight schools, including Michigan State, Florida State, Kansas, North Carolina, Kentucky, Duke, UCLA and Georgia.
The final five-star target on Michigan State’s radar is 6-7 forward Keion Brooks, a teammate of Stewart’s at La Lumiere. Ranked No. 22 in the nation, Brooks had a scheduled visit to Michigan State last month canceled and it has yet to be rescheduled.