Dereck Lively is officially set to become a Duke Blue Devil.
Lively, a 7-foot-1 center from Bellefonte, Pa., signed his national letter of intent late Wednesday. The Westtown School senior and Team Final AAU player is the headline signing for Duke associate head coach Jon Scheyer, who will become the team’s head coach when Mike Krzyzewski retires after this season. Lively is now the No. 1 player in the 2022 recruiting class following Kentucky signee Shaedon Sharpe’s decision to enroll early in Lexington.
“It was just sealing the deal,” said Lively, who initially committed to Duke on Sept. 20. “Just finally being able to sign the NLI is just something I’ve been thinking about ever since I committed to Duke.”
Lively figures to be an instant starter for the first Blue Devils squad coached by someone other than Krzyzewski since 1980. Scheyer and Lively will be looking to create their own legacies at Duke.
When Lively takes the court with the rest of the 2022 class, which includes fellow top-10 recruits Dariq Whitehead and Kyle Filipowski, he’ll be looking to prove that Duke’s new guard is just as elite as the old.
“It’s just setting the tone of a new era,” Lively said. “One era ending and going into another, it’s [about] maintaining that Duke basketball mentality and trying to go at everyone we can. We’re all just excited. We’ve waited; we’re hungry.”
Lively, a projected NBA lottery pick when he turns pro, is an elite rim protector and rebounding machine, with the athleticism to excel in a fast-paced game. Lively isn’t the first high-profile recruit to go from the Westtown School to Tobacco Road, either. Atlanta Hawks forward Cam Reddish, a 2018 Westtown graduate, played one season for the Blue Devils before being selected 10th in the 2019 NBA draft.
While Lively is a bit of a basketball rarity — a big who excels on the perimeter as much as in the paint— he also fits right in at Duke. The Blue Devils have produced NBA talent at the position for years, and currently have a big man projected to be the first pick in 2022, Paolo Banchero.
“It’s just setting the tone of a new era. One era [at Duke] ending and going into another
“It’s definitely reassuring knowing that I’m going into an organization and a program that has led other prospects and other players into going into the [NBA] and staying into the league,” Lively said. “That’s just all I’m looking for. All I’m looking for is somewhere that I can develop my game and get to a point where I cannot just get to the league, but I can stay in the league.”
While Lively is eager to get started on building his Duke legacy, he still has one last ride at Westtown under coach Seth Berger.
“Just knowing that I can be playing alongside people I’ve been growing up and playing against, and also new people that have just come to the team, is something that we’re excited to do,” Lively said. “Playing Westtown basketball, we’re trying to grow and trying to get better as basketball players each day.”
His final season at Westtown also offers a last chance to learn from Berger, who has played a large part in his development as a player.
“Being able to be coached by Seth Berger has just been a great joy,” Lively said. “He’s always been someone that I could go on the court [when] I have a question or am trying to mold my game, refine it, or master it. He’s been someone I’ve been able to depend on.”
Finding a college coach who mirrored Berger’s style was paramount for Lively.
“When it comes to Coach Scheyer, as we built a relationship, I realized that he was the person I could put my trust into,” Lively said. “He was the person I could really depend on to help me to get to the next level.”
Earlier this week, Duke tipped off its season at Madison Square Garden in the Champions Classic. The team was playing in front of a packed house, as well as millions of viewers on ESPN. That’s the kind of attention Duke basketball commands. It’s one of the highest-profile programs in all of college sports, and it always finds itself playing on the national stage.
“It’s something I’ve been dreaming of doing ever since I committed to Duke basketball,” Lively said. “Getting on that floor with my teammates and playing together and playing good basketball together is something I think about every day.”