Coach K is beating John Calipari at his own game

Zion steals the show at Powerade Jam Fest (0:49)

On March 26, 2018, high school hoops phenom and Duke commit Zion Williamson threw down some vicious dunks to win the 2018 Powerade Jam Fest. (0:49)

ATLANTA -- If you want clear evidence that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is beating Kentucky's John Calipari at his own game, all you have to do is watch Wednesday's McDonald's All American Game.

What was once, not all that long ago, a one-and-done world dominated by Cal and Big Blue Nation is now being run by a 71-year-old who has assembled arguably the most impressive recruiting class in history.

"I don't think anybody runs recruiting because there's so many good players," Krzyzewski said last week.

He may be correct, but Duke is getting the most highly regarded ones.

Tre Jones, ESPN's 12th-ranked player, started the trend, but it hardly caused a stir when the younger brother of former Blue Devils guard Tyus Jones committed to Duke.

Then came a pledge from Cam Reddish (No. 3) last September, which many felt would take Coach K and the Blue Devils out of the running for the nation's top-rated player, R.J. Barrett. However, the versatile and skilled Canadian chose Duke two months later, and then came the bombshell: Zion Williamson, the second-ranked player in the nation, announced he was also heading to Durham.

"I was shocked," Reddish said when he found out Williamson was joining the class. "I couldn't believe it."

No one could, but Coach K had done the unthinkable: He put together a class with the top three prospects in the country.

"They are the top three NBA prospects in my mind," said one high-ranking NBA executive in attendance for the past few days of McDonald's All American Game workouts and scrimmages. "I'm a little concerned about Zion at our level, but he'll be a monster in college."

It's not as if Calipari didn't get his share. He'll welcome in three top-25 players, including two who will be participating in Wednesday's game: relentless forward Keldon Johnson and point guard Immanuel Quickley.

But he went toe-to-toe with Krzyzewski for Barrett, Williamson and Reddish and came up empty.

Calipari also recently came up short in head-to-head battles over Marvin Bagley III, Gary Trent Jr., Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles and Marques Bolden in the past few years.

"Coach K has a lot of knowledge about the game," Bagley told ESPN. "He's been there before, and that's hard to pass up. The opportunity to play for arguably the greatest coach ever, that was big in my decision to go to Duke."

"I trust Coach K," Williamson told ESPN earlier this week. "He's done this before with the USA team with a lot of talent."

Krzyzewski tiptoed his way around the question posed to him days ago about why he has had increased success on the recruiting trail recently, especially against Calipari and Kentucky.

"In recruiting, if we picked the right kid and we do our profile the right way, we should have a great chance of getting him because we have a great school, a great program and our guys get better," Krzyzewski said. "That doesn't mean we're the only ones. But it's the way it is. And they're OK being coached by an old man."

It's no secret that Calipari has been unhappy -- along with some other coaches -- about the perceived recruiting advantages Krzyzewski has held through his position as coach of USA Basketball, including access to younger players in the national team system.

With Krzyzewski resigning as head coach of Team USA last year, there was some thought that Duke's recruiting might take a hit, along with the fact that he is in his 70s.

Instead, it has been pure domination of late against Calipari, who had long cornered the market on one-and-dones. This most recent Blue Devils class has quelled any hesitation about Krzyzewski and Duke's status as the nation's recruiting juggernaut.

The group that will arrive in Durham for summer school in a matter of months will be far different from the one that came in this past season with heavy expectations and aspirations. The pieces just didn't quite fit -- for example, playing two big men in Bagley and Wendell Carter in an age when everyone else is going small. Then there was Trevon Duval, whose inability to run the point forced Grayson Allen to play with the ball in his hands with far more frequency during the second half of the season.

This group coming in has unlimited versatility. Barrett is 6-foot-7 and can do just about everything on the court. The same can be said for the 6-7 Reddish, who can play anywhere from the point to power forward in college. Williamson is a freak athlete who can do far more than just dunk, and Jones is the point guard the Blue Devils desperately needed in 2017-18: a pure leader who can make those around him better and also defend.

"We're all unselfish, want to win and can all make plays for each other," Reddish said.

The pendulum could swing back to Lexington soon, but for now the one-and-done market belongs to Mike Krzyzewski and Duke.