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Pilgrim’s Insider Notes (Part 1): Johnny Juzang visits, RJ Hampton reclassifies


Good evening and welcome back to another edition of Pilgrim’s Insider Notes!

For the first time since I started doing the notes a few months back, I’ll be splitting it up into two parts. For tonight’s post, I’ll be focusing on closing out the 2019 class, including updates on Johnny Juzang and RJ Hampton, among others.

And then tomorrow, I will be releasing part two, where I will be diving into the class of 2020, discussing everything I heard involving the top junior prospects in the nation down in Atlanta this past weekend at the Nike EYBL event.

Let’s get things started.

Johnny Juzang

2019 five-star wing prospect Johnny Juzang recently finished up an official visit with the University of Kentucky, and as expected, things went extremely well for the Wildcats.

Arriving in Lexington on Sunday night and leaving Tuesday, the five-star sharpshooter got the opportunity to tour downtown, campus, basketball facilities, the Wildcat Coal Lodge, etc., before getting into the nitty-gritty of basketball.

There obviously weren’t any live team practices like we see on visits during the regular season, so the majority of Juzang’s time spent with John Calipari and the Kentucky coaching staff was discussing his potential role on next year’s roster, how he would be used, and watching film.

Outside of basketball-specific discussions, this was an opportunity for the high-level prospect to interact with the coaching staff and develop chemistry with one another, something that was important for Juzang. He knows that Kentucky would be a solid fit from a basketball standpoint, so the next step was making sure he was comfortable with the staff on a personal level. I think they did an excellent job here, showing the family-like atmosphere they have behind closed doors here in Lexington.

At one point, I felt Kentucky was going to go in for the kill during the visit and make an attempt at securing a commitment right then and there. While I think there was a slight push from the UK coaching staff, I’m under the impression that they were more than willing to let Juzang go home and think things over with his family before making his decision official. They’re extremely confident in where they stand.

With the 6-foot-8 sharpshooter’s trip to Lexington now over, I’m told that there are no more visits expected before a decision is made. While he is down to four schools (Kentucky, Virginia, Kansas, and Oregon), this thing will come down to the Wildcats and the Cavaliers, with UK being the odds-on favorite.

I will be shocked if Juzang isn’t a Wildcat by this time next week, if not sooner.

RJ Hampton

@CourtsideFilms

Yesterday afternoon, five-star combo guard RJ Hampton announced what we’ve all been expecting for a few months now, telling the world that he would be making the jump to 2019.

While the timing was a bit of a surprise (the announcement was expected later this summer after Peach Jam), Hampton made it known down in Atlanta at Nike EYBL this weekend that the jump was more likely than not.

“I don’t think I have anything left in high school to prove to anybody,” the five-star guard told reporters.

His father, Rod Hampton, then said that he had been telling the Kentucky coaching staff that he was “over 50%” likely to reclassify and that it was in their best interest to recruit him for the class of 2019.

“We told him that we’re really, really considering reclassifying, so his pitched toned up,” the elder Hampton said. “He had no clue that we were going to do it. I just told him that we’re really considering it. It’s over 50% now that we’re going to reclass, so he’s trying to put the pieces together. It’ll be interesting if Johnny Juzang chooses them after the visit. It’s a good program. I just feel that he can fit in with all the schools we’re looking at.”

When asked about his interest in Kentucky, the five-star guard said that he isn’t scared of anyone in the backcourt and feels he can earn playing time from day one no matter who is already there.

“I’m not scared off of anybody that’s there,” Hampton said. “I’m confident in my game. I know they are too. They’re great players and I don’t know why any other great player wouldn’t want to play with other great players.”

While he’s saying all of the right things about Kentucky remaining in contention, I just don’t see them being the final choice. There have been rumors going back to his sophomore season in high school that he was wanting to be the star of the show in college, and with how loaded the UK backcourt is (especially with Juzang likely joining in the coming days), it’d be tough for him to make that happen in Lexington.

It’s also interesting that Hampton decided to cut Duke from his list and add Texas Tech. I’ve been hearing for the last few weeks that the Blue Devils were essentially out of the running the minute Tre Jones returned to school, but I assumed he would just cut his list to three and move on. His father said that Chris Beard and the Tech coaching staff was the first to contact him when the recent recruiting period opened, so it might be just a courtesy to the local school in including them.

He says he’ll be scheduling visits to Lexington, Memphis, and Lubbock in the coming weeks before sitting down and coming up with a final decision.

While these upcoming visits could change things, I believe his recruitment will come down to Kansas and Memphis, with the Tigers likely having a slight lead right now over the Jayhawks.

Jaden McDaniels

Photo via Endless Motor

For the first time in months, there seems to be some movement in the recruitment of 2019 five-star forward Jaden McDaniels.

While I still don’t think an announcement is imminent, now that the All-Star circuit is over, the 6-foot-11 prospect is starting to think more about the final schools on his list and weigh the pros and cons of each. I don’t think Texas or UCLA will be major contenders, and three main programs of focus will be Washington, Kentucky, and San Diego State.

When the time comes, I have been told that McDaniels will simply be tweeting his decision and nothing more. There’s also a strong chance we don’t even receive an actual announcement date and he’ll just release the news to the public and move on.

While it’s still (somehow) too early to know who is the true favorite to land the athlete out of Federal Way, WA, the whispers right now are still that the hometown Washington Huskies will come out on top. He told KSR at the Jordan Brand Classic that “there is nothing like playing at home,” and considering he has always shied away from the spotlight, it just feels like that’s the likely scenario.

The deadline to sign a national letter of intent is May 15, so we should know more over the next two weeks.

NBA Draft decisions

As mentioned earlier today, neither Nick Richards nor EJ Montgomery reportedly received an invite to the NBA Combine, which obviously means that teams feel they should both return to school for another year.

While I still feel that the expectation is that both players return to Kentucky, there is still some uncertainty surrounding Montgomery’s status. At one point, there were significant rumblings that he was going to either keep his name in the NBA Draft or transfer next season. Since then, though, I have heard some tidbits that made me feel much more confident in him returning, but I still don’t believe it’s set in stone. If I had to make a bet, I’d say that Montgomery returns for one more season in Lexington.

I expect Richards back for a junior season regardless.

As for Kerry Blackshear Jr. and his status, I don’t expect we’ll hear much until the NBA Draft evaluation process is over. As I told you guys last week, the potential Virginia Tech graduate transfer is expected to take the draft process very seriously before focusing on cutting his list, scheduling visits, etc.

That will have to wait a bit longer.


I’ll be back tomorrow for more.

Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

20 responses to “Pilgrim’s Insider Notes (Part 1): Johnny Juzang visits, RJ Hampton reclassifies”

  1. kyle heavy

    Do you know if Kerry Blackshear jr got invited to the combine?

    1. kyle heavy
    2. shelby

      Kyle that’s a great question!

  2. mashburnfan1

    Johnny Juzang described as a sharpshooter. I know I will get bashed and told I am negative but look up his stats. Shot 47% from field and 31% from three in High School play. How does that equate to a sharpshooter? I hope he is lights out if he comes here but I just don’t get the hype people put on kids, especially when numbers say otherwise. College ball is much tougher so why would those numbers go up in the likely 8 months he is here? Sharpshooter should be at least 40% from three in High School I would think, probably even a little higher. These ratings are worthless.

    1. Cokely53

      Yes, you will get bashed and deservedly so, but not just because of this post but all of the other crack head things you say. Have you not read the other post about Juzang and how they explain how his numbers will go up? And why the 31% was actually misleading and in I think AAU he did shoot around 40%

    2. ccat23

      It’s shows he shot 35% this season in hs and 37% last year , and on the aau circuit he shot 40%

    3. Bobbum Man

      Boy you on a football post and you on a basketball post are just night and day…. no way it’s the same person

    4. nocode96

      Right? He’s like the football version of me, or BP, or the other b-ball defenders. On b-ball he can’t help but say a bunch of dumb, negative crap that makes no sense.

    5. 4everUKblue

      mashbumKfanboy is nothing but a troll and a dUKe lover. Had to laugh the other day when he called someone out for their lack of football knowledge, just a total jackass!

  3. Cokely53

    VirginiaCat picked Memphis last week for RJ, so that means that he’s a lock to go to Kansas this week.

  4. shelby

    I honestly think Nick would would transfer B4 EJ. EJ could be a star next year.

  5. BigJohnC

    If Hampton isn’t scared of competition in the backcourt, then why did jones return to duke knock them out automatically??

    1. Cletis75

      Maybe he don’t like Jones.

    2. makeitstop

      I wondered the same thing… they don’t have an elite guard coming in, they got 2 big men and some top 25-30 guys. Maybe that narrative is too simplistic, and he really is looking for the best overall fit of style and personnel, and chance to win a title. Texas Tech and Memphis won’t fit that latter bill and his Dad seems a little skeptical of Penny. I’d bet on Kansas but not rule Cal out.

  6. Pensacola_Cat_Fan

    Thanks for the report

  7. VirginiaCat

    Jack, thank you for your analysis. When all is said and done, looks like Blacksheer is the biggest piece of the puzzle for next year. We really need him. Juzang will be a nice addition if his recruitment holds true to form. With respect to Hampton, Kentucky has never been in the mix for his services and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. His apparent desire to be “the guy” does not mesh with Cal’s concept of team play. I will also not be disappointed if McDaniels goes elsewhere. He eschews the spotlight, which is fine, but the lights burn very bright in Lexington. I am also concerned that he may save his A game for the pros. If we can get Blacksheer and Juzang, and EJ and Nick return, we could make some noise in 2019/20.

  8. No more excuses cal

    Good read

  9. IrishCat

    It’s going to break my heart if EJ leaves. I’m expecting big things from him next season.

  10. vandzandz

    The Hampton’s y’all way too much. I think he is scared. Just go to Memphis