There’s no other way to put it: The Kentucky Wildcats are red-hot, as they enter a weekend showdown against Mississippi State. Kentucky enters the weekend ranked No. 5 in the country and winners of 19 of their last 21 games.
Still, while the Wildcats pursue another Final Four berth and potentially a national title, we all know that John Calipari and his staff never stop working to put together the pieces for next year’s team.
Some of them are already known. McDonald’s All-Americans Tyrese Maxey and Kahlil Whitney are committed, as is Dontaie Allen, with the very realistic possibility that several others (Immanuel Quickley, Jemarl Baker, Nick Richards and E.J. Montgomery) will be back too.
Still, recruiting never really stops at Kentucky and with a couple big names left on the market, the Wildcats would still love to add a piece or two.
So will it happen?
Well, on Thursday’s Aaron Torres Sports Podcast, Aaron welcomed on Rivals.com national recruiting expert Corey Evans to break down the top remaining players in the class and where they might go. That includes five-star forwards Jaden McDaniels and Matthew Hurt, as well as guard Anthony Edwards.
Starting with McDaniels, the 6’10 forward from the Pacific Northwest technically still has five schools on the list – Washington, Kentucky, UCLA, Texas and San Diego State, where his brother plays this season. But in Evans’ mind it’s down to two. He also doesn’t expect McDaniels to make a decision any time soon.
“It’s going to happen in April probably. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is the last [big-time recruit] to do it… I really think this is a two-horse race between Washington and Kentucky.”
The good news for Kentucky is that they are in no worse than the No. 2 position right now, and as Evans pointed out, McDaniels really does seem oblivious to most of the recruiting noise. Evans mentioned how during a recent interview, McDaniels wasn’t even aware that UCLA – one of his finalists – had fired head coach Steve Alford.
At the same time, when it’s all said and done, it will be hard for the Wildcats to lure McDaniels from the hometown Washington Huskies, where five-star commit Isaiah Stewart is pulling at him to stay in Seattle.
“San Diego State is still there because of his brother, Kentucky is his dream school. But [five-star, Washington commit] Isaiah Stewart have cultivated a very strong relationship dating back to USA Basketball back in October.
I think you have two former travel teammates of his committed in 2019, a five-star, can’t miss, immediate producer and good friend in Isaiah Stewart, it’s your backyard, they’re the top team in the Pac-12. It’s going to stay hard to say no to the hometown school.”
Like McDaniels, Matthew Hurt is another player that is in no rush to make his decision. The 6’9 forward from Minnesota only just recently finished up all of his visits and is only now starting to winnow down the recruiting process. According to Evans however, the deliberate pace to Hurt’s decision isn’t because he’s oblivious like McDaniels, but instead, because he truly wants to see what each team’s roster will look for next season before he makes a decision.
There’s a very realistic chance that Hurt could wait until after players have declared for the draft at his four finalists before deciding.
“We’re still in a waiting pattern here with Hurt. Five-star top-end forward. It’s primarily a four school race, Kansas, Kentucky, UNC and Duke. The bluebloods of bluebloods. I’ve stuck with Kansas all along here for two years or so. I’m not going to change my prediction.
It’s going to be difficult to be 100 percent confident in predictions because Matt is in no rush, nor should he be because he understands that all the leverage is on his side. Teams will wait until the last minute possible to add him. He’s done visiting all the schools he set out to visit. He might take more. Personally, I think he waits until the spring for kids to leave for the NBA and then he makes his choice.”
If anything, it seems like Hurt’s decision may ultimately come down to the wire. And for him to choose Kentucky, it will also come down to which of their big guys declare for the draft. At this point we know Reid Travis will be gone, and PJ Washington almost certainly will be as well. E.J. Montgomery might come back, which could hurt Kentucky in Hurt’s recruitment. Then again, you’ve got to ask yourself: Would you rather have a sophomore E.J. Montgomery or a freshman Matthew Hurt? As much as I like Hurt’s game, I’d rather have a second year of Montgomery if I’m a Kentucky fan.
Speaking of Montgomery, it’s also important to remember that you just never know what will happen in recruiting. Montgomery didn’t commit until April, and Ashton Hagans and Travis didn’t show up until May. There might be a kid or two who is currently committed to a school who will decommit amid a coaching change, or someone you just never expect immediately becoming available.
In addition to McDaniels and Hurt, Evans also hit on a number of other topics. Is Tom Crean REALLY going to land the No. 1 prospect in the country, Anthony Edwards, the guard from Atlanta who Crean is selling to be the face of the hometown program?
And what 2020 high school prospects could possible reclassify and get eligible to play college ball next year?
Corey Evans has the answers. To listen to this episode of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast, click here.