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Why You Shouldn’t Expect James Wiseman to Reclassify into the Class of 2018

USA Basketball

There are no shortage of topics which interest Kentucky fans right now – be it what players are going pro, what players are returning for the 2019 season, and overall just what the heck the roster will look like by tip-off of the first game next year. Yet there might not be a topic more intriguing than the future of James Wiseman. The Kentucky staff met with him yesterday and everyone wants to know where the Wildcats stand, and when he will make his college choice.

Oh and there’s one other question too – will Wiseman, the top ranked player in the class of 2019, actually stay in the 2019 class at all? For months there have been all sorts of rumors that Wiseman is seriously considering a move to the class of 2018, to try and get eligible for next season.

Yet while that’s been the talk for months among fans, it isn’t something that most media members are taking seriously… yet. At least not 247 Sports’ recruiting guru and FS1 college basketball analyst Evan Daniels.

Daniels joined KSR’s “Aaron Torres Sports Podcast” earlier this week, and when Aaron asked Wiseman, and why everyone keeps bringing up a possible reclassification, Daniels shared his thoughts.

“I get why people keep asking,” Daniels said. “But he keeps answering it the same way. So until James Wiseman says something differently you have to take him at his word.”

Daniels explained that while sometimes reclassification rumors are legit, on this one, he hasn’t actually heard from anyone credible that it is a serious conversation.

Instead, it’s mostly fans that are stirring the pot and creating the narrative.

“Sometimes you hear things in the background,” Daniels said. “Sources and people recruiting the kid will say that the kid is going to do something; whether it’s commit [or] reclassify. I haven’t heard any of that with him. There’s just been speculation among fans. At this point he says he’s not reclassifying, he’s staying in the 2019 class. I’ll start to take another stance seriously when he makes a public statement saying otherwise.”

Ultimately while the potential reclassification of a star like Wiseman is exciting, there is plenty of reason to pump the breaks here a bit. There is Wiseman repeatedly denying the rumor, something that his mom did as well on Wednesday. Also, keep in mind that Wiseman is young for his age. While players like Marvin Bagley and Ashton Hags (who is trying to reclassify for next year) were a year old, and tried to get back into their proper age group, Wiseman is the age of a normal high school junior. He just turned 17 a few weeks ago and won’t be 18 for another, full, calendar year. If he stays in his class, he will enter college at the normal age for most of his peers.

So while the Wiseman/reclassification buzz is exciting, it’s probably too early to take things seriously. At least according to the biggest name in the recruiting game.

Also, to hear the rest of Evan Daniels’ entire interview with Aaron Torres, including conversation about the 2019 recruiting class as a whole, how Jeff Capel’s departure impacts Duke and more Wiseman talk, be sure to download the show by clicking here.


Wenyen Gabriel to test waters of NBA Draft

Wenyen Gabriel to test waters of NBA Draft

Wenyen Gabriel is declaring for the NBA Draft, but will not sign with an agent at this time, leaving the door open to return to Kentucky for his junior season.

“My dream has always been to play professionally,” Gabriel said. “After talking with Coach Cal and the staff, they believe it’s in my best interest to see where I stand in the eyes of the NBA. I’m confident I can play at the next level, but I want to be absolutely certain that this is the right decision for me at this time. I know that I have the opportunity to return to school and that I will have the full support of the coaching staff and the Big Blue Nation. No matter what happens, I love this university and all the opportunities it’s been able to provide me.”

“Wenyen knows how much I would like to coach him another year, but I also understand the situation he’s in and his desire to pursue his dreams,” John Calipari said. “The great part about this process is Wenyen will know firsthand where he stands with the NBA. If it’s his time and he can continue on the path that he went on this year, he becomes a valuable asset for a team because of his energy, his willingness to do anything to win and his ability to stretch the floor. If he needs to return to school, we will continue to push him to be the best version of himself as we try to chase a championship next season. It’s a win-win for him, and he has my full support.”

Last season, Wenyen averaged 6.8 points and 5.4 rebounds but came on strong in the final stretch. Over the last nine games of the season, he averaged 9.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.1 3-point field goals per game, becoming UK’s go-to perimeter shooter. He set a UK and SEC Tournament record in the semifinals by going a perfect 7-7 from the outside en route to 23 points.

Wenyen is the fifth Kentucky Wildcat to declare for the draft, joining Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PJ Washington, and Hamidou Diallo. Knox, Alexander, and Diallo all plan to sign with agents, while Wenyen and PJ will not, for now. Both have until May 30 to decide whether or not they will return to Kentucky.

Smart move.


How will you remember Hamidou Diallo?

Hamidou Diallo officially announced he will leave the University of Kentucky with a heartfelt message to the fan base.

“Thank you to the Big Blue Nation,” Diallo said. “You took in a kid from New York and made him one of your own. I love you guys and can’t thank you enough for believing in me and supporting me through everything.”

But to say the entire Big Blue Nation believed in Diallo and supported him isn’t exactly true. There was a portion of the BBN, albeit a small one, that was very hard on Diallo on social media — and he saw it. He was hurt by the negativity behind the scenes as his struggles on the court worsened, midway through his only full season in Lexington.

And it was fair to be critical of Diallo during that time because he was in a pretty big funk and did more to hurt his team than help it in some games. It wasn’t a lack of trying or caring, though; but more so a case of simply not being what everyone hoped and expected he would be right away. As a five-star guard with NBA expectations right out of the gate, his time at Kentucky was a little disappointing, given the hype.

So now that he’s off to pursue his dreams, how will you remember Diallo’s time at Kentucky? To you, was he a bust or a kid whose projected ceiling was too high to begin with?

I’ll remember him as the kid who kept me up until midnight the night before the deadline to announce his return. I (along with everyone else) refreshed Twitter a million times that evening, waiting for whatever decision he would make. Then celebrated when he announced his return.

I’ll remember Diallo as the mysterious practice player fans were dying to see in games late in the 2016-17 season, when in reality, he wouldn’t have made a difference. Many of you were all over Calipari for leaving him on the bench in street clothes when he had only been on campus a couple of months.

I’ll remember Diallo for hitting a three-pointer early in the game against Virginia Tech, then turning to a Virginia Tech assistant and yelling, “I got your non-shooter right here.” For a moment, he silenced his critics who said he couldn’t shoot, myself included. He hit four that game.

I’ll remember Diallo for being the only UK player to play well in their homecoming. He shined in Madison Square Garden last December.

I’ll remember Diallo for that dunk against Buffalo.

And that other dunk against Buffalo.

© Kyle Terada | USATSI

But sadly, I’ll most remember Diallo for his January and February, in which he played poorly and it weighed him down on and off the court. The “Inside The Madness” Facebook series gave us a glimpse of what he was dealing with as he struggled, and it only made us want him to succeed even more.

Then there was Calipari’s comment about Diallo: “It’s your son and he’s struggling. It’s your son now, not somebody else’s son. Your son. Would you want me to just bench him and say, ‘We’ll worry about it next year?’ That’s what you’d want me to do with your son?” It was clear Calipari had Diallo’s back when very few others did.

So as I said, unfortunately, I’ll most remember Diallo for his tough times, and not his best games and contributions to the team, or how he truly appreciated his Kentucky uniform. Maybe it’s our own fault for wanting to much out of him?

How do you perceive Hamidou Diallo’s short career at UK?


Making The Case For Wenyen Gabriel To Stay Or Go

Of the NBA decisions remaining, the one I’m probably dreading the most is Wenyen Gabriel’s. On today’s show, Matt Jones said he’s hearing that, in the very near future, Wenyen will announce that he is going to the draft and signing with an agent, ending his two-year career as a Kentucky Wildcat. After getting to know Wenyen, I wouldn’t judge him for that one bit, but it would really suck to lose a valuable veteran, a rarity on the roster these days.

While we wait to hear the verdict, here’s the case for Wenyen to stay, and the case for Wenyen to go.

Stay

• Get your degree

Wenyen is apparently on track to graduate after his junior year, meaning if he stays, he can leave Kentucky with a degree in hand next summer. Yes, he can always come back and finish that degree later on, but with a career playing overseas or in the G-League likely ahead of him, wouldn’t it be nice to get that finished up now?

• Win a national championship

Who knows whether or not that will happen next year, but I like Kentucky’s chances more if they’ve got a contributing junior on the roster. With Wenyen back, Kentucky will have another piece to the national championship contender recipe: a real veteran presence. Wenyen found his way as a role player and leader this season; another group of young players would only be better with him by their side.

• Prove there’s a place for juniors in Calipari’s system

I’m not going to put this on Wenyen, but if he leaves, it only furthers the narrative that elite recruits who don’t end up as one-and-dones or two-and-throughs don’t feel as though they have a place in Calipari’s system anymore. Given the departures of Kyle Wiltjer, Charles Matthews, Marcus Lee, Isaiah Briscoe, and now Sacha Killeya-Jones, that narrative is feeling closer and closer to the truth and I don’t like it.


Go

• Capitalize on SEC Tournament performance

Wenyen’s perfect 7-7 three-point performance in the SEC Tournament semifinals is far and away the highlight of his career and, from an individual standpoint, probably won’t be topped. While his numbers dipped in the NCAA Tournament, no one will ever question whether or not Wenyen can shoot again. With that highlight reel in his pocket, now could be a great time to market himself.

• Provide for your family

This is the most obvious and understandable reason for anyone to do anything in life. Now 21, Wenyen will be one of the oldest players in his class, and with a stable of young bucks coming in — many of them shooters — he may have accepted that the minutes aren’t there and, drafted or not, it’s time for him to go make some money for his family.

If you need a reminder of Wenyen’s story, I encourage you to read my story on him from December 2016, as well as watch the segment SEC Network did on his relationship with his childhood friend Bol, which is clearly on his mind since he shared it again on Instagram this afternoon:


Where you can meet Shai Gilgeous-Alexander this week

Where you can meet Shai Gilgeous-Alexander this week

Want to meet Shai Gilgeous-Alexander? Round two of his #SGATour begins on Wednesday and will cover Northern, Central, and Eastern Kentucky.

Here’s where you can meet Shai this week:

If you missed Monday’s show, Harvey called in to tell us about how he met Shai and gave him an Indian necklace he made to bring him luck at the next level (it’s not the one pictured below):

Here’s hoping for more Shai and Harvey stories in the future.


Hamidou Diallo’s top-ten moments as a Kentucky Wildcat

© Kyle Terada | USATSI

This afternoon, Hamidou Diallo officially announced the beginning of his professional basketball career by entering his name in the NBA Draft and signing an agent.

It was a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs for him this season, but there were a ton of bright moments in Hami’s career as a Wildcat to look back on.

Check out the top-ten moments from Diallo’s time in blue and white:

10. The Commitment

Back in January of 2017, Hamidou Diallo committed to Kentucky and enrolled in the school immediately.

Just looking from his high school highlight tapes alone, it looked like the Cats were going to be getting a sure-fire superstar that would be able to play right away.

For a team that needed depth on the wing for hopes of a Final Four run, it looked like a match made in heaven. He never ended up playing his “true” freshman season, but the excitement for Diallo was through the roof.

9. Breaking NBA Combine Records

He didn’t play his first semester on campus, but decided to test the NBA waters to see what scouts had to say.

After receiving an invite to the NBA Combine, Diallo absolutely crushed the competition, posting the second-best vertical ever recorded at the combine at 44.5-inches.

 8. The Return

After receiving high praise at the NBA Combine, many felt Diallo was more on the fence than expected. Teams were waving around a first-round guarantee, namely from the Brooklyn Nets and the Milwaukee Bucks. He had a real decision to make.

And it ended up coming right down to the wire.

It was a night the Big Blue Nation remembers well, refreshing Twitter and other social media accounts non-stop to learn whether or not we would see Diallo ACTUALLY play a game at Kentucky.

Just before the midnight deadline on May 24, reports leaked that Diallo would be returning to school.

He followed it up with this tweet:

7. The Debut

Against Utah Valley to open the season, Diallo finished with 18 points on 8-16 shooting, five rebounds, and three assists. He showed just a hint of just why the Big Blue Nation was so excited to see him suit up in blue and white.

6. One of the lone bright spots against UCLA

The Cats lost in the Big Easy, but Diallo did his part to put his team in position to win. He finished the day with a team-high 18 points, four rebounds, and an assist.

5. Season-high 23 points back in New York

Diallo returned home to New York City to play in Madison Square Garden against Monmouth, and put on a show in the process.

He finished with 23 points on 8-13 shooting, four rebounds, and two steals.

It was Diallo’s sixth game of nine total in double-figures to start the season.

4. Breaking out of the “rabbit-hole” against Missouri

His season got off to a hot start, but went cold late. After finishing six of seven consecutive games with fewer than ten points, Diallo’s confidence was down the drain.

Against Missouri on February 24, however, Diallo managed to break out of his slump with 11 points on 3-3 shooting from three, along with one massive smile following a breakaway dunk.

It was an awesome moment, sparking Coach Cal’s “that’s someone’s son” quote.

You can see the sequence below, followed by Calipari’s comments after the game:

3. The Virginia Tech Game

In the tenth game of the season against a talented Virginia Tech squad, Diallo played his best all-around game of the season. He finished with 20 points, five rebounds, and three steals, and a season-high four threes, including several clutch shots at the end of the game. Kevin Knox led Kentucky in scoring with 21 points, but Diallo was the best player on the court that day.

2. Facial dunk over Louisville

He “only” finished with 14 points, but his baseline facial slam over Anas Mahmoud to start the game set the tone perfectly for a Cardinal beatdown.

1. Diallo leads the Wildcats to the Sweet 16

Going into the year, we expected to see Hamidou Diallo live on the #SCTop10 night in and night out. We saw a few throughout the year, but rarely did we see it on a consistent basis.

In the Round of 32 against Buffalo, however, Diallo put on an absolute show. He finished with 22 points on 9-12 shooting, eight rebounds, two blocks, and one assist.

Oh, and two absolutely disgusting dunks that turned the college basketball world upside down.

Show them what you’ve got in the league, Hami.


Four Wildcats in top-35 of final Rivals150 rankings in 2018

Instagram: @_mont23

Rivals.com released their final rankings for the class of 2018, and four Kentucky Wildcats finished in the top-35, with three falling in the top-20.

EJ Montgomery moved up one spot in the rankings to No. 10 overall, and Keldon Johnson moved up to No. 13, as well. Immanuel Quickley saw a slight drop, falling five spots to No. 20 overall. Tyler Herro is Kentucky’s lowest-rated recruit, coming in at No. 34 in the class.

Ashton Hagans, the No. 2 point guard in the class of 2019 and a Kentucky commit, will almost certainly reclassify to 2018 this summer. Rivals says this is the final list, but with Hagans likely finishing as a top-two point guard in his new class, they will likely have to redo the rankings to include the newest Wildcat.

As for their latest 2019 rankings, Kentucky targets Vernon Carey Jr. and James Wiseman are listed at No. 1 and No. 2, respectively. Matthew Hurt, Bryan Antoine,  Scottie Lewis, and Tyrese Maxey, four other Wildcat recruits John Calipari visited over the last week, finished at No. 5, No. 7, No. 9, and No. 12. Hagans came in at No. 6 overall.

For the entire rankings list for both classes, check out the links below:

Class of 2018

Class of 2019


It’s possible for Kentucky to have two consecutive superteams. Here’s the blueprint.

© Ben Queen | USATSI

After losing out on three of the top-three prospects in the class of 2018 to Duke, including two major targets with heavy rumored interest in Kentucky, John Calipari has been a man possessed this recruiting season.

The momentum shifted to the Blue Devils for a brief moment, and Coach Cal wants everyone to know who the real king of recruiting is.

He pulled off two five-star talents on consecutive days last week, and immediately hit the recruiting circuit to bring more talent to Lexington. After today, he will have met with James Wiseman and Tyrese Maxey twice, and Scottie Lewis, Bryan Antoine, Matthew Hurt, and Vernon Carey Jr. once over the last week alone.

Some he is discussing reclassification options with, specifically Ashton Hagans (very likely),  Tyrese Maxey (possible) and James Wiseman (doubtful).

Regardless, it looks like Coach Cal is trying to set up back-to-back superteams capable of dominating the college basketball scene. And if the dominoes fall the right way, it’s entirely possible that happens.

Here’s the blueprint:

2018-19

Returns:

Wenyen Gabriel, Quade Green, PJ Washington, Jarred Vanderbilt, Jemarl Baker, and Nick Richards

Recruits:

Immanuel Quickley, Keldon Johnson, Tyler Herro, Ashton Hagans, EJ Montgomery

Lineup:

PG: Ashton Hagans/Immanuel Quickley

SG: Quade Green/Tyler Herro/Jemarl Baker

SF: Keldon Johnson/Jarred Vanderbilt

PF: PJ Washington/Wenyen Gabriel

C: Nick Richards/EJ Montgomery

Hamidou Diallo officially made his decision to put his name in the NBA Draft with an agent today, becoming the third and final Wildcat expected to leave to do so. Now, Wenyen Gabriel, Quade Green, PJ Washington, and Jarred Vanderbilt are the only major players left for Kentucky to make a decision on their futures.

Washington and Vanderbilt have been listed as second-round talents in a few mock drafts released throughout and after the season, but most don’t have either listed. Gabriel and Green have not been on any mocks whatsoever.

But this is Kentucky and we’ve seen several guys in the past leave that could have improved their draft stock exponentially with another year (or three) in Lexington.

There are rumors that Gabriel wants to pursue is professional dreams and start earning money for his family. Washington was quick to put his name in the draft without an agent, and sources told KSR’s Ryan Lemond that there is a much larger chance he leaves than people are expecting. There have been transfer rumblings with Quade Green, and you never know what Vanderbilt decides to do due to his injury history. If he’s worried his injury history will be an ongoing problem, he could opt for the NBA to start earning a paycheck as insurance.

That being said, parents of both Washington and Vanderbilt have said in the past they are looking for a first-round guarantee and the financial support that comes with one. With neither likely getting a guarantee, you have to think the Cats will end up getting both back next season, with one at the very minimum. Barring a major shock, Green is likely to return, and though there are a lot of talking heads saying Gabriel is more favoring the NBA, he could build off his late-season spike in production and improve his stock as a junior.

If Kentucky ends up getting back who they should, the Wildcats will be absolutely loaded, and arguably one of Calipari’s top-two rosters since he got to Kentucky. They’d have the elite talent up top, veteran leadership, and depth that would make the Cats title favorites going into this season. No issues with shooting, as Herro, Green, Quickley, and Baker can all consistently knock down jumpers from the outside. They’d have the muscle and athleticism in the front court, and a superstar on the wing in Keldon Johnson.

That’s a dangerous team that would be extremely tough to beat.

2019-2020

Returns:

Immanuel Quickley, Tyler Herro, Quade Green, Jemarl Baker, and either EJ Montgomery or Nick Richards

Recruits:

Tyrese Maxey, James Wiseman, DJ Jeffries, Vernon Carey Jr., Scottie Lewis, Matthew Hurt

Lineup:

PG: Quade Green/Jemarl Baker

SG: Immanuel Quickley/Tyler Herro

SF: Tyrese Maxey/Scottie Lewis/DJ Jeffries

PF: James Wiseman/Matthew Hurt

C: Vernon Carey Jr./(Montgomery or Richards)

Let me start by saying the fringe guys that return this season will almost certainly leave after next, specifically with Vanderbilt, Washington, and Gabriel. Like we saw with Hamidou Diallo and Isaiah Briscoe, when a guy on the fence makes the decision to come back, it almost always means it’s for just one more year.

And that’s perfectly fine.

John Calipari is recruiting like a madman right now, and like we saw him finish the class of 2018 (and he may not even be done yet) he’s going to ensure the class of 2019 is absolutely loaded to swing the momentum back from Duke to Kentucky. After the Zion Williamson decision, a switch flipped for Cal that showed he wasn’t playing games anymore, and I believe his 2019 class will prove just that. He wants to light the recruiting world on fire again, hence why he has been all across the nation, sometimes in the same place more than once, with top-ten talent since the season ended.

Admittedly, it’s incredibly early in the recruiting process for the class of 2019, and as we have seen in previous classes, things can end up finishing way different than expected. A lot of guys favored to go to Kentucky (Barrett, Williamson) don’t end up landing there, and a lot of recruits that aren’t expected to (Montgomery, Hagans, Herro) come out of left field and end up in Lexington. So the above list will almost certainly not look like the final list when Coach Cal wraps it up in the next year or so, but it’s apparent he is changing up his roster makeup and recruiting style for upcoming seasons. Elite freshman talent combined with seasoned veterans with NCAA Tournament experience. He’s been able to do it a bit in the past (Ulis under Harrison Twins, etc.) but not throughout the entire lineup like he’s making a push for in the very near future.

After Ashton Hagans and EJ Montgomery committed to Kentucky, Swaggy Cal was retired and Chip-On-His-Shoulder walked into the spotlight.

It’s obvious Calipari has something up his sleeve, and I believe building a juggernaut roster just might be it.


Hamidou Diallo enters NBA Draft, will sign with an agent

Hamidou Diallo will enter the NBA Draft. Diallo announced the news on social media minutes ago, thanking Kentucky fans for their support.

His statement did not specify whether or not he would sign with an agent, but Kentucky Basketball’s Twitter account confirmed those are his intentions. He is the fourth Kentucky Wildcat to declare for the draft, joining Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and PJ Washington, the latter of which is just testing the waters for now.

“I would like to start off by thanking my family for always supporting and believing in me,” Diallo said. “Thank you to Coach Cal, the assistants and the staff for everything. You guys have pushed me to my limits and I’m grateful for everything you’ve done for me. You’ve been honest with me from the start and always had my back. I can’t thank you enough. To my teammates, you guys are my brothers. You picked me up this season and helped me build my confidence when I needed it.

“A year ago I tested the waters to get some feedback and then make the best possible decision for my career. I chose to come back and I’m so happy I did. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Nothing made me prouder than to put that Kentucky name across my chest.

“Coming back to school I knew wasn’t going to be easy. Coach Cal told me it would be the hardest thing I would ever have to do and it was. But I grew up and became a man this year on and off the court. I know I’ve only scratched the surface with my game, but I’m now prepared to do it because of the work I’ve put in at Kentucky and the support of everyone at this university. With that said, I’m entering my name into the 2018 NBA Draft and am ready to take the next step.

“Thank you to the Big Blue Nation. You took in a kid from New York and made him one of your own. I love you guys and can’t thank you enough for believing in me and supporting me through everything.”

Hami averaged 10.0 points and 3.6 rebounds per game while starting all 37 games for Kentucky this past season. He scored in double figures in 16 games and eclipsed the 20-point mark three times, including his breakout 22-point, eight-rebound performance vs. Buffalo in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

John Calipari praised Hami’s improvement and said that although he wished he had another year to coach him, he understands and supports his decision.

“I remember going through this process with Hami last year,” Calipari said. “In both cases, our conversations were about what was best for Hami. Last year he wanted to come back to put on that Kentucky jersey in a game for the first time, compete for a championship and improve his game. He did all three this season.

“Hami got better in all areas of his game. True growth happens when you get knocked down to the point of questioning yourself. We already knew how talented of a player Hami was physically and athletically, but we all learned about Hami’s toughness, his character and his desire to win. I am so proud of his growth from beginning to end. He’s prepared to succeed and will succeed. He’s the best athlete in the draft who’s continued to improve his shooting. He’s only touched his true talent. I wish I had the opportunity to coach him another year but I understand and support his decision.”

Good luck, Hami.


John Calipari conducted an in-home visit with 2019 five-star guard Tyrese Maxey today

Jon Lopez | Nike

After visiting five-star prospects Bryan Antoine and Scottie Lewis on Saturday, John Calipari was in Texas this afternoon to conduct an in-home visit with Tyrese Maxey today.

And according to Evan Daniels, a reclassification is still absolutely on the table for the Wildcat target.

Last week, SEC Country’s Kyle Tucker broke the news that Maxey was contemplating a move to the class of 2018, and that John Calipari was pushing for it to happen. Maxey’s “mentor” said he was “99-percent” certain the five-star guard would be sticking in the class of 2019, though Maxey himself said he’s very interested.

No matter which year he plays in college, now that Maxey’s father is no longer on staff at SMU, Kentucky is seen as the runaway favorite in his recruitment.

Calipari will meet with both Vernon Carey Jr. and James Wiseman for in-home visits tomorrow afternoon, as well.

This man is relentless.


Would you trade John Calipari’s success at Kentucky for Villanova’s? Breaking down the numbers.

Two weeks ago, Villanova took home their third national championship and their second in three years. The Wildcats ended the year with a program-record 36 wins and just four losses, had the National Player of the Year in Jalen Brunson, and obliterated the pack in the NCAA Tournament, winning each game by an average deficit of 17.67 PPG. They started and finished the year as the best team in college basketball.

And it surprised no one.

Over the last five years, Jay Wright has led Villanova to three No. 1 seeds and two No. 2 seeds. Their two leading scorers this past year were juniors, and their third was a sophomore. Four of their top six leading scorers were upperclassmen.

What Jay Wright and the entire Villanova program has going for them is the hotbed of local talent in the area. Over the last four seasons, the Wildcats have signed 11 total players from the northeast, with five being from Pennsylvania. And they haven’t all been sure-fire five-star talents.

Last year, the Wildcats signed just three players, two four-star talents and one three star. In 2016, they signed just two prospects, one five-star (late-teens, nonetheless) and one three-star. Brunson was a five-star signee in 2015, but he was ranked just No. 22 in the 247Sports system, with Villanova’s two other signatures coming from a four-star and a three-star.

Go down the list, the Wildcats have nabbed a few elite recruits, but the majority of their system has revolved around development of younger players and veteran leadership from the upperclassmen. And they have two national titles over the last three years to show for it.

Immediately after their victory, and in the week or so following, Kentucky fans began comparing John Calipari’s run at Kentucky with Wright’s at Villanova. When two of Kentucky’s freshmen declared for the draft, and reports came out that Hamidou Diallo would do the same, we heard more from UK fans being exhausted with the one-and-done system and lack of veteran leadership year in and year out. If any one of Quade Green, Wenyen Gabriel, Jarred Vanderbilt, and PJ Washington make the jump for the NBA or other professional options, you can expect even more voiced displeasure from the fanbase. And it’s understandable, especially seeing Villanova lift the championship trophy in a year the Cats had the perfect opportunity for a Final Four run.

But would you genuinely take Villanova’s success over Kentucky’s at this point?

Kentucky has won one championship, four Final Fours in six seasons, two Elite Eights, one Sweet 16, and one Round of 32 loss. In his time at Kentucky, John Calipari has never been upset in the first round of the tournament, and he has failed to get out of the opening weekend just once.

Jay Wright went to the Final Four in 2009, but lost in the opening weekend five straight times. Two of them were as underachieving nine-seeds in the First Round. In 2016, a Kris Jenkins buzzer-beater against North Carolina gave the school their second title and ultimately broke the streak, but they followed it up in 2017 with yet another loss in the opening weekend as a 32-4 one-seed. Oops.

When it comes to Kentucky’s run, we’re not just talking about lifting the trophy in 2012, we’re talking about the epic runs in the tournament that hold special places in the hearts of Kentucky fans across the state and beyond.

Aaron Harrison’s streak of game-winners in 2014 was one of the most incredible NCAA Tournament runs we’ve seen in decades. For an eight-seed to come out and convert in crunch time over and over and over again was unfathomable, and it created a lifelong memory for Kentucky fans of all ages. And then the Harrison Twins decided to return, giving the Cats arguably the most dominant college basketball team in history. Neither year ended with a trophy presentation, but both years were remarkable in their own right.

Brandon Knight’s dagger and Josh Harrellson’s dodgeball hurl against Ohio State. DeAndre Liggins’ corner three against UNC. De’Aaron Fox putting on a show against Lonzo Ball in the Sweet 16. The moments were legendary.

And that’s not even mentioning John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins shifting the landscape of college basketball. What they did in one year, the energy brought back to the fanbase following the Billy Gillespie era, making “one-and-done” a household phrase. We had Boogie’s buzzer-beater in the SEC Tournament against Mississippi State, the John Wall Dance, nightly beatdowns, an SEC Championship, and two top-five draft selections, five in the first round.

You opt for Jay Wright’s run at Villanova, you get the two rings, but give up the epic roads to the Final Four we’ve seen under Calipari.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “It’s the not the destination, it’s the journey.”

Veteran leadership each season, seeing the players develop into superstars, regular season dominance in the Big East, and two rings.

Or.

One title, four Final Fours in six years, two Elite Eights, only one opening weekend exit, elite five-star prospects every season, NBA Draft selections, etc.

Give me Coach Cal’s track record all day, every day.


Could James Wiseman and Vernon Carey Jr. become Davis and Cousins v.2?

PHOTO: FloHoops

Watching Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins dominate the New Orleans frontcourt over the last year and a half has been special.

Before Cousins went down with an Achilles injury, Davis and Cousins averaged a combined 53 points, 24 rebounds, and 4.2 blocks per game this season. They have been one of the most unstoppable duos in the league.

You certainly enjoyed watching their individual seasons at Kentucky.

Now, John Calipari is looking to emulate that dynamic duo by putting the full-court press on the top-two big men in the class of 2019, James Wiseman and Vernon Carey Jr.

We all know about James Wiseman, the No. 1 prospect in the class of 2019 who has been deemed Kentucky’s “to-lose” for months. 247 Sports and ESPN list the 6-foot-11 big man as the No. 1 junior in the class, as he possesses crazy length and instinct on defense. He runs the floor well, has polished offensive moves in the post, and a developing mid-range jump shot.

Wiseman has told reporters on multiple occasions he models his game after Anthony Davis. The Kentucky coaching staff, who will meet with Wiseman this week, has been selling him on following in Davis’s footsteps as one of the best defensive talents to ever play at the school. And he’s in love with the idea.

“He’s a unicorn,” recruiting analyst Evan Daniels told Ben Roberts of the Herald-Leader. “The physical gifts are there, across the board. Whether it’s the length or the athleticism or the mobility, he’s the full package in terms of the physical gifts. And when you throw in how skilled he’s becoming, it’s impressive.”

Vernon Carey is currently considered a consensus top-three prospect in the class of 2019, with Rivals listing him as the No. 1 overall junior. He’s better than anyone in the nation at throwing his weight around in the post, has impressive athleticism, terrific at rebounding, and he’s surprisingly solid from mid-range and out to the three-point line. In a game against Keldon Johnson’s undefeated Oak Hill team just two weeks ago, Carey finished with 29 points and six rebounds on 13-16 shooting. Unstoppable, like he has been throughout his entire junior season.

Carey himself claims to model his game after both DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis, though the Cousins comparison is certainly more obvious.

Last week, KSR’s TJ Walker wrote a post breaking down Carey’s game, specifically pointing out Cousins as a direct comparison.

Carey Jr.- The 6-foot-10, 245-pound forward reminds me a lot of DeMarcus Cousins. He’s physical, he’s big, he’s a bully and he has a mean streak. While UK is making Wiseman a priority don’t sleep on Carey Jr.

John Calipari met with Carey last week, and he has another visit scheduled with him on Monday. Duke and Miami (FL) have been seen as the favorites in his recruitment, but Coach Cal is doing whatever it takes to make up ground with the elite big man. Carey has said he hopes to make a college decision by August.

Watching both of their highlights, it’s hard not to drool at the thought of both of these kids manning the Kentucky frontcourt.

First, Wiseman’s highlight tape from his showing at the City of Palms Classic:

And then Carey’s official junior season mixtape:

Most recruiting analysts seem to believe Wiseman will end up at Kentucky and Carey Jr. will head to Duke or Miami (FL). But with the way Coach Cal has been recruiting both players in the current recruiting period, it makes you wonder if the Kentucky head coach is daydreaming about a Cousins/Davis-esque frontcourt in Lexington.

Why not both?


Rick Pitino interested in Siena coaching job

To no one’s surprise, Rick Pitino is interested in getting back into the spotlight.

According to Loudonville thoroughbred owner and longtime friend Roddy Valente, the former Louisville coach is interested in the Siena head coaching vacancy.

“He basically said given the opportunity, he would love to sit down and explore coaching at Siena,’’ Valente said this morning.

Valente said Pitino wants to coach again, regardless of the level.

“He loves to coach,’’ Valente added. “He said Siena would be a good fit. He loves the area. He’s turned down two jobs because of where they were located. He loves the Capital Region.”

Jimmy Pastos resigned from his position as Siena’s head coach on Friday following an investigation of verbal and physical abuse of members on the basketball team. There were also reports of improper withholding of per diem money from the team. He had been with the Saints for the last five seasons, leading them to an 8-24 record this past year.

One source told KSR’s TJ Walker that Pitino was also interested in coaching in the National Basketball League for the New Zealand Breakers, though Pitino later denied those claims.

Rick Pitino is going to be roaming a sideline as a coach sooner rather than later. It’s not if, but when.


Tyler Herro Kind Of Has A Point, Guys

Last week’s sudden influx of talent into UK’s 2018 recruiting class renewed the BBN’s optimism for next season in the wake of Kevin Knox’s and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s departures to the NBA.

The new kids on the block: 5-star power forward E.J. Montgomery and likely-to-reclassify number 1 2019 point guard Ashton Hagans. Montgomery will transition nicely into the slot left behind by the transferring Sacha Killeya-Jones. But Hagans’ commitment, should he decide to reclassify, gives the Cats an embarrassment of riches at the PG position for next year.

But now, the hot word on the street has Tyrese Maxey, the 2nd overall 2019 PG, leaning towards a UK commitment as well, especially now that Maxey’s father Tyrone is no longer with SMU, a program that the younger Maxey is considering. And again, he is a candidate for reclassification.

Coach Cal has prided himself on conducting practices that are effective training for the professional ranks. Certainly, having 4 former 5-star point guards on the roster, not to mention the underrated SG Tyler Herro, lends well to competitive practices. But for the sake of game minutes, that’s quite a log jam. This thought has clearly entered Herro’s head.

He’s not wrong.

A Maxey reclassification would, unfortunately, likely lead to Quade Green’s exit. And as has been evidenced by Cal’s most successful UK squads, maintaining some veteran leadership is key to a deep March run.

Sure, Shai took the reigns this season, but that doesn’t take away from Quade’s legitimate chops, and I for one want him to stay in Lexington.

For the program’s sake, Maxey should remain in the 2019 class. There are more than enough guards for next season. And for Tyrese’s future draft prospects, he might want to stand out more than he would alongside 4 other top tier Wildcat guards.

@JayWinkKSR


Was R.J. Barrett closer to committing to Kentucky than he led on?

It seems like since the day that R.J. Barrett first burst onto the national college basketball scene back last summer, it was inevitable that he was headed to Duke. The Canadian wing, who dropped 38 points on a John Calipari-led Team USA club at last summer’s FIBA U-19 World Cup grew up a Duke fan, and once he reclassified to the Class of 2018 (he was originally a 2019 recruit) it seemed to be a matter of “when” not “if” he’d end up a Blue Devil.

That “when” came in early November when Barrett officially declared for Duke, picking the Blue Devils over Kentucky and Oregon on decision day. But what if “Barrett to Duke” wasn’t nearly as done of a deal as everyone made it out to be?

It sounds crazy, but that’s what Barrett claims. Earlier this week at the Nike Hoops Summit, KSR asked Barrett about the recruiting process and he dropped a shocking note: “Barrett to Duke” wasn’t nearly as much of a lock as everyone made it out to be.

“I mean, I’ve always liked Duke,” he said following practice at the Nike Hoops Summit on Thursday. “Kentucky and Oregon were high on the list too. So I really had no idea until the day before. It was tough.”

He continued.

“I had no idea what I wanted to do.”

Maybe Barrett is playing nice, or maybe, just maybe he really did consider other schools. It’s not as though Coach Cal didn’t make a strong sell to Barrett, essentially telling him that the 38-point performance against Team USA was just a preview of things to come if he were to commit to Kentucky. And Barrett’s own AAU coach confessed to spending quite a bit of time speaking with the UK coaching staff once Barrett officially decided to reclassify over the summer, according to SEC Country’s Kyle Tucker.

Again, Barrett’s ultimate choice was Duke, but if his decision really did come down to the wire, could it have possibly been Kentucky had he not chosen Duke?

Barrett with coy when asked that question.

“I wouldn’t know that either,” Barrett said when asked where he would have gone if he didn’t chose Duke. “Kentucky and Oregon were right beside each other.”

It’s no surprise that all these months later that Barrett is playing nice, and claiming that he had no leader behind Duke.

Still, watch the video closely and you can see a glimmer in Barrett’s eye when he talks about those other schools.

Doesn’t it look like he’s thinking “Kentucky” even if he didn’t say it?