Basketball Season Coverage
John Calipari on UCLA job offer: “Everybody would say, ‘Why would he ever leave Kentucky for anywhere?’ You’re right. Why would I?”
By Jack Pilgrim on ©June 04th, 2019 @ 2:00pm
Back in April, UCLA’s alleged six-year, $48 million contract offer to Kentucky head coach John Calipari made headlines. Kentucky’s response to fend off UCLA’s interest, a proposed “lifetime contract” that would keep Calipari here for the rest of his career, created even bigger headlines.
“The university talked to me most of the year,” the UK head coach told the media this morning. “[They said,] ‘We want you to be here the rest of your career. How do we do this? What do we do? Let’s sit down and talk.’”
When asked if he was serious about taking the UCLA job, Calipari said that he owes it to himself and his profession to listen to calls from everybody, regardless of the situation. In his mind, he could potentially help someone else in the process, even if he’s not willing to take or even consider another job.
“I get calls every year from different people. And you know why I’ll talk? At the end of the day, I may be able to help someone else,” Calipari said on Tuesday. “If I know that I can help somebody else who’s helping assistants, I do that, but I’ll listen to people talk to me. I mean, I owe that to the profession, to myself. To say I’ll never talk to somebody – some of these people that I talk to I’ve been on committees with. I know the guy really well or I know who this person is.”
According to Calipari, when people say there is no reason to ever leave Kentucky, they’re exactly right. With what he’s able to accomplish in Lexington, the families he is able to help, and the resources he has to do it with, he knows “this is the place.”
“Everybody would say, ‘Why would he ever leave Kentucky for anywhere?’ You’re right. Why would I?” the UK head coach said. “What would lead me, a better situation more committed to basketball? Money? Staff? Tell me why I would do this?”
Calipari said that he worked his entire career to get to Kentucky, and he is in no rush to leave it.
“‘He’s tired of being here. He’s tired of the fans.’ Really? This is, your whole career you’re trying to get to a point where you’re at a program where it really matters and fans are engaged, you never have to sell a ticket, your son does something small and it trends nationally,” he said. “If I speak, it’s like what did I say that they went crazy about? This is the place, and where else can you prepare young people for the rest of their lives the way we do here?”
By Jack Pilgrim on ©June 04th, 2019 @ 1:00pm
Could Kentucky add another piece to the 2019-20 roster? John Calipari says it’s possible.
During a media opportunity this morning, the Kentucky head coach said that while he’s happy with the current layout of the roster, he’d certainly be open to bringing in one more player if it benefitted both sides.
“I’m really happy with where we are right now,” he said. “If there is anything that can help us, and also help the player, then I would consider that.”
Part of the reason he’s so content with how his roster is constructed as of today? The key returning players who said no to the NBA Draft and decided to spend another year in Lexington. While they each had their respective ups and downs, Calipari is expecting “breakout” seasons for them next year.
“This group, the three guys that obviously considered leaving to go to the NBA, Ashton [Hagans], who I think will have a breakthrough year based on the fact that he gets it now. He’s going to be much more focused on the things. You talk about Nick [Richards], I fully expect this to be his breakout year. The opportunity and minutes and where he is maturity wise, physically, he only started playing basketball when he was 14. He wasn’t like these other guys playing since he was eight, nine. This kid started when he was 14.
“And then EJ [Montgomery], who went through the NBA process, which I was happy he did. Could’ve left his name in and would’ve had a chance for a first-round draft pick. But it wasn’t in the position he thought it would be in, or wanted it to be in so he comes back. And I told him ‘this thing is on you now.’ What’s happened for PJ (Washington) and the changes that he made for him and our team, I expect the same if not more from you.”
Outside of the top three players with the hardest decisions they had to make, the Kentucky head coach said he loves the combination of the other returning players and the new additions they have coming in.
“With Immanuel [Quickley] coming back, you’ve got Brad [Calipari] and Zan [Payne], and the new guys coming in, from Tyrese [Maxey] to Kahlil Whitney to Keion Brooks to Dontaie Allen,” Calipari said. “We’ve got a good core group.”
While he’d be comfortable with the current roster as it stands going into the season, he said you can never have too much depth, especially when it comes to potential injuries.
“You’ve got [three] guys, but what if one of them gets hurt? Now you’re playing four guards, which I haven’t done before, but I can figure it out,” he said.
Overall, he understands the nature of the beast when it comes to recruiting. When an opportunity presents itself, he needs to be prepared to take it, but only if both parties can benefit from it
“Recruiting never stops here,” Calipari said. “It just never stops because no one in the history, for ten years, has tried to change the team every single year and tried to go through what this program has gone through. Not by design. If you’re doing right by the kids, you’re trying to help and promote.”
The biggest available piece for the Kentucky coaching staff to consider is Virgina Tech graduate transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr., a 6-foot-11 forward who averaged 14.9 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game last season. If the Second-Team All-ACC big man wants to join the fold, sources tell KSR, as expected, that Kentucky would jump on the opportunity in a heartbeat.
Outside of Blackshear, the opportunity for a 2020 reclassification candidate to make the jump is also a possibility, with names such as N’Faly Dante, Cliff Omoruyi, Makur Maker, and Isaiah Todd being the most likely options, in that order.
While the hope is that Blackshear decides to sign with Kentucky and it’s nice to have other available options on the table if he doesn’t, it’s certainly reassuring that Calipari is happy with the 2019-20 roster as it stands.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©June 04th, 2019 @ 12:30pm
The 2019-20 Kentucky Wildcats (minus Johnny Juzang) only arrived on campus yesterday, but they’re already hard at work.
Thanks to social media, we’ve got an early look at some of the players working out at the Joe Craft Center, a refreshing sip of hoops in the midst of the offseason. From Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley, and Tyrese Maxey’s Instagram:
Back in the locker room, Mama Maxey sounds determined to make sure the graphics department changes her son’s height from 6’3″ to 6’4″:
Keep grinding and ‘gramming, boys.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©June 04th, 2019 @ 11:43am
Last week, Brad Calipari turned the college basketball world on its head when he put his name in the transfer portal. This morning, his dad told reporters that Brad’s career at Kentucky may not necessarily be over, but he’ll support whatever decision he makes.
“He’s still walking through it,” Coach Cal said. “Do you blame him? All the work — he was in here three times yesterday working out. Do you blame him for wanting to play more and knowing who’s here? Has he gotten better? Absolutely he’s gotten better. But he’s, you know. So now he can look around.
“I even told him, look at Division II. What’s wrong with that? Where you’re well-coached, where you get a chance, a good league. Division II basketball, they’re just a little smaller but you’ve got talented guys. He may end up coming back. He’s in the lodge and all the stuff and in classes. He may come back.”
Because Brad graduated in three years, he’ll have two years of immediate eligibility remaining, which Cal made sure to brag about.
“I’m proud he graduated in three years. It took me six. I mean, he graduates in three years and is playing every day against guys like this and survives and thrives and gets better. What he’s taking from this, his commitment to how he trains, how he eats, what he does is going to help him with anything especially after basketball when it’s done. Take that and do what your sister did, which was the same thing and shift it over to here and you’re going to be unique and special at whatever you want to do.”
Calipari said that the only thing that’s bothered him about the process is how the media found out Brad’s name was in the transfer portal so quickly.
“I didn’t know all the stuff went crazy. He puts his name in the portal. How does the media get it in a minute? That’s supposed to be for colleges not for the media. I’m researching that. How does the media know all this? It was out within 30 seconds that he put his name in. The night before he said, ‘Dad, if I want to do this, how do I do this?’ I said, ‘You’ve got to put your name in the portal to get started.’ It was a two-minute conversation. The next morning, he put his name in without telling me, his mom, his sisters. He didn’t think anything but the media got it within 30 seconds and all of a sudden, it’s trending nationally and ‘Cal and his son are having a fistfight and he’s leaving.’ What?”
The other big question: how is Mrs. Cal coping with her son potentially leaving Lexington?
“Mom said if he leaves she’s going with him so I don’t know if that’s a good thing. I hope she was kidding. Maybe she wasn’t. But the ideal thing would be for him to have more of an opportunity here. I just — I’d love to do it but that’s my own son. Has to be earned and you have to deserve it.”
Forever earned, not given.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©June 04th, 2019 @ 11:00am
We have our first injury report of the 2019-20 season. At his press conference this morning, John Calipari told reporters that Bucknell grad transfer Nate Sestina is coming off a foot injury, albeit a minor one.
“Nate’s hurt,” Cal said. “Just got out of the boot, so he hasn’t really run yet. I expect good things from Nate. The way he scores the ball, stretches the defense. Athletically, he’s physically strong.”
What about the comparisons between Sestina and Reid Travis?
“Different. Different players but physically strong. Great kid and great mentality about this. Knows he’s got to work. Nothing will be given to him. He wants to see how good he can be. The way you get better here is the day-to-day grind. Mastering your craft. Falling back on your work. Playing competitively every day in practice and every day in the summer. Should be fun.”
One trait Reid and Nate definitely share? Age. Cal joked that having a 22-year-old on his team still catches him off guard sometimes.
“Yesterday, he came into my office and I said, ‘Hey, did you just get in?’ ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘Did your parents bring you down?’ He goes, ‘No.’ Oh, I forgot, you’re older. You drive yourself around.”
John Calipari is about to address the media for the first time since the season ended to discuss the upcoming camp schedule, recent roster decisions, the NBA Draft and more. Watch below courtesy of KyWildcatsTV:
— KYwildcatsTV (@KYwildcatsTV) June 4, 2019
By Aaron Torres on ©June 03rd, 2019 @ 10:00pm
Over the weekend, one of the best high school All-Star events played anywhere in America took place in my adopted hometown of Los Angeles, with the Pangos All-American Camp running from Friday to Sunday. While Pangos doesn’t get the buzz of some of the other camps across the country, it routinely brings the biggest names in high school basketball who are entering their junior and senior years of high school from across the country to a small gym in Southern California. Current NBA stars like James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis and John Wall have come through Pangos over the years, and just in the last couple summers, I’ve personally seen Trae Young, Michael Porter Jr., DeAndre Ayton, Cole Anthony, Hamidou Diallo and others.
This event is BONKERS. And with the best seniors in America now off to college (Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman, Tyrese Maxey etc.), Los Angeles was the place where most of the top players now entering their junior and senior seasons took the court this weekend. It included a number of guys being recruited by Kentucky, including 2020 prospects Cade Cunningham, Isaiah Todd, Daishen Nix and Cliff Omoruyi and some of the best 2021 prospects in the country including Terrence Clarke, who has offers from pretty much everybody.
Ultimately, I am far from a recruiting expert, but this was a chance to see some of the best high school players in the country. And following a packed weekend, below are some thoughts.
Also, look out over the next few days, as I’ll have mini-profiles of some of the players I spoke to, including Cade Cunningham, and a few others.
Cade Cunningham is a rock star:
Of every player at the event, Cunningham is the guy that I wanted to see the most. It isn’t often that you have a guy ranked in the Top 10 nationally, who recruiting experts are saying that they believe is actually “under-ranked” and who they plan on moving up their next set of new rankings. Only that’s exactly what they’re saying about Cunningham.
That’s also what made Cunningham’s first impression so darn impressive: On Friday night, I walked to a far court, took one look at a kid wearing a “No. 60” jersey, saw him make a play and said “Who is THAT?” thinking in my mind, “that kid looks like what the No. 1 player in the country should look.” Of course it was Cunningham. And again, some kids just look different when they play – even among elite peers. And he was one of them.
Top 10 pic.twitter.com/iydefeQKaL
— Cade Cunningham (@CadeCunningham_) May 30, 2019
With Cunningham he doesn’t so much play basketball as glide across the court, the game seemingly coming effortlessly to him. He catches the ball and immediately attacks, and for a guy his age, has an impressively complete all-around offensive game. He can hit threes, get into the lane or finish at the rim, and also made plays as a passer and distributor this weekend. In the process, he won Co-MVP of the camp alongside California big man Evan Mobley (more on him later), and the most impressive part was that it all came after an exhausting week for Cunningham. The 6’6 junior finished school at Montverde Academy on Wednesday, flew home to Texas on Thursday, then arrived at Pangos Friday.
I’ll have a more in-depth profile of Cunningham coming in the next few days, but the big thing to know about him is this: He just recently put out a list of Top 10 schools last week. He told me he cut the list because he didn’t want any schools to waste their time recruiting him that he didn’t have any interest. Most recruiting experts seem to believe that while it’s early, right now the team to beat is Oklahoma State. When I asked him why, he said they were the first school to offer him a scholarship, dating all the way back to when current head coach Mike Boynton (now entering his third year) was an assistant back in 2017.
Daishen Nix is the real deal
The other guy I really wanted to get a good look at was Dashien Nix, the point guard who is originally from Alaska but currently lives in Las Vegas. He has been touted as the “best passer in high school basketball” and umm yeah, he didn’t disappoint.
Nix isn’t the most hyper-athletic kid, but like so many good point guards before him, is always in complete control. He never plays too fast and let’s the game come to him, and yes, he is an elite passer he was advertised to be. When Nix was on the court with fellow top guard Dominick Harris (already committed to Gonzaga) the pair played well off each other.
Nix got a visit from Joel Justus a few weeks ago, but says that it’s way too early for him to even think about recruiting. He admitted that he probably won’t even cut down his list until the middle of his senior season. When asked if he was going to take the Cole Anthony route and wait until the last possible second to pick a school, he smiled and said “Nah, nothing like that,” but it’s clear a commitment is pretty far away.
Also, for those wondering, he told me he likes living in Vegas, although he said the summers get too hot for him. Not surprising for a kid who grew up in Alaska.
— Overtime (@overtime) June 3, 2019
Top 2021 prospect Terrence Clarke is the next big thing in high school hoops (if he isn’t already)
Remember those old episodes of Baywatch, where you’d see a beautiful girl running down the beach, her… umm… hair… yeah, hair… bouncing in slow motion and all you could do is think to yourself “This is perfect?” That’s honestly what it was like watching top 2021 prospect Terrence Clarke play basketball. The kid was just born to play hoop.
Although the No. 2 ranked prospect in the 2021 class just finished his sophomore year, Clarke already has the look of a “three and D” NBA wing. He’s a legit 6’7, can pass, dribble, shoot, make plays off the bounce and is a monster in the open court. I believe he actually put the ball between his legs for one mid-game dunk – although honestly I’m blacking out just thinking about Clarke’s play this weekend, so that might not have happened. Forgive me if I’m making that up, but the kid was just that good.
Ultimately, I will never put the label of “Can’t Miss” on a kid because that’s just not fair. But I’m having a hard time remembering seeing a kid who has a game that is more perfectly suited for the modern NBA at such a young age than Clarke. He’s a player who seems destined for a blueblood school, although out of curiosity I did ask him about his thoughts on R.J. Hampton’s decision to go to Australia. He put it succinctly: “That’s one where you have to wait and see how it goes.” A lot of great high school players will be doing exactly that these next few years.
I enjoyed talking to Cliff Omoruyi more than any single player at this weekend’s event
Full disclosure: I spoke with a bunch of kids this weekend, and was blown away by the poise and maturity of each of them. Cade Cunningham, Terrence Clarke, Dashien Nix etc., are WAY more put together than I was at that age. Credit to their parents and the adults around them. They were all seriously awesome to speak with.
Still, there was something I especially enjoyed when speaking with Top 2020 low post prospect Cliff Omoruyi. He’s just a special kid.
Again, in the interest of full-disclosure, I only got to watch him a little bit, and I came away thinking that he’s a hyper-athletic big guy, but also raw and needs time to develop. In his defense, that’s not really surprising, considering that he told me he just started playing basketball two years ago. As a matter of fact, that’s what impressed me so much about Omoruyi: He came to the US from Nigeria on an academic scholarship and told me he one day wants to become a mechanical engineer. Honestly, in an era where so many on the American basketball landscape undersell the value of education (God forbid you wait a year to start your professional clock!) it was so damn refreshing to talk to this kid.
Anyway, I’ve seen some scuttlebutt that Omoruyi would consider reclassifying, but that didn’t really sound like it was on the table to me. He said his plan is to cut his list of schools down to 10 or five in October, on his birthday.
Some other news and notes on kids I saw:
By Jack Pilgrim on ©June 03rd, 2019 @ 6:15pm
We’re still several months away from college basketball season, but the first major step toward that took place today: getting the 2019-20 roster on campus.
Over the last 24 hours or so, just about every player on the upcoming Kentucky basketball team announced on Twitter that they had officially made it to Lexington.
Kentucky sophomore point guard Immanuel Quickley told the world yesterday afternoon that a UK fan talked his head off on his entire flight from Baltimore, Maryland to Lexington.
— Immanuel Quickley (@IQ_GodSon) June 2, 2019
Rounding out the returnees, Ashton Hagans and Nick Richards both announced they touched down yesterday afternoon.
— ashton hagans (@H23Ash) June 2, 2019
— Nick Richards (@iamnickrichards) June 2, 2019
We haven’t heard from sophomore forward EJ Montgomery on his status quite yet, but it’s likely he’s either back in Lexington or close to it, as well.
As for the 2019 signees, Kahlil Whitney, Tyrese Maxey, and Keion Brooks Jr. all announced they were on campus.
— THE DRAGON? (@KahlilWhitney) June 3, 2019
— Tyrese Maxey (@TyreseMaxey) June 3, 2019
Lexington, Kentucky? ???
— Keion Brooks Jr. (@KeionB_12) June 3, 2019
Bucknell graduate transfer Nate Sestina didn’t send out a tweet of his own, but one of his friends from back home said he was headed to Lexington today.
Best of luck to one of the hardest working kids out there. Always proud and got your back the whole way. ???? pic.twitter.com/cCEZvh5WQY
— Jenny Fischer (@jennylynnfisch) June 3, 2019
According to their AAU program’s official Twitter account, small forward signee Dontaie Allen and walk-on forward Brennan Canada both moved in today, as well:
— M.A.T.T.S. Mustangs (@MustangsMatts) June 3, 2019
The official Kentucky men’s basketball account posted a video of Hagans, Maxey, and Sestina all moving in to the Wildcat Coal Lodge this evening:
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) June 3, 2019
The only player we know for certain isn’t on campus yet is Kentucky shooting guard signee Johnny Juzang, as he still hasn’t graduated from high school. He is expected to be in Lexington later this month.
Welcome home, Wildcats!
By Jack Pilgrim on ©June 03rd, 2019 @ 5:15pm
When Kentucky signee Tyrese Maxey committed to the school back in May of 2020, many penciled the 6-foot-3 dynamic scorer in as a guaranteed starter for the 2019-20 roster. And then when starting point guard Ashton Hagans made the surprisingly-quick decision to return for his sophomore season in April, he locked himself in as a starter, as well.
With most of the (admittedly-deserved) attention on Maxey and Hagans for the backcourt next season, where does former five-star point guard Immanuel Quickley fit into the equation?
Averaging 5.2 points on 37.2% shooting and 34.5% from three to go with 1.8 rebounds and 1.2 assists per contest last season, the 6-foot-3 guard’s numbers certainly don’t jump off the page on first glance. In fact, in 15 of his 37 total games the Havre De Grace, MD native finished with three points or less for the Wildcats.
On the flip side, Quickley also managed scoring totals of 15, 12 (four times), 10, 9, and 8 (three times) throughout his freshman season, along with several clutch moments at the end of games at the free throw line and from beyond the arc. Some would even argue that between Hagans and Quickley, the latter was the better all-around player toward the end of the season.
Unless you’re one of the few elite prospects we see year after year (and even sometimes if you are), there are growing pains and inconsistencies for true freshmen at the college level. Quickley fell right in line with that common theme.
Now that we’re on to year two for the former five-star prospect, how can he find his groove consistently this season and shine as the consensus top-25 recruit he came to Lexington as last season?
Keep developing confidence as a shooter
While he certainly hit some big shots from three on occasion last season, Quickley has the potential and ability to be a consistent knockdown shooter in the Kentucky backcourt moving forward.
Next to Tyrese Maxey, who is also expected to be an elite shooter next season, the Wildcats can put out lineups that absolutely torch opposing teams from deep in 2019-20. Quickley would certainly be included in that.
In fact, Calipari can roll out a pure-shooting group of Maxey, Quickley, Johnny Juzang, Nate Sestina, and EJ Montgomery at times, where each participant has the ability to knock down open jumpers at a consistent rate from three. In fact, one could argue every one those individuals has the potential to shoot at least 30% from three next year, with Maxey, Quickley, and Juzang all capable of shooting 38% or higher.
Quickley has already had eight games with two or more 3-pointers on 50% shooting (or higher), but his per-game ceiling is far greater than that. 34.5% certainly keeps defenders honest, but he has the ability to push upwards of 40% at a consistent clip. Confidence is the only thing limiting him from reaching that point.
When he finds his shot, he’s money on open opportunities both off the dribble and in catch-and-shoot situations. When that confidence slips, we see poor shooting displays such as Auburn (1-6), Abilene Christian (0-3), LSU (1-4), and at Florida (1-5).
The potential is there, he just needs to keep building his confidence to get to that point.
Look to be a facilitator
Back at the adidas Gauntlet Finale in Spartanburg, SC in 2017, Quickley was easily one of the most impressive prospects in attendance. In fact, his head-to-head matchup with Zion Williamson at the time was one of the most highly-anticipated games of the entire weekend, where Quickley’s Team BBC squad defeated Williamson’s SC Supreme 68-64. The Wildcat guard posted 20 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists, while Williamson finished with 28 points and 16 rebounds in the loss.
While Quickley stuffed the stat sheet in that event and throughout his entire AAU career, the most impressive aspect of his game had nothing to do with his impressive shooting stroke or his ability to finish in the lane. It was the ridiculous court vision and passing ability he possessed that really turned heads. In fact, I would contend that if he had more talent around him on Team BBC, he could have averaged upwards of 12 or 13 assists per contest on the AAU circuit. One of the most frustrating parts of watching the Wildcat guard play was that he would pull off tremendous passes and find his teammates open time and time again, they would just miss the shots.
At Kentucky, Quickley mostly relied on catch-and-shoot opportunities to assert himself in the offense, completely ignoring one of his most impressive attributes. In year two, the UK point guard needs to continue to find his shot, but he can truly be a difference-maker from game one as a facilitator.
With ridiculous depth from top to bottom of the roster, opportunities for assists are there this season. He never finished with more than four assists in a single game last year, but I expect that to change this season.
Continue to get to the line
Quickley was inconsistent at times from a shooting perspective last year, but one thing that never changed was his ridiculous ability to knock down shots at the free throw line at an elite rate.
Shooting 83% from the line last year, Quickley was easily one of the most reliable players on the team, specifically when games went down to the wire. With the 6-foot-3 point guard in the lineup in the closing seconds, you could always rely on him to come through in the clutch in high-pressure moments. In fact, the only reason why his elite ability at the line wasn’t more publicized was because Kentucky just-so-happened to have the greatest free throw shooter in Kentucky history, Tyler Herro, on the roster and in the game down the stretch last year.
In 37 games last year, Quickley only missed 11 total free throws. In his sophomore season, he needs to continue to force the situation and get to the line more often. With Herro off to the NBA, they’ll likely need him on multiple occasions in 2019-20.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©June 03rd, 2019 @ 4:00pm
The Bluegrass Boys roster is already loaded with talent, and now, they added yet another impressive piece to roam the sidelines.
This afternoon, it was announced that former Kentucky star Wayne Turner will coach the Bluegrass Boys during The Basketball Tournament.
#BBN…We have our coach! One of the most accomplished players in @KentuckyMBB history. He played for ??national championship teams and a runner up with the ?. After a 9-year pro career, he entered coaching in 2010. Leading the Bluegrass Boys into @thetournament…Wayne Turner! pic.twitter.com/RIg8J8gYwa
— Bluegrass Boys (@BluegrassBoys19) June 3, 2019
Turner, who helped lead Kentucky to two championships (1996 and 1998) and one runner-up finish, made the announcement on Twitter today.
“This is Wayne Turner, excited to announce that I will be headed back to Lexington to coach the Bluegrass Boys in the TBT Tournament,” he said. “Let’s go, Big Blue [Nation]. We need your support.”
— Bluegrass Boys (@BluegrassBoys19) June 3, 2019
As of today, the roster consists of former Wildcats Derek Willis, Dominique Hawkins, Josh Harrellson, Marcus Lee, Ramon Harris, Kevin Galloway, and AJ Stewart.
The Basketball Tournament will be heading to Lexington, KY from July 19-21, where seven total games will be played at Frederick Douglass High School.
Here is the day-to-day itinerary for the Lexington Regional:
Round 1 / Friday, July 19
- Game 1 – 3:00pm
- Game 2 – 5:00pm
- Game 3 – 7:00pm
- Game 4 – 9:00pm
Round 2 / Saturday, July 20
- Game 5 – 4:00pm
- Game 6 – 6:00pm
Round 3 / Sunday, July 21
- Game 7 – 2:00pm
TBT 2019 will feature a 64-team bracket, where all participants will compete in the single-elimination 5-on-5 tournament with a $2 million prize on the line. Games will air live on ESPN networks beginning Friday, July 19.
By Drew Franklin on ©June 03rd, 2019 @ 11:30am
Ashton Hagans will wear a new number when he takes the court for his sophomore season at Kentucky. We learned this about a month ago, but on Sunday he confirmed the switch to #0 with a glimpse at his locker on Instagram.
The #0 was occupied by Quade Green last season, so Hagans settled on #2 for his freshman year. He will be Agent Zero moving forward, which will allow Kahlil Whitney to keep his high school number, should he choose that route.
The state of Kentucky will be the epicenter of college basketball next season as Kentucky, Louisville, and yes, Western Kentucky University are all set for great seasons thanks to some talented players taking their names out of the NBA Draft. What follows is a breakdown for why each team will be successful, and the biggest roadblocks in their way for the 2019-2020 season.
As long as John Calipari is the head coach at Kentucky, the Wildcats will enter each season with a great deal of hype thanks to a great recruiting class. The 2019-2020 season will be no different. Even with losing its top four scorers from a year ago, Kentucky will enter next season as a consensus top-5 team.
This is in most part thanks to the fact that the Wildcats will return Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery. Both considered entering the NBA Draft, but they pulled their names out of the process earlier this week right before the deadline.
The biggest reason why Kentucky will be great once again is that the Wildcats will be two players deep at every position. Hagans and Quickly also return at the point guard spot, and they will be joined by five very talented freshman who help make up the No. 2 recruiting class in the nation. Add in experienced transfer Nate Sestina from Bucknell and you have one of the deepest teams in the nation. A more precise breakdown looks like this:
PG: Ashton Hagans/Immanuel Quickley
SG: Tyrese Maxey/Johnny Juzang
SF: Kahlil Whitney/Dontaie Allen
PF: EJ Montgomery/Keion Brooks
C: Nick Richards/Nate Sestina
Of course, Kentucky’s 2019-2020 roster is not set in stone just yet. Virginia Tech forward Kerry Blackshear Jr. is still rumored to be considering a possible transfer to UK where he will be eligible to play immediately. If that happens, be prepared to see the Wildcats as a possible preseason No. 1 in some polls.
Also, Dontaie Allen is still a possibility to redshirt his freshman season. If Blackshear comes and Allen redshirts, I would expect Brooks to slide down as the backup small forward (yes, he is versatile enough to play there) and Blackshear to possibly start at either center or power forward.
As far as roadblocks, I see three possible ones for the Wildcats. First, they really need Blackshear to transfer. There is a lack of high-end talent in the frontcourt right now and he would fix that need. Secondly, can the trio of Maxey/Whitney/Juzang provide UK with at least two players who will be stars in March? Finally (and more importantly), can Hagans take that next step as the lead point guard? As we all know, he didn’t exactly end the season great back in March. If Hagans improves and the other potential problems are fixed, then this might be the team cutting down the nets in 2020.
Tyrese Maxey pull-game is certified pic.twitter.com/bhbbp3OYb5
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) September 26, 2018
Somebody pinch me. Its starting to feel like a whole lot like 2013 all over again as the Louisville Cardinals are set to have one of college basketball’s best teams this upcoming season. Yes, this is admittedly a team that just lost 14 games and fell in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to *checks notes* Minnesota.
However, never underestimate a team that returns the vast majority of its production from the previous season. The Cardinals are returning three starters, 76% of their scoring, and 80% of their rebounding. Add in the fact that they will also be adding Saint Joe’s transfer Fresh Kimble (15.6 ppg) and a top 10 recruiting class and you got a preseason top-10 (possibly top-5) squad.
Chris Mack has done a truly amazing job getting the Cardinals back on track so quickly after just one year at Louisville. I think he is a legitimate top-15 coach on the college level, and this program is back in business as long as he is there.
But what does all this mean for next season? Quite frankly, I still don’t think this roster is as talented as Kentucky’s, but that’s a pretty high bar to meet. On most nights this Louisville team will straight up have the more talented team than anyone else they play. After Virginia, the Cardinals are probably going to finish second in the ACC if they can overcome another talented Duke team.
However, I still have questions about how talented their frontcourt is. While Steven Enoch returning was huge, no other big man stood out last season. Plus, how good will Kimble be? Their depth at point guard seems a bit questionable so it will largely be on his shoulders to lead Louisville far into the postseason. Also, who will step up ad be that true No. 2 option after Jordan Nwora? Will it be Kimble or freshman Samuel Williamson? Who knows.
Louisville commit Samuel Williamson has shown flashes these last two days at 6-7 with polished footwork and soft touch. Strong skill foundation. pic.twitter.com/wJ3xmLR681
— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) March 26, 2019
While a Championship or Final Four run still seems unlikely to me, I think this is absolutely a roster that can (and should) make the Elite Eight in 2020.
Surprised by this? You shouldn’t be. Believe it or not, the Hilltoppers will have a genuinely good roster next season that has borderline top-25 talent.
Like Louisville, WKU will be returning just about everything from last season. Not only do the Hilltoppers return four starters who all averaged figures in scoring, but overall WKU will be returning six of its top eight players.
Most importantly, rising sophomore big man Charles Bassey took his name out of the Draft just minutes before the deadline. Make no mistake about this: Bassey is a first round talent. The only reason he fell in the eyes of many scouts is because of his durability. Injuries throughout last season slowed down Bassey and made him look slower and less athletic then he really is. If he can stay healthy and improve upon averaging a double-double and 2.4 blocks per game, then he will be a lock for a top-20 pick.
Charles Bassey flexin’ pic.twitter.com/uUWWqeRQCo
— Mike Rutherford (@CardChronicle) November 17, 2018
The hype does not end there for the Hilltoppers. They will also be adding two transfers who both averaged double figures in scoring for their former Division I teams. First is Cameron Justice who last played for IUPUI where he averaged 18.6 ppg. He is considered the favorite to start at point guard. Carson Williams is also now eligible after sitting out last season. Williams last played for Northern Kentucky where he averaged 12 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. In case you didn’t notice, the addition of both of these players means that the Hilltoppers now have three former Kentucky Mr. Basketball winners on one team: Justice, Williams, and Taveion Hollingsworth.
Point Guard Kenny Cooper from Lipscomb also transferred to WKU in the spring. Cooper started the last two years for Lipscomb as he managed to average 9.8 points 4.5 assists, and 2 steals a game last season. As of now, Copper is still applying for a waiver to play this season as he currently has to sit out this season due to transfer rules.
Also, 4-star and top-100 recruit Jordan Rawls is still considering reclassifying to WKU’s 2019 class. The possibility of either Cooper or Rawls (or both) being able to play in the 2019-2020 season would be the cherry on top for the Hilltoppers.
Considering that WKU will have all of this talent in the relatively weak C-USA, this should be a team that wins around 25 games in the regular season. Can coach Rick Stansbury get this team to finally win the C-USA Tournament and win a game in the NCAA Tournament? Well, if its not this team then I don’t think any squad Stansbury puts together will do it. The pressure is on in Bowling Green to finally deliver.
Overall, the biggest reason why this article exists is to showcase the very real chance that all three of these teams could be ranked in the top-25 at some point during the regular season. Yes, this depends on WKU finally meeting expectations under Stansbury. But I think there is a very real chance that by mid-February the Hilltoppers will join both the Wildcats and Cardinals in the top-25.
By Nick Roush on ©June 01st, 2019 @ 7:00pm
Entering the NBA Draft withdrawal deadline, the Kentucky basketball team was favorite to win the National Title in at least one sportsbook. That’s no longer the case.
The website BetOnline.Ag dropped UK’s odds of winning the title from 5-1 to 15-2. They now sit only behind Duke at 6-1.
- Duke — 6/1
- Kentucky — 15/2
- Michigan State — 8/1
- Virginia — 8/1
- Michigan — 12/1
- North Carolina — 14/1
- Gonzaga — 16/1
- Villanova — 16/1
- Kansas — 22/1
- Marquette — 22/1
- Oregon — 22/1
- Louisville — 25/1
- Memphis — 25/1
Over at Bovada, UK is tied with Duke at +750 (the same as 15-2). They fall just behind Michigan State at +600.
- Michigan State — +600
- Kentucky — +750
- Duke — +750
- Virginia — +800
- North Carolina — +1200
- Memphis — +1400
- Villanova — +1600
- Kansas — +1600
- Gonzaga — +1700
- Louisville — +1800
- Oregon — +2500
They say it’s good to be the king, but sometimes it’s better to be right behind the king to clean up the mess after a fatal mistake.
By Maggie Davis on ©May 31st, 2019 @ 8:00pm
The Bluegrass Boys have added another name to their growing roster, and this one is a real blast from the past: AJ Stewart will return to Lexington this summer to compete in The Basketball Tournament.
AJ Stewart, who played under Billy Gillispie from 2007-09, transferred after his sophomore year. The 6-foot-8 forward was a 2007 ESPN Top 100 recruit and was ranked as the No. 18 power forward in the nation in his class. After two years at Kentucky, Stewart was part of the mass overhaul that occurred when Gillispie was fired and Calipari was hired. Stewart, along with Jared Carter, Donald Williams, Matt Pilgrim, Kevin Galloway, Michael Porter and Landon Slone, all left the program when Calipari came on board.
#BBN…The 7?th member of your @KentuckyMBB Alumni team competing in @thetournament ??? is making his return to the Bluegrass state. He played two seasons for the ? and recently has been playing professionally overseas. A 6-8 forward from Jacksonville, FL…@AJ_Stewart15 ! pic.twitter.com/qGwHyjS274
— Bluegrass Boys (@BluegrassBoys19) May 31, 2019
At Kentucky, Stewart averaged seven minutes per game; he saw three career starts and finished his UK career with 104 total points. Stewart first transferred to Texas State before eventually landing at Rogers State in Oklahoma.
Recently, Stewart has been playing professionally in various leagues, including with the Kentucky Thoroughbreds in the North American Premier Basketball League and with the Canadian pro team, the Island Storm.
The news was announced by the “official” Bluegrass Boys Twitter account, and Stewart added a short video announcing his return, saying he “can’t wait to be back in Lexington playing with Big Blue.”
— Bluegrass Boys (@BluegrassBoys19) May 31, 2019
Stewart will join a fun group of former Cats: Derek Willis, Josh Harrellson, Dominique Hawkins, Marcus Lee, Ramon Harris and Kevin Galloway have already committed to the TBT tournament.
TBT is a 64-team, single-elimination basketball tournament that started in 2014. It’s a chance for former players to reunite and compete – the roster can include anyone without a guaranteed NBA contract.
This year, Lexington will serve as the host team for the Lexington Region. Games will take place July 19-21 at Frederick Douglass High School and will air live on the ESPN networks. The winners of each region will meet for the semifinals and $2 million championship game in Chicago August 1-6. The tournament is also doing something cool to honor those fighting ALS:
HUGE ANNOUNCEMENT!!!! Just like last year we are giving people the opportunity to get your loved ones names who have fought/fighting ALS on the back of our jerseys for @thetournament . Email [email protected] with all the info we asked in the video. Thanks!!! pic.twitter.com/O98TUdtAqI
— Team Challenge ALS (@TMchallengeALS) May 31, 2019
To secure your tickets for TBT, click here.
By Maggie Davis on ©May 31st, 2019 @ 7:00pm
We know Brad Calipari’s name is in the NCAA’s Transfer Portal, but we don’t have a definitive landing spot at this time. But now, Brad could be giving us a potential clue on his Instagram story… and it’s an interesting one.
The image shows the youngest Calipari’s shoes, with @iamwalterellis and @jsotos3 tagged in the photo. Who are @iamwalterellis and @jsotos3, you may ask? Well, it’s Walter Ellis and Jimmy Sotos – they’re both current basketball players for the Bucknell Bison.
Could he just be off to visit old friends? Maybe. But Ellis is from Granger, Indiana, and he finished his high school playing career at the Brewster Academy in New Hampshire. Sotos’ hometown is listed as Chicago, Illinois, and he went to a public high school, James B. Conant High School, in a northwest suburb of the city. Brad, on the other hand, attended Lexington Christian Academy and the MacDuffie School in Massachusetts. Where’s the connection?
Maybe Brad is trolling us, or maybe he really is considering Nate Sestina’s former stomping grounds as his final collegiate destination. Only time will tell for certain.
If you’re the betting type, you can even wager on his school of choice, thanks to lines placed by the company Bovada. East Tennessee State was named the favorite as of Friday afternoon, while Bucknell wasn’t even listed as an option.
Now, following Brad’s mysterious Instagram story, do you think the Bison are in the market for a trade?
By Drew Franklin on ©May 31st, 2019 @ 3:27pm
The Southeastern Conference voted to allow the sale of alcohol at its stadiums beginning this fall, lifting a league-wide ban on booze that stood for over 30 years. However, each individual school will have to decide if it will participate, so we are still not completely sure if beer is coming to Kroger Field and Rupp Arena just yet. The brain trust within the university, namely Eli Capilouto and Mitch Barnhart, will ultimately make that call.
Shortly after the SEC’s ruling, we learned via a press release that UK will “take several months” to consider the issue:
“The SEC has taken the right approach to this important issue by deferring to the individual, member institutions to make decisions about what is in the best interests of each university, their programs, and their fans.
“Led by Director Barnhart, UK will take the next several months to consider this issue. We will, as always, seek to do what is right for the University, our student-athletes, and the experience and safety of our fans.”
— President Eli Capilouto
Tomorrow’s the first day of June, so if “several months” are needed, I wonder if the beer will be iced down and ready for sale by the time Toledo comes to town on August 31, should it get the green light. There is a lot that will go into this and that first kickoff isn’t too far away.
Or will UK even do it at all?
By Jack Pilgrim on ©May 31st, 2019 @ 2:30pm
Bovada is apparently a big fan of Brad Calipari.
After taking bets on what the Kentucky guard would wear during the NCAA Tournament, they have now placed lines on where he will be playing college basketball next season.
As of now, there are seven schools you can bet on to land the 6-foot shooting guard: East Tennessee State, Liberty, Eastern Kentucky, Louisville, Morehead State, Northern Kentucky, and Tennessee.
The Buccaneers of ETSU are the favorite at +300, followed by the Flames at +400 and Colonels at +700.
Take a look at all the lines:
Will Brad Calipari play at East Tennessee State for the 2019-2020 NCAA basketball season?
- Yes +300
- No -400
Will Brad Calipari play at Liberty for the 2019-2020 NCAA basketball season?
- Yes +400
- No -600
Will Brad Calipari play at Eastern Kentucky for the 2019-2020 NCAA basketball season?
- Yes +700
- No -1400
Will Brad Calipari play at Louisville for the 2019-2020 NCAA basketball season?
- Yes +2500
- No -10000
Will Brad Calipari play at Morehead State for the 2019-2020 NCAA basketball season?
- Yes +700
- No -1400
Will Brad Calipari play at Northern Kentucky for the 2019-2020 NCAA basketball season?
- Yes +800
- No -1600
Will Brad Calipari play at Tennessee for the 2019-2020 NCAA basketball season?
- Yes +2500
- No -10000
It’s not a done deal that Brad will be transferring, but if he does, what do you think is the best fit for him going forward? And most importantly, who are you putting your money on?
By Nick Roush on ©May 31st, 2019 @ 11:20am
Now that the dust has settled from the NBA Draft deadline and the draft order is set, the mock drafters are hard at work to provide updated information. The good news for the Cats — not much has changed.
The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie updated his Top 100 rankings following Wednesday’s decisions. All three draft-eligible Kentucky Wildcats are hovering near the end of the lottery.
17. P.J. Washington
20. Tyler Herro
22. Keldon Johnson
Only 20 days away from the NBA Draft, Cal’s Cats have less than three weeks to move up or down draft boards. After a few pro days, they’ll soon begin individual workouts with teams, their last chance to make a draftable impression.
Rise and shine, BBN! It’s Friday!
The summer schedule for UK Athletics is slowly starting to kick in, as the Kentucky basketball, football, baseball, softball, and volleyball seasons, among others, have all come to a close.
Have no fear though, BBN. We’ll get you through with plenty of news and other wackiness in the most ridiculous way possible.
Let’s get started.
Brad Calipari is in the transfer portal
Yesterday morning, Al.com’s Matt Zenitz broke the news that John Calipari’s son, Brad Calipari, was officially in the transfer portal.
Not long afterward, the likes of Evan Daniels and Jeff Goodman confirmed the news, followed by the Kentucky head coach himself addressing – and confirming – the reports on Twitter later that evening.
Calipari said that while he loves coaching his son in Lexington, he understands that it’s difficult to get playing time if you’re not a core rotation player. If Brad wants to go somewhere with the opportunity to get more minutes, he would support that decision.
“It’s hard to get minutes at Kentucky — EVEN IF YOU’RE MY SON,” Calipari said. “Brad is going to take his time with his decision and weigh all options,” he said. “No matter what he does, he has my full support. If he decides to leave, I know our fans will continue to root for him. And if he decides to come back, I’ll soak in every moment to coach my son.”
This certainly isn’t the first time rumors of the Kentucky guard’s transfer have come up. When he decided to redshirt this past season to preserve two more years of college eligibility, the idea of a move seemed like a possibility from the outside.
And then later in the year during an interview with Jim Rome, Calipari said it was on the table.
“He can go to another school, a smaller school where he’ll play more,” Cal said, before adding he believes Brad will stay at Kentucky.
It’s not 100% official and we don’t know of any potential landing spots quite yet, but it’s certainly looking like Brad’s Kentucky career is over.
How does the Kentucky 2019-20 roster look as of today?
With the NBA Draft deadline now behind us, we’re now right on the cusp of having a finalized roster for next season.
But what does that look like now with EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards back, along with Calipari likely gone?
Here is the very loose depth as of today:
PG: Ashton Hagans/Immanuel Quickley
SG: Tyrese Maxey/Johnny Juzang
SF: Kahlil Whitney/Dontaie Allen/Zan Payne
PF: EJ Montgomery/Keion Brooks Jr./Brennan Canada
C: Nick Richards/Nate Sestina
There is also the possibility that Virginia Tech graduate transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr. makes the move to Lexington next season, where he would almost certainly jump into the starting lineup.
If you missed Pilgrim’s Insider Notes last night breaking down the possibility of that, along with the massive decisions of Montgomery and Richards, you can find that below:
DeMarcus Cousins is back
It hasn’t been an easy road for former Kentucky center DeMarcus Cousins, but after recovering from two separate injuries, a torn Achilles and a torn left quad, over the last 16 months, he was finally rewarded with minutes in the NBA Finals last night.
Active for the first time since the first round of the NBA Playoffs, Cousins logged eight minutes, finishing with three points, two assists, and two steals.
After the game, the Golden State big man said it “felt good” to finally be back out on the floor with his teammates.
"It felt good to be a part of that energy tonight."
— NBA TV (@NBATV) May 31, 2019
Cousins’ Warriors fell to the Toronto Raptors in Game 1 by a final score of 118-109, but it was still great to see the former Wildcat back out there.
Game 2 is set for Sunday, June 2 at 8:00 p.m. ET in Toronto.
Former Cats showing off during NFL OTA offseason workouts
Rookie minicamp has come and gone, and now, NFL teams are turning toward closing out the rest of their offseason workouts.
OTAs are currently taking place across the league, and several former Wildcats are doing what it takes to separate themselves from the pack.
Pittsburgh running back Benny Snell showed off a move we are all too familiar with against a Steeler teammate:
— Jordan Dajani (@JDajani247) May 30, 2019
Cleveland wide receiver Dorian Baker also broke loose in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown on day nine of OTAs for the Browns:
— Pat Chiesa (@PatChiesa) May 30, 2019
Meanwhile, former Wildcat Za’Darius Smith is getting used to his uniform color and number change, going from Baltimore purple to Green Bay green.
— Za'Darius Smith (@TheRealZSmith) May 30, 2019
KSR in an hour
Ryan Lemond is out, but Matt Jones, Drew Franklin, and Shannon the Dude will all be LIVE on KSR Radio this morning from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. ET.
This is Matt’s last show before he takes his vacation, so you won’t want to miss it.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©May 30th, 2019 @ 11:00pm
The deadline has passed for those testing the NBA Draft waters, and for Kentucky, it went as well as you could’ve hoped.
The only two players on the roster left with decisions to make, EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards, each decided that they would be returning to school. Now, Kentucky has a roster capable of making a Final Four run next season.
But is the UK coaching staff done?
In this edition of Pilgrim’s Insider Notes, we break down the decisions of both Wildcat forwards, whether or not Kentucky will be recruiting Virginia Tech graduate transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr., and if they’ll look to 2020 for another big man.
Let’s dive right in.
Last night, Kentucky forward EJ Montgomery announced he would be withdrawing from the NBA Draft and returning to school for a sophomore season.
And while it’s massive news for the roster and the team’s depth top-to-bottom, the news certainly wasn’t the expectation.
In last week’s edition of my notes, I said that the momentum had shifted back in Kentucky’s favor and that those on Montgomery’s side of things expected him back in Lexington this season. Originally, I had heard that while his first run of workouts had gone okay, teams encouraged him to return to school and develop for one more season before making the jump. At the time, I felt fairly confident that both Montgomery and Kentucky center Nick Richards would be back.
During his second round of workouts, though, I heard that a few teams had promised him the guaranteed contract he was looking for in the second round, with some rumblings indicating that he might even slide in at the end of the first. From there, Jerry Tipton of the Herald-Leader posted the article of former Wildcat Tony Delk, who worked out with Montgomery last week, saying he thought the Wildcat forward was staying in the draft.
After the back-to-back set of not-so-positive news for Kentucky, I definitely admit that my gut feeling flipped in favor of the NBA, and it stayed that way through the final decision.
I tried reaching out to some of the individuals in Montgomery’s inner-circle after his workout out in California on Tuesday to see if their optimism for a return had wavered at all after the fact, but I didn’t get much of anything back. On Kentucky’s end of things, John Calipari told reporters down at the SEC Meetings in Destin yesterday early afternoon that he still wasn’t certain of Montgomery’s decision. Sources tell KSR that not only was Calipari unaware of what the Kentucky forward was going to do in the hours leading up to the announcement, but so was the entire UK coaching staff.
After getting through to some folks after the decision was made, I definitely believe that Calipari’s advice tipped the scales on a truly 50/50 decision that went well into the day on Thursday. While there was significant interest in Montgomery from multiple NBA teams, the Kentucky head coach’s confidence in him to follow in PJ Washington’s footsteps and become a potential lottery pick next year pushed the scale in Kentucky’s favor.
While Montgomery’s return was more of a surprise, seeing Nick Richards’ announcement on Wednesday was not.
There was a very brief time that Richards contemplated keeping his name in the NBA Draft and exploring the professional ranks, but I’m told it was never an option that he seriously considered. While he obviously wants to get his professional career started sooner rather than later, he knows he still has work to do at the college level before he’s ready to make the jump.
From the minute he put his name in the draft, the Kentucky coaching staff expected the 6-foot-11 big man to learn what he needed from NBA teams and return to school. That’s exactly what happened.
As Calipari said when Richards made his announcement, those at UK are waiting for things to click for the former No. 1 center in the class of 2017, and they think it’s coming soon. When he realizes his true ability and builds up his confidence to play with consistency, they genuinely feel he can be one of the best big men in college basketball.
“I’m excited to continue to coach Nick because I know how special he can be,” Calipari said in a press release. “I’ve told him, ‘If you come back, I’m expecting you to be one of the best big men in the country.’ There is no reason he can’t be. There is nothing that Nick hasn’t seen at this point, and he knows what my expectations are for him in his junior season. I want him to dominate the game and affect it on every single possession.”
Physically, there’s no denying he’s gifted. If he can match that mentally? There is confidence within the program that he can have a Willie Cauley-Stein-esque impact on the team.
Kerry Blackshear Jr.
With Montgomery and Richards now back for next season, Kentucky will now turn its attention to closing out the 2019-20 roster with Virginia Tech graduate transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr.
And even with ten legitimate scholarship players on the team, sources tell KSR that the UK coaching staff is still hoping to bring in the 6-foot-11 big man and will be heavily involved in the recruiting process.
The fact that we’re even at this point, though, is surprising to me.
When Blackshear originally put his name in the draft, I was told on multiple occasions that he did so with the intention of keeping it in. He has already been in college for four years, put up solid numbers, made a decent run in the NCAA Tournament, etc. As much as he’d enjoy winning a national title, he’s already enjoyed a full college career, and the hope was that he’d do enough in the pre-draft process to give him a reason to start his professional career.
Unfortunately, that simply didn’t happen.
I talked to one individual who was actually at his Professional Basketball Combine workouts at the Mamba Center in California, who said it wasn’t a major shock that he decided to withdraw from the NBA Draft afterward. While he showed off solid versatility and shot fine, he just didn’t separate himself from the pack the way scouts hoped he would. Same goes with team and individual workouts.
In the end, Blackshear Jr. was almost certainly not getting drafted, and his journey to the NBA would have likely been dominated by years in the G-League. While he was (begrudgingly) open to either taking that route or playing professionally overseas, he decided it’d be beneficial to take one last stab at using what he learned during the pre-draft process to build his stock a bit more, competing for a title, and working toward his Master’s degree.
In terms of what’s next, I heard from someone I trust about a month ago that if Blackshear ended up withdrawing from the NBA Draft (highly unlikely in their mind at the time), Kentucky would be the likely landing spot. This was after Kentucky met with Blackshear’s family in Florida, mind you, so the confidence likely came from just how well that went. Blackshear’s camp has confidence in Calipari and his ability to put the 6-foot-11 star in position to thrive at the next level.
Outside of Kentucky, the main schools in contention are Florida and Texas A&M, along with a possible return to Virginia Tech.
For Florida, there is a legitimate need for him down low, and the coaching staff is selling him on being the missing piece for a potential Final Four contender. Beyond pure fit, he’s also from the Orlando, meaning he could spend his final season of college playing in front of his closest friends and family.
With the Aggies, his former Virginia Tech head coach, Buzz Williams, was hired this offseason and there is obvious familiarity there. As for a potential return to the Hokies, he’s already familiar with campus and new coach Mike Young seems confident that he’ll at least consider the opportunity.
I expect to hear of visits being scheduled in the very near future, with Blackshear ultimately ending up at either Kentucky or Florida.
We’re still early in the process, but I like UK’s position.
If Blackshear opts for another school to close out his college eligibility, the next big question is whether or not the Kentucky coaching staff will push for a reclassification from a prospect in the class of 2020.
The main targets? Five-star center N’Faly Dante, five-star center Makur Maker, five-star forward Isaiah Todd, and four-star center Cliff Omoruyi.
On Wednesday, Corey Evans of Rivals.com said that the Kentucky coaching staff is still “pushing” Dante to reclassify and join the 2019-20 roster.
“The Wildcats might not land N’Faly Dante, though they are pushing for his early enrollment,” he said.
At one point, sources told KSR that Kentucky was hoping Dante would remain in the class of 2020 to develop, but his dominant play during the winter and spring led UK to be more open-minded to a jump to 2019. I’m not certain of an updated status on that since Montgomery and Richards announced their return, but I do know that they love his game and think he has the potential to be next in line as a dominant shot blocker in Lexington. Oregon is seen as the slight favorite right now, with LSU also firmly in the running.
Omoruyi is also a possible option, and I definitely think he’d be open to taking the opportunity if it presented itself. As of today, I feel fairly confident that Kentucky leads for the four-star big man out of Roselle Catholic in New Jersey, though I think it’ll likely be for the 2020-21 season.
As for Maker, there are rumblings that he’s looking to either reclassify or go the professional route, but I’m not certain which is more likely right now. We’re still waiting on Calipari to offer a scholarship at this point, so if he does decide to make the jump, I don’t see him landing at Kentucky.
And finally with Todd, I think the only way he was playing for UK in 2019 was if Coach Cal found himself in desperation mode following the NBA Draft deadline. With his pair of former five-stars back in Lexington, the Kentucky coaching staff hopes to snag him in 2020.
In short, if a 2020 prospect begs Kentucky for a roster spot this coming season, I believe Calipari would be open to it, but it’s not a necessity. The UK coaching staff is confident in what they have currently and are not in desperate need of adding another piece. If Blackshear ends up elsewhere, my gut tells me the 2019-20 roster is set as-is.