Basketball Recruiting News
Immediately after ESPN published their updated player rankings for the class of 2020, 247Sports decided to release theirs.
And just like the ESPN 100, the new Top247 was loaded with Kentucky commitments and targets.
In terms of the commitments, B.J. Boston fell one spot to No. 15 overall, listed as the No. 2 shooting guard in the nation. As for Cam’Ron Fletcher, he saw an even bigger drop, falling eight spots to No. 44 overall. The Kentucky pledge is considered the No. 10 small forward in the nation.
As for UK’s top targets, Cade Cunningham came in at No. 2 overall, followed by Jalen Green at No. 3, Makur Maker at No. 4, Josh Christopher at No. 6, Scottie Barnes at No. 8, and Greg Brown at No. 9 to round out the top-ten.
Moving down the list, Isaiah Todd came in at No. 13 overall, followed by Sharife Cooper at No. 19, Dawson Garcia at No. 21, Lance Ware at No. 33, Mady Sissoko at No. 34, Cliff Omoruyi at No. 40, and JT Thor at No. 50.
Meanwhile, Bardstown’s own JJ Traynor went from unranked – and barely even having a recruiting profile, at that – to achieving four-star status and jumping up all the way to No. 77 overall.
To see the entire Top247, click right here.
As for the updated ESPN 100, you can find that here.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©August 21st, 2019 @ 12:00pm
Both of Kentucky basketball’s commitments for the class of 2020 were included in ESPN’s updated player rankings.
Five-star wing and future Wildcat B.J. Boston was listed as a top-ten prospect, coming in at No. 9 overall.
Meanwhile, UK’s most recent commitment, Cam’Ron Fletcher, was a bit further down the list, coming in at No. 44 overall.
In terms of Kentucky’s other big targets, Cade Cunningham came in at No. 2, followed by Jalen Green at No. 3, Isaiah Todd at No. 7, Greg Brown at No. 8, and Makur Maker at No. 10 to round out the top ten.
From there, Scottie Barnes came in at No. 11, followed by Josh Christopher at No. 12, Sharife Cooper at No. 16, J.T. Thor at No. 37, Lance Ware at No. 42, Dawson Garcia at No. 43, and Cliff Omoruyi at No. 46.
You can see the entire top 50 below:
- 1. Evan Mobley
- 2. Cade Cunningham
- 3. Jalen Green
- 4. Jalen Johnson
- 5. Ziare Williams
- 6. Jalen Suggs
- 7. Isaiah Todd
- 8. Greg Brown
- 9. B.J. Boston
- 10. Makur Maker
- 11. Scottie Barnes
- 12. Josh Christopher
- 13. Walker Kessler
- 14. Jeremy Roach
- 15. Jaden Springer
- 16. Sharife Cooper
- 17. Cameron Thomas
- 18. Nimari Burnett
- 19. Day’Ron Sharpe
- 20. Daishen Nix
- 21. Isaiah Jackson
- 22. Jaemyn Brakefield
- 23. Caleb Love
- 24. Bryce Thompson
- 25. D.J. Steward
- 26. Adam Miller
- 27. MarJon Beauchamp
- 28. Moses Moody
- 29. Mark Williams
- 30. Jabri Abdur-Rahim
- 31. Micah Peavy
- 32. Keon Johnson
- 33. Kyree Walker
- 34. Earl Timberlake
- 35. Hunter Dickinson
- 36. Mady Sissoko
- 37. J.T. Thor
- 38. Corey Walker
- 39. R.J. Davis
- 40. Reece Beekman
- 41. Henry Coleman III
- 42. Lance Ware
- 43. Dawson Garcia
- 44. Cam’Ron Fletcher
- 45. Rondel Walker
- 46. Cliff Omoruyi
- 47. Matt Murrell
- 48. Dalen Terry
- 49. Andre Jackson
- 50. Xavier Foster
Looking at the list and where Kentucky stands with their targets – they’re in great position with Green, Todd, Christopher, Ware, and Omoruyi, among others – on top of Boston’s status as a strong top-ten prospect, it certainly looks like John Calipari and his staff are in position yet again for another elite recruiting class.
The Sources Say Podcast E1: Daishen Nix commits to UCLA, the latest on Jalen Green, Josh Christopher, and JJ Traynor
By Jack Pilgrim on ©August 20th, 2019 @ 3:45pm
The Sources Say Podcast is finally here!
In their debut episode, KSR’s Jack Pilgrim is joined by Jake Weingarten and Travis Graf of Cats Illustrated to break down all things Kentucky basketball recruiting.
The trio of recruiting insiders discuss:
What is the latest with 2020 five-star point guard Daishen Nix?
(NOTE: This podcast was recorded prior to Nix’s commitment to UCLA on Tuesday afternoon. Pilgrim, Weingarten, and Graf jump back on at the end of the show to discuss the big news)
- Breaking down Nix’s game… Is he the best passer in high school basketball?
- Their thoughts on Kentucky not extending an offer yet
- Some new scoop on Nix that could affect Kentucky’s future roster
- Why Nix’s camp was frustrated with UK
Breaking down Jalen Green’s game
- Huge room to grow, high ceiling. Naturally gifted, supreme athletic. Can be a legitimate future NBA superstar
- From his camp: quite a comparison to some former UK players in the NBA
- Will he make it to a college campus?
- How they would handicap his recruitment?
- Has RJ Hampton’s decision to play overseas changed the mindset of these high school kids’ decisions?
- Does the UK coaching staff like the idea of top recruits coming together on an official visit?
Breaking down Josh Christopher’s game
- Pilgrim is extremely high on Christopher… Could he be even better than Green?
- Can he run the point guard position?
- Comparison to another former John Calipari star
- What a potential future UK roster could look like
- A fun Jalen Green vs. Josh Christopher matchup Pilgrim observed at Peach Jam
The breakout star of the summer is Bardstown’s own JJ Traynor
- What do we need to know about his recruitment?
- What Traynor’s high school coach told KSR about his game
And to close the show, the Sources Say hosts scramble to add in a new segment with Daishen Nix’s abrupt commitment to UCLA on Tuesday afternoon.
- What does this decision mean for Kentucky?
- Should we be worried about UK putting all their eggs in one basket with Green and Christopher?
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©August 20th, 2019 @ 3:07pm
After deciding to remain in the 2021 class last week, Paolo Banchero has scheduled his official visits. The five-star power forward from Seattle tweeted that he will visit Kentucky for Big Blue Madness on October 11.
Banchero will visit North Carolina on September 27, Duke on October 17, Tennessee on October 25, and Gonzaga on January 18. Home state Washington was considered the early frontrunner (his parents both played there), and although the Huskies are not getting an official visit, he’s visited them unofficially several times.
Banchero is considered the top power forward and a top five overall prospect in the 2021 class by 247 Sports, ESPN, and Rivals. I really enjoy this description of his game from Rivals’ Corey Evans.
“What Banchero brings to the floor is an all-encompassing skillset that wreaks havoc from 20-feet and in. One of the very best standouts on the Nike EYBL circuit, NBPA Top 100 Camp, and at the USA Basketball Mini-Camp this summer, Banchero sets the bar for what a premier frontcourt prospect looks like and would be an immediate producer regardless of his year of enrollment and for which program that he ultimately selects.”
Yes, please. Watch him work below.
Last night, 2020 five-star point guard Daishen Nix cut his list to five schools, with UCLA, Kentucky, Alabama, Maryland, and Kansas all being included.
Today, after telling reporters that he was planning on taking visits to all five schools on his list, including one already scheduled for late September to Alabama, Nix shocked the world by announcing his commitment to UCLA this afternoon.
“Most of my family is round the west coast, so if I leave to go to UCLA it’s not that hard for them to fly over and drive over to see me,” Nix explained to Evan Daniels of 247Sports. “I loved the weather out there, the visit I had over the weekend was just unbelievable. It just really caught my eye.”
Nix also said he felt UCLA prioritized him the most among all the schools on his list.
“[Mick Cronin] prioritized me from the start,” he added. “As soon as he got there, and it was only him recruiting me, none of the assistant coaches.”
Now, Kentucky will turn its attention to Josh Christopher and Jalen Green to join BJ Boston in the backcourt.
We will have more on the decision on the Sources Say Podcast, set to debut this afternoon. I will also have another post on the site breaking down what this means for Kentucky in a bit.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©August 20th, 2019 @ 10:00am
Michael Avenatti’s War on Nike was back in the news yesterday as new texts suggest the shoe company started courting Emoni Bates when he was only 13 years old.
Last week, Yahoo Sports released a series of texts between Nike EYBL executives from February 2017 discussing deals for three players: Zion Williamson, Romeo Langford, and an unnamed prospect from Michigan whose name was redacted because he’s a minor. As suspected, Yahoo is now reporting that player is Bates, who was only two weeks past his 13th birthday and a seventh grader at the time. Bates, now 15, has been called the best player in high school basketball, and is expected to make the jump directly to the pros in 2022 should the one-and-done rule go by the wayside.
In the texts, the Nike executives discuss how much it will take to sponsor the AAU team that Bates’ father ran, batting around the figure of “15.” Documents don’t show that the offer was ever made, and Bates’ father told Yahoo Sports that the team, Bates Fundamental, didn’t join the EYBL until 2018, a year after the texts were sent. Considering Bates probably won’t even play college basketball and even if he did, NCAA rules allow a shoe company to hire a parent to operate and/or coach an AAU team if it’s an honest employment situation, these claims are no big deal; however, discussing deals for 13-year-old kids is yet another reminder of how seedy grassroots basketball can be.
For more, check out Yahoo’s report from last night.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©August 19th, 2019 @ 8:30pm
The No. 1 point guard in the class of 2020 has included Kentucky in his final five.
This evening, Daishen Nix cut his list to five schools, with the Wildcats joining UCLA, Kansas, Maryland, and Alabama.
“Picking my top five wasn’t easy,” Nix said in a Twitter post. “There are some good schools with great coaching staffs that are being left off this list, Washington, Marquette, and Arizona, just to name a few.”
Picking my top 5 wasn’t easy . There are some good schools , with great coaching staffs that are being left off this list , Washington , Marquette , and Arizona , just to name a few . pic.twitter.com/yr8uM9dVVf
— daishen (@djfromveg) August 20, 2019
While it’s certainly major news that the No. 1 point guard in the nation and top passer in all of high school basketball is seriously considering Kentucky, it’s an even bigger deal when you consider the fact that they were included without Nix even holding an offer.
On Friday evening, I reported on the site that the 6-foot-5 point guard out of Las Vegas, NV was hoping to take an official visit to Kentucky before making a decision, with one source close to Nix telling KSR that it would be a “point of emphasis” to get to Lexington in the very near future.
That being said, sources also tell KSR that there has been a bit of frustration within Nix’s camp about Kentucky’s lack of offer and that it wasn’t a done deal in the slightest that UK was going to be included on this list. While UCLA, Maryland, Alabama, and Kansas were near-locks, I was told around noon today that Kentucky was “fighting” for that final spot. If they didn’t get the feel from the staff that an offer was on the horizon, sources tell KSR that they would not have made the cut.
In short, Nix loves John Calipari and the Kentucky basketball program, and he has been comfortable in letting UK get involved at their own pace. He has openly admitted that the UK coaching staff wants to see more out of him both as a shooter and on defense, something he’s happy to prove he can do. He feels that despite Kentucky’s lack of offer, one is coming.
On the flip side, others close to Nix feel the talented passing guard has done more than enough already to earn a scholarship and believe he should be prioritized. While Kentucky was one of the five-star guard’s favorite schools growing up and his camp understands this, they also don’t feel it is fair to some of the other programs that are dying to bring him in as the centerpiece of their respective recruiting classes.
On Kentucky’s end, sources tell KSR that they have genuine interest in Nix, especially as a passer and leader of the offense, and they are open to bringing him in on an official visit sooner rather than later, but they still want to watch him play more before extending an offer. As mentioned before, there have been concerns about the five-star guard’s shooting abilities.
With Nix hoping to reach a decision in the near future, though, the opportunities will be extremely limited for the coaching staff to make that happen.
As things stand today, UCLA and Kansas are seen as the two favorites to land Nix, though an offer from Kentucky would shake things up in a major way for the talented guard. With an official visit to Lexington now on the itinerary – sources tell KSR this will happen in the coming weeks – we should know one way or the other soon.
Until then, check out some of his highlights below:
By Jack Pilgrim on ©August 19th, 2019 @ 7:15pm
The questions surrounding 2020 four-star forward Jaemyn Brakefield’s recruitment and whether or not Kentucky was a part of it have been answered.
This afternoon, the four-star forward out of Huntington, WV cut his list to ten schools, and Kentucky was not included.
The finalists? Louisville, Michigan State, UCLA, Oregon, Ole Miss, West Virginia, Michigan, Auburn, Florida State, and Kansas.
Looking at his profile page on 247Sports and his Crystal Ball, Kentucky had 100% of all predictions, most notably from recruiting expert Jerry Meyer.
Dating back to 2016, Kentucky has been rumored as the likely destination for the 6-foot-8 forward for a variety of reasons. For starters, he has been outspoken about his appreciation for John Calipari and the Kentucky basketball program, and it has shown with his consistent trips to Lexington for visits. The top-40 prospect visited unofficially back in October of 2016, October of 2017, November of 2017, and October of 2018. His four visits to Lexington tops any other school on his final list of ten.
Outside of his public interest in the Wildcats, he has also had multiple ties to the program, most notably a girlfriend that went to school at UK. For that reason alone, most assumed Brakefield was Kentucky’s to-lose.
When asked about the cut on his Instagram page, Brakefield was quick to explain why the Wildcats were not included.
“No offer,” the four-star prospect said in the comment section in response to a fan.
With Kentucky in great position with others in the frontcourt, most notably with Isaiah Todd, Cliff Omoruyi, and Lance Ware, along with little-to-no traction on a potential offer, it’s no surprise that the Wildcats were left off the list of ten.
Speaking of Ware, the major Kentucky target showed his support of Brakefield in the comment section, with the Huntington Prep star responding with a comment of his own that may be of interest to the Big Blue Nation…
National recruiting expert Evan Daniels has reported Sunday evening that JJ Traynor will be taking an unofficial visit to Kentucky for Big Blue Madness on October 18th. On top of this visit to UK, he’s also scheduled unofficial visits to Louisville on August 26th and Cincinnati on August 29th.
— Evan Daniels (@EvanDaniels) August 18, 2019
Traynor has been gaining a ton of national interest this summer and coming onto the scene strong for the start of his senior year at Bardstown High School. He’s received offers from several relatively local schools including Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky, and Western Kentucky, but is now drawing interest from a lot of bigger schools outside the area as well, with schools like Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Ole Miss, and Virginia Tech all reaching out, according to Daniels.
While not currently ranked by 247Sports, Traynor’s big summer will be changing that sooner rather than later, says Daniels.
Traynor will be rated as a four-star prospect on 247Sports when the 2020 Top247 is updated later this week.
Going from unranked to a four-star recruit is a big jump and if Traynor continues on that trajectory he’ll be one of the higher touted recruits from the state of Kentucky in the last few years.
You’ll see some more info on Traynor in this week’s Insider Notes from Jack Pilgrim so stay tuned.
By Zack Geoghegan on ©August 18th, 2019 @ 1:45pm
If the NFL preseason isn’t doing it for you on this Sunday afternoon, why not check in on a future Kentucky basketball commit?
At 2 p.m. on Sunday, recent UK commitment and four-star forward Cam’Ron Fletcher will participate in the SLAM Summer Classic joined by a group of potential future Wildcats.
Several high-profile Kentucky targets such as Jalen Green, Josh Christopher, Makur Maker, Terrence Clarke, and Jonathan Kuminga will also be participating in the event.
Check out how they all arrived.
THE FELLAS MADE AN ENTRANCE. pic.twitter.com/BgrAeiombH
— SLAM (@SLAMonline) August 18, 2019
By Jack Pilgrim on ©August 17th, 2019 @ 10:30pm
Kentucky fans will have the opportunity to check out one future Wildcat (at the very least) on Sunday afternoon.
At 2:00 p.m. ET, 2020 four-star forward and UK commitment Cam’Ron Fletcher, among several other elite prospects, will take the floor in the SLAM Summer Classic in New York.
Fletcher will be joined by Kentucky targets Jalen Green, Josh Christopher, Makur Maker, Terrence Clarke, and Jonathan Kuminga, among other high-major recruits, in the event.
Green, Christopher, Maker, and Clarke participated in one-on-one sessions today, followed by Green stealing the show in the event’s official dunk contest afterward:
We’ll have the stream right here on KSR, as well. Stay tuned.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©August 16th, 2019 @ 6:00pm
2020 five-star guard Daishen Nix is considered the top passer in all of high school basketball, and with summer slowly coming to a close, he’s hoping to announce where he is taking those talents in the very near future.
And during the home stretch of his recruitment, Kentucky remains right in the thick of things.
Back at the NBPA Top 100 Camp in Charlottesville, VA in June, the 6-foot-5 prospect out of Las Vegas told KSR that despite the fact that he didn’t hold an offer from UK quite yet, the Wildcats were still a major priority of his during his recruitment.
In fact, the elite passing guard said that he was dying to meet Kentucky head coach John Calipari, a “legend” in his eyes, sooner rather than later.
“I really want to meet Coach Cal [in person],” Nix said. “Because growing up, watching all the top schools, they were my dream schools. It was pretty good that I got to finally talk to him. … It’ll be a shock [when I meet him] because he’s a great coach. He’s a legend to me.”
Back on May 2, UK assistant Joel Justus visited Nix at his high school, where he praised the five-star point guard for his elite passing abilities and said he could be an immediate impact player in Lexington.
When asked about the meeting, Nix said having a coach from Kentucky reach out stands out among some of the other visits he has had.
“It was a surprise because Kentucky walked in,” the five-star prospect said. “It was just like some of the other visits, but they were just higher than the other coaches that have come in so far.”
While conversations have remained consistent between Nix and the Kentucky coaching staff since the NBPA Top 100 Camp, an offer is still not on the table, and there are questions as to whether or not one will ever come.
As I’ve mentioned on the site before, while the Kentucky coaches are in love with Nix has a primary ball handler, passer, and leader, there are questions about his shooting and scoring potential at the next level. For better or for worse, Kentucky sees a ton of Isaiah Briscoe in his game, and they are wondering how that would fit in with some of the other pieces they are looking to bring in, most notably with Jalen Green and Josh Christopher.
I’m told that an offer could still absolutely come, but Kentucky would prefer to see him in action just a bit more over the next few months before officially extending one.
Sources close to Nix tell KSR, however, that the five-star guard is still extremely interested in visiting Lexington in the coming weeks in hopes of earning a scholarship offer in person.
In fact, if the Kentucky coaching staff will have him, Nix would like to schedule an official visit to the school sooner rather than later.
“[Visiting Kentucky] is a point of emphasis, most definitely,” a source close to Nix said. “Coach Cal will be the one to decide the order of things. That’s up to Cal.”
If that visit comes to fruition and an offer does come, sources tell KSR that Kentucky would likely climb up Nix’s leaderboard, potentially as high as No. 1 on his list.
Why? Outside of the consensus top-25 prospect’s outspoken admiration of John Calipari and the Kentucky basketball program, Nix also told KSR that he is extremely interested in playing with UK commitment BJ Boston in college after the two built incredible chemistry together back at the NBPA Top 100 Camp.
“We’ve got really good chemistry,” Nix told KSR. “He’s a really cool guy, he’s down to earth. He’s really funny too, that’s what a lot of people don’t know about him.”
“Our chemistry is developing really good, he’s a pass-first point guard,” Boston told KSR in Charlottesville. “I really like that when I’m playing. We connected from the time we first stepped on the court together.”
But the clock is ticking, however. Sources tell KSR that Nix is looking to make his decision in the coming weeks, with the latest likely being September, meaning this visit and offer would have to come together rather quickly.
If not, UCLA will likely be the favorite to land the top passing guard in all of America.
Until then, watch him work below:
By Jack Pilgrim on ©August 13th, 2019 @ 10:59pm
This afternoon, Kentucky lost out on its final potential target to close out the program’s 2019-20 roster when 2020 five-star center N’Faly Dante announced he would be reclassifying to 2019 – as expected – and signing with the Oregon Ducks.
Dante, a 6-foot-11 center out of Wichita, KS, committed to Oregon over offers from Kentucky, LSU, Iowa State, and Tennessee, among others, though sources tell KSR that the decision ultimately came down to the Ducks and the Wildcats.
While the Big Blue Nation is understandably frustrated in losing yet another frontcourt prospect in the class of 2019 – Kentucky’s ninth miss overall – fans should take a step back from the ledge and see why there is still so much optimism within the program about the upcoming season and recruiting moving forward.
Kentucky swung and missed on big men in 2019
Before we get into the nitty-gritty on what this decision means for Kentucky and the pros and cons, we definitely have to address the obvious: UK swung and missed on just about every single big man target they had in the class of 2019.
Following today’s decision, this means James Wiseman, Vernon Carey, Isaiah Stewart, Matthew Hurt, Jaden McDaniels, Zeke Nnaji, Oscar Tshiebwe, Kerry Blackshear Jr., and N’Faly Dante all turned down scholarship offers from John Calipari and the UK coaching staff. For a program that has seen elite big men come through such as DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Bam Adebayo, among others, there’s no doubt that this recruiting cycle has been a head-scratcher, to say the least.
That being said, the Kentucky coaching staff felt they had James Wiseman locked up for almost an entire year, and if it weren’t for Penny Hardaway – the 7-foot-1 center’s AAU head coach and closest role model – being hired at Memphis, he would be playing in Lexington this fall. Once it became clear that Wiseman was heading to Memphis, Kentucky was left playing catch-up elsewhere, most notably with Isaiah Stewart, who admitted that the Cats simply came on the recruiting scene too late.
In fact, at the McDonald’s All-America Media Day this past spring, Wiseman, Stewart, and Tshiebwe all told KSR that Kentucky finished No. 2 in their respective recruitments, with McDaniels later being added to that list after committing to the Washington Huskies over the Cats in May. With various ties to other programs already established and stronger, deeper relationships developed with other coaching staffs due to longevity alone, Wiseman’s late gut-punch proved to be more detrimental than it seemed at the time of the decision.
And it really had nothing to do with Kentucky and its efforts on the recruiting trail at all. Again, if it weren’t for Hardaway and Wiseman’s long-established relationship, the nation’s No. 1 prospect would be a Wildcat and all of these recruiting narratives would not exist. While the frustrations are understood – the coaching staff certainly feels it, as well – a tough string of bad luck is more to blame than any potential recruiting deficiencies.
… but the sky is not falling
While Kentucky missed on every top big man target in the class of 2019, with their lone true frontcourt signing being Bucknell graduate transfer Nate Sestina, optimism is just as high as ever in Lexington. Yes, even after Dante’s decision to turn down Kentucky and sign with Oregon.
As I have mentioned in Pilgrim’s Insider Notes on a few occasions over the last several weeks, sources tell KSR that while the Kentucky basketball coaching staff was still actively recruiting Dante to Lexington and would have loved to have him for pure depth purposes alone, this decision was not one they were losing sleep over. From top-to-bottom, they are confident in the 2019-20 roster as it stands currently. In fact, I spoke to an individual close to the program two weeks ago – right in the midst of the reclassification process and prior to a decision either way – who said that with or without Dante, this Kentucky team is absolutely capable of winning a national championship.
Would this roster have been better with Dante in the fold? Yes. Did I feel the 6-foot-11 shot-blocker had the potential to be an instant-impact prospect at Kentucky? Absolutely, especially after a dominant Peach Jam.
That being said, the Kentucky coaching staff lined this roster with veteran leadership, versatility, scoring, shooting, rebounding, and defense both inside and out on the perimeter. To combat their odd cold spell on the recruiting trail with elite frontcourt prospects, they overcompensated by bringing back Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery – who should take major steps forward with consistent playing time and better-defined roles next year as the focal points of the frontcourt – and signed a surplus of long, versatile wings. They also added another grad transfer big man in Sestina to serve as a strong complementary piece with solid shooting, scoring, and rebounding abilities.
In terms of recruiting moving forward, sources tell KSR that the frontcourt remains the program’s top priority in the immediate future. With EJ Montgomery, Nick Richards, and Nate Sestina all expected to be gone after next season, Kentucky is actively recruiting Isaiah Todd, Greg Brown, Makur Maker, JT Thor, Lance Ware, Cliff Omoruyi, and Dawson Garcia in the frontcourt alone, with Mady Sissoko and Bardstown’s JJ Traynor also being rumored as potential targets moving forward, too. Paolo Banchero, a top-three prospect in the class of 2021, will also be considering a reclassification to 2020 and would immediately jump to the top of Kentucky’s priority list, as well.
As a whole, after coming away empty-handed with elite 2019 frontcourt prospects, Kentucky is in position to hit a home run up front in 2020.
Small ball is coming
While the Kentucky coaching staff isn’t completely devastated about Dante heading elsewhere, it does mean they will have some decisions to make in terms of their rotation this coming season.
As we saw during the NCAA Tournament this past season, John Calipari isn’t afraid to experiment with small-ball lineups, and he’ll almost certainly have to implement them again this season. While he is confident in EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards this year (more on that in a minute), and Sestina should be a strong core rotation piece, Kentucky is now only one injury away from having absolutely zero depth in the frontcourt. Regular foul trouble – something both Richards and Montgomery are no stranger to – would also be rather troublesome.
In either case (and possibly regardless), Kahlil Whitney and Keion Brooks Jr. will be asked to slide down to the four in certain situations, with Kentucky then rolling out a three-guard lineup with Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley, and Tyrese Maxey, or Johnny Juzang playing the three. Either way, Whitney and Brooks will be asked to use their impressive length as situational big men, something the coaching staff is confident in if the former can continue to work on his consistency and the latter can continue to bulk up and build the strength necessary to bang around down low a bit.
Sources also tell KSR that Calipari has been interested in utilizing his four-out, one-in dribble-drive motion offense moving forward, and following Dante’s decision, that could absolutely be the route he takes.
EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards have to step up
The most crucial aspect of Dante’s decision lies solely on Kentucky big men EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards and the necessity for each of them to make massive leaps this coming season. Montgomery, who nearly kept his name in the NBA Draft after being discussed as a potential first-rounder, is on a mission to prove to teams that he is capable of becoming the lottery talent he was hyped up to be going into his freshman season. With smooth shooting mechanics, guard skills, and length, the 6-foot-11 forward out of Fort Pierce, FL will be called upon to not only take a step forward, but make a PJ Washington-esque leap into stardom as a sophomore.
Per-4o minutes, Montgomery averaged 10.0 points (48% shooting and 20% from three), 10.8 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks per contest last season. With the “lack of opportunity” excuse no longer on the table as the team’s anticipated go-to playmaker down low, it’s not unheard of to ask for a ballpark range of 15 points, ten rebounds, and two blocks per game for the skilled sophomore. The talent is there, and if he wants to be the lottery pick NBA teams are expecting him to be, he simply has to make the jump happen.
As for Nick Richards, John Calipari has already commented on the expectations he has for his junior center in 2019-20.
“I’m excited to continue to coach Nick because I know how special he can be,” Calipari said after Richards announced he was withdrawing from the NBA Draft and returning to Kentucky. “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.”
Like with Montgomery, Richards’ opportunity excuses are no longer on the table. After averaging 4.0 points, 3.3. rebounds, and 1.3 blocks in 12.1 minutes per game last season, doubling that production in 20-plus minutes per outing next year is not too much to ask of him. With confidence, the 7-foot-0 shot-blocker out of Kingston, Jamaica has shown the potential to be a 12-point, eight-rebound, three-block type of player in Lexington. They don’t need him to be Joel Embiid next year, but they do need him to be the competent rim-running big man threat with elite defensive instincts we all know he is capable of being.
With Dante headed elsewhere, both Montgomery and Richards have no choice but to step up this season.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©August 13th, 2019 @ 6:00pm
Paolo Banchero is no longer considering a jump to the 2020 class. According to Jake Weingarten, the five-star power forward will remain in the 2021 class and is in the process of planning official visits to Kentucky and Duke.
Banchero is considered the top power forward and a top five overall prospect in the 2021 class by 247 Sports, ESPN, and Rivals. The Seattle native also has offers from Memphis, North Carolina, Gonzaga, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Washington. The home state Huskies were thought to be the early frontrunner, but at the NBPA Top 100 Camp earlier this summer, Banchero said distance won’t necessarily be a factor in his decision.
“No, not at all. I’m willing to go wherever,” Banchero said. “Not saying I won’t stay on the West coast. But if I was trying to go to an East coast school or down South, distance wouldn’t really affect me too much.”
Yesterday, Corey Evans listed him among the top performers at the Nike Skills Academy.
“Arguably the best post prospect on hand in California, Banchero drew rave reviews with his sturdy skill set and ability to check practically every box on the final stat sheet. His pick-and-roll game was on point and so was his finishing abilities in traffic. Banchero fits the modern game perfectly and can play in any sort of scheme thanks to how well-rounded he is.”
Watch him work below:
By Jack Pilgrim on ©August 13th, 2019 @ 1:09pm
Kentucky’s roster for the 2019-20 season is officially set.
This afternoon, 2020 five-star center N’Faly Dante announced in a post on The Players’ Tribune that he will be reclassifying to the class of 2019 and signing with the Oregon Ducks.
In the article dedicated to and written for his mother, the 6-foot-11 center said that it is a “dream come true” to play in Eugene this upcoming season.
“I’ve been really lucky to have some of the best college teams in the country offer me a chance to pursue an education at their schools,” he said. “It’s something that I know is a dream come true for both of us. Throughout this process it’s been important to me to choose a place that I know you’d be proud of. A place where I will get a strong education and that has a family atmosphere. I’ve put a lot of thought into it, and I’m excited to tell you that next year I’m going to be attending college and playing basketball at the University of Oregon. Oregon has a program that reflects a lot of the values you taught me when I was growing up. And I hope that someday I get to show you around Eugene.”
Dante chose the Ducks over scholarship offers from Kentucky, LSU, Iowa State, and Tennessee, among several others.
With this decision, Kentucky’s 2019 recruiting class is now complete, meaning Memphis will officially finish with the No. 1 class in the nation. The Cats finished No. 2 overall.
Sources tell KSR that Dante’s decision ultimately came down to Oregon and Kentucky, with multiple people in his inner-circle pushing for both programs. The now-2019 prospect’s handler, though, was a strong advocate of the Oregon program and maintained one of the loudest and most trusted voices throughout the entire process. While Dante was a big fan of John Calipari and the UK basketball program, and there were other supporters of the Wildcats associated with prized big man, the Ducks ultimately came out on top.
While this is yet another swing and miss in the class of 2019 in terms of talented big men, with Kentucky missing out on the likes of James Wiseman, Jaden McDaniels, Vernon Carey, Isaiah Stewart, Kerry Blackshear Jr., and Dante, sources tell KSR that the UK coaching staff was relatively indifferent on adding another member to the roster at this point in time. While they would have loved to have him from a depth perspective, they are confident in their roster from top-to-bottom and feel it is absolutely capable of winning a national title as-is.
And with that, we can officially move on from the 2019 recruiting class and on to what should be a jam-packed class of 2020.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©August 13th, 2019 @ 11:00am
This morning, 247Sports Director of Recruiting Evan Daniels joined Tom Leach on The Leach Report to break down all things Kentucky basketball recruiting.
To get the show started, Leach asked Daniels to update the fanbase on 2020 five-star center N’Faly Dante and his reclassification decision.
While he isn’t certain on where he will be attending, Daniels is confident that we will be seeing news on the elite shot-blocker “very, very soon.”
“I’m not certain where that will be [between Oregon and Kentucky],” he said. “But I think a decision is coming very, very soon and I feel he will be playing college basketball this fall. He can be very impactful [at the college level], ridiculous length. I think he impacts the game with shot-blocking, rebounding, and finishes well around the basket. He was tremendous at Peach Jam with his MoKan Elite team.”
Last week, Daniels turned heads by singling out Bardstown’s JJ Traynor as one of the biggest sleepers in all of high school basketball.
When asked about those comments, the recruiting expert took his praise of the 6-foot-8 forward a step further.
“I think he’s the biggest sleeper of the spring and summer,” Daniels said. “I see a little Jaxson Hayes in him, not in terms of being the same player, but just how underrated he is. He’s a really good athlete, versatile skillset. 6-foot-8, 7-foot-2 wingspan. He’s definitely got some developing to do, [but the potential is there].”
In terms of schools involved, Daniels said that Kentucky is slowly creeping into the picture.
“Kenny Payne called one of his coaches,” he said. “Cincinnati is in on him, hosted for a visit. Western Kentucky, Louisvile is dabbling in there a bit. If we would have had three evaluation periods, he would have 15 high-major offers.”
Daniels also turned heads at Peach Jam by calling Emoni Bates, a 6-foot-9 rising freshman out of Ypsilanti, MI in the class of 2022, the next big thing in high school basketball.
Like he did with Traynor, he took that praise to the next level with Leach.
“Emoni Bates is the best prospect I’ve seen at that stage,” he said. “His physical makeup reminds you of Kevin Durant because he plays like a guard. Tremendous ball handling ability for a guy his size. Scoring package is elite, elite scorer. I think he’s the best scorer in high school basketball.”
Last week, 2020 five-star forward Greg Brown surprised the world when he included Kentucky in his final five, despite not including the Wildcats in his top-ten. At the time, it was unknown whether or not Kentucky had even offered the athletic big man a scholarship.
“I know he cut his list and I know he’s starting to map things out, but I really couldn’t pick a favorite for him right now,” Daniels said. “I know that Kentucky is heavily involved, but he would be a good pickup for any of the schools on his list.”
As for arguably Kentucky’s top target Jalen Green, a top-three prospect in the class of 2020, Daniels agrees that this is looking to be a three-horse race between Kentucky, Memphis, and playing overseas.
“I think that’s a fair assessment, Kentucky and Memphis are two schools that stand out,” he said. “Players are starting to dabble in the overseas route, and I could see him looking into that, as well. But at the college level, I like Kentucky and Memphis.”
To close things out, Leach asked Daniels who can be the biggest impact player on the 2019-20 Kentucky roster.
His answer? Three freshmen standouts.
“That’s a tremendous question, really tough,” he said. “I think Tyrese Maxey has a chance to lead the team in scoring, while Keion Brooks Jr. can be a high-impact guy as a perimeter scorer. Johnny Juzang is going to really surprise some people, as well. He’s a shot maker and a scorer. He has the potential to have a Tyler Herro, Devin Booker, Doron Lamb-type role on this team.”
By Jack Pilgrim on ©August 12th, 2019 @ 2:55pm
After months of speculation, we are reportedly right on the cusp of a decision for 2020 five-star center N’Faly Dante.
According to Tipton Edits, a popular graphic-making outlet with strong connections with recruits, the 6-foot-11 big man is planning on making a college decision “very soon.”
He recently posted the news on his Instagram story:
As I have discussed on Pilgrim’s Insider Notes the last few weeks, the expectation is that Dante will reclassify to the class of 2019 and arrive on a college campus later this month. Sources have told KSR that the elite center has been finishing up his academic requirements for high school graduation, with Dante himself telling me that if he could get things cleared up in time, he would make the jump to 2019. He specified that he has had some online coursework to complete, though there had been other rumblings that he has been waiting on a specific test score to graduate.
In terms of specific schools in contention, Dante told KSR at Peach Jam that he was deciding between Kentucky, Oregon, LSU, Tennessee, and Iowa State, though the Wildcats and Ducks are seen as the strongest contenders.
Oregon currently leads on Dante’s Crystal Ball over at 247Sports with 60% of all predictions, including picks from recruiting experts Andrew Slater and Jerry Meyer.
On Rivals.com, recruiting insider Eric Bossi, who lives in Kansas and is very connected to Dante’s MoKan Elite and Sunrise Christian programs, has a FutureCast pick in favor of Kentucky. Meanwhile, Corey Evans put in a prediction for Oregon back on Friday.
Good evening, and welcome back to another edition of Pilgrim’s Insider Notes.
While my notes are usually focused on recruiting news and updates, this week will be a little different. With the Kentucky basketball team now back home until school starts back up in three weeks, we will be taking a look at how the summer workouts went and what we should expect when the season begins in the coming months.
Let’s dive right in.
Summer workout notes
Instead of jumping into the big-name guys, I’m going to start by throwing a bit of a curveball. While the attention has been on players such as Ashton Hagans and Tyrese Maxey, one note specifically stood out to me from the rest.
Sources tell KSR that freshman wing Dontaie Allen is currently the best shooter on the team and that the Kentucky coaching staff’s long-term expectations for the 6-foot-6 forward have spiked since he arrived on campus this summer. In fact, despite Kentucky having ridiculous depth on the wing and Allen still recovering from the torn ACL he suffered back in January, sources tell KSR that the staff will have a hard time redshirting him this season.
During the recruiting process, a source close to Allen told KSR that a high-major Division I assistant coach felt the Pendleton County star was going to be the next Kyle Korver. And since then, he has bulked up and looks the part, despite still being slightly limited in what he can do both on the court and in the weight room.
“His body has changed already, and that’s without being able to do leg stuff,” one source said.
Allen is sometimes overlooked in Kentucky’s 2019 recruiting class because of his status as a four-star prospect, his recent spell of injuries, and the fact that he missed a good bit of his senior year, but as a long-term prospect, there is growing confidence within the program that he has a chance to be special.
Outside of Allen, another four-star freshman is also picking up serious buzz as time has gone on. 6-foot-7 guard Johnny Juzang was known as one of the best shooters in his class, and thus far, he has lived up to the hype in early runs at the Joe Craft Center. Matt Jones has talked about some of the whispers on the radio show and Kyle Tucker of The Athletic has touched on it on multiple occasions, including in a recent practice report post of his own, but Juzang’s skill isn’t limited to just perimeter jumpers. He has been able to score on all three levels, create shots for himself, and has been a strong finisher at the rim. He already came in with decent size and has never been afraid to take it to the basket, but one onlooker of several of the scrimmages the team has had throughout the summer was impressed with just how strong Juzang is in the paint.
John Calipari has been a guru when it comes to developing prospects deemed two or three-year players and turning them into one-and-done lottery picks, and there is already some buzz that Juzang very well could join that list.
In terms of the big-name guys, sources tell KSR that Ashton Hagans and Tyrese Maxey have built great chemistry together and look the part of one of the best backcourt pairings in the SEC next season. As you’ve seen in his Instagram posts from basically the time he first got to campus, Maxey has been an absolute workhorse in the gym and has led the team’s “Breakfast Club” sessions in the mornings. In terms of specific on-court abilities, while I’ve heard Allen has been the best shooter on the team, Maxey and Juzang have supposedly been neck-and-neck for the No. 2 spot. I’m also told that the staff is feeling pretty giddy about Maxey’s defensive potential, especially alongside an elite perimeter defender like Hagans. Add in the fact that Immanuel Quickley has taken a major step forward – Kyle Tucker also went in depth on this – and Kentucky is in a great spot at the point guard position.
One note I will add about Hagans is that although he is thriving in getting to the rim and as a stud on the defensive end, as we saw during that elite stretch this past winter, I’m told that his jumper still isn’t where the staff wants it to be and that continues to be a work in progress. Hagans has been working with trainers and has been in the gym constantly trying to tweak it and find the right personal formula for consistency.
Moving on, I’m told that there have been some interesting battles between Kahlil Whitney and Keion Brooks Jr., with one source adding that either of them could earn a starting position right now. Brooks is more mechanically sound right now, though Whitney has an NBA-ready body. With Calipari interested in experimenting with small ball this season, either of those players would move to the four, likely allowing for Quickley to enter the starting lineup.
“We’re trying to bulk [Brooks] up more, but he’s definitely got the potential [to play the four],” one source said. “[Kahlil has the motor], he just needs to be more consistent. One of those guys is gonna separate themselves.”
We’ve discussed this on several occasions here on the site, but as far as the frontcourt is concerned, depth remains a slight concern for the staff and their pursuit of N’Faly Dante has not slowed down. That being said, they are confident in EJ Montgomery’s growth – he’s looking to take a PJ Washington-esque sophomore jump as a perimeter shooter – and Nate Sestina to provide a physical presence down low the way Reid Travis did. I also got the chance to see Sestina shoot a bit during the John Calipari Draft Academy last week, and he certainly looks the part from the perimeter, as well. He shot 38.0% from three at Bucknell last year, and there’s no reason he can’t provide something in that ballpark for the Wildcats this season.
If Nick Richards can be an 8-and-5 guy in 20 minutes per contest, the staff is confident in everything else falling into place. Add in Dante, things could get scary. If not, Whitney and Brooks will be fine small-ball fours.
All in all, I assure you we will hear “I like my team” comments from John Calipari by the time UK Media Day rolls around.
A few recruiting notes
Earlier this week, I released a 2,500 word Kentucky recruiting blueprint to use as a guide moving forward (I updated that with a section on Greg Brown III, as well), so I won’t be going too in-depth on recruiting in this edition of Pilgrim’s Insider Notes.
Here are just a few quick-hitters in the meantime:
- Corey Evans of Rivals.com recently said with relative certainty that Jalen Green will be heading to Memphis. While I respect Evans and definitely think he does a great job, I do not think he is giving Kentucky’s coaching staff – Joel Justus in particular – for the work they have put in and the relationships they have developed with Green and his family. I also don’t think he is factoring in Green’s relationship with Josh Christopher and their desire to play together in college enough, either. Memphis is still a strong contender, but UK is just as much in it, if not a bit more. If I were a betting man, I would say the odds are roughly 50% Kentucky, 40% Memphis, and 10% overseas.
- Greg Brown‘s decision to include Kentucky in his final five may have been a shock to the Big Blue Nation, but according to sources, this is something that both UK and Brown’s camp have been putting together for several weeks now. I still think Texas is the favorite, and Memphis remains a sneaky threat, but Kentucky has made up a ton of ground. It benefits the Cats that he is planning on waiting until the Spring.
- There has been some worry about four-star forward and Kentucky target Lance Ware scheduling four official visits and the fact that, despite being a rumored heavy UK lean, none of his trips being to Lexington. That being said, sources tell KSR that this is simply a logistics issue and that a visit to Kentucky is still in the works. The same remains for Jalen Green, Josh Christopher, and Isaiah Todd.
Sources Say Podcast
Moving on, we finally have a release date for the very first edition of the Sources Say Podcast. Jake Weingarten and Travis Graf of Cats Illustrated will join me on Wednesday, August 21 to debut the new show.
Our logo, courtesy of the phenomenal Brandon Owen (@75toRupp), is complete, as well:
We are still looking to add one or two sponsors to join us by the time we launch in two weeks. We’ve also added a package deal to the mix, where you now have the option to be the lead sponsor on both the Sources Say Podcast and my weekly Pilgrim’s Insider Notes post.
We’ll have another jam-packed recruiting edition of the notes next week.
See you then.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©August 09th, 2019 @ 5:00pm
Paolo Banchero is a top five prospect in the 2021 class who’s mulling a move to 2020, so of course he’s receiving a ton of attention from college coaches across the country; in fact, one coach went so far as to pry into Banchero’s dating life.
In a blog post for USA Today High School Sports, Banchero described a conversation with Rick Barnes in which the Tennessee head coach asked about his girlfriend.
We just talked about everyday stuff, and then he asked me if I had a girlfriend. I told him yes, and then he said is she cute. Haha!
Of course, I said yes, and then he said he was sure she wouldn’t mind me coming to Knoxville, Tennessee.
To be fair, Banchero said the conversation was the coolest one he’s had with a coach recently because they talked about things other than basketball, but does Barnes asking if his girlfriend is cute come off as a little creepy to anyone else? Chill, Rick.
As for Kentucky’s impression on Banchero, he said the first time he got a text from John Calipari, he was so starstruck he took a screenshot and sent it to his parents. Same with Coach K. Also, he’s confident he’ll be able to reclassify and he likes the new Rick Ross and Drake albums.
Check out the rest at USA Today High School Sports.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©August 09th, 2019 @ 2:00pm
The Kentucky basketball players are technically “home” from the summer, but the grind doesn’t stop.
To close out the month of July, UK guards Ashton Hagans and Tyrese Maxey traveled to Winston-Salem, NC to compete against some of the best college players in the nation at the Chris Paul Elite Guard Camp.
And according to early reports, Maxey separated himself from the pack on day one of competition.
“Kentucky guard Tyrese Maxey has separated himself early at the CP3 Elite Guard Camp with his ability to make shots,” Jamie Shaw of Phenom Hoops said in a tweet. “Strong frame, quick first step, but the jump shot is falling at a high clip.
Hagans also represented his home state of Georgia and the Kentucky basketball program well.
Great catching up w/ Ashton Hagans & Isaiah Miller at the @CP3RisingStars camp while in town putting in work at the CP3 Elite Guard Camp
— SUVtv (@SUVtv) July 20, 2019
This weekend, Kentucky freshman Kahlil Whitney traveled to California to participate in the Nike Skills Academy against some of the nation’s top college players, along with several elite high school prospects.
Out of 56 total participants, Whitney separated himself from the competition.
“Thought the two best incoming freshmen in attendance during yesterday’s scrimmage portion were Cole Anthony and Kahlil Whitney,” Sam Vecenie of The Athletic said in a tweet.
The official Twitter account of Mac Irvin Fire, Whitney’s old AAU program, also tweeted out high praise for the 6-foot-7 forward.
“Kentucky’s Kahlil Whitney has been balling at the Nike Camp against the college players and pros,” they wrote. “He’s scoring whenever he wants. His pull-up game has been unstoppable.”
Outside of Whitney at the college level, 2020 Kentucky commitment BJ Boston is also in attendance, along with several other major UK recruiting targets.
Some of them? Jalen Green, Josh Christopher, Isaiah Todd, N’Faly Dante, Paolo Banchero, Terrence Clarke, Jonathan Kuminga, and Devin Askew, among others.
Sounds to me like an opportunity for Whitney to recruit Dante to reclassify and play with him this upcoming season, while Boston is almost certainly recruiting some of the other big-name prospects, namely Green and Christopher, to join him in Lexington next season.