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Photo: Cameron Browne/USA Basketball

2020 five-star center N’Faly Dante will visit Kentucky tomorrow, could reclassify to 2019

Photo: Cameron Browne/USA Basketball

Potentially huge news for Kentucky basketball in the upcoming 2019-20 season.

While we still wait for news on Virginia Tech graduate transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr., Kentucky is set to host 2020 five-star center and serious reclassification candidate N’Faly Dante starting tomorrow.

Tipton Edits was the first to break the news:

Dante, a 6-foot-11, 235-pound center, is considered a top-15 prospect in the class of 2020. He currently holds offers from Kansas, Kentucky, Oregon, LSU, Oklahoma State, and St. John’s, though most recruiting experts feel his decision will come down to the Ducks, Tigers, Jayhawks, and Wildcats, no matter when he decides to play college basketball.

The five-star prospect has been a rumored reclassification candidate for several months now, though most assumed if he would make the jump, it would likely come down to Oregon and LSU. Sources told KSR back in the early spring that there was mutual interest between Dante and Kentucky, though the UK coaching staff originally preferred he stayed in the class of 2020 to help him develop his offensive game a bit further.

After a dominant performance on both ends of the floor on the Nike EYBL circuit this spring, though, Kentucky’s interest in bringing him in this upcoming season has grown tremendously. There have been several moving parts over the last month or two with the NBA Draft decisions, Jaden McDaniels, Blackshear Jr., etc., but Dante has always been a potential 2019 option for the UK coaching staff if need-be.

Now, it looks like that option is legitimately on the table.

Dante is considered the best shot blocker in high school basketball, regardless of class. In terms of his potential impact this season, the 6-foot-11 prospect would serve as a very solid rim-runner, rebounder, and interior defender off the bench, at the very least. He is a high-potential prospect with legitimate NBA size.

Here are some of his most recent highlights:

This could be big news, BBN…


Cade Cunningham’s brother has been hired at Oklahoma State

2020 five-star guard and Kentucky target Cade Cunningham’s recruitment might be over before it really even begins.

The Oklahoma State Cowboys are set to hire Cannen Cunningham, Cade’s brother, to their coaching staff.

Cunningham played basketball at SMU under Larry Brown before eventually spending the 2018-19 season on staff at Tulane.

Now, he’ll be tasked with convincing his brother, the No. 2 overall prospect in the class of 2020, to join him in Stillwater, OK.

As for Kentucky’s role in all of this, the Wildcats were long seen as the favorite in Cunningham’s recruitment before momentum shifted in Oklahoma State’s favor in May. UK once owned 100% of predictions for the 6-foot-7 guard’s Crystal Ball on 247Sports before the Cowboys received 11 consecutive picks, including from the likes of Evan Daniels, Andrew Slater, Brian Snow, and Jerry Meyer.

During the Nike EYBL regular season this spring, Kentucky was present for every one of Cunningham’s games and they were expected to make him a top priority for their 2020 recruiting class. And the interest has always been mutual.

“[Kentucky] is the first team I remember,” Cunningham told KSR at the Pangos All-American Camp this summer. “Coach Cal is great. It’s hard not to take a look at that track record and take them seriously.”

As for his interest in Oklahoma State, the five-star prospect said he has always had interest in the Cowboys out of pure loyalty to the program. After all, they were the first school to offer him a scholarship.

“Coach [Mike] Boynton, he was the first coach to offer me when he was an assistant,” he said. “So we’ve had a good connection, relationship since then.”

Back in May, the five-star guard trimmed his list down to ten, with Duke, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Memphis, North Carolina, Oklahoma State, Texas, Virginia, and Washington making the cut. While he has said on multiple occasions that all of the schools on his list are on equal grounds, most assumed that his decision would come down to the Wildcats and the Cowboys.

With this news, though, it’d be silly to think Cunningham lands anywhere other than Oklahoma State next year.

Luckily for Kentucky, the Cats are seen as the favorite for both Jalen Green and Brandon Boston Jr., two five-star guards and top-10 prospects in the class of 2020.

Add an elite point guard such as Daishen Nix or Sharife Cooper to that backcourt, and UK will be absolutely set moving forward.


2021 five-star forward Paolo Banchero earns Kentucky offer

2021 five-star forward Paolo Banchero earns Kentucky offer

During the NBPA Top 100 Camp in Charlottesville, VA last week, 116 of the nation’s best high school basketball prospects competed in front of countless college coaches and NBA scouts.

One of the players who proved to not only be be among the best of the best every time he stepped on the floor? 2021 five-star forward Paolo Banchero.

Teamed up with two top-five prospects in the class of 2020, five-star forwards Makur Maker and Jalen Johnson, Banchero somehow managed to separate himself from his elite peers throughout the week. Averaging 17.2 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.6 assists against some of the top competition in the nation, the 6-foot-10, 235-pound forward even managed to take home MVP honors when awards were announced on Saturday afternoon.

Just three days later, the Kentucky coaching staff decided Banchero’s ridiculous performance at camp was enough to earn a scholarship, making him just the third player in the class of 2021 to receive an offer from UK.

At the NBPA Top 100 Camp, the five-star forward was asked about his recruitment, where he rattled off Oregon State and Gonzaga as schools he had already visited, along with Memphis and Arizona as places he’d like to visit in the very near future.

When asked about Kentucky’s contact, Banchero said that while they had been in regular communication with those in his inner circle, he was looking forward to talking to John Calipari and the other assistants once college coaches were legally allowed to start communicating with rising juniors starting on Saturday morning,

“I haven’t been in contact with them, but they’ve talked to my trainers and coaches, asking about me,” he said. “But I’m sure I’ll get in contact with them [personally] soon.”

As for his interest in Kentucky, the 6-foot-10 prospect said the proof is in the pudding with their program and he’d definitely consider them if an offer came and interest ramped up.

“I mean, it’s Kentucky,” he said. “You know, they’ve been putting dudes in the league, getting to the tournament, getting to the Final Four, championship, all that, for 10 years now.”

Banchero, a Seattle, WA native, has been rumored to want to stay on the West coast at the college level. When asked about that speculation, the five-star forward shot it down, saying he’d be willing to play anywhere in the country if it was the right fit.

“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.”

So what is he looking for in a school? The top-10 prospect in the class of 2021 said he wants to connect well with the coaching staff and fit in with their style of play.

Luckily for some of the top programs in the country, he said he’s flexible on both accounts.

“I think one of my qualities is I can kind of fit under any type of playing style, any type of coaching,” he said. “My AAU coach is kind of laid back, but my high school coach is more of an in-your-face type of coach. And I like both of those, I fit well with both of styles. So I don’t really pay attention to any of that [specifically], I think I’m good playing in any system.”

Now adding Kentucky to the list, Banchero already holds offers from Kansas, Arizona, Gonzaga, Washington, Memphis, and Oklahoma, among others.

Watch some of his most recent highlights from Nike EYBL Session 3 below:

KSR will be in North Augusta, SC for Peach Jam from July 10-14 to ask Banchero about his new offer from the Wildcats and his soaring stock.

Stay tuned.


Will 2021 phenom Terrence Clarke reclassify to 2020? He says he’ll be looking into it soon

John Calipari and the UK coaching staff is focused on reeling in some of the elite prospects in the class of 2020, but there are two rising juniors that have been so impressive that they’ve already earned scholarship offers from Kentucky.

Those individuals? Consensus top-three prospects in the class of 2021 Jonathan Kuminga and Terrence Clarke.

While the former wasn’t able to participate in the NBPA Top 100 Camp in Charlottesville, VA this weekend, KSR was able to catch up with the latter at the prestigious event about his recruitment and what he thinks of Kentucky’s early offer.

Clarke, a 6-foot-7 shooting guard out of Boston, MA, has received nine offers over the last week to add to his list of 26 overall. The No. 3 prospect in the nation says he has no idea where the recent spike in interest came from, but he’s certainly appreciative of it all.

“I got a couple [new offers] this week, yeah,” he said. “To be honest, I have no clue [where it came from]. I’ve been hearing of a lot of offers coming in, coaches wanting to talk to me. But I always like hearing of new offers and interest.”

During the Nike EYBL regular season this year, the Brewster Academy guard averaged 17.0 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. Playing against the best rising seniors in the nation, Clarke proved to be not only one of the best players in his class, but all of high school basketball.

As a result, the question being asked about Clarke isn’t necessarily where he’ll going to college quite, but when. 

Like we’ve seen time and time again with elite prospects over the last several years, there are rumblings that Clarke is a serious reclassification candidate for 2020. And after seeing him this past weekend in Charlottesville, it’s obvious why, as there isn’t much doubt that he’ll be ready to play college basketball in a year from a physical standpoint. He could probably play this year, if we’re being totally honest.

When asked about the rumors, Clarke said it’s not something college coaches have been asking about quite yet, and he honestly hasn’t thought too much about the idea of it.

“Coaches haven’t really been talking to me about [reclassifying] and I haven’t focused on it much either,” he said. “It’s not really popping up that much yet.”

That being said, the 6-foot-7 five-star says the discussions are coming soon.

“I’ll probably explore it soon, most likely,” he said. “Just to see if I can, see if it’s a possibility that’s in my favor. If it’s not the situation that’s not good for me, I probably won’t do it, but I’ll definitely go over it with my coaches.”

After talking to a source very close to Clarke this weekend, while the 6-foot-7 star is confident he could thrive at the college level a year early physically, there are concerns that he would not be able to meet graduation and NCAA requirements from an academic standpoint in just three years. While other reclassification candidates in the past were held back a year when they were younger, Clarke is true to his class and age. To put it simply, while his grades are in great shape, it would be a tight squeeze to fit in two years of school work over the next year, even including potential summer classes.

Nonetheless, it’s noteworthy that he will at least attempt to explore the possibility.

Moving on to specific schools of interest, Kentucky, who offered back in May, has always been associated with Clarke as a possible destination. He’s visited the school, the UK coaching staff has already visited him personally on two separate occasions, and they go out of their way to watch him play on a regular basis.

When asked about his interest in the Wildcats, the elite wing said his interest with the blue blood program is serious and he will “definitely be staying in contact” with the coaching staff.

“I’ve talked to a lot of [guys at Kentucky] like Kenny Payne, I talked to Coach Cal before,” he said. “Just having them offering me, it’s fabulous. With them being a blue blood school, a ton of pros going there, I’m just honored, blessed, everything. I definitely talk to them here and there, and I’ll definitely be staying in contact with them.”

Clarke, who visited Lexington for Big Blue Madness back in October of 2018, said his recent trip was “crazy.”

“It was great. Kentucky’s Midnight Madness, it was just crazy,” he said. “Just the atmosphere, seeing those guys out there competing, even if it was just like an All-Star scrimmage, it was just a great experience.”

So what will it take to win out in the end for the five-star prospect? What is he looking for in a school?

Go figure, he hit a Calipari buzzword.

“Just seeing how I’d fit in that system,” he said. “Basically, since it’s a positionless game now, I just want to go out there and be able to show I can play any position. Show my versatility, my skill, be a playmaker. Just be the best player I can.”

In terms of what he brings to the table, Clarke says he love showing his versatility and playmaking ability.

“I think when I’m out on the floor, I’m a playmaker,” he said. “I can go out there and score, but I love to get other people involved. Everybody says I’m a wing, but I think I’m a guard because I can definitely help other people get open and stuff like that. Me driving into the lane, people come to me, I can kick it. I think I’m a good passer, I just like getting everybody else better.”

This past weekend at the NBPA Top 100 Camp, college coaches and NBA scouts filled the sidelines and stands to see the participants in action. For Clarke, it was an opportunity for him to show what he is capable of not only in the college ranks, but how he projects as a professional basketball player.

“First impression is the best impression,” he said. “I just wanted to go out there and show them everything I’ve got. I wanted to show off my skill, highlight my playmaking ability, everything I can do on the court. That’s the main thing, I just wanted to show them what I can do [at the college level] and when I get to the league.”

So what’s next for Clarke in terms of his recruitment? Does he plan on cutting his list anytime soon?

“Right now, I’m just listening to all the offers I’m getting,” he said. “But I’m sure sooner or later I’m going to want to cut my list, but I don’t really know yet. I’m just really focused on getting better.”

While it’s to be determined when he’ll be playing college basketball, it’s evident that Kentucky will have a decent shot when it comes time for a decision.


2020 five-star forward Jalen Johnson denies Duke rumors, says Kentucky thinks he can be “special”

2020 five-star forward Jalen Johnson denies Duke rumors, says Kentucky thinks he can be “special”

Every recruiting season, there are elite prospects linked to specific schools right when they burst onto the national scene and linger as the perceived favorite throughout the process. In some cases (Immanuel Quickley, Harry Giles, etc.) the rumors end up being correct. In others (Kevin Knox, Keion Brooks Jr., etc.), the “longtime favorite” is left at the alter in favor of another program.

For 2020 five-star forward Jalen Johnson, which category he will end up falling in remains to be seen.

Back in July of 2018, Duke received its first pick for Johnson on his Crystal Ball on 247Sports. Ever since, the Blue Devils have seen 12 consecutive picks in their favor for the 6-foot-8 small forward.

If you ask Johnson himself, though, while he sees the pro-Duke buzz, he says no one has any idea what he’s thinking or where he’s leaning.

“Yeah, I see it. I don’t really pay attention to that though,” he said at the NBPA Top 100 Camp in Charlottesville, VA “Because no one knows what’s going on in my mind. I know what’s going on, so people can make assumptions on what they think. At the end of the day, I’m the one that knows, and I’m the one that’s going to make the decision.”

In terms of the hurricane of Duke picks that have come over the last year or so, Johnson says he has “no idea” where that came from.

“I have no clue, to be honest,” he said. “I don’t show any favoritism, at least that I think. As far as [social media] posts and stuff, I feel like I show every school an equal amount of the love they deserve. So yeah, I don’t know where that comes from.”

Back in May, the consensus top-ten prospect cut his list down to four schools, leaving just Kentucky, Duke, Arizona, and Wisconsin in the running.

When asked why he went forward with those four programs, Johnson said the recruiting process was getting a little tiring, so he decided to trim the fat and focus on the schools he felt most comfortable with.

“I just felt the most comfortable with those four schools,” he said. “It was kind of getting to be a long process, so I’m just kind of breaking it down with those four schools.”

Back in April, the 6-foot-8 wing said he was hoping to make a decision at or around Peach Jam in July with a personal deadline for himself being the beginning of his senior year.

“I was thinking Peach Jam, but it just depends on when I get that feeling,” Johnson said. “I just want to go into my senior year knowing where I’m going to go, get the weight off my shoulders.”

Now, while he’d still like to get it done during the early signing period, he’s not so certain on a specific date for the official announcement.

“I’m not really sure at this point, I’m just really trying to embrace [the recruiting process] right now and enjoy it, make sure I make the right decision,” he said.

As for Kentucky and his interest in the Wildcats specifically, Johnson said he loves what they have to offer as a program. In terms of their pitch, he said they’re keeping it simple: come to Lexington and be special.

“They keep it real simple. They’re just building a relationship with me, as well,” he said. “They talk to my coaches, my dad. They just stay in contact like all the other schools. It’s the same pitch they had when they first offered me: be a playmaker and have a chance to be special.”

While Johnson was quick to dismiss the rumors of Duke being the heavy favorite, he did say they definitely have a shot to land him. All four of the schools on his list do.

“Yes, [Duke is in it] just as much as the other three schools,” he said. “That’s why I made a final four, they’ve all made me a priority. It’s going to be a really tough decision.”

So what will separate the school of his choosing from the rest? What will be the main determining factor?

“I’ve got to have a strong relationships with the coaches, and I’ve got to feel at home, really,” he said. “It’s got to have that home feeling, that’s going to be huge for me at the end of the day.”

In four games at the NBPA Top 100 Camp this week, Johnson is averaging 14.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game to go with 47% shooting overall, 33% from three, and 81.8% from the free throw line.

His biggest moment of camp this week came this afternoon on this game-winning 3-pointer as time expired against fellow Kentucky targets Cliff Omoruyi and JT Thor:

You can check out some of his most recent highlights below:


ESPN

Today on KSR: The Toronto Raptors are NBA Champions

ESPN

Rise and shine, BBN. We officially have a new NBA Champion.

And a few former Kentucky Wildcats will be getting rings out of it.

Let’s dive right in.

Raptors win the NBA Finals

Last night, the Toronto Raptors stormed into Oracle Arena one last time to defeat the Golden State Warriors and take home the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

In a 114-110 victory, Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry led the Raptors with 26 points each, followed by Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard with 22 points.

For the Warriors, Klay Thompson finished with a game-high 30 points before falling to a torn ACL late in the third quarter. Andre Iguadola added 22 points, while Steph Curry finished with 21.

Former Kentucky center DeMarcus Cousins also finished with 12 points, five rebounds, and two assists in the loss.

While he didn’t get in the game on Thursday evening, former Wildcat Jodie Meeks will be getting a championship ring, as will Jamaal Magloire as a team assistant.

John Calipari signs his lifetime contract

After being originally announced in April, Kentucky head coach John Calipari has officially signed a new contract that will keep him in Lexington for the rest of his career.

On Thursday afternoon, Coach Cal signed his new 10-year, $86 million contract that will keep him at Kentucky through the 2028-29 season.

According to the official paperwork, after six years (2025), Calipari will have the option to step down as the head coach and become special assistant to the athletics director/university representative. He would receive $950,000 in annual compensation for the position.

“One of the truly unique things about Kentucky men’s basketball is its legacy of head coaches who have made their own lasting mark on this program. John is a perfect illustration of that,” Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said following the announcement. “He has added a special chapter to the greatest tradition in college basketball and it’s a chapter we want him to continue writing until the end of his coaching career. We are pleased to announce a new contract that will enable him to do exactly that.”

With a base salary of $400,000 per season from the university, Calipari will make $8 million in total compensation over the next two seasons with increases starting in 2021-22 ($8.5 million per year for four seasons) and 2025-26 ($9 million per year for four seasons).

“I want to thank the university, Dr. Eli Capilouto, Mitch Barnhart and DeWayne Peevy for approaching me with the opportunity to finish my career at Kentucky,” Calipari said. “I’ve said from day one that this would be the gold standard and it has been for student-athletes and coaches. As I enter my 11th year, I’m reminded it took me 20 years to get an opportunity to like this. There is no other place I want to be. As I look forward, my mindset is what’s next and how can we be first at it for the young people that we coach.”

NBPA Top 100 Camp

Speaking of Coach Cal, the UK head coach wasted no time after signing his new contract in getting back to work.

On Thursday evening, Calipari traveled to Charlottesville, VA to check out the NBPA Top 100 Camp featuring some of the nation’s top prospects in the class of 2020 and 2021.

Allowed to watch games from 2:00 p.m. on Thursday through 2:00 p.m. on Friday, Calipari, along with assistants Kenny Payne, Tony Barbee, and Joel Justus, watched elite Kentucky targets such as Makur Maker, Jalen Johnson, and Daishen Nix, among numerous others.

The Kentucky coaches are already back to work this morning, checking out Maker, Johnson, and 2020 four-star forward Dawson Garcia.

Yesterday, I posted updates on the recruitments of Maker, Nix, and 2020 four-star center Cliff Omoruyi, who all had extremely positive things to say about Kentucky.

If you missed those, you can catch up below:

Cliff Omoruyi says Kentucky was his dream school growing up, “started screaming” when he first met Coach Cal

The No. 1 point guard in the class of 2020 wants to meet John Calipari

2020 top-three prospect Makur Maker says he will not reclassify, planning visit to Kentucky

Today, I will have updates on Johnson, Garcia, and 2020 five-star shooting guard BJ Boston throughout the day, along with any other breaking news that pops up in Charlottesville.

Three Wildcats will be in the 2019 NBA Draft Green Room

On Thursday afternoon, Evan Daniels of 247Sports broke the news that there would be a clean sweep of Kentucky Wildcats in the Green Room on draft night.

After Tyler Herro and PJ Washington earned invites earlier in the week, Daniels reported that former Wildcat Keldon Johnson will be joining them next week.

As of right now, all three former Wildcats are expected to be taken anywhere from the late-lottery to the early 20s.

Be prepared for a whole lot of camera time for Coach Cal on Thursday…