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Basketball Recruiting News

Immanuel Quickley gives one final pitch to Zion Williamson: “We can get this championship.”

Photo by adidas

The top uncommitted prospect in the nation makes his final decision on Saturday night, and Kentucky is reportedly neck and neck with Clemson for his services.

In an interview with USA Today’s Jason Jordan, Kentucky signee Immanuel Quickley gave one final word of advice to five-star forward Zion Williamson before his announcement.

“I know you want to go to the NBA, so come to UK,” said Quickley. We will be throwing lobs off the backboard, you feel me? Getting dunks, alley-oops, all that.”

His closing pitch? “Come to Kentucky so we can get this championship.”

Several other talented prospects gave final pitches for their respective teams, including representatives for North Carolina, Clemson, South Carolina, and Duke.

Clemson signee John Newman played the “be the man” card with Williamson, saying “If you go to one of the other big blue (bloods) you’re just going to be another hooper.”

Columbia, S.C., Mayor Steve Benjamin pitched the love he’ll receive from the local community at South Carolina, saying he’ll be appreciated both athletically and academically.

Duke signee Tre Jones said he could come play for the “best coach in history” by becoming a Blue Devil.

North Carolina’s Coby White said Williamson could “join a winner” by heading to Chapel Hill.

I may be biased, but catching lobs, winning a national championship, and going to the NBA sounds like the best pitch by a mile.

Come on down, Zion.

You can read Jordan’s article and check out the video interview with each pitch here.


The Aaron Torres Sports Podcast E12: A Preview of Zion Williamson’s Decision with Corey Evans

In this edition of the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast, Corey Evans from Rivals joins the program to talk about Zion Williamson’s upcoming college announcement.  But first, Nick Coffey and Aaron talk about a wild Tuesday of college basketball.  Highlights from the exciting episode:

—  The podcast receives a shoutout from Fran Fraschilla on National TV.

—  What went right for UofL at Notre Dame and what went wrong for UK at South Carolina.

—  Can anyone keep Zion from his home state school of Clemson?

—  How would Zion fit at Clemson and would he be able to have a major impact with minimal talent around him?

—  The the latest on Romeo Langford — is he headed to Indiana?

—  Recruits impacted by the FBI probe into college hoops.

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play.  Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to the “Aaron Torres Sports Podcast” feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.


Why would anyone in their right mind go to Clemson?

Why would anyone in their right mind go to Clemson?

Earlier today I was sitting on a snow-covered bench in Triangle Park, looking up at the college basketball palace that is Rupp Arena, and I got to thinking: Why would anyone go anywhere else, if given the opportunity to play for John Calipari at Kentucky?

Let’s take a school like… oh… say Clemson for instance. I don’t mean any ill will toward Clemson; it’s just the first school that popped into my head while thinking about other places one could potentially go to play college basketball. I assure you there is no reasoning behind Clemson as my example, and I definitely don’t have a specific college basketball prospect in mind while having this internal debate — it is completely hypothetical and not related to any real life scenario at all.

But let’s say you’re a young star, maybe you play on the wing and can really fly, and have some crazy amount of Instagram followers, like 1.1 million or so. If that were the case, you’d definitely want to go to Kentucky, right? Going to Clemson — or even somewhere like South Carolina, another school with absolutely no relevance to this imaginary situation — shouldn’t be an option you would even fathom.

For instance, Clemson was 70th in the nation last season with an average attendance of 7,261 fans per game. Kentucky ranked first with more than triple that amount each game in Rupp Arena. Kentucky plays all of its games on national TV too, while I can count Clemson’s national TV appearances on one hand. If it were me, those numbers alone tell me Kentucky is the place to go if I want to build my brand and maximize my exposure for my one year of college basketball. What better place to do that than the school with the biggest fan base and strongest brand in the game?

Then there is the coaching debate. John Calipari is the best of the best at putting guys in the league. I hate to pick on Clemson — which, again, is a completely random school for the sake of this conversation — but who even coaches Clemson? Is Oliver Purnell still there? I honestly don’t know. Clemson’s coach could walk up to me right now in a Clemson basketball t-shirt with a whistle around his neck and I wouldn’t know who he is.

And why go to Clemson where you could be the best player in the program’s history and still not half as popular as Dabo Swinney? Clemson is a football school that wouldn’t know the NCAA tournament if it was played in the middle of campus.

I guess one could argue Clemson has a proven track record with NBA guys like Tree Rollins, Larry Nance, Horace Grant and Dale Davis, all of whom were really good before today’s high school stars were even born, but there isn’t a program in America with the college-to-NBA results like Kentucky, especially not Clemson. Or South Carolina.

I grant you the Kentucky-Clemson debate is a weird thing to be on my mind lately, randomly, but I really felt compelled to share it with you today for no other reason than to spark a meaningless debate. Like I said, it’s completely irrelevant to any current event coming up this weekend or any real life scenario at all — it’s just something that popped in my head, because, seriously, who in their right mind would pick Clemson over Kentucky?

(If that were ever an actual situation.)

As you were.


Two Kentucky signees named McDonald’s All-Americans

Two Kentucky signees named McDonald’s All-Americans

Two Kentucky signees were named McDonald’s All-Americans this afternoon. Point guard Immanuel Quickley and shooting guard Keldon Johnson will represent Kentucky at the all-star game in Atlanta on March 28.

Quickley will be on the East team, along with Zion Williamson, who will announce his decision Saturday night at 8:00 p.m. Johnson will be on the West team. Unfortunately, Tyler Herro did not make the cut despite late consideration. Here are both rosters:

Kentucky’s two representatives bring John Calipari’s total number of McDonald’s All-Americans over ten recruiting classes to 32.

2009 DeMarcus Cousins 6-11 C Mobile, AL (LeFlore)
2010 Terrence Jones 6-9 F Portland, OR (Jefferson)
2010 Brandon Knight 6-3 G Fort Lauderdale, FL (Pine Crest)
2010 Doron Lamb 6-4 G New York, NY (Bishop Loughlin)
2011 Anthony Davis 6-10 F Chicago, IL (Perspectives Charter)
2011 Michael Kidd-Gilchrist 6-7 F Somerdale, NJ (St. Patrick)
2011 Marquis Teague 6-2 G Indianapolis, IN (Pike)
2011 Kyle Wiltjer 6-9 F Portland, OR (Jesuit)
2012 Archie Goodwin 6-5 G Little Rock, AR (Sylvan Hills)
2012 Alex Poythress 6-8 F Clarksville, TN (Northeast)
2013 Aaron Harrison 6-6 G Richmond, TX (Travis)
2013 Andrew Harrison 6-6 G Richmond, TX (Travis)
2013 Dakari Johnson 7-0 C Brooklyn, NY (Montverde Academy (Montverde, FL))
2013 Marcus Lee 6-9 F Antioch, CA (Deer Valley)
2013 Julius Randle 6-9 F Dallas, TX (Prestonwood Christian Academy)
2013 James Young 6-6 G-F Rochester Hills, MI (Rochester High)
2014 Devin Booker 6-6 G Grand Rapids, MI (Moss Point (High), MS)
2014 Trey Lyles 6-10 F Camby, IN (Arsenal Tech)
2014 Karl-Anthony Towns 6-11 C Metuchen, NJ (St. Joseph)
2014 Tyler Ulis 5-9 G Matteson, IL (Marian Catholic)
2015 Isaiah Briscoe 6-3 G Union, NJ (Roselle Catholic)
2016 Edrice Adebayo 6-9 C Little Washington, NC (High Point Christian)
2016 De’Aaron Fox 6-3 G Katy, TX (Cypress Lakes)
2016 Sacha Killeya-Jones 6-10 F Chapel Hill, NC (Woodberry Forest)
2016 Malik Monk 6-4 G Lepanto, AR (Bentonville High)
2017 Quade Green 6-0 G Philadelphia, PA (Neumann-Goretti)
2017 Kevin Knox 6-9 F Tampa, FL (Tampa Catholic)
2017 Nick Richards 6-11 C Kingston, JM (The Patrick School (HIllside, NJ))
2017 Jarred Vanderbilt 6-9 F Missouri City, TX (Victory Prep)
2017 P.J. Washington 6-7 F Frisco, TX (Findlay Prep)
2018 Keldon Johnson 6-6 G-F South Hill, VA (Oak Hill Academy)
2018 Immanuel Quickley 6-3 G Havre De Grace, MD (John Carroll)

This year’s McDonald’s All-American Game will take place on March 28 at Philips Arena in Atlanta. It will air at 7 p.m. EST on ESPN.


Zion Williamson to announce decision at 8 p.m. Saturday

We’ve known for a few weeks that Zion Williamson will announce his decision on Saturday, January 20. Now, we know what time. According to The State, Zion will announce his decision at 8 p.m. ET Saturday night at Spartanburg Day School, 15 minutes before tip of Kentucky’s game vs. Florida. The public is invited to attend. There’s still no word on whether or not the announcement will be televised, although with ESPN’s College GameDay leading into the game, it’s certainly a possibility. Talk about a giant mood swing one way or the other at Rupp.

Saturday is his mother’s birthday. A public announcement at his high school in South Carolina certainly suggests he’ll make her happy and stay home and play for Clemson, his stepfather’s alma mater. What should we read into the fact that it’s happening 15 minutes before Kentucky vs. Florida? Just that the live blog will start earlier and KSR’s servers will most definitely crash.

Thankfully, we’ll know soon enough.

Immanuel Quickley remains hopeful Zion Williamson commits to Kentucky


UK signee Keldon Johnson scores 21 points on ESPNU, turns heads nationally

Kentucky signee Immanuel Quickley impressed in the Hoophall Classic earlier today, dropping 19 points and five rebounds in a tough loss.

Immediately after, five-star Oak Hill forward and Kentucky signee Keldon Johnson managed to also put on a show, finishing with 21 points, seven rebounds, and three assists on the day. With his team’s victory, No. 2 Oak Hill moves to 25-0 on the year, with Johnson being a massive reason for that.

Though his performance was stellar, the national attention Johnson received after the game was even more impressive. Scrolling through Twitter after the game, countless media members and basketball analysts raved about Johnson’s game, saying his competitiveness and will to win is second to none.

During a halftime interview, Johnson was asked what separates his game from the rest of the nation.

His response? “I’m a dog. I do whatever it takes for my team to win.”

In an interview with Tom Westerholm of MassLive.com, Johnson said things are starting to click for him, and when he gets going, it’s going to be a problem for the rest of the nation.

“I think the sky’s the limit for my game generally, because once I get going, everything gets going,” Johnson said. “My shot, getting to the basket, getting to the free-throw line, getting my teammates involved. Once I get going, it’s really a problem.”

Johnson’s jump shot has always been the biggest knock on his game, but now, he has developed into a consistent threat from both mid-range and beyond the arc. He said if he continues to work on that and build up muscle, he’ll be ready to be a big contributor for the Wildcats next season.

“I hit the mid-range pretty consistently when I shoot it,” Johnson said. “I just think spot-up threes, I really improved on that this year. I’m just working. Keep working hard on my body, and I think I’ll be ready for that.”

Check out his game highlights, and his sit-down interview with ESPN’s Paul Biancardi where he talked about his work ethic and how excited he is to play for John Calipari at Kentucky:

Not enough highlights for you? Check out Johnson’s MVP performance at the Chic-Fil-A Classic two weeks ago:

This kid is going to be good.

Go Big Blue.


Immanuel Quickley remains hopeful Zion Williamson commits to Kentucky

Photo by adidas

This afternoon, Kentucky signee Immanuel Quickley finished with 19 points and five rebounds in his team’s 71-58 loss at the Hoophall Classic in Springfield, MA. It was an impressive showing, especially considering Ohio State commitment and defensive specialist Luther Muhammad guarded him from start to finish.

But the questions he was asked after the game had nothing to do with him or his game.

They were all about Quickley’s friend, five-star forward Zion Williamson, and his thoughts on his decision going into the final week of his recruitment.

Though there are rumors Williamson has already made his decision, Quickley doesn’t think his mind is 100% made up, and Kentucky still has a great shot.

“I honestly 100 percent do not know if he made up his mind,” he told Adam Zagoria. “I think he has a couple of schools that are really favored but I don’t know if he’s 100 percent made up his mind. Kentucky is definitely in there.”

If Williamson joined him at Kentucky, Quickley believes the Wildcats would win a national title.

“I think we could win a national championship,” he said. “With him, he’s a monster on offense and defense so that just makes it easier for everybody else.”

And if he ends up staying home, specifically at Clemson?

“Clemson’s about an hour from his home, you can’t be mad at somebody going to college an hour away.”

To read the rest of Quickley’s interview with Adam Zagoria, head on over to ZagsBlog.com.


Immanuel Quickley playing on ESPNU

Immanuel Quickley playing on ESPNU

Looking for something to watch while sitting around the house on your day off?

Flip over to ESPNU right now to get a look at Immanuel Quickley in action on national TV.

John Calipari’s first commit in his 2018 recruiting class is playing in the Hoophall Classic up in Massachusetts. He and his John Carrol teammates are playing Hudson Catholic, which features five-star prospect Louis King, who was recruited by Kentucky before committing to Oregon last fall.

Then later this evening, UK signee Keldon Johnson will play in the 3 pm game with Oak Hill, also on ESPNU.

Blue appears to have gotten in.


2018 five-star center Moses Brown ready to announce ‘real soon’

After five-star center Moses Brown finished with 21 points and six rebounds with John Calipari in attendance this afternoon, the 2018 prospect told Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com that he was about ready to make a final decision.

“I’m going to make a decision real soon,” he said.

The Kentucky coaching staff has been going back and forth on offering Brown a scholarship, and he said that was a big reason for him delaying his decision for so long.

“That really was my whole purpose in waiting it out, I just wanted to see how they played,” he said of the late decision. Now I’m pretty certain on what I’m about to do.”

When asked if the Wildcats were still in contention, Brown seemed hesitant, and then flat out said Kentucky wasn’t involved.

“I still have yet to take a visit to Kentucky and they haven’t offered me yet so,” he said.

Asked if they weren’t really involved, Brown said, “No.”

When is a decision expected?

“Maybe by the end of next month I should have committed,” he said.

With Coach Cal on hand, maybe he makes one last run at him to sway his decision by offering a scholarship. If not, is he that confident in Nick Richards and/or PJ Washington returning? Could he be banking on James Wiseman reclassifying to 2018?

Regardless, it sounds like Brown never quite showed enough to seal the deal for Calipari and the Kentucky coaching staff.

Next man up.


John Calipari currently watching five-stars Moses Brown, Scottie Lewis, and Bryan Antoine

@BadGalAlPal

After pulling out a victory against Vanderbilt in Nashville last night, John Calipari hit the recruiting trail to check in on some popular five-star prospects.

Evan Daniels reports John Calipari was in attendance to watch 2018 five-star center Moses Brown, where he finished the day with 21 points.

With Zion Williamson set to make a decision, and Clemson considered the favorite, Brown’s situation is very interesting. He has yet to receive an offer from Kentucky, despite publicly pleading for one. The coaching staff reportedly sees him as an extremely raw project player, and may be waiting to see who leaves from the current team before making a decision on him.

If Williamson heads elsewhere, and options remain limited, their hand may be forced to offer and accept a potential Brown commitment. If they wait too long, Brown could grow tired of waiting and head elsewhere, leaving Kentucky with even fewer options.

If news breaks that Calipari extended an offer to Brown this weekend, be prepared for another addition to Kentucky’s 2018 class.

Jeff Borzello reports Calipari will also watch 2019 five-stars Scottie Lewis and Bryan Antoine, two top-ten talents, this afternoon.

Ben Roberts of the Herald-Leader says the UK coaching staff will stick around to watch 2018 signees Immanuel Quickley and Keldon Johnson, along with 2019 No. 1 prospect Vernon Carey.

Pretty big weekend for finishing up the class of 2018 and laying the foundation for the 2019 recruiting class.

Go Cats.


Zion Williamson has yet to make a final decision

© Jeff Blake | USATSI

Zion Williamson, the biggest star in this year’s basketball recruiting class, is set to make his college decision on January 20th.

Williamson spoke with Evan Daniels of 247 Sports about the big day.

“I’m very excited for that day because it’s my mom’s birthday and it’s just a big thank you to her for all the sacrifices she’s made for me,” Williamson said.

With only six days until the press conference, Willamson has yet to make his final decision.

I’ll probably make it in the middle of this week coming up,” he said.

The press conference will be held at Williamson’s high school, Spartanburg Day School in Spartanburg, SC.

Williamson final six schools include Kentucky, Clemson, Duke, Kansas, North Carolina and South Carolina.

Williamson said Kentucky, North Carolina, and South Carolina all visited him within the last week.

The decision will be around five or six right before Kentucky tips off against Florida. This has the potential to be a great day for the Big Blue Nation.

 


Zion Williamson scores 31 points in first game back from injury

© Jeff Blake | USATSI

With just over one week until his announcement, Zion Williamson returned to the basketball court last night, putting up 31 points in his first game back after suffering a foot injury on November 21.

Zion has been battling a foot bruise the last two months but showed little rust in Spartanburg Day’s win last night, playing 28 of 32 minutes. Even though he told The State that he’s only playing at about 80-85%, he looked like his usual self, dazzling the crowd with powerful dunks and throwing alley-oops to his teammates. Some highlights from our pals at The Overtime:

After the game, Zion claimed that with one week left to go until his announcement on January 20, his recruitment is still wide open despite reports that he was down to Clemson, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

“I’m going to be honest with y’all, I don’t know who released those six schools,” he told The State’s Matt Connolly. “The last time I checked my recruitment was still wide open, but I’m still considering everybody, just listening to their final messages and what they have to tell me.”

Clemson has all the momentum right now, with 76% of the predictions in 247 Sports’ Crystal Ball; however, most recruiting analysts insist they don’t know for certain.

You can watch Zion for yourself on ESPN tomorrow night at 8 p.m. as Spartanburg Day takes on Chino Hills.


Calipari watched Immanuel Quickley last night

Calipari watched Immanuel Quickley last night

Not one to sit at home and watch TV on a Wednesday night, John Calipari took the private jet to Baltimore last night to see Immanuel Quickley, Kentucky’s point guard in the 2018 class.

After being named to the watch list for the Naismith award for the nation’s best high school player earlier in the day, Quickley put up 15 points in John Carroll’s 71-61 loss to St. Frances Academy, the top-ranked team in the Baltimore Catholic League. He missed part of this season with mono but is on the mend, putting up a triple double last week with 30 points, 14 rebounds, and 10 assists.

Quickley was Kentucky’s first commitment and signee in the 2018 class, which also includes Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro.


Left: Jobby Howard; Right: Zion Harmon. (Photo: @its_zionharmon)

Zion Harmon part of record-setting game in Columbia last night

Left: Jobby Howard; Right: Zion Harmon. (Photo: @its_zionharmon)

You’re looking at Jobby Howard and Zion Harmon, who combined for 119 points last night in one of the highest-scoring games in Kentucky high school basketball history.

Howard, a 2018 shooting guard, scored 65 points in Caverna’s loss 119-103 to Adair County, which was led by Harmon, who scored 54. Howard’s 65 points came off 21-39 shooting and are the most scored in a single game in Kentucky this season and 16th in KHSSA history. Meanwhile, Harmon, a 2021 UK target who already has offers from Tennessee and Vanderbilt, scored 54 (“and he coulda gone for more”) off 19-32 from the floor and 11-12 from the free-throw line. He also had 12 assists. Highlights from the game are below:

Individually, Howard and Harmon’s performances are impressive; together, they’re astounding. The 222 combined points between both teams are tied for the ninth most in KHSAA history and are the most in a Kentucky high school game this century (!). Afterwards, the two posed for a picture:

Harmon is already well on UK’s radar for the 2021 class, having taken several unofficial visits; is there any chance we can get Howard on the roster as a walk-on next season? We could use some Kentucky boys.


Zion Williamson’s decision is a game changer for the program

Last week, five-star sensation Zion Williamson announced he would be making a decision on January 20, setting the basketball recruiting world on fire.

This summer, Williamson told KSR he wanted to team up with Immanuel Quickley in college, and rumors of Kentucky being the heavy favorite spread rapidly. The Wildcats eventually received commitments from Quickley, Keldon Johnson, and Tyler Herro, and all three of them have told reporters they continue to reach out to Williamson in an attempt to reel him in. He played along, saying he would love to play with each of them.

Several months later, Kentucky continued to be the favorite according to national recruiting analysts, but slight whispers of Clemson being a threat to the Wildcats were growing louder. Williamson’s stepfather played basketball for the Tigers, and his passion for the state of South Carolina is well-known. He stayed at home to play in high school and AAU ball, while most star prospects opt to play at prep schools or national powerhouse AAU programs.

Still, though, the opportunity to team up with other high-profile athletes with an opportunity to win a National Championship at Kentucky seemed too good to pass up.

Now, nearly every recruiting insider is reporting Clemson as the runaway favorite for Williamson when he decides on the 20th.

Matt Jones is hearing the same thing, along with several other local Kentucky writers.

So what happened?

Clemson’s recent success and Trae Young happened. KSR’s Jay Winkler wrote a post earlier about the season the Tigers are having, ranked in the top-25 and improving by the game. They likely return three of five starters next season on a team that will almost certainly make a splash in the big dance. Williamson would be able to join a solid team with a strong foundation, yet still be considered “the guy” and put up inflated numbers.

Oklahoma’s Trae Young went against the grain and stayed at home to play for the Sooners, shooting down schools like Kansas, Kentucky, Duke, and Arizona. He wanted the bulk of shots this season, and he’s now the National Player of the Year favorite as a result. Obviously Williamson isn’t a point guard and the Tigers can’t set up offenses around him like the Sooners can do with Young, but he’d still be the focal point on the team.

Though the tide is turning toward Clemson, John Calipari and the Kentucky coaching staff have to finish these last two weeks of his recruitment strong.

When RJ Barrett committed to Duke back in, the general consensus was that the future addition of Zion Williamson would more than make up for the loss. It made losing Cam Reddish, Bol Bol, Romeo Langford, and Simi Shittu, among others, understandable. When Calipari zeroes in on a star to headline the class, he usually pulls it off.

Without Williamson, there’s a massive chance the Cats finish the 2018 class without a superstar, and would only be able to make that happen by convincing 2019 No. 1 prospect James Wiseman to reclassify. Wiseman will likely be a Wildcat whenever he plays college basketball, but he has recently said a reclassification isn’t an option.

As we’ve seen this season, things are extremely difficult when a Calipari one-and-done team doesn’t have a go-to superstar. John Wall, Brandon Knight, Anthony Davis, Julius Randle, Karl-Anthony Towns, etc., all came in as sure things, and they each provided go-to options for the Cats throughout their respective seasons. In a few of those years, not having multiple superstars, let alone one, even limited production. This year, Kevin Knox has shown signs of being that guy, but his confidence and field goal percentage have plummeted in recent weeks. Hamidou Diallo certainly wants to be a superstar, but inconsistency with his jump shot and forcing the issue is limiting that, as well.

There’s still time for things to turn around, and I expect them to, but this season is a perfect reason why getting Williamson is so crucial.

If several key pieces return as expected, Williamson would likely be the difference between a great season and a special season. His ability to take games over and score at will is something you rarely see at his age. I watched him play in-person several times during the AAU circuit this summer, and there was never a player that matched his motor and pure dominance. He asserted himself and made a point of outplaying the opponent every time he touched the ball, no matter how big or talented they were. He had the “it” factor that can win you games by himself no matter how big or bright the stage. He had Final Four MOP potential.

I don’t care if Calipari has to get desperate with Williamson. Light his phone up. Have a different staff member visit his home every day. Make promises for playing time and superstar status, I don’t care. We’re not talking Louisville-level desperation, but the Kentucky staff has to have a sense of urgency in this home stretch. Calipari has taken a backseat to Coach K and Duke in the recruiting department the past several years, and turning momentum in this recruitment would be a massive step in the right direction. Coach Cal has to unleash Swaggy Cal.

Get Zion Williamson in blue and white. The Cats need a superstar next season, and Williamson is that guy.