Basketball Recruiting News
By Drew Franklin on ©June 26th, 2019 @ 2:57pm
Not so fast on the N’Faly Dante excitement.
According to Tipton Edits, the popular graphics page that first broke the news of Dante’s visit to Kentucky, the five-star big man does not have plans to reclassify to 2019. The visit to Lexington is still a go, but Dante intends to remain in the Class of 2020.
John Calipari will likely use this visit to convince Dante to reclassify and join the Wildcats as soon as possible, given the rush to get him on campus at this stage in the game; however, at least for now, Dante doesn’t see it in the cards, per the new update.
Of course, Dante could be saying he isn’t reclassifying so he can continue dominating the summer circuit with MOKAN Elite of the Nike EYBL. He has been putting up huge numbers for his team and the Peach Jam is only a couple of weeks away.
Whatever the case, tomorrow’s visit is a big one, whether it be for the future of this current Kentucky team or the next.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©June 26th, 2019 @ 11:30am
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:
— TIPTON EDITS ? (@TiptonEdits) June 26, 2019
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…
By Jack Pilgrim on ©June 25th, 2019 @ 5:00pm
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.
? Standout forward at SMU under Larry Brown
? Coaching/recruiting base in DFW
? Spent ’18-19 season on staff at Tulane with @MikeDunleavySr
— Cowboy Basketball (@OSUMBB) June 25, 2019
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.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©June 25th, 2019 @ 12:15pm
Kentucky is reportedly the leader for one of the top prospects in all of high school basketball.
According to Corey Evans of Rivals.com, Kentucky is the frontrunner to land 2020 five-star guard Jalen Green.
“I think they’re the leader. I definitely do,” Evans told Ben Roberts of the Herald-Leader. “They’ve really done a great job of prioritizing him.”
Green, a consensus top-five rising senior, currently holds offers from Kentucky, Memphis, Kansas, UCLA, Oregon, Florida State, and Arizona, among others.
But if you ask the national recruiting analyst, Kentucky has separated themselves from the pack in terms of overall work ethic by the coaching staff.
“They’ve been adamant about him being that next ‘2’ guard athlete that Kentucky has been known for. And that’s on his mind,” Evans said. “That’s definitely a top school of his growing up, and I don’t think anyone has worked harder in his recruitment than Kentucky.”
While Kentucky head coach John Calipari has been in regular contact with the dynamic scoring guard and has even flown out to California to visit with him and his family twice, UK’s top recruiter tasked with reeling in the 6-foot-5 combo guard out of Prolific Prep is assistant coach Joel Justus. The Wildcat assistant has visited Green multiple times over the last year and plans on seeing him in the immediate future, as well.
Green, who averaged 30.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game this past season, made the final 12-man roster for the USA Basketball U19 team set to compete for the FIBA World Cup in Greece starting this weekend. Sources tell KSR that Justus is expected to fly overseas and represent Kentucky at the event, with the No. 1 combo guard in the nation being the key target in mind.
During tryouts for the event, Green told Evans that Kentucky’s pitch speaks for itself. “It is just Kentucky,” he said.
“Coach Cal, he just talks about how I have to come out and do my thing. I can’t really have any distractions on the side but just focus on my game and to get my shot better. He says that I play good defense … just a lot of good things,” he said. “It is just Kentucky. The pros that come out of there and Coach Cal is a great coach. The system that they have over there and not even on the court, but what they have going off of the court, too.”
UK will then have the opportunity to see Green in person this winter right in their own backyard, as the five-star prospect will be participating in the Grind Session this winter, which goes through Marshall County, KY on multiple occasions each year. One of those events? The Marshall County Hoopfest.
Green has told KSR on multiple occasions now that it is still very early in the recruiting process and he is in no rush to make a decision, but it’s certainly a good sign that Kentucky has put themselves in solid position when that time does come.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©June 24th, 2019 @ 3:35pm
Kerry Blackshear’s recruitment has been an odd one in many ways, but the strangest turn may have been when he took an official visit to Arkansas. The Razorbacks are in full rebuilding mode under first-year head coach Eric Musselman, and although the former Nevada coach is known for piecing together rosters with grad transfers, no one is picking Arkansas to be a national title contender this season, even if they add Blackshear. Yet, one national writer believes the Razorbacks are still in the running.
In a recruiting roundup this morning, Rivals’ Eric Bossi said he believes Blackshear is down to Arkansas, Kentucky, or Tennessee, with a decision coming “soon.”
After developing into a potential NBA level big man at Virginia Tech, Blackshear has been the subject of pretty strong recruiting battle that has had twists and turns and lots of indecisiveness. My belief is that he should be making his decision soon and I would venture to guess that he picks either Arkansas, Kentucky or Tennessee but until he makes a decision we’ll all continue to watch and wait.
More watching. More waiting. More feeling like a total creep stalking people on social media.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©June 22nd, 2019 @ 6:00pm
John Calipari has added another name to his handsome list of offers extended to prospects in the class of 2020.
This afternoon, 2020 four-star small forward Cam’Ron Fletcher announced on Twitter that he now holds a scholarship from Kentucky.
— 21 (@CamRonFletcher1) June 22, 2019
Fletcher, a 6-foot-6, 195-pound small forward out of St. Louis, MO, is considered a consensus four-star prospect rated anywhere from No. 30 overall (ESPN) to No. 37 (247Sports, Rivals) in the class of 2020.
Kentucky joins a long list of offers for the athletic wing including Michigan State, North Carolina, Missouri, Ohio State, UCLA, Alabama, and Texas A&M, among others.
Back at Nike EYBL Session 1 in April, Fletcher told KSR that his interest level in the Kentucky basketball program was “high.”
“I have a high level of interest in Kentucky,” he said at the time. “I don’t know too much about the program yet, but I know that they’re a really good school and I definitely know about Coach Cal.”
Last week at the NBPA Top 100 Camp in Charlottesville, VA, Fletcher said that they were one of the schools recruiting him the hardest.
“My recruitment is going really well,” he said. “I’m interested in a lot of schools, mainly Kentucky, Michigan State, Duke, Vanderbilt, Ohio State, Louisville, and Alabama.”
When asked about Kentucky’s pitch in particular, the four-star wing told KSR that the UK coaching staff feels he could step in and be next in a long line of athletic small forwards that have come through Lexington.
“They’re telling me I could play the two or the three,” he said. “They tell me they really need a wing, and I could be that for them. That I could be like some of the other wings they’ve had in the past.”
The 6-foot-6 prospect said Kentucky has been in regular contact with him over the last several weeks.
“They’ve been in touch a lot, I just talked to them yesterday [June 13], actually,” he told KSR. “They just told me to keep playing hard because they’re watching me in the stands [at these events.]”
Fletcher also said he would like to see both Kentucky and Louisville soon since the drive isn’t too far from St. Louis.
“[I’d like to visit] probably at the end of the summer,” he said
So what will be the biggest deciding factor when it comes time for an announcement?
“Me just going in and playing right away,” Fletcher told KSR. “I know I’m going to have to work for it, but it’s just about who wants to get me where I want to go in my career. I want to go to a place that fits me the best, their history with players like me, playing time, stuff like that.”
Fletcher brings Kentucky’s list of offers to ten for the class of 2020.
PG/CG: Sharife Cooper, Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green
SG: BJ Boston
SF: Jalen Johnson, Scottie Barnes, Cam’Ron Fletcher
PF: Isaiah Todd
C: N’Faly Dante, Cliff Omoruyi
Check out some of his most recent highlights below:
By Drew Franklin on ©June 19th, 2019 @ 5:37pm
John Calipari said all he needed to say to Kerry Blackshear Jr. and now he is off to the NBA Draft.
Video of Cal walking toward his private jet like a boss popped up on the UK basketball program’s social media accounts late Wednesday afternoon.
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) June 19, 2019
Here are two positive ways to look at this. We’ll ignore any negative ones. And yes, we are over-analyzing.
(1) Would Cal leave for the draft without having already locked down a commitment from Blackshear? You’d think he’d hang around Lexington until he is certain he is in a good spot. After all, this is a HUGE official visit.
Or (2) Maybe he made a power move exit to complete his pitch. “Hey kid, I got three first-rounders tomorrow night and I have to be there for them. I do this every year.” How’s that for a way to say goodbye to a guy looking for his best path to the NBA?
One more thing, and I can’t be alone on this: I definitely tried to break down the pep in his step to see if it’s a swaggy walk like he just got a commitment.
By Drew Franklin on ©June 19th, 2019 @ 4:22pm
This could be nothing, but it could also be something.
The official UK Athletics Twitter account, @UKAthletics, followed Kerry Blackshear Jr. this afternoon. The account mostly follows UK student-athletes and coaches.
Many UK fans on Twitter were quick to point out that same account followed Jaden McDaniels for a brief stint and currently follows Brandon Boston, a top recruit in next year’s class, but I am choosing to ignore that piece of information for the sake of optimism while Blackshear is on campus for his official visit.
You can interpret it as you please.
Choose your own adventure.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©June 19th, 2019 @ 11:00am
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.
— Paolo (Paul-Oh) (@Pp_doesit) June 19, 2019
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.
By Drew Franklin on ©June 18th, 2019 @ 10:42pm
It took a little longer than expected, but KSR can confirm that Kerry Blackshear Jr. has touched down in Lexington for his official visit to the University of Kentucky.
The most important recruit on Kentucky’s recruiting board is in town with his dad and they are currently visiting with John Calipari, Kenny Payne and Tony Barbee to kick off the trip. Things are just getting going due to a late evening arrival, but excitement is high on both sides and there is a lot to discuss.
The hope, obviously, is to get a commitment before he leaves town so he can join this team as soon as possible and get things rolling towards a national championship.
Stay tuned for more. Tomorrow could be big.
Pilgrim’s Insider Notes: Kerry Blackshear Jr. visits and a few updates on recruiting for 2020 (Part 1)
By Jack Pilgrim on ©June 18th, 2019 @ 2:30pm
Today is the big day, Big Blue Nation. Virginia Tech graduate transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr. is headed to Lexington on an official visit, and if he signs on the dotted line as hoped, Kentucky will likely have the No. 1 team in all of college basketball going into the season.
In this edition of Pilgrim’s Insider Notes, we will dive into the big decision, how other schools feel about this recruitment, Kentucky’s pitch, and a timeline on when we should find out his final destination.
After breaking down Blackshear, I’ll also be touching on the class of 2020 and some of the rumblings I heard at the NBPA Top 100 Camp in Charlottesville, VA this past weekend.
Let’s dive right in.
Kerry Blackshear Jr.
On Sunday evening, Kentucky fans were treated to news of Kerry Blackshear Jr. visiting Kentucky starting on Tuesday evening, with Jake Weingarten of Stockrisers.com first breaking the story, followed by KSR and recruiting insider Evan Daniels of 247Sports also confirming the report.
And then on Monday, Weingarten followed it up with even more breaking news that left the BBN salivating, saying that there was “major” mutual interest between Blackshear and Kentucky.
More on my Kentucky-KBJ report yesterday: Hearing the major interest between the two sides are mutual, UK is extremely hopeful they could land Blackshear on this visit. Texas A&M still vying for a visit. https://t.co/jNQnKwGqBC
— Jake (@jakeweingarten) June 17, 2019
I wrote in my notes back in April when Blackshear originally put his name in the transfer portal that not only was Kentucky one of the first schools to reach out to the 6-foot-11 big man, they also wanted to make sure they met with their family face-to-face before he got into the grind of the NBA Draft process. Not long after, multiple outlets reported that contact was made and an in-home visit was held at the family’s home in Orlando, FL.
For whatever reason, though, those reports were originally denied by Kerry Blackshear Sr. before he eventually backtracked and admitted both parts of the story were true. Why was he so open about other schools reaching out but wanted to keep Kentucky’s interest hidden? At the time, many assumed it had to do with Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery still being undecided on their futures, but it has always been a bit odd to me that the Blackshear family was willing to keep things quiet for the UK coaching staff.
To take it a step further, I also reported in my notes back in April that one source told KSR that if Blackshear were to withdraw from the NBA Draft, Kentucky would be the likely option. At the time, the original plan for the 6-foot-11 forward was to keep his name in the draft and continue to explore his professional options even if he went undrafted, so this source essentially brushed off the idea. Now that he’s absolutely playing college basketball next season, that conversation lingers with me.
In terms of the visits he has taken – Florida, Arkansas, and Tennessee – there are conflicting reports about each school’s confidence in landing the prized big man. For starters, I’ve seen a few reports that Florida is out of the running completely, but I genuinely don’t believe that is true. I talked to one source down in Gainesville that feels that while they aren’t necessarily the favorite they once thought they were, they definitely feel they still have a shot. They wished they could have sealed the deal during the visit, but they are confident if Blackshear goes home after his visit to Lexington uncommitted, they are still right in the thick of things.
After Florida, Blackshear made a surprise visit to Arkansas, with several recruiting analysts saying they felt the Razorbacks actually had a strong shot to land him. While I trusted some of the individuals who made these reports, I just didn’t buy it then and I don’t buy it now. Eric Musselman has a strong history with graduate transfers and I have also heard there are strong family ties between Blackshear and the Arkansas coaching staff, which could have been a big part of the original rumors. But to spend one final year in Fayetteville before heading off to play professionally? I’ll eat my hat if it happens.
As for Tennessee, I have heard that there is not much confidence in Knoxville right now that Blackshear will end up playing there, especially after he left campus without committing. They felt their pitch was strong during the visit and there is playing time to be had with Grant Williams now headed off to the NBA, but with a visit to Kentucky coming and another potential one to Texas A&M afterward, they aren’t happy they couldn’t lock things up this past weekend. The staff hasn’t shut down the possibility completely – again, the visit did go well – but I am told that they aren’t very optimistic that the talented transfer will be in Knoxville next season.
With the other schools that have been mentioned in this recruitment – Texas A&M, Gonzaga, and Memphis – I don’t see any of them being serious contenders. The latter two likely won’t even get a visit before a decision is made. When it comes to the Aggies, I am told that Blackshear and his family has incredible respect for Buzz Williams and they were hoping to give him a visit out of pure courtesy. Evan Daniels says that still might happen, but I think it all depends on how it goes with Kentucky over the next two days. At first, I thought it was a close race between Kentucky, Florida, and Texas A&M, but after putting together all of the conversations I’ve had over the last week or so, I don’t think they will be the final landing spot. Blackshear wants one final run at a championship while building his NBA Draft stock as much as he can, and he realizes the best two places to make that happen are Kentucky and Florida.
Which brings us to our final topic of conversation: the Kentucky visit.
The Kentucky coaching staff has been up-front from the start about their overall interest and desire to get him on campus at some point. I’m told that Blackshear and his family made it clear that the plan all along was to visit Lexington once the recruiting process got going.
And now that the trip is finally happening, Kentucky is confident they can make it his last.
I’m told that the UK coaching staff feels strongly about their chances and that their pitch is the strongest among all contenders. With PJ Washington off to the NBA, they are set to show him that he can replace his production and consistency in the frontcourt en route to a Final Four run. Blackshear wants one last chance at a national title and to build his draft stock a bit in the process. He’s not going to magically become a lottery pick in just a year, but if any coach can help him become a sure-fire draft selection, it’s Coach Cal. And he knows that.
Take it for what it’s worth, but I’ve also been told from one individual that Blackshear may have already told his family that he wanted to go to Kentucky and has planned on signing on this visit all along, but he wanted to take some of these other trips to keep his options open and make a complete decision. I’m not sure if this was at the request of his family or if it was a joint decision, but I think there is legitimacy to that rumor.
Based on everything I know, I believe Kentucky gets a signature from Blackshear before he leaves campus. And if not, I feel he will go home, talk things over with his family, and still ultimately decide to commit to Kentucky.
If we don’t hear news of a trip to Texas A&M, I believe a decision will come as early as Wednesday in favor of the Wildcats. If he does visit College Station, I expect that to take place this weekend with a decision coming not long after.
Regardless, I expect Blackshear Jr. to join Kentucky’s 2019-20 roster sooner rather than later.
2020 recruiting class
I spent the latter part of last week and into the weekend in Charlottesville, VA at the NBPA Top 100 Camp where I got the chance to talk to several of Kentucky’s top recruiting targets for both 2020 and 2021.
Because I couldn’t get around to a notes post last week while I was covering the event, I’ll be posting a few quick updates today and then posting a bigger recruiting update on Thursday evening.
Makur Maker, the No. 2 prospect in the class of 2020, has seen his stock rise exponentially over the last several months.
As a result, all eyes are on his recruitment to see which college program will land the 7-foot center with elite guard skills.
While just about every school in the nation will be recruiting Maker, sources tell KSR that there is a bit of uncertainty regarding his basketball future. On one point, I have been told that there is definitely a pull for the five-star forward to go professional right out of high school, following in the footsteps of his cousins Thon and Matur.
“Zero percent chance [his guardian] lets Makur play college hoops,” one source said.
On the flip side, I have also heard that those close to Maker want him to play basketball at the college level because they saw the struggles Thon has had adjusting to the NBA and feel he needs to mature a bit physically.
In fact, in an interview with Ben Roberts of the Herald-Leader, Maker’s guardian, Ed Smith, touched on that specifically and said Makur will absolutely be playing college basketball next year.
“Everybody thinks he’s not going to college,” he said. “They’re like, ‘Ah, Ed’s going to send him pro.’ That’s how it is. … But [those schools] are going to be trying to come in late when they figure it out. Then they’ll be behind the game.”
If he goes to college, I think Kentucky has a very good shot to land the skilled center. Maker told KSR that he will be visiting Lexington soon and that he is highly interested in the Wildcats.
BJ Boston/Daishen Nix
Early on in the week at the NBPA Top 100, I was told that two of the top guards in the class of 2020, BJ Boston and Daishen Nix, had genuine interest in playing with one another in college, and that would likely be at Kentucky. They had been developing chemistry together from the moment they arrived on campus together, and sources tell KSR that they had those discussions with one another not long after.
Later on in the week, I asked them both about the rumors, and they said there is definitely truth to the speculation.
“It’s up to him, I don’t know where I want to go right now. I probably won’t be making my decision until later,” Boston said. “But for me, I need a passer to join me where I decide to go to school.”
For Nix, he said he would be happy being that passer Boston is looking for.
“He’s a scorer, he can score from wherever he wants, get wherever he wants on the floor,” he said. “And I like that. If I get him the ball, he can do his thing.”
And he hopes it happens.
“Hopefully,” the No. 1 point guard in America said. “I’m not sure yet, but hopefully.”
After talking to more people this week close to both of their recruitments, I feel that Kentucky is the strong favorite to land Boston right now, and they are definitely trending for Nix. The star point guard told KSR that he feels an offer is coming and that he can’t wait to meet a “legend” like John Calipari. He says he’s nowhere near a decision, but I believe the UK coaching staff is ready to put on the full-court press for the top passing guard in the nation.
If I were a betting man, I’d say Kentucky’s starting backcourt in 2020-21 consists of both Nix and Boston.
I’ll be back with more on Thursday.
Until then, follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR
By Jack Pilgrim on ©June 17th, 2019 @ 10:55pm
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.
By Hayden Hooper on ©June 16th, 2019 @ 7:48pm
The top graduate transfer in the nation will visit the University of Kentucky this week.
According to Jake Weingarten of Stockrisers.com, Virginia Tech forward Kerry Blackshear Jr. will officially visit Kentucky starting on Tuesday.
Breaking: Highly-coveted Virginia Tech transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr. will take an official visit to Kentucky beginning Tuesday night, a source told @Stockrisers.
Has visited Arkansas, Florida, and Tennessee.
— Jake (@jakeweingarten) June 16, 2019
KSR’s own Matt Jones also confirmed the news:
Not sure if this out there as I have been away, but Kerry Blackshear will visit Kentucky on Tuesday
H/t to anyone that has already put it out
— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) June 16, 2019
Blackshear, listed at 6-foot-11 and 250 pounds, was a second team All-ACC selection last season, averaging 14.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. He also led the Hokies with 28 blocked shots and ranked third with 83 assists.
Before his visit to Kentucky, Blackshear has already visited Florida, Arkansas, and Tennessee.
He was the last one to arrive, but Johnny Juzang has finally made his way to the University of Kentucky’s campus.
— Maxie Juzang (@MAXIE_JUZANG) June 16, 2019
The other freshmen have been here since early June participating in satellite camps around the area, but Juzang had to wait to enroll until after his high school graduation. Now that he’s officially in Lexington, the entire class of 2019 is on campus and ready to get to work.
By Hayden Hooper on ©June 16th, 2019 @ 6:00pm
Sought-after Virginia Tech grad transfer, Kerry Blackshear Jr. might be down to three schools for next year.
Don't buy the Kerry Blackshear/Memphis rumors. His final choices will come down to Texas A&M, Kentucky and Tennessee. One way or another, @Vol_Hoops fans will see him play in TBA. He's one of the most impactful players in the grad transfer era.
— Chris Dortch (@cdortch) June 16, 2019
Blue Ribbon College Basketball editor, Chris Dortch reports that Blackshear is down to Texas A&M, Tennessee and Kentucky.
This is coming off a visit to Tennessee last week. Here is what Nick Roush said yesterday on the visit.
No official reports have come out for a visit to Kentucky.
Stay tuned to KSR for updates on Kerry Blackshear’s recruitment.
A Kentucky backcourt of BJ Boston and Daishen Nix in 2020-21? The five-star guards say it’s possible
By Jack Pilgrim on ©June 15th, 2019 @ 5:00pm
While dozens of elite prospects poured into John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, VA this week for the NBPA Top 100 Camp, two names consistently mentioned at or near the top of the list of top performers at the event are 2020 five-star guards BJ Boston and Daishen Nix.
Teammates this week, it was evident from day one that the two had phenomenal chemistry on the court. With Nix being a pass-first point guard – arguably the best in the nation, at that – and Boston being a dynamic scorer, the two were obviously a perfect match in the four-day event.
As we approach the final day of camp, their complementary play on the floor has led them to believe that not only have they been solid teammates in Charlottesville, they could be an even better duo at the next level.
“Our chemistry is developing really good, he’s a pass-first point guard,” Boston said on Thursday afternoon. “I really like that when I’m playing. We connected from the time we first stepped on the court together this week.”
“We’ve got really good chemistry,” Nix added. “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.”
For Boston, things are a bit easy when it comes to his recruitment. Already down to four schools – Kentucky, Duke, Florida, and Auburn – all he has left to do is choose one of them.
“I think these are the four schools that are on me the hardest right now that want me at their university,” he said. “[During travel ball this summer,] they’re telling me to out every game, play hard, and go as hard as I can.”
As of right now, Kentucky leads all schools in Boston’s Crystal Ball over at 247Sports with 83% of all predictions, including picks from recruiting analysts Jerry Meyer and Andrew Slater.
As for Nix, things are a bit more complicated.
He already holds offers from big-name programs such as Kansas, Arizona, UCLA, and Gonzaga, while Maryland, Alabama, LSU, Memphis, and Washington are also seen as possible contenders. While Boston’s list is shrinking, Nix’s list is growing larger.
One of the schools the nation’s No. 1 point guard is hoping to officially add to that long, growing list? The University of Kentucky.
Though no offer has officially been extended, UK assistant Joel Justus visited Nix at his high school in Las Vegas, NV on May 2. When asked about the meeting, the five-star point guard said having a coach from Kentucky reach out just 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.”
Nix took it a step further by saying that while he loved his interaction with Justus, he’s hoping to catch up with 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.”
And how would he feel if Calipari offered him a scholarship during that face-to-face meeting?
“It would mean a lot, because not a lot of people where I’m from get offers like that,” Nix said. “Like Kentucky growing up, Kansas growing up, schools like that, those were the schools you watched on TV.”
Switching back to Boston, the 6-foot-6 shooting guard also had rave reviews for Kentucky.
“They’re all family-oriented the way they coach their program,” Boston said Thursday evening.
When asked about his recent visit to Lexington in February, the five-star prospect said he was fascinated with what he saw at Rupp Arena.
“It was a good atmosphere, it was like an NBA arena,” Boston said. “They played Auburn. Good, high intensity.”
Between Thursday and Friday, at least one representative from the University of Kentucky watched the elite guards take the floor in all four games. In those matchups, Boston averaged 14.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game, while Nix has averaged 4.3 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per contest to go with an impressive 23.0 player efficiency average.
Back in 2013, former Kentucky guards Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker teamed up for the first time at the NBA Top 100 Camp. In several interviews afterward, the former dynamic Wildcat duo said that was where their chemistry both on and off the floor first developed. That was when they first decided they wanted to play in college together.
When asked about the potential comparison, both Nix and Boston said the idea of that was definitely intriguing.
“Yeah, it’d definitely be something like that,” Nix said of the comparison. “I can be like Tyler Ulis, pass it to him. I’m a pass-first point guard, so I would make sure he scores. That’s what he wants.”
“It’s up to him, I don’t know where I want to go right now. I probably won’t be making my decision until later,” the elite shooting guard said. “But for me, I need a passer to join me where I decide to go to school.”
For Nix, he’d be happy with being that passer Boston is looking for.
“He’s a scorer, he can score from wherever he wants, get wherever he wants on the floor,” he said. “And I like that. If I get him the ball, he can do his thing.”
But will it actually happen?
“Hopefully,” Nix said. “I’m not sure yet, but hopefully.”
By Jack Pilgrim on ©June 14th, 2019 @ 6:00pm
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:
— B/R Hoops (@brhoops) June 14, 2019
You can check out some of his most recent highlights below:
By Jack Pilgrim on ©June 14th, 2019 @ 5:00pm
As of today, Kentucky head coach John Calipari has just nine scholarship offers extended to uncommitted prospects in the class of 2020.
And while they should certainly feel good about their standing with several of those top recruits, odds are pretty good that we’ll see another string of new offers coming in the near future.
One of those prospects that may be receiving a scholarship sometime soon? Four-star forward Dawson Garcia out of Prior Lake, MN.
Garcia, a 6-foot-10 big man with legitimate skills both inside and outside, said at the NBPA Top 100 Camp in Charlottesville, VA that his versatility separates himself from his peers.
“I can guard positions one through five, that’s a strength of mine,” he said. “I can put the ball on the floor and shoot it well. I’m going to keep getting stronger, that’s something I’ve been working on a lot. That’ll come this summer, I’ll be hitting the weight room.”
When asked about his NBA player comparison, the versatile stretch-four named the two players he models his game after, and they’re pretty impressive.
“I’d probably say it’s a little combination of Chris Bosh and Kevin Durant,” he said.
In terms of his recruitment, things are a bit more up in the air. He already holds offers from Minnesota, Marquette, Texas, Arizona, and Wisconsin, among others, but the 6-foot-10 forward admitted there are a few schools that have his attention that have yet to extend a scholarship.
“All of the schools that have offered me so far, they came to my house and have done a great job of recruiting me,” he said. “[There are] some of the other schools that haven’t offered me yet but are going to continue to watch me this summer.”
And some of those schools that haven’t offered yet?
“Kentucky, UNC, Duke, they’ve all been in contact with me, texting and calling me lately” he said. “They’re just telling me to keep doing what I’m doing. They’re telling me to keep my head up, congratulating me on winning a [U18 World Cup gold medal in Mongolia], telling me they’re excited to watch me [here] and during the live recruiting period in July.”
In terms of UK specifically, Garcia said John Calipari and his assistants are in “decent contact” with him and texting him “every couple of weeks,” using one of their go-to pitches with him: “Kentucky is not for everybody.”
And it’s working.
“My level of interest right now is high,” he said. “It’s a great program, they get guys to the league right away. When they came to my school and talked to me, they were like, “Yeah, Kentucky is not for everybody,” and that’s true. It shows that if you go to Kentucky, you have to just love basketball or life is going to be a living hell for you.”
In four games at the NBPA Top 100 Camp, Garcia is averaging 11.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game on 44% shooting overall and 37% from three.
Check out some of his most recent highlight tapes below:
By Jack Pilgrim on ©June 14th, 2019 @ 9:00am
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.
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) June 14, 2019
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.
John Calipari, Kenny Payne, and Tony Barbee are here at the NBPA Top 100 Camp watching Jalen Johnson and Makur Maker, Joel Justus is on the other court watching Dawson Garcia. pic.twitter.com/fQol18Y9zM
— Jack Pilgrim (@JackPilgrimKSR) June 14, 2019
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:
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.
Source: Keldon Johnson received an invite to the NBA Draft Green Room. Averaged 13.5 PPG & 5.9 RPG at Kentucky last season.
— Evan Daniels (@EvanDaniels) June 13, 2019
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…
Cliff Omoruyi says Kentucky was his dream school growing up, “started screaming” when he first met Coach Cal
By Jack Pilgrim on ©June 13th, 2019 @ 10:55pm
Back in April, John Calipari headed up to Roselle, NJ to check out 2020 four-star center Cliff Omoruyi. On his way out, the Kentucky head coach extended a scholarship, making the 6-foot-10, 230-pound center just the tenth prospect overall and second center to receive an offer for the class of 2020.
But Omoruyi was quite different than most of Calipari’s past offers, especially this early in the process.
Originally from Nigeria, basketball is still very new for the four-star prospect, as he had only played in his first official game roughly three years ago in 2016. While the four-star prospect is an incredibly talented rebounder and possesses a motor unlike anyone else in the class, he is still extremely raw offensively and will need time to develop before he makes a major impact at the college level.
Still, though, Calipari was happy to take a chance on him. And it’s an offer that certainly means a lot to the 6-foot-10 big man.
In an interview with KSR at the NBPA Top 100 Camp in Charlottesville, VA, Omoruyi said that as a kid in Nigeria, Kentucky was one of the only schools he heard about and was able to follow. So when he came over to the states and finally started playing basketball, UK was certainly one of his favorite college programs.
“I was happy [to receive an offer] because Kentucky was one of my dream schools growing up,” he said. “Like when I was back in Nigeria, I used to hear most about Kentucky.”
At the time, KSR was told that Omoruyi was “emotional” upon receiving an offer. For a player that has had such a long journey to get where he is now, it was certainly special to hold a scholarship from one of the most prestigious schools in college basketball history.
When it comes to his meeting with Calipari for the first time, Omoruyi said he couldn’t contain his excitement, screaming and jumping up and down when the Kentucky head coach came to his school.
“Yeah, that was my first time meeting him in person,” the four-star big man said with a smile. “They told me it was some coach, but I started screaming a lot when [I realized it was Coach Cal.] I went crazy.”
According to Omoruyi, the very first thing Calipari asked him was about his academic situation and how he was doing in the classroom, a question he was happy to answer.
“The meeting was fun, he asked me how I was doing in school class-wise, if I’m a good student,” he said. “I told him that I average a 3.7 GPA, I’m a straight-A student.”
The next question? Omoruyi’s “why.” Why does he want to play basketball in college and then at the NBA level?
“He asked me why I play basketball, and I said that the biggest reason was that I wanted to give my mom and my family a better life,” he said.
Playing at Roselle Catholic in New Jersey, Omoruyi is close with former Kentucky guard and RCHS alum Isaiah Briscoe. In fact, the two have talked about the idea of the four-star center eventually becoming a Wildcat and how he’d find success in Lexington.
“[Briscoe] told me that if I go there, I’m going to work out to be a better player,” Omoruyi said. “I’m going to have to work out to impress everybody and it’s going to be difficult when I get there, if I go to Kentucky.”
And Briscoe isn’t the only Wildcat he has a relationship with.
Omoruyi said that he is also close with current Kentucky wing and former Roselle Catholic teammate Kahlil Whitney.
“That was my teammate, we used to throw each other alley-oops,” Omoruyi said with a laugh. “We used to turn up the dunks and layups and everything.”
The Kentucky target said that he caught up with Whitney about his time in Lexington earlier this week on Instagram Live.
“He said it’s fun [so far at Kentucky], they’re working out right now,” he said. “[Kahlil] said he was trying to get big like me”
When asked about Whitney’s game, the 6-foot-10 prospect said the current Wildcat is an elite athlete with a knack for getting his teammates better.
“Kahlil, he’s athletic,” Omoruyi said. “He’s fun to have as a teammate because he’s going to bring out the beast in you. In practice he pushes me really hard to [get better.]”
While it’s likely Whitney ends up being a one-and-done and won’t have the opportunity to play with Omoruyi in college, odds are pretty solid the four-star prospect will be following in his former teammates footsteps. He won’t admit that Kentucky is the runaway favorite, but if John Calipari wants him, I have a hard time believing he’ll turn him down when it comes time for a decision.