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Basketball Recruiting News
By Drew Franklin on ©October 21st, 2014 @ 10:30am
Former Louisville commit Antonio Blakeney is set to take his official visit to Kentucky in a little under two weeks on Halloween weekend and the five-star guard chatted with Scout.com’s Evan Daniels about why UK is an option for college. He said, “What sticks out the most [about Kentucky] is how coach Cal is for his players and he really wants his players to do well and make it to the next level.”
“Most every player wants to make it the next level and when you have a coach pushing you to do that it really benefits you,” added Blakeney.
He will travel to Baton Rouge to check out LSU the weekend after his trip to Lexington, followed by visits to North Carolina and North Carolina State. He is also considering Missouri.
For more on Blakeney’s recruitment, check out Scout.com’s story here.
Big Blue Madness is now behind us. #BBM traditionally is the biggest recruiting weekend of the year for Coach Calipari and the Wildcats, so now is a good time to take a step back and see where UK stands with the 8 visitors.
Jaylen Brown: Brown is the #2 overall player in the country according the 247Sports rankings and took an official visit to Lexington for Big Blue Madness. The 6’7’’ Small Forward from Georgia is undoubtedly one of the “can’t miss” prospects in the 2015 class. While Brown’s Crystal Ball predictions currently show the Wildcats in the lead with 39%, Evan Daniels recently said on KSR that he could see Brown staying home to play for Georgia. Along with Malik Newman, Jaylen is definitely a top priority for Coach Cal in this class and is somebody who I think, in the end, will end up wearing Kentucky blue and white.
Malik Newman: The #3 player in the 247Sports Composite rankings took in Big Blue Madness alongside UK’s other top 2015 targets. Newman has had one of the quietest recruitments of any top player in recent memory. There is simply very little reliable information out there in terms of where he is leaning. However, many “experts” seem to be discussing the growing likelihood of Newman staying home and playing for either Mississippi or Mississippi State. With that being said, Kentucky still holds a commanding 55% of his Crystal Ball predictions.
Carlton Bragg: Bragg officially visited UK for Big Blue Madness and just a month ago Coach Cal and Kenny Payne both went for an in-home visit with the talented forward from Ohio. Bragg is ranked #16 in the 247Sports Rankings. His recruitment appears to be coming down to Kentucky, Kansas, and the home-state Buckeyes of Ohio State. Bragg is one of my personal favorites and a guy I see being a NBA lottery pick sooner rather than later. He seemed to have a great time in Lexington; he was quoted as saying that the event blew him away and he also really enjoyed getting the chance to meet and hang out with Drake.
Stephen Zimmerman: It was once thought that Zimmerman was a lock to stay on the West Coast, but Coach Cal has made a strong push recently and made the big man from Las Vegas a top priority. The 6’11’’ Center’s mom, Lori, is very active on Twitter and had nothing but great things to say about the whole trip. I still wouldn’t count on it, but I think Coach Calipari has gotten into a position to steal Zimmerman away from the West Coast.
Brandon Ingram: I definitely still consider Ingram, the #11 player in the 247 Composite Rankings, to be a long shot for Kentucky. He is a Tobacco Road lean for sure, with Duke leading his Crystal Ball predictions and UNC coming in second.
Charles Mathews: The UK commit from St. Rita in Chicago officially visit campus this past weekend for Big Blue Madness. Mathews remains the lone commit for the Wildcats in the Class of 2015.
Tyus Battle: The 6’6″ New Jersey product is one of the top guard prospects in the class of 2016. He is currently considered a Duke lean and will unofficially visit the Blue Devils this coming weekend. Coach Cal has been on him pretty hard of late.
After dropping the mic at Big Blue Madness, John Calipari traveled to Fort Wayne, Indiana on Monday to visit 2015 center Caleb Swanigan. Swanigan’s high school coach Chris Johnson told the Herald-Leader’s Ben Roberts that Calipari is expected to watch Caleb play during the school’s open gym.
Swanigan, considered the third best center in the 2015 class, visited UK for the NBA Combine on October 10 and hosted Calipari on an in-home visit in September. Michigan State is still a heavy favorite in Swanigan’s Crystal Ball, with 85% of the predictions; however, Cal’s been turning on the heat in recent weeks.
Let’s watch him work:
About an hour ago, top class of 2015 target Malik Newman tweeted this out about his visit to campus this past weekend:
Had a good time at Kentucky
— malik newman (@iammaliknewman) October 19, 2014
As you probably already know, the five-star Newman is the #1 SG in the class of 2015. Currently Newman is projected by 247 Sports’ Crystal Ball as 55% likely to go to Kentucky, with a 29% prediction to end up at SEC West foe Mississippi State.
According to Jack LeGwin of ZagsBlog, Newman had some very nice comments to say about the program:
“It was really great because I didn’t realize how much Kentucky loved basketball,” Newman said. “It was good because I could go and see it for myself.”
Newman also told LeGwin that he could see himself playing with the rest of the big time recruits that were at madness with him.
As Kentucky hosted a ton of recruits this weekend for Big Blue Madness, none were bigger (literally) than 7-footer Stephen Zimmerman. As you probably know, Zimmerman is a 5-star recruit from the Class of 2015 also weighing offers from Arizona, UCLA, Kansas and Indiana. His mother, Lori, has publicly displayed her affection for the Cats many times over Twitter (painting her nails for the Cats) and with her son in Lexington, it seems clear via social media that Lori is firmly a member of Big Blue Nation…take a look…
Great lunch and talk at Coach Cal’s home, now headed for a campus tour and 2nd practice. #UK
— Lori Stvns ZimmerMoM (@VegasBballMom) October 18, 2014
Ok after that entrance lol Sam Malone is my favorite 😂😂😂
— Lori Stvns ZimmerMoM (@VegasBballMom) October 18, 2014
It’s odd eating breakfast and camera flashes are going off around you. People hiding behind corners lol.
— Lori Stvns ZimmerMoM (@VegasBballMom) October 18, 2014
If those tweets weren’t enough, Lori just recently followed @DrunkCoachCal and @JohnRobicsHair. I think in this case it’s safe to say: momma knows best.
Wildcats. Tigers. It has been a long week since the Cats picked up win number five and set their sights on a road trip to Baton Rouge. For both teams the game is a chance to become bowl eligible and enter the back half of the season looking to move up the SEC ladder. With games against three ranked teams and a trip to Arkansas left on the schedule Louisiana State could need to beat the Cats in order to get to six. For Kentucky it’s yet another no-pressure situation, it’s a game which nobody expected them to win but one that would be another foundation builder if they pull it out. The young gridiron Cats have proven their not going to be afraid of any name or environment and will be expecting to win.
Regardless of the outcome, this weekend is primed to be an all time great one in the lore of Kentucky sports. The football team has unprecedented momentum for the future and beyond. The basketball team… We’ll let’s dive right in.
Big Blue Madness Was Awesome
Since Cal arrived in 2009 he’s seemingly made it his mission to make each year’s celebration of Kentucky basketball bigger and better than the last. This year was no different. The show opened with the mascots repelling out of the rafters like Sting heading for a showdown with the NWO. The Cats hung high above the floor as they paused for some selfies and the traditional amount of mascot antics. It was new. It was different. It set the tone for what was going to be a fun night.
Next up was women’s coach Matthew Mitchell who has taken the one-upsmanship to new heights:
The above video features several nods to KSR radio fans and has Matthew Mitchell choking out Ryan Lemond which makes it worth a view alone. Mitchell topped some of his moves from over the years by mimicking Bruno Mars with a song and a dance. He changed “Girl, you’re amazing” to Big Blue Nation and serenaded the audience with his dulcet tones. How Mitchell will top this one is almost impossible to fathom. Luckily, he’ll have another year to think about it. The girls did their thing and then the cheerleaders put on an awesome show. We were on to the main event.
“He’s The George Clooney of the Hardwood”
After coming out with a lint roller, fixing up his warm-up, and absolutely blowing the roof off of Rupp Arena, Drake introduced the man himself John Calipari. Drake said he was honored to be in Rupp for what he believes will be one of the most exciting years in Kentucky basketball history. Drake spoke of family and called Coach Cal the Godfather of Kentucky basketball with the line, “I wanna introduce a man who is one of the most important people in my life.”. Cal’s music hit.
He was in full Swaggy Cal mode as he introduced a clip of his speech at his first Big Blue Madness. When it was over all he had to say was “Enough talk, let’s ball.” Then he literally dropped the mic!! After so many stump speeches and state of the commonwealth addresses over the years the mic drop spoke volumes. This team is going to do their talking on the court.
Between the Bahamas trip, the UK combine, and the bevy of returning players this year’s Big Blue Madness didn’t have the added appeal of seeing Cal’s Cats debut in Blue for the first time. Still, the player intro’s were as fun as ever and Sam Malone killed it in his final appearance. Dominique Hawkins also lit up the crowd as the local kid took his turn at the John Wall dance. As for the game, White defeated Blue in a close game with no defense on display which is about what you’d expect for BBM.
What was on display was the undeniable amount of talent and depth that is on this team. Andrew Harrison looked so much more comfortable in year two and appeared ready to be the leader of this team. Dakari Johnson showcased his slimmer figure. Tyler Ulis buried a triple. The team got up and down the floor. It was an awesome night and the recruits responded.
Big Blue Madness was Crazy!!!’ Loved It! pic.twitter.com/F65u44Pxo3
— Team Matthews (@nichole0335) October 18, 2014
Drake at Kentucky BBN… I should’ve went lol
— Jayson Tatum (@Im_that_dude22) October 18, 2014
Basketball is here folks. It’s going to be an awesome ride.
Meanwhile, at Texas Tech
Tubby Smith did not have an awesome ride tonight. The former Cat coach rolled into Texas Tech’s Madness event on a chopper dressed as pop culture icon Shaft. (We can dig it) However, Orlando ran into some issues stopping on the waxed court and turned the bike over as he tried to bring the hog to a halt. Tubby was apparently okay and even cracked a joke immediately after. It’s a video I couldn’t have made up if I tried.
Big Football Saturday
Well, back to LSU. Tomorrow the Tigers will try to take on the Cats with a pro-style offense fueled by elite talent and a raucous stadium. Kentucky will need to find a way to slow Kenny Hillard and Leonard Fournette and not let wideout Travin Dural kill them. Against Florida, DeMarcus Robinson made catch after catch and proved to be the difference in the game. If Kentucky can avoid giving up a similar effort or jump out to an early lead they just might find a way to leave Death Valley with a W.
Win or lose you can’t go to bed tonight without being giddy about the weeks to come. It’s a great time to be a wildcat fan.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©October 17th, 2014 @ 12:30pm
It looks like the Zimmerman’s tour of Rupp Arena is over. Zimmerman just tweeted this picture of himself and John Calipari in the UK locker room with the caption “Where am I? #BBN.” I love you Stephen, but that one isn’t very hard to figure out.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©October 17th, 2014 @ 11:30am
Thank God for Lori Zimmerman. Stephen Zimmerman’s mom is clearly very involved in her son’s recruitment, and fortunately for us, loves to share pictures and videos from their official visits. Last night, she posted a pic of Cal meeting them at the airport, and this morning, she posted this video of Cal taking them on a tour of Rupp Arena. In the video, you can hear Cal tell Stephen that Rupp needs a center-hung scoreboard. Don’t be offended, Big Bertha, but it’s true.
I think Cal wants Zimmerman, guys.
A day after Antonio Blakeney announced he will not make it to Lexington, 2016 five-star point guard Derryck Thornton announced the same. Thornton will attend UNLV’s Scarlet & Gray Showcase tonight but he won’t be on a plane from McCarran International Airport to Kentucky in the morning for Big Blue Madness.
Thornton will instead make the trip to Rupp Arena during the second weekend of January for Kentucky’s home game against Missouri.
If you’re keeping score at home, that leaves Carlton Bragg, Jaylen Brown, Brandon Ingram, Charles Matthews, Malik Newman, Stephen Zimmerman and Tyus Battle as the confirmed BBM visitors.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©October 15th, 2014 @ 5:30pm
Stephen Zimmerman is one of many top recruits who will attend Big Blue Madness this weekend, but apparently, his family has been hearing about the event for years from an unlikely source: Shabazz Muhammad. Muhammad, once UK’s most coveted recruit, committed to UCLA over the Cats in 2012, but his trip to Lexington made such an impression on him at the time that he approached Zimmerman’s mom Lori when Stephen was a freshman and he a senior at Bishop Gordon to tell her she had to take her son to Big Blue Madness:
“Bishop Gorman was playing in California that weekend, and Muhammad flew straight there from Lexington following his visit. He immediately sought out Lori Zimmerman.
“The first thing he said when he came into the gym — he came up to me and said, ‘You have to take Stephen. You have to let him experience it. It’s just beyond words.'”
(Man, I bet Shabazz wishes he could go back in time and do it all over again, right?)
Lori Zimmerman told the Herald-Leader’s Ben Roberts that she and Stephen are expecting “over-the-top craziness” at Big Blue Madness. While she said they enjoyed their official visit to Kansas this past weekend, she admitted that while out with the team at a restaurant, she, Stephen, and the other recruits in attendance found themselves watching UK’s combine on TV. The best part? She said Bill Self was watching it too.
Major kudos to whomever runs the TVs in that establishment.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©October 15th, 2014 @ 4:47pm
Five-star shooting guard Antonio Blakeney was scheduled to take an unofficial visit to Kentucky for Big Blue Madness this weekend, but Evan Daniels is reporting that’s no longer the case, and Blakeney is working on scheduling his visit for another time.
That leaves the BBM Guest List at: Carlton Bragg, Jaylen Brown, Brandon Ingram, Charles Matthews, Malik Newman, Stephen Zimmerman, Tyus Battle, and Derryck Thornton. And Drake.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©October 14th, 2014 @ 8:49pm
— Lori Stvns ZimmerMoM (@VegasBballMom) October 14, 2014
Zimmerman’s mom just tweeted out the picture above, which tells me she is ready for her son to commit to Kentucky on their trip to Lexington Friday. Either that, or she really likes to theme it up with her nails. I’m hoping for the former, of course.
If you missed it earlier, Drew had a good primer on who’s coming to Big Blue Madness. Check it out.
Big Blue Madness is scheduled to have several big-time guests in attendance Friday night, as it always does, and today I would like to share with you a copy of the unofficial list of VIP attendees.
Below you’ll find the top recruits expected to be in Rupp Arena for the Greatest Spectacle In All Of Basketball Practice, plus one additional name you may recognize.
Make these guys feel at home in Rupp Arena, BBN.
6’5″, 175 lbs.
Chicago, Illinois (Saint Rita)
Top247: No. 60 overall, No. 19 SG
247 Composite: No. 48 overall, No. 14 SG
Rivals: No. 56 overall, No. 17 SG
ESPN: No. 30 overall, No. 7 SG
Scout: No. 61 overall, No. 20 SG
Top247: No. 4 overall, No. 1 SG
247 Composite: No. 3 overall, No. 1 SG
Rivals: No. 3 overall, No. 1 SG
ESPN: No. 3 overall, No. 1 SG
Scout: No. 10 overall, No. 1 SG
6’7″, 220 lbs.
Alpharetta, Georgia (Wheeler)
Top247: No. 2 overall, No. 2 SF
247 Composite: No. 2 overall, No. 2 SF
Rivals: No. 2 overall, No. 2 SF
ESPN: No. 8 overall, No. 1 SF
Scout: No. 1 overall, No. 1 SF
Top247: No. 16 overall, No. 4 PF
247 Composite: No. 14 overall, No. 5 PF
Rivals: No. 14, No. 3 SF
ESPN: No. 14 overall, No. 7 PF
Scout: No. 11 overall, No. 3 PF
6’8″, 180 lbs.
Kinston, North Carolina (Kinston)
Top247: No. 11 overall, No. 4 SF
247 Composite: No. 17 overall, No. 4 SF
Rivals: No. 18 overall, No. 4 SF
ESPN: No. 12 overall, No. 2 SF
Scout: No. 25 overall, No. 6 SF
7’0″, 230 lbs.
Las Vegas, Nevada (Bishop Gorman)
Top247: No. 22 overall, No. 4 C
247 Composite: No. 12 overall, No. 3 C
Rivals: No. 10 overall, No. 4 C
ESPN: No. 6 overall, No. 2 C
Scout: No. 14 overall, No. 6 C
6’4″, 170 lbs.
Orlando, Florida (Oak Ridge)
Top247: No. 15 overall, No. 4 SG
247 Composite: No. 17 overall, No. 3 SG
Rivals: No. 13 overall, No. 3 SG
ESPN: No. 14 overall, No. 2 SG
Scout: No. 22 overall, No. 5 SG
Shooting Guard (Class of 2016)
6’6″, 190 lbs.
Edison, NJ (Gill St. Bernard S. School)
Top247: No. 11 overall, No. 3 SG
247 Sports Composite: No. 11 overall, No. 4 SG
Rivals: No. 16 overall
ESPN: No. 14 overall, No. 4 SG
Scout: No. 9 overall, No. 3 SF
Point Guard Guard (Class of 2016)
6’0″, 175 lbs.
Henderson, NV (Findlay Prep)
Top247: No. 10 overall, No. 3 PG
247 Sports Composite: No. 7 overall, No. 2 PG
Rivals: No. 9 overall
ESPN: No. 10 overall, No. 2 PG
Scout: No. 6 overall, No. 1 PG
6’0″, 165 lbs.
Toronto, Ontario, Canada (Young Money, Cash Money)
0 to 100, real quick.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©October 13th, 2014 @ 4:00pm
Calrton Bragg was one of many top recruits at Kansas’ “Late Night at the Phog” festivities this past weekend, and the talented power forward tells Adam Zagoria that Bill Self told him that he’s the best coach at the country at developing big men.
“He said I’m never a five, he’s going to play me as a four,” Bragg said. “He’s sees me as a three/four. He’s the top in the country for developing bigs at my size, my position. He said he can develop me better than any coach in the country.”
Hmm…DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Terrence Jones, Nerlens Noel, Julius Randle…I can think of another coach in the country that’s even better at developing bigs than Self. Speaking of, Bragg says he’s “looking forward to meeting Coach Cal personally” when he visits for Big Blue Madness this weekend. And, even though Kansas kept Bragg and fellow UK targets Stephen Zimmerman, Jaylen Brown, and Brandon Ingram pretty busy on their visits this past weekend, Bragg said the recruits did make sure to watch UK’s combine on ESPNU on Friday afternoon. “We watched some of it,” Bragg said. “Yeah, that was amazing.”
Even more amazing: Bragg, Brown, and Ingram have discussed packaging themselves for the next level. They’ll all be at Big Blue Madness on Friday.
Thon Maker is in Louisville today to participate in the John Lucas Midwest Invitational Camp and Steve Jones of the Courier-Journal caught up with his Thon’s guardian, Ed Smith, to speak about the combine which he called a “game-changer”.
“That was different, and that was really thinking outside the box,” he said. “It’s really giving kids in your program an opportunity to realistically see where you are that early. It’s great for kids to see where they are that early, how much better they can get within a period of time.”
[Courier-Journal, Maker's Guardian: UK Combine A Game-Changer]
Smith goes on to state that Thon has yet to make a decision about possibly reclassifying to the class of 2015 but could know by the end of the fall semester. John Lucas had high praise for Maker at today’s camp as well,
— Coach John Lucas (@CoachJohnLucas1) October 12, 2014
Watch him work: