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Basketball Recruiting News
After a brief stop at spring practice this morning, John Calipari is off on the recruiting trail. His first stop? St. Louis, where he will visit 2016 shooting guard/small forward Jayson Tatum. Tatum is considered the fourth best player and the second best shooting guard in the 2016 class by 247 Sports Composite, and has offers from all the big schools, including Kentucky, Duke, Kansas, Florida, Missouri, Michigan State, and UNC.
Tatum took an unofficial visit to Kentucky last season for Big Blue Madness. This will be Cal’s third trip to see him, and the second time this week he’s stopped in to see at 2016 star. Yesterday, he visited the top player in the 2016 class, Harry Giles. He also checked in on 2015 commitment Charles Matthews in Chicago. On Monday, John Robic visited 2016 PG Quentin Goodin, who will be EYBL teammates with Jayson Tatum this summer.
Tatum will have a full house today, with Cal, Coach K, AND Tom Crean expected to visit. Hopefully the stench of Crean’s desperation clears by the time Cal walks in.
The No. 1 overall player in the 2016 class opened up his High Point, North Carolina doors to John Calipari this morning for a friendly chat on his 16th birthday. That player is none other than Harry Giles, a 6-foot-10 power forward with a long list of offers that includes one from the University of Kentucky. Giles is one of three current high school sophomores with an offer from UK.
Calipari’s visit came a day after Giles tweeted a photo with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who he referred to as his “big homie.” Maybe big homie can push him toward Lexington in a couple of years.
— Birthday KING‼️ (@TheReal_HG3) April 22, 2014
Before he touched down at Joseph Beth Booksellers in Crestview this evening, Coach Cal was in Chicago to check on his only commitment in the 2015 class, Charles Matthews. Word spread when fans at the book signing were told Cal was running a little behind because he was recruiting in Chicago, later confirmed through Evan Daniels of Scout.com that it was Matthews who received the Monday afternoon visit.
John Robic was also out on the recruiting trail Monday, visiting four-star Quentin Goodin in Campbellsville. Goodin is a 6-foot-2 point guard at Taylor County, ranked No. 55 overall in the Top247 rankings for 2016.
It never stops.
Even though Andrew Wiggins didn’t come to Kentucky, he’s still the “most popular” athlete in Kentucky, according to Andrew Powell-Morse of BestTickets.com. Powell-Morse used Google’s search volume data for the past year to determine which athlete was Googled the most in each state, and Wiggins came out on top in the Bluegrass and in Kansas:
While we wait for the draft decisions, it’s nice to remember that it’s been even crazier than this before. Just thinking about Wigginsanity makes me tired.
Barry Rohrssen to UK is now the worst-kept secret in college basketball. Pitt just sent out a press release announcing that Rohrssen is leaving the staff, which makes his move to Kentucky all but certain. Last week, John Calipari said he was going to focus on the assistant coaching search this week, and it’s only a matter of time before UK sends out a press release of its own to announce the hiring.
Cal needed a home run hire to fill Orlango Antigua’s shoes, especially in recruiting, and it looks like they’re getting one in Rohrssen. Rohrssen is a New York native with strong ties in the area, and is said to be just as impressive a recruiter as Antigua. At Pitt, he already reeled in a commitment from top 2016 point guard Mustapha Heron, something to keep an eye on going forward.
Welcome to the Bluegrass, Slice.
With Orlando Antigua doing his thing in South Florida, John Calipari has sent John Robic on the recruiting trail. According to the Herald-Leader’s Ben Roberts, Robic will visit 2016 four-star point guard Quentin Goodin today in Campbellsville.
The Taylor County star is considered the 13th best point guard and the best player from the state of Kentucky in the 2016 class by 247 Sports Composite. Kentucky, Indiana, and Louisville are the three schools going after him the hardest right now, and Cal, Robic, and Antigua have all seen Goodin play several times. This summer, he’ll also play for the St. Louis Eagles, the same EYBL team as 2016 forward Jayson Tatum, one of UK’s biggest targets.
Hopefully Robic’s hair will work its magic this afternoon. In the meantime, watch Goodin work. (Don’t worry, that Cardinal logo at the beginning is for Taylor County, not Louisville.)
Conventional wisdom points to Pittsburgh assistant Barry Rohrssen being the replacement for Orlando Antigua on John Calipari’s Kentucky staff. Rumors have been circulating out of Pittsburgh for over a week now, and Kentucky took down the assistant coach job opening post on Friday. Rohrssen is known for his recruiting prowess, highlighted by the commitment of 2016 5-star/4-star (depending on the service) guard Mustapha Heron to Pittsburgh. One would have to think that if Rohrssen does in fact switch to Kentucky’s staff, Heron might consider making the move. Calipari has watched Heron play before. Heron is rated as the #15 player in the class of 2016.
Heron is a 6-4 guard out of Waterbury, Connecticut. Heron was recruited by UCONN, Florida, Kansas, Providence, Syracuse and Vanderbilt.
Check out some of his highlights below…
By now you’ve heard about the NBA’s push to raise their own age limit from 19 to 20, effectively changing “One and Done” to “Two and Through” nationwide. Even if it’s passed, though, the earliest it could be implemented is 2016, which means that Karl Towns, Tyler Ulis, Devin Booker, and Trey Lyles don’t have to worry about it at all. If they want to go after one year, they’re free to do that, guaranteed.
But the 2015 class? Well, that’s where things get interesting. Because the 2016 NBA Draft could be subject to the 20-year old age limit, the 2015 class could be the first to have to stick in college for two years. What does that mean? Well, to put too fine a point on it, that means we need to get good players next year. Duh, right? I mean, isn’t that the goal every year? ”Talent over experience” and all that? But really, in 2015, that goes beyond important: it becomes mandatory.
Remember that Cal said that if he could keep players for more than a year, he’d stick around a while longer. Why? Because it’s easier to keep a good team! It’s just that simple. And 2015 could very reasonably be the year that starts.
So how are we doing?
Kentucky’s already on the board with Top-15 player Charles Matthews, a 6’5″ shooting guard from Chicago who committed in February. That’s a fantastic start. But who else is considering UK? How about the #1 and #2 Centers (Stephen Zimmerman and Diamond Stone), #1 Power Forward (Ivan Rabb), #1 Shooting Guard (Malik Newman), and #3 Small Forward (Montaque Gill-Ceasar), among others. Interestingly, there isn’t a point guard ranked in the top 20 of ESPN’s Super 60, so we’ll have to see how our point guard situation works out by that point. My suspicion is that we’ll start a sophomore Tyler Ulis to kick off the 2015 season, but we’ll see how things work out.
We always keep a close eye on recruiting, and with 2014 almost completely wrapped, it’s time to turn our attention to Matthews and his future teammates. We almost always have bragging rights in the recruiting period with Calipari, but in the 2015 class, we could be getting something even better: sophomores.
Think about that.
Got plans tonight? Either cancel them or set your DVR. All four of Kentucky’s 2014 signees–Karl-Anthony Towns, Trey Lyles, Tyler Ulis, and Devin Booker–are playing in the Jordan Brand Classic at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
The guys have been in New York all week preparing for the event, and each has turned heads in their own way. Bleacher Report’s CJ Moore says Trey Lyles has the best stroke of any of the big men in the Classic, and would be surprised if he’s NOT the starting four for UK next season:
Lyles is really skilled, can score facing up and has great hands. Everything he does is fluid and fundamentally sound. Even with a really crowded frontcourt, I would be surprised if Lyles is not the starting 4 for the Wildcats.
Depending on who comes back, I doubt that’ll be the case early on, but Lyles is definitely turning heads this week.
A few matchups you should definitely keep an eye on tonight are Tyus Jones vs. Tyler Ulis and James Blackmon, Jr. vs. Devin Booker. Jones is headed to Duke, and considered one of the premiere point guards in the class along with Emmanuel Mudiay, but Ulis’ stock has been rising after an impressive performance in the McDonald’s All-American Game. A few analysts have said he’s better than Jones, so it will be fun to see them go head-to-head.
With Blackmon vs. Booker, you’re not only getting a showdown of two of the best shooters in the class, you’re getting an early taste of the Indiana/Kentucky rivalry. Blackmon was ready to commit to the Cats, but changed his mind at the last minute to go to Indiana, a decision I can’t help but wonder if he’s regretting now.
Go future Cats.
The 2014 recruiting class was the first in which John Calipari didn’t land most of the elite players he went after. Don’t get me wrong, the players he did sign are excellent, but several of the superstar prospects like Emmanuel Mudiay, Stanley Johnson, and Jahlil Okafor all decided to take their services elsewhere. During the McDonald’s All-American game a few weeks ago, USA Today’s Jason Jordan went around and asked some of the players what their second choice school was. For once, many of them said Kentucky. Here’s a breakdown:
Rashad Vaughn (UNLV): Iowa State
Devin Booker (Kentucky): Missouri
James Blackmon (Indiana): Kentucky (Think he regrets choosing the Hoosiers now?)
Kelly Oubre (Kansas): Kentucky
Stanley Johnson (Arizona): Kentucky
Emmanuel Mudiay (SMU): Kentucky
Mudiay’s comments were the most interesting to me. He said that during Cal’s in-home visit, he and his family liked what he had to say so much that he was ready to commit on the spot. His brother advised him to wait, and during Larry Brown’s visit, the legendary coach “talked way better than Cal did.”
Well, Cal does consider him a mentor.
Remember Devonta Pollard? Two years ago, Kentucky recruited Pollard, a five-star small forward, but he chose to sign with Alabama. A year ago, Pollard’s mother, Jessie Mae Brown Pollard, was arrested and charged with kidnapping a six-year-old child. Although his involvement was peripheral, Pollard himself was charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping, and transferred to East Mississippi Community College. After a long, hard year in which he had to testify against his mother to avoid prosecution, Pollard is trying to start anew. One of the schools interested is Kentucky. From The Clarion-Ledger:
Missouri, Kentucky and Troy are three schools after the talented forward, but Pollard hasn’t set up visits with any schools. White says he met with Pollard last week and talked recruiting, but that it’s anyone’s guess to where he ends up.
At Alabama, Pollard struggled, only averaging 3.9 points and 3.1 rebounds. At EMCC, he averaged 12 points and 6.4 rebounds a game, while shooting 59% from the field. His game needs work, but the potential is there. As the roster continues to shake out over the next few weeks, this may be something to keep an eye on. Pollard has until May 21st to decide.
With a few potential questions next season in the backcourt, Kentucky has been looking around for a Julius Mays pt. 2 – a solid contributing transfer that can play immediately. One of their primary targets was Bryce Dejean-Jones, UNLV’s 6’5″ leading scorer from 2014 that averaged 13.6 ppg. Today Dejean-Jones announced on Twitter that he’ll attempt to make the jump to the NBA from Ames, Iowa:
Had a great weekend in Ames my first time there but won't be the last I've decided I wanna be a Cyclone!
— Bryce Dejean-Jones (@B2nyce) April 13, 2014
It may not end up being all that unfortunate for the Cats. Dejean-Jones has had multiple off the court issues since he began his playing career at USC. Dejean-Jones will go down in the book of the Calipari era with Tony Woods, rather than the beloved Julius Mays.
Given the weather and the fact that Keeneland was absolutely humming today, you’re probably exhausted and need to recharge your batteries. If that’s the case, tune your TV to ESPN2 to see Karl Towns and Trey Lyles take on the USA in the annual Nike Hoop Summit. Feel free to use the comment section as the game thread.
Tip-off is slated for 7 pm and the over/under for Kentucky fans in the crowd is set at 15.
Earlier today, incoming Kentucky recruit, Tyler Ulis, posted an awesome picture of him being guarded by Andrew Harrison back when they were both in the AAU circuit. According to Ulis on Twitter, he was well below 5 feet tall when this picture was taken several years ago.
Big Blue degrees of separation?
Incoming Kentucky recruit, Karl Towns, is currently prepping for tonight’s Nike Hoop Summit in Portland, Oregon. The above posterization is fairly strong evidence that things are going pretty well for Mr. Towns this week. Also, I didn’t find the post-dunk reaction from the crowd to be satisfactory, so I’ll use this gif to express what the crowd should’ve been doing after that monster slam.
Xavier forward Justin Martin is free to move about the country for his final season of college basketball. Martin will graduate from Xavier this May and will seek a transfer out for his final year of eligibility.
Kentucky could use a good wing next season, and that’s exactly what Martin offers. He’s listed at 6-6, 205-pounds and he averaged 11.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game for the Musketeers in 2013-14.
It worked with Julius Mays; why not try it out again?
If the Harrison twins decide to enter the 2014 NBA Draft in the coming weeks, UK may have to work quickly to fill the backcourt if Calipari deems additional depth is necessary to succeed next season. With the guards from the high school ranks that could make an immediate impact already committed, Kentucky’s only option will be the players eligible to play immediately as graduate transfers. While there are a host of quality players looking to transfer that would have to wait out a season (notably Eron Harris of West Virginia), there are very few graduate transfers that Kentucky could play immediately. The only real option for UK is UNLV’s leading scorer from last season, Bryce Dejean-Jones.
The 6’5″ shooting guard originally went to Southern Cal as a highly touted recruit, but he immediately ran into issues ranging from dismissal by the school, complaints about playing time, and altercations with teammates. He transferred to UNLV and played fairly well, but was suspended for the last game of the regular season for undisclosed reasons. These two cases raise some red flags that Dejean-Jones could very well be a toxic player in the locker room, but tougher cases than BDJ have seen dramatic turnarounds in the past when they are given their final chance with the graduate transfer rule.
Dejean-Jones is making his first visit to Iowa State, a team with a knack for having success with transfers. They turned Deandre Kane into a star this season and will likely be making that pitch to Dejean-Jones on his visit. If Dejean-Jones waits long enough on his decision for the Twins to determine their status for next season, it’s very likely that he would make a visit to UK. Perhaps a strong personality like Calipari could be the voice of reason to keep Dejean-Jones from falling into past mistakes.
The other possible option with Dejean-Jones is that he will select to play professionally overseas. With the problems he has had in the college landscape, playing pro across the Atlantic might be the most plausible option. However, the departure of the Twins would leave a depleted backcourt at UK that BDJ could fill in quite nicely.