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A Couple Takeaways After Watching James Wiseman on Wednesday Night

IG: bigticket_j13

LOS ANGELES — It was an up-and-down couple days for James Wiseman at Peach Jam last weekend. Coming into the event it was a near consensus that Wiseman was one of two players (along with Vernon Carey) who should be considered the top player in the high school class of 2019. Yet after playing good but not great at Peach Jam (he averaged 16 points and 5.8 rebounds over the course of that weekend), some called into question whether Wiseman should be considered at all for the top spot.

Well, if Wiseman heard those whispers, he showed – beyond a reasonable doubt – on Wednesday night that it is way too premature to remove his name from the conversation of “the best player in high school basketball.” After electing to switch AAU teams (his normal squad, the Bluff City Legends, finished their season last weekend) Wiseman arrived at the Adidas Summer Championships in Los Angeles Wednesday night and put on a show everyone in attendance from coaches, to fans and yes this writer for KSR.

Still, despite appearing to play with a chip on his shoulder, Wiseman said that wasn’t the case at all.

“Really I don’t [feel like I have anything to prove],” Wiseman said following the game. “I feel like I played hard at Peach Jam. I think I showed everything, my offensive game, everything.”

An official scorer from Adidas said that Wiseman finished with 20 points and nine rebounds on Wednesday night, but watching him in person it felt like a much more dominant performance. Beyond just the raw numbers though, Wiseman showed off a skill-set that fits the profile of a player who many consider to be the No. 1 player in the country and a potential future No. 1 pick in the draft.

Over the course of a couple possessions, Wiseman did everything from hit a deep three, to put back a monster dunk, with a beautiful up-and-under move in the paint. Defensively he tore down a couple big rebounds and slapped away a block shot in those same few possessions. Even in a gym where there was other elite talent (consensus Top 10 prospects like Matthew Hurt and Trendon Watford were also in the building), Wiseman stood out as by far the best player at the event (for those wondering, 2020 big man Evan Mobley was probably the closest behind him).

What will be interesting to see is what comes next in Wiseman’s recruitment. Wiseman has claimed all along that his recruitment remains open, and reiterated that Wednesday night, telling me that he plans to release a new “Top 8” schools soon. Still, the consensus seems to be that there are only two really contenders in his recruitment, Kentucky and Memphis, and the crowd on Wednesday night seemed to indicate that. Kentucky assistant Joel Justus was there (multiple sources told KSR that John Calipari is expected in today) and Memphis’ Penny Hardaway and assistant Mike Miller were there as well.

Maybe even more interesting, was who wasn’t there. Although Wiseman said that schools like Duke, North Carolina, Kansas and Vanderbilt have reached out to him (in addition to his top two), outside the contingent from Memphis and Kentucky, as best I could tell, only North Carolina’s Roy Williams seemed to be there explicitly for Wiseman. Kansas didn’t appear to have a coach in the building (although maybe I missed them). And in a wild twist, no one from Duke watched him either. That is especially telling, considering that both Coach K and assistant Jon Scheyer were not only in Los Angeles, but at the same court earlier in the night to watch Matthew Hurt. All they had to do was literally not move from where they were, and they could have seen Wiseman play a few minutes later. Yet they were gone by the time his game tipped off.

Understand, that is a knock on Coach K, but instead, feels to me like an indicator of where Duke believes they stand in Wiseman’s recruitment.

Even though Wiseman claims that Duke has been in touch, if the Blue Devils were seriously pursuing him, I find it hard to believe that Coach K wouldn’t be courtside, especially since he was already in the building. Some will argue that Duke has prioritized other big men including Vernon Carey and Isaiah Stewart and that’s fair, but let’s be honest, it’s not like Duke hasn’t recruited multiple guys at the same position before (like R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish and Zion Williamson this year, for example).

Therefore, seeing both Coach K and Scheyer leave once Wiseman took the court can only lead me to one conclusion: They don’t believe they have a real shot at him. To which I ask, when was the last time that Duke basically punted on even trying to recruit the best player in high school basketball?

Those are the times we’re in however and – as has been reported by everyone – it appears as though Wiseman’s recruitment will ultimately come down to Kentucky and Memphis when it’s all said and done.

In the meantime, Wiseman doesn’t seem particularly worried about recruiting, or much else for that matter.

“I just want to keep working hard,” he said when asked about his plans for the rest of the summer. “And just keep getting better.”

If Wednesday was any indication, he is well on his way to doing just that.


Prep Circuit

2019 big man says he’s still hearing from Kentucky

Prep Circuit

The No. 24 player in the Rivals150 says he’s still hearing from Kentucky. 6-foot-10, 255-pound Kofi Cockburn from Middle Village, N.Y. told Rivals.com that he is considering UK and hears from the Cats’ staff.

“I’ve heard from them a little bit, Coach (John) Calipari told me that I’ve improved lot since my freshman year and that I should look into coming to Kentucky,” Cockburn told Rivals’ National Analyst Eric Bossi.

You can read  Cockburn’s thoughts on several other programs HERE.

The 2019 center is looking at cutting his list to 12 soon, and it’s unclear if the Cats will make the cut. That may come as a surprise because you just read that Cockburn still hears from UK, but sources tell KSR that UK isn’t currently looking at Cockburn. The Cats did not watch the powerful big at Peach Jam last week and it’s supposedly been weeks or months since Kentucky reached out. It’s not to say Cockburn is lying, he did say he’s heard from UK “a little bit” and he never said exactly when he last heard from the Cats. Recruiting can be tricky.

UK’s top big targets are James Wiseman, Vernon Carey Jr., and Matthew Hurt. Yesterday we posted how the Cats have recently started recruiting Armando Bacot, who was named MVP of Peach Jam. Kentucky is also interest in Jaden McDaniels, but he’s more of a wing than a big. UK’s staff will watch Wiseman and Hurt this week in California.

Kentucky will lose Reid Travis and all signs point towards this being P.J. Washington and E.J. Montgomery’s last year in Lexington. The Cats will need some bodies next year, and although UK isn’t currently recruiting Cockburn if he waits until the spring like Bossi suggests you never know what may happen.


A new basketball recruiting target in 2019

A new basketball recruiting target in 2019

Kentucky has reached out to 6-foot-10, 235-pound center Armando Bacot. No player had a better Peach Jam weekend than Bacot. He was named MVP and helped lead his Team Takeover to a Peach Jam championship while averaging 11.3 points and 12.8 rebounds on a nearly 59 percent field goal percentage. His team finished the spring and summer 23-1.

Adam Zagoria was the first to report UK’s new interest in Bacot and it’s since been confirmed by Kentucky Sports Radio. Earlier this summer Bacot cut his list to 10 (above) and clearly UK was not included. The Cats watched Bacot in Canada as he helped lead his team to a gold medal in the FIBA Americas U18 Championship while averaging 7.8 points and five rebounds per game.

Bacot played three varsity seasons for Trinity Episcopal School in Virginia but announced earlier this month he will transfer to IMG Academy in Florida. In his last two seasons at TES he went 61-5 while winning the 2017 state title and averaged 24.5 points, 12 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game during the 2018 season.

The guy seems to just be an absolute winner. UNC is considered the favorite and Duke isn’t too far behind, but we’ll see if the Cats can make up the necessary ground to land a commitment. I would expect UK to offer, but the Cats reaching out could have just been to see if they can get in the picture. If there’s no offer that tells us all we need to know.

It’s an interesting move because it seemed like it should have happened sooner. The Cats will lose Reid Travis after this season and it seems highly likely UK loses P.J. Washington and E.J. Montgomery after the season. It’s unclear what Nick Richards will do, but if he declared for the draft it wouldn’t be a major surprise. UK could lose its entire frontcourt production for the 2019-2020 season.

UK has D.J. Jeffries commited, but he’s more of a wing than a four. Kentucky appears to be in a solid spot for James Wiseman, Vernon Carey Jr., and Matthew Hurt, but the Cats would at least need to land two other frontcourt players for the 2019 class. Carey Jr. would be the only muscle of the group, besides Bacot.

I don’t take this as a sign that UK feels its slipping with any of the players mentioned above, but the Cats will need bodies for 2019-2020. Bacot would be a great player to add, but it will be an uphill climb.

 


Dontaie Allen makes huge jump in new rankings

Twitter | @MustangsMatts

We knew it wouldn’t take long for Dontaie Allen to soar up the Class of 2019 rankings.

After leading the 78-team Under Armour event in scoring this past weekend, Allen earned the respect and recognition he deserves in the new Rivals.com update. Allen is now a four-star prospect, ranked No. 46 overall in his class. He had previously been unranked, outside of the Rivals150.

247Sports has not yet updated its 2019 rankings to reflect Allen’s breakthrough performance, but expect that to come soon.

The same goes for the offer from Kentucky — it should come soon, too.


Monday Insider Notes: Peach Jam recap and updates on most of UK’s major targets

Twitter | @MustangsMatts

The first July live-evaluation period has come to a close and there is much to discuss. KSR was at Peach Jam in North Augusta, S.C., but there were other events in Atlanta and New York. We’ll discuss news from all three events.

The Monday Insider Notes will touch on nearly all of UK’s major targets in 2019 and Dontaie Allen, who may have had the best weekend of any recruiting target in the country. Allen received eight offers over the weekend and the clock is ticking for Kentucky (Read Drew Franklin’s update HERE).

Let’s get to the notes.

Photo: Jon Lopez / Nike

Wiseman: First, read KSR’s update on Wiseman switching AAU teams after Peach Jam. It doesn’t read as great news for Kentucky, but people shouldn’t freak out over Wiseman playing for a new AAU team. Peach Jam is basically the end of the AAU basketball season. Plenty of guys will play for different teams over the next month or so, and those tournaments aren’t nearly as exciting or prestigious as Peach Jam. Most likely Wiseman wanted to just continue to play basketball and this Memphis based team provided a logical and feasible option. I’m not going to pretend it’s great news for UK, it’s not, but I also don’t think it’s terrible news. It really shouldn’t make a difference.

Another rumor over the weekend was Wiseman reclassification rumors. I don’t believe he reclassifies but if he does it won’t be to Kentucky. Wiseman has a lot to figure out over the next few weeks. Is he staying in Memphis or going to a prep-school? Will he play in college next year or this year? I expect him to stay in the class of 2019. My guess is he stays in Memphis but I’m less confident about that guess, but I don’t expect a reclassifcation.

I’m slightly less confident about Wiseman ending up at Kentucky. I still think UK has a solid chance and I’m not sure if I’m even willing to put Memphis as the leader, but both schools seem to be about even. The folks I talked to at Peach Jam (some AAU coaches and some college coaches) there seemed to be more of a Memphis buzz than Kentucky, but maybe just one or two felt confident that Wiseman would end up at Memphis. The others just were “hearing” more positive news about Memphis.

I went out of my way to sit in the Bluff City fan section for three of their games. First, it’s just wild. The eRUPPtion Zone could learn a thing or two from these parents. But, I just wanted to get a feel if there were any whispers from parents or people close to Wiseman, or maybe even Wiseman’s parents. One thing I noticed on the court was the lack of interactions between teammates. We know that D.J. Jeffries is good friends with Wiseman but you wouldn’t have been able to tell on the court or on the bench. There wasn’t much interaction between the two, but there wasn’t a great deal of interaction between any of the players. After an And-1 there would be high-fives but that would be about it. Not a ton of emotion between players.

But that wasn’t the case in the stands. The parents kept raving about the chemistry between Jeffries and Wiseman. Jeffries would often go and attack the rim. Finishing is something he needs to work on, but it reminded me of drills Calipari runs. Miss your layups high so a teammate can follow it up for a slam. Wiseman followed up several of Jeffries’ misses over the first three games and the parents called it almost every time. I told a parent that those two had good chemistry and she told me that they know “every tendency” of each other’s game.

UK knew what it was doing by locking up Jeffries, but I’m not sure Kentucky even expected Jeffries to be this good this early. Both Jeffries and Wiseman could start on UK’s team together in 2019-2020. It wouldn’t just be that Jeffries would warm the bench while his buddy dominates on the floor. Jeffries and Wiseman work well together.

I think UK is still in a good spot for Wiseman, but I’m slightly less confident than I was a week ago.

@MustangsMatts

Donatie Allen: Allen racked up the offers over the weekend playing in Atlanta and that was capped off by landing an offer from Louisville. I hinted at this over the weekend but I expect Allen to receive an offer from Kentucky in the next week. As we posted earlier on KSR, Allen plans on taking all five official visits and is wide open in his recruitment, but if the Cats offer then they will be the team to beat. That’s not to say Allen won’t take his visits/won’t take his time, but ultimately I would expect him to end up at Kentucky. If UK doesn’t offer in the next two weeks then that could complicate things. UK told Allen they would watch him and then possibly offer. Well, the Cats watched him all week and he dominated. If Kentucky doesn’t offer in the next week or two then that could understandably be taken as a sign of disrespect. I don’t imagine it comes to that and an offer is imminent.

One other reason UK will likely offer Allen is because he may have more potential than UK wing target Keion Brooks. Brooks didn’t have a great weekend at Peach Jam and if the Cats were all-in on the Indiana native, it may be time to look at other options. Brooks has all the tools and you can see why so many bluebloods want him, but he never put it together. His dad told KSR that he was a little off and playing injured, which I believe, but I wasn’t blown away enough to understand why only one wing has been offered in 2019. It may be a stretch to say that Allen is better today than Brooks, but it’s feasible that Allen can surpass Brooks.

We also said last week that UK was maybe fading with Brooks. I still find that to be the case.

USA Today

Vernon Carey Jr.: The strange thing about UK’s 2019 class is that the Cats seem to be in a great spot with several targets, but it’s unclear if they are the clear cut leader for any of those targets. I would confidently say that UK is in the top two for Wiseman, Carey Jr., Anthony, Hurt, but I can’t say that UK is the leader for any of those players.

But yes, UK is in the top two for Carey in my opinion. Kentucky watched every one of Carey’s game last week and usually rolled two or three deep when watching Carey. They watched his games in Argentina a few weeks ago. I was told that Kentucky thinks Carey can have a DeMarcus Cousins or Julius Randle like impact (I like the Randle comparison a little better), but EVEN better. Carey can spread the floor and knockdown shots better than those two when they were in high school.

Carey Jr. may be the best college basketball player for the 2019-2020 season and with UK looking to replace its entire frontcourt after this season, my guess is Carey Jr. slides in to be the guy. And yes, I think Carey Jr. and Wiseman can play together.

Remember, I asked Carey if he had any visits planned and the first school he mentioned was UK and Big Blue Madness. The only other school he mentioned was Duke (after UK) and he didn’t know the name of their midnight madness event, which will likely feature Nickelback karaoke.

Scott Jacobson / Post Bulletin

Matthew Hurt: Hurt and his adidas team played in NYC, so I wasn’t able to watch or speak to him, but after being able to watch him in Canada earlier this summer I know how great of a player he is and could be for UK. Just because he’s white many will assume he can only shoot, but that’s not the case. Hurt can put it on the floor and attack the rim and he can post up (although I didn’t see as much of his post-up game in Canada). He’s a dream as a pick-and-pop weapon and he holds his own defensively. He’s an elite, legitimate top five talent and Kentucky has continued to watch him this summer, both in Canada and in NYC.

UK has a much better chance with Hurt than people think. I get the sense that Hurt himself prefers Kentucky, but a lot of people around him are pushing some other schools. Shoe companies, family preferences, being able to play this summer for Bill Self. Those are reasons I’ve heard UK won’t land Hurt, but I know other players in the class of 2019 believe that UK may be the team to beat for Hurt.

Kentucky may have to win Hurt and his family over on the official visit, which will happen this fall. I like where things are going in this recruitment.

Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News

Tyrese Maxey/Cole Anthony: Watching these two play against one another was a lot of fun last Wednesday, but Maxey being banged up changed the dynamics of the game. However, if you missed our coverage last week let me recap: Maxey’s team was down about 10 with three minutes to play against Anthony’s team. Maxey’s ankle is still hurting from turning it in Canada last month, but decided he was going to give it a shot at Peach Jam. Maxey’s coach took him out because he wanted to give Maxey rest for the remaining games. When Maxey realized he was being taken out for the remainder of the game he put himself back in, decided to guard Anthony and helped lead his team to a dramatic come from behind win.

Maxey’s ankle would sadly only get worse during the week, but it didn’t stop him from competing and giving it his all. UK fans should already love this guy, but if you don’t get on the train now. He’s going to be a fan favorite when he gets to Lexington and is just behind Anthony as the best guard in the class. He’s actively recruiting other five-star targets to Lexington and I’m told by folks close to UK that they think Maxey has actually helped in some recruitments.

Seeing Anthony and Maxey play with each other in Canada was all I needed to see to know they could play together, but it was reiterated watching them play against one another. Anthony is more ball-dominant where Maxey is comfortable playing off the ball. Maxey would be the two and Anthony the one if both came to UK.

Anthony would “love” to play with Maxey, but I am told that if UK has too many guards return after this season it will eliminate UK’s chances. The good news is that Anthony is going to wait until the spring before making a final decision. He will see how the rosters look. If UK returns some of Quickley, Hagans, Baker, Green, then Anthony probably goes elsewhere, but having any of those players for another year would be solid, too. It will likely be somewhat of a win-win for UK, because if the Cats lose those players I think Kentucky will be in a great spot to land Anthony. If players return and Anthony goes elsewhere the Cats will miss out on an elite guard, but at least the guard position wouldn’t be a weakness for Kentucky.

Anthony’s recruitment will be mostly a mystery but I’ve never seen someone with a higher basketball IQ at his age. You all need to watch him if you get the chance.

Photo: Jon Lopez/Nike, 247Sports

Jalen Lecque: When I was at the Nike Peach Jam UK did not watch Lecque. That tells us all we need to know about Kentucky’s chances with Lecque. The Cats are going in another direction and it’s probably best for both sides. Lecque is a freak athlete that could be a nice college player, but it won’t be at Kentucky in my opinion.