John Calipari may have not got the best draw in the NCAA Tournament, but he →
Basketball Recruiting News
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©February 24th, 2017 @ 10:30am
While in Marshall County last weekend to interview PJ Washington, I spent some time with his mother, Sherry. Sherry and PJ’s dad Paul met at Middle Tennessee State, where they both played basketball, and she’s done her best to remain impartial during her son’s recruitment. I asked her what she thought of the Wildcat Coal Lodge without mentioning Trae Young’s family’s comments about it (although it appears those may have been in jest). Sherry admitted she had heard bad things about the Lodge before PJ’s official visit in September, but once she saw it for herself, she couldn’t understand the criticism.
“You know what, I’ve heard a lot of people say that the dorms are not that good. And of course, I heard that before seeing it, so when we went in, I told my husband, what were they expecting? This is perfectly fine. All he needs is somewhere to lay his head, somewhere to brush his teeth, get his clothes, and then get to the gym. So, I thought it was great. Maybe I’m biased, I don’t know. It looked fine to me. I don’t see where — and then, the downstairs lounge area? I wish they had that kind of stuff when I was in school.”
Last week, Calipari responded to some of the criticism of the Lodge, telling reporters that when it was built in 2012, it was the first of its kind and therefore, subject to the NCAA’s strict policies against some of the things he wanted to include.
“The lodge was built the way it was built because the NCAA told us ‘no’ a thousand times,” Cal said. “Then Taj-Mahals were built and they said, ‘Well, those are fine, though.’ We were told ‘no.’ Believe me, I was in the middle of it. Joe Craft doesn’t want to hear that the lodge isn’t this and that. We built what (the NCAA) allowed us to build.”
It’s worth noting that in January 2016, Governor Bevin approved a $21 million proposal from UK to renovate the Lodge, but that money will actually be spent on an expanded eating facility connected or adjacent to the Lodge for athletes on the north side of campus. Additionally, the Joe Craft Center is set to undergo a $4 million renovation after ten years of wear and tear.
So, criticism of the Lodge is clearly making the rounds in the recruiting world. Hopefully all parents are as level-headed about it as Sherry Washington.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©February 23rd, 2017 @ 11:00pm
[Ed. note: This is the latest installment in an ongoing series about Kentucky’s 2017 class. Be sure to check out our other features on Jarred Vanderbilt and Nick Richards, and stay tuned for Quade Green and Shai Alexander.]
Halfway through my conversation with PJ Washington, I look up and notice we have an audience. A crowd of 20 or 30 Kentucky fans has quietly filled in around us in the lobby of the Marshall County High School gym, waiting to get PJ’s autograph or picture. Knowing my place, I step aside and let the fans meet the future Cat, who politely and patiently grants each request. While the concept of signing autographs is still new to the five-star power forward, this group is nothing compared to the one who surrounded him the night before; after nearly getting a triple double in his first game at the Kentucky Lake Showcase, PJ spent almost an hour signing autographs and taking pictures with fans.
“Oh my goodness, it was at least 50-70 people last night,” PJ says, smiling. “This is my first time playing in Kentucky in a while and a lot of the Big Blue Nation was here. It was just great.”
For PJ, the weekend in Marshall County was a preview of what’s to come when he suits up for Kentucky next fall, the culmination of a childhood dream.
PJ Washington remembers the exact moment he knew he wanted to play for Kentucky: when he saw John Wall do the John Wall dance at Big Blue Madness in 2009.
“Ever since John Wall went to Kentucky, I just fell in love with the program,” PJ says. “I remember the John Wall dance and everything.”
We’ve said it for years, but that dance was also the exact moment that Kentucky became a cool program again. Even though they were in Dallas, Texas, PJ said his entire youth basketball team loved the Cats because of Wall.
“I was in Dallas and I was playing on my dad’s team and that’s when Kentucky had the tight jerseys and the long shorts and everybody wanted to do that, so my team did it as well. We just wanted to be like them,” PJ says. “At that point, everybody was Kentucky fans and everybody just fell in love with John Wall’s game and the way he played at Kentucky, it was just a big dream for me to come there.”
PJ loved the Cats so much that when his dad, Paul Washington, took him to visit UCLA in 2011, he wore a Kentucky shirt. His dad snapped a picture of PJ with the Bruin Bear sculpture on campus and years later, showed it to Steve Alford when Alford started recruiting his son.
“He was fine,” Washington Sr. says of Alford’s reaction. “He just smiled and said, ‘Send it to Cal, he’ll post it on his Instagram.'”
Fast forward a few years to when PJ picked up the coveted offer from Kentucky. Early on, he turned heads as a strong scorer and rebounder around the rim, but as time went on, his game expanded and his calling card became his versatility. Last weekend in Marshall County, he nearly had a triple double on Friday night, putting up 23 points, 18 rebounds, seven assists, and five blocks. On Saturday, his numbers weren’t as flashy — 10 points, 6 rebounds, and 7 assists — but Findlay Prep was up by so much that he spend a good portion of the game on the bench. Even though he’s listed as a power forward, PJ occasionally brought the ball up the court and spent most of the game trying to create opportunities for his teammates rather than looking to score himself. At 6’8″ 235 lbs., PJ was comfortable operating from any spot on the floor, looking every bit the “positionless” player that John Calipari covets.
“I try to do everything on the court, passing, rebounding, scoring, and really, just trying to get my team involved,” PJ says afterwards. “I just play with everything I have, play with my heart every game and just try to win.”
After growing up as a Kentucky fan, you might think Washington would have committed to Calipari on the spot when he got the offer, but his parents made him promise to go through the process. He did, taking official visits to Kentucky, North Carolina, and UNLV, but to anyone who was paying attention, it was obvious Kentucky was the favorite. PJ was actually born in Louisville, and although his family moved to St. Louis shortly thereafter, his mother Sherry likes to joke that her son has the Bluegrass in his blood.
“He was born in Kentucky so he always had it in him,” Sherry says. “He always wanted to play for Kentucky.”
The Washingtons eventually settled in Texas until PJ’s sophomore year, when his dad got the job as the head coach at Findlay Prep in Las Vegas, DeAndre Liggins’ alma mater. Despite all the moves, Washington Sr. confirms his son “has been a Kentucky guy from day one.”
PJ took his official visit to Kentucky in September, but his dad knew his son would want to come back for Big Blue Madness in October, so he started saving up for an unofficial visit (on the family’s dime) last summer. After seeing the spectacle that is Madness up close, PJ couldn’t wait much longer. He committed to Kentucky on November 10.
“Just seeing the fans and the crowd, it was way different than everyone else,” PJ says of his reaction to Madness. “The brotherhood was amazing. Everyone came back for Big Blue Madness and we’re just a family and we want to be a part of it.”
Ten days after committing, PJ signed with Kentucky, making the decision final. In his remarks about Kentucky’s early 2017 signees, John Calipari set the bar high for his future forward.
“P.J. Washington is an alpha dog,” Cal said. “I’m not trying to hype him up because I don’t do that, but he’s a combination between Trey Lyles and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. He’s not quite as big as Trey and shoots it a little bit better than Michael, but he’s that kind of player. He’s a physically strong player. I want him to come in here and lead and be an attack dog. In the same sense as Nick, he’s not close to where he’s going to be. He can shoot it, you can throw it ahead to him in the break and he can bully a player that’s not big enough to guard him. He’s an outstanding player.”
How powerful is PJ? I got an up-close view on Saturday:
PJ Washington slam! pic.twitter.com/55mWRbOe3R
— Tyler Thompson (@MrsTylerKSR) February 19, 2017
Basically, PJ Washington is a player we could really use this year.
After it became official, PJ pretty much turned into a walking advertisement for Kentucky Basketball, sporting a UK shirt in warmups of his games and, according to his mother, practically living in UK knit caps. Although Quade Green seems to have taken the lead role on recruiting Mohamed Bamba and Kevin Knox to Kentucky, PJ says he never misses an opportunity to put in a good word about the BBN.
“I talk to them all the time,” PJ says of Bamba and Knox. “I get at them on Instagram, Twitter, everything. Every time they post something, I’ll get on their photos talking about BBN. I mean, it’s just all love, and I feel like we’re in a good place with them.”
How does he sell Kentucky to Bamba and Knox?
“It’s the best place for you to get ready for the next level. It’s the best place for you to get ready to play with great players on the same team and it’s the best place for you. There’s no doubt about it. It’s the best college in America.”
Washington won gold with the 18U National Team last summer, and hadn’t planned on playing with the 19U squad this year until he heard that Calipari would be the coach. That changed everything.
“I really wasn’t planning on doing it this year until they said he was going to do it, so I feel like it’s a great thing for me to do since I’ll be able to be coached by him before the season,” PJ says. “It’s going to give me a good head start because some of the guys that are going to be on our team are going to Kentucky as well, like Quade Green, Hamidou [Diallo], maybe Mo Bamba. It’s just going to be a lot of fun playing with those guys and playing for Coach Cal.”
For now, PJ keeps in touch with his future teammates via a group text, which he says blows up during UK games, specifically, “every time we see Hamidou on TV.” Speaking of Diallo, you can tell PJ’s a little envious that his former 18U squad teammate is already in Lexington.
“He’s lucky, I wish I there right now. I’m glad he’s there, I’m glad he came. I’m excited to play with him next year.”
Back to the lobby at Marshall County, where PJ is still signing autographs and taking selfies. The crowd keeps building, and when I ask his mom about it, she just smiles.
“It’s a proud moment to see him accomplish his dreams. I just sit back and smile when I see it all.”
PJ may be coached by his dad, but it’s clear the buck stops with mom, who asked Kentucky fans to help keep her son in line next season.
“I want Kentucky fans to know that PJ Washington is going to work hard. If he’s not, let me know. But he’s a great kid. If you see him out anywhere, he’s very approachable because he knows mom will get on him, and dad. And if I get any reports that he’s not…He’s a good kid, he really is. Very respectful. He knows right from wrong. If you see him out and he’s doing something he’s not supposed to, get on him. Get him back in line, straighten him up.”
If the weekend in Marshall County is any indication, so far, so good.
By Nick Roush on ©February 23rd, 2017 @ 9:00pm
Kentucky’s highest-ranked remaining target in the Class of 2017, power forward Mohamed Bamba, is taking his official visit to Duke this weekend. The Cats were in good position following his January 20th official visit, but that all could change in Durham. It’s the perfect time to hear from someone who knows what Bamba will do, but Seth Burger, his Westtown head coach, won’t spill the beans to Sports Illustrated.
Where is Mohamed going? He is going to the NBA, where superstardom awaits. Where is he going to college? It doesn’t really matter. He will decide when he decides.
His coach (who also happens to be the founder of AND1) didn’t share any scoop, but his perspective of the recruiting process is interesting. Fans frequently ask where Bamba is going. Of course, he can never give anything away, but he can eloquently describe Bamba’s elite skill-set.
Mo is the best shot blocker and rebounder I have ever seen in person, at any level. Mo also is supremely talented on the offensive end. In our league championship on Feb. 17 (we won, 96–72), Mo had 19 points, missing one shot all game. He made a 6’8” Division I big his personal poster with an opening drop step dunk, and also went 3 for 4 from three. There is nothing this kid cannot do on the court. Mo is also extremely intelligent, so much so that he qualified to go to Harvard with his grades and test scores.
If that doesn’t paint the picture well enough, watch him do work at this year’s Peach Jam alongside Quade Green.
In other basketball recruiting news, Cal’s other elite 2017 target still on the board, Kevin Knox, told ESPNU he will announce his decision in mid-April. Knox originally planned on announcing in March, but will now wait until after the college basketball season.
By Haley Simpson on ©February 19th, 2017 @ 10:00pm
This time of year we’re usually wondering if Kentucky is going to have enough room for all of its guards and not its forwards, but this year it’s the latter.
Kentucky already has commitments from PJ Washington and Jarred Vanderbilt, but Cal is still waiting on Kennedy Meeks-look-alike Kevin Knox to announce his commitment. Washington, however, believes there’s plenty of room for the forward in Lexington, according to the Herald Leader’s Ben Roberts:
Washington said he isn’t concerned with how other recruits might affect his own playing time. He just wants the best players at UK.
“I know we’re going to play great together,” he said. “Coach Cal is good with good players, and he’s going to find the right system for all of us to do good things on the court.”
Knox is considering Kentucky, Duke and Florida State. The 6-9 forward also just took his official visit to North Carolina.
We’ll see what happens in the next couple months, but hey, the more the merrier? Am I right?
By Drew Franklin on ©February 16th, 2017 @ 11:00pm
“What are you doing here?”
That is what John Calipari said to me when I walked into the Primetime Shootout at Roselle Catholic High School in New Jersey on a snowy Sunday evening. It was a fair question — and to be honest, I’m not really sure why I was there either.
The plan was to go to the Primetime Shootout to interview Nick Richards, one of six future Wildcats from the Class of 2017, for our annual series of profiles on Kentucky’s basketball signees. But after a month-long failure to establish any form of contact with Richards, his coaches or anyone from The Patrick School administration, getting a moment to speak with Richards was very unlikely.
Piling on to my improbable odds was the fact that the Shootout’s director, who did respond to my third e-mail, told me to buy a general admission ticket when I asked about media availability; and Richards was coming off a two-game suspension for fighting in a game the previous weekend.
Needless to say, I had very low expectations for my trip to the Garden State, but, you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take, they say. (And it’s not like I was going on my own dime.)
The talent level at this year’s Primetime Shootout was absolutely insane as it featured several of the top players in high school basketball, which explains why John Calipari and Tony Barbee were in attendance for the night session, 24 hours after coaching Kentucky to a win down in Alabama.
A young man by the name of Nazreon Reid was the star of the first game Calipari and Barbee took in, the fifth game of the day at the invitational, between Roselle Catholic and Montclair Immaculate.
Reid is a five-star power forward in the Class of 2018, ranked No. 14 overall in that class, and he was as dominant of a big man that I have seen in high school basketball, especially for only being a junior.
He finished with 36 points (26 of which came in the second half) and 18 rebounds in Roselle’s come-from-behind win on its own homecourt.
Remember that name: Nazreon “Naz” Reid.
Richards v. Brown
The marquee one-on-one matchup at the shootout was also my reason for driving through a blizzard to be there: Nick Richards of The Patrick School in the primetime game against Moses Brown of Archbishop Molloy out of Queens.
Brown is the No. 1 center in the Class of 2018 and he already holds offers from Kansas, Arizona, Louisville, UCLA, Florida and Maryland, among others. Duke and Kentucky are also very interested in Brown, although neither school has extended a scholarship offer just yet, and several other schools were in the building that night to watch him play.
Richards, on the other hand, had little to prove as he already knows where he will play his college ball, but he and his TPS teammates, six of whom have already signed with Division 1 schools, were out to win the final game of their regular season.
For a team as loaded as the first-ranked Shamrocks, the expectation is to win every game and anything short of the New Jersey Tournament of Champions championship is a failure.
As my luck would have it, Richards found himself in early foul trouble and he spent the majority of the first half on the bench. While I enjoyed watching his teammates and the sideline antics of his head coach, Mike Rice, formerly of the Rutgers abuse scandal, I did not travel to New Jersey to watch Richards sit on the pine.
At least one fan at Roselle Catholic shared my disappointment in Richards’ minutes. I heard someone yell, in a perfect New Jersey accent, “His coach didn’t come here to see him on the bench! Put him in!”
Richards would come back in with two fouls to start the second half, only to commit more fouls and eventually foul out of the game.
He finished with eight points and 11 rebounds in limited minutes in TPS’s 73-59 victory.
However, in the action I did see, Richards’ athleticism was very impressive. I don’t know how suited his game is for the college level with what little I saw that night, but the seven-footer can definitely move and explode for someone of that size.
He showed off some passing ability, too:
The ESPN scouting report on him reads, “Richards is a high major center with great size and mobility. He is a big time finisher, rebounder and good scorer in and around the lane with excellent upside. His improvement has been steady each and every season. If he continues this ascension, his future is quite bright.”
I don’t disagree.
A man of very few words
After the game, I followed Adam Zagoria into the Shamrocks’ locker room in hopes of getting my conversation with Richards. With a little help from Zagoria and others in the media, I was able to pull Richards aside for a brief chat about his game and his future as a Wildcat.
He told me he was happy Coach Cal came out to watch him play on that particular night, but he doesn’t really pay attention to when his future coach is in the building. He also hasn’t spoken to Cal a lot recently, he said, because his focus is on finishing his high school season and “getting better everyday,” as Cal has encouraged him to do.
When I asked if he has spoken to any of Calipari’s big men, past or present, he told me, “I talk to Wenyen [Gabriel] sometimes. Wenyen, that’s probably it.”
Richards has also been in contact with Hamidou Diallo, a fellow Wildcat signee who enrolled early in the spring semester at Kentucky to get a head start on next season.
“I talk to Hamidou every now and then. He likes the campus life and he likes it down there.”
As for moving to Lexington in a couple of months, Richards said, “I’m excited to get ready for school, workouts and getting ready for the season — just trying to be the best player I can be.”
Blue got in
It is worth noting that several Kentucky fans from around the area made the trip to see Richards play at Roselle Catholic, the former high school of one Isaiah Briscoe.
David Tulloch and his son, Ian, were impressed by Richards’ defense (although I think Ian was more excited to meet Coach Cal.)
I saw plenty of other members of the Big Blue Nation scattered across the gym as well, whenever they weren’t crowded around Calipari.
All in all, it was fun evening full of exciting high school basketball in a part of the country I had never seen. It would’ve been nice to see a little bit more of Richards on the floor, but luckily he’ll be in Lexington soon enough.
And I think you’re going to like him, BBN.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©February 16th, 2017 @ 5:30pm
Every time I watch clips of 2018 small forward Zion Williamson, I have two thoughts: 1) There’s no way he’s only 16 years old, and 2) Why in the world hasn’t John Calipari offered him a scholarship??
Only God and Zion’s family can verify that first question, and as for the second, well, apparently, the offer is coming. In a profile of Zion (because when you have a name like Zion, you only go by Zion) by the Charlotte Observer’s Scott Fowler, the 6’7″ 220 lbs. man child says even though he hasn’t officially gotten a scholarship offer from Calipari yet, he’s been promised one (whatever that means).
“Williamson has received about three dozen scholarship offers from just about every big-name school in and outside the Carolinas you can name — Duke, North Carolina, N.C. State, Clemson, South Carolina and Kansas among them. Kentucky is a notable exception. Williamson and his family say, however, that Wildcats coach John Calipari is ‘strongly recruiting’ Williamson as well and has promised an official scholarship offer soon.”
What the heck are you waiting for, Cal? No, really. We know you’ve seen the kid play, so you’ve seen dunks like this:
Zion Williamson is back at it again 👀 pic.twitter.com/mq7fg7qTyU
— WSHH VIDS (@WSHHVlDS) February 1, 2017
And this 360-degree windmill Monday night:
The kid apparently even loves Kentucky. He took an official visit to Lexington for the Kansas game a few weeks back and, despite UK’s loss, told reporters he was blown away, calling the atmosphere at Rupp “indescribable” and “ridiculous.” Calipari followed up with a visit to Zion’s school in Spartanburg, South Carolina a few days later, but still, no scholarship offer.
I know, in Cal we trust, but what gives? Zion is the most explosive player in the country, with Roy Williams going as far to call him one of the best prospects he’s seen since Michael Jordan. Jordan! Heck, even your boy Drake is a fan, sporting Zion’s jersey a few weeks back:
ICYMI: Hip Hop mogul Drake joins the fan club of 16-year old hoops prospect Zion Williamson
— MaxPreps (@MaxPreps) January 17, 2017
Promise me you’ll follow up on that promise, Cal.
It’s official: five-star point guard Trae Young is staying home to play for Oklahoma. Young picked the Sooners over Kansas. Kentucky wasn’t really in the picture after John Calipari accepted commitments from Quade Green and Shai Alexander, but the news is still worth sharing.
Also, after Young’s family joked that the only thing they didn’t like about Kentucky was that the Wildcat Lodge isn’t as nice as other team’s dorms, here’s a look at Oklahoma’s Headington Hall, which houses the football team as well:
Yeah, that’s actually pretty sweet. Best of luck to Young, who we probably won’t hear about again until the 2018 NBA Draft.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©February 16th, 2017 @ 8:53am
Big news for John Calipari this morning. According to Jeff Goodman, Calipari will coach the USA Basketball Under-19 team this summer in Egypt.
Why is that big news? That team will likely include some of the best players in basketball, many of which will have yet to choose a college. Like Coach K did during his tenure with USA Basketball, Calipari will have access to the top prospects in the sport, giving him an even bigger advantage in recruiting. Also, it puts Calipari back in the USA Basketball system, which is a pretty big deal.
Sean Miller coached the 2015 U19 Team that included Harry Giles, Josh Jackson, Jayson Tatum, and Terrence Ferguson. This team will probably include Mohamed Bamba, Michael Porter Jr., PJ Washington, Trae Young, Quade Green, and others. The FIBA U19 World Championship is set for July 1-9 in Cairo, Egypt.
KSR Summer Tour in Cairo?
By Nick Roush on ©February 15th, 2017 @ 9:00pm
Kentucky signee Shai Gilgeous-Alexader is going to Louisville….for an all-star game.
The future Wildcat will play at Freedom Hall on Saturday April, 15 in the 45th annual Kentucky Derby Festival Basketball Classic. Three current Wildcats — Brad Calipari, Derek Willis and Dominique Hawkins — previously played in the game.
The Derby City Classic will give many fans an opportunity to see the combo guard play in-person for the first time. Gilgeous-Alexander will get the first taste of the Kentucky-Louisville rivalry. Four future Cards are in the all star game: Malik Williams, Darius Perry, Lance Thomas and Jordan Nwora. SGA is the lone UK representative because the night before Quade Green, P.J. Washington, Jarred Vanderbilt and Nick Richards are playing in the Jordan Brand Classic at Madison Square Garden.
Here’s a preview of what you’ll see if you make the trip to Freedom Hall in April.
You can get $18 tickets here.
By Nick Roush on ©February 14th, 2017 @ 11:00am
As elite recruits near the end of their recruitment, the prospect and his family become more and more reserved, often shunning outsiders from any inside information. McDonald’s All-American point guard Trae Young is doing the exact opposite.
Young’s family invited USA Today’s Jason Jordan into their home as they discussed Young’s six finalists: Kentucky, Kansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Washington. To narrow his options, Trae, his father Ray and his mother Candice listed pros and cons for each school. The pros for Kentucky will not surprise you.
“The track record is second to none to me,” Ray says. “Then you’ve got K.P. (Kenny Payne), we really liked him. Honestly, the best thing about that visit was seeing Coach Cal outside of the basketball arena and spending time with he and his wife. I love how Kentucky prepares you to be a pro because that’s all it is in Lexington – Kentucky basketball.”
Ray’s unending praise for Kentucky incited laughter by the other two.
“Oh, yeah, you’ll probably need another page for all these pros you’re about to list,” Trae says while laughing.
“Well, you already know how I feel,” Ray says. “If it was up to me this would be my pick. Coach (John) Cal, man! Coach Cal!”
When they turned to the cons, Young’s mother revealed a surprise: Kentucky’s Wildcat Coal Lodge is the worst dorm of the schools Young is considering.
“But the housing… They’ve got the worst dorms out of all the schools,” his mother said.
“Yeah they did,” Trae says with a laugh. “But to Coach Cal’s point, you don’t pick a school based on the housing.”
“Yeah, but you’ve gotta live there for nine months,” Candice replies. “I mean come on now it was one room, the sink was in the bedroom; definitely traditional old school dorm room.”
“Yeah, the rooms couldn’t compete with Kansas, Oklahoma State and those other schools,” Trae says. “It’s not up to date.”
Often referred to as “the gold standard in college basketball,” the $8 million Wildcat Coal Lodge opened five years ago in 2012. In January of 2016, Governor Matt Bevin announced $21 million will be allotted to the lodge to expand dining for all student-athletes after the cafeteria at Blazer Hall was removed.
After going through all six schools, Young’s family narrowed it to three. The first to be cut from the list was Kentucky. After Quade Green committed to Kentucky, it essentially ensured Young would not attend Kentucky. Even though his father wanted Kentucky to make the top three, Trae and his mother said the places that fit him best are Kansas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
“It’s the situations; I feel like these three schools are the best situations for me now that we’ve listed everything. I feel good about these three,” Trae said.
Even though Kentucky is no longer being considered, for those who love basketball recruiting, this inside look at that decision process is a must-read.
According to T.J. Walker of Cats Illustrated, Ray Young said the jab at UK’s dorms was in jest. “They couldn’t find anything seriously wrong with UK so Mrs. Young noted the dorms weren’t as great as other dorms.” That sarcasm is obviously difficult to discern in Jordan’s feature.
The second-ranked junior in America is pretty good at dunking.
Like many Kentucky recruits, we like to share their highlights from time-to-time. Williamson’s dunks have reached rarified air. He’s only a junior, but he’s doing stuff almost every game that deserves its own post. Last night, he did it again.
After failing an attempt to flush a 360-degree windmill on Friday, he pulled it off last night.
— TeLante’ Webber (@TelanteWebber) February 14, 2017
There’s a much better view about 40 seconds into this video.
Williamson had 31 points and 11 rebounds. He is considering North Carolina, Duke, Clemson and Kentucky among others.
By Kory Henry on ©February 12th, 2017 @ 6:05pm
According to Adam Zagoria, John Calipari & assistant Tony Barbee are in attendance at the Prime Time Shootout in New Jersey. Kentucky commit Nick Richards is set to tip-off shortly after 6:00 pm, so the coaches are in town to watch next season’s newest center.
Nick Richards, for those who may not be aware, is the #2 center of the 2017 recruiting class according to 247 Sports. He’s also ranked 11th in ESPN’s Top 100 Class of ’17. Richards signed his letter of intent to play for Kentucky back in November of last year. Since signing his LOI, he’s been named a McDonald’s All-American.
Nazreon Reid is also playing tonight while Coach Cal is in attendance. Reid has yet to receive an offer from Kentucky, but UK is considered to be high on his list. Reid is one of the top forwards of the 2018 class, and 14th overall according to 247 Sports.
UPDATE: Here’s a highlight of Naz Reid from moments ago:
— NJ Basketball (@NJHoopRecruit) February 12, 2017
Before you see a Kentucky recruit do some unbelievable things with a basketball, see what future Kentucky footballer Tyrell Ajian did streaking down the paint last night.
— _tyrellajian (@_tyrellajian) February 11, 2017
Ajian’s take was impressive, but it’s about to get much crazier. Zion Williamson will make your jaw drop, even when he misses. This is what the No. 2 player in the class of 2018 did last night.
We may still be in the heat of the 2016-17 basketball season, but plenty of attention lies on the absolutely ridiculous recruiting class coming in next season for John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats.
One of the stars headed to Lexington this summer? 5-star SF Jarred Vanderbilt.
Vanderbilt committed to Kentucky back in December, where he joined Quade Green, PJ Washington, Nick Richards, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander en route to the No. 1 recruiting class in 2017. 5-star SG Hamidou Diallo later enrolled for the Spring semester, but he will be joining the Wildcats next year, as well.
Out of Houston, Texas, Vanderbilt broke through as a national target back in 2012 as a middle schooler, but the majority of his interest came as a freshman in high school. He wasn’t the tallest guy out on the court at all times, but his silky-smooth handles and ability to finish at the rim turned heads, and phone calls from various colleges started pouring in.
“I was getting attention in middle school, but in 9th grade was when people started calling my school and trying to talk to my parents,” Vanderbilt said. “My phone started blowing up.”
Within the span of just a year, Vanderbilt shot up several inches and his soft touch at the rim soon became a powerful flush, dunking over hopeless defenders standing in his way. Throughout the next few years, he kept growing, but his guard skills remained.
“I hit a growth spurt from 5’10 to about 6’4 transitioning from middle school to high school and I just kept growing from there, but the guard skills just stuck with me,” he said. “I learned how to get my own rebound and initiate the offense. I don’t always have to look for the point guard as soon as the ball touches my hand.”
At 6’9, 220 lbs., Vanderbilt separates himself as one of the most unique athletes in the country. With elite court vision, passing ability, exceptional rebounding and lockdown defense, he’s already getting compared to the likes of Lamar Odom and Thaddeus Young.
With that, he became one of the most coveted recruits in the class.
“My freshman year, most of the schools recruiting me were most of the local schools in Texas, like Texas A&M, UT, and Houston. That summer after playing EYBL of my 9th grade year, that’s when the bigger name schools like Kentucky came in. From there, my recruitment was non-stop.”
“Two-way player” and “versatility” seem to be the most common phrases thrown around in reference to Vanderbilt, and rightfully so. With the help of his 7’1 wingspan, he has the ability to defend four positions on defense, making it tough for opponents to do much of anything with the ball in their hands against him.
For Vanderbilt, that defensive presence separates him from all of the other recruits in the class, which should come as music to the ears of Kentucky fans.
“I actually love to play defense. I’m able to switch and defend four positions on the floor, sometimes five. It’s something I’ve just always been able to do.”
As far as weaknesses go, Vanderbilt understands his jump shot is still a work in progress, but has optimism he’ll be able to open the floor with some practice.
“I’ve been working on extending my range, trying to become a consistent three-point shooter. With some work there, I really feel like I can open up the floor when I get to UK.”
Vanderbilt’s recruitment came down to Kentucky, UNC, TCU, and Oregon, with the Wildcats obviously winning out. He said when it came to UK, the winning tradition and playing with great players was the selling point.
“I had it down to one or two schools pretty much the entire time, and I knew UK was where I needed to be. They come together for one common goal and that’s to win. I love to win and I love to be around great players. The goal is to win a National Championship, so I feel like Kentucky was the best place for me to grow on and off the court as a player and as a person.”
As we all know, Calipari’s pitch is unlike anyone else’s in the country. He doesn’t promise minutes or shots a game, rather the opportunity to compete against the best every day in practice and grow as a player. Vanderbilt was sold almost immediately.
“I knew from the start I’m not going to have the ball 30 minutes a game at Kentucky, and the ball is not always going to run through me like some of the other schools pitched,” Vanderbilt said. “Calipari told me we were going to have a great team, a top player at every position, so I was going to have to earn it. I’m ready for that challenge.”
A few weeks back, Vanderbilt received nominations to participate in the McDonald’s All-American Game and the Jordan Brand Classic, joining PJ Washington, Nick Richards, and Quade Green to the list of Wildcats with bids.
“As a basketball player growing up, that’s one of your childhood dreams. Just to be on that list with all of the greats to ever play the game of basketball is a real honor. I noticed all the UK guys are on the same team, so hopefully they can throw that lineup in to give you all a taste of what’s to come next year.”
UK may have four recruits in both events, but that doesn’t mean the recruiting season is over for the Wildcats.
The two biggest targets left on board for Kentucky are Kevin Knox and Mohamed Bamba. Vanderbilt has done his best to recruit each of them to UK, staying in their ears as decision time inches closer.
“We would love for Kevin and Mohamed to join in. I’ve talked to both of them here and there. Both of them are taking their visits now so I try to keep in touch just to see where they are with interest in UK. They’re both versatile players and would really fit in with what we’re bringing in.”
With Vanderbilt, Diallo, Washington, Richards, Green, and Gilgeous-Alexander already in-fold, Kentucky is stacked going into next season. Add in one or both of Knox and Bamba? We’re talking about something special.
“This is one of the greatest recruiting classes, for sure for Cal, but maybe even of all-time. Having those two join would only solidify that for us.”
By Nick Roush on ©February 07th, 2017 @ 3:00pm
Future Kentucky point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the least known of UK’s five commits. This two-minute video should help you get to know him.
The four-star combo guard isn’t flashy, but he’s smooth. An exceptional ball-handler, you’ll notice his knack for the ball on defense and ability to finish with a soft floater near the rim.