Basketball Recruiting News
By KSR on ©October 10th, 2018 @ 2:00pm
Before recruits descend upon Lexington for Big Blue Madness, T.J. Walker is back for another exciting episode of Hardly Committed. T.J. tells you who will be at Rupp Arena this weekend after a candid conversation with Rivals’ Krysten Peek. Later in The Annex, T.J. and Nick stay on the Halloween train with a discussion on “Here Comes Treble.” Highlights:
— What went down during Oscar Tshiebwe’s official visit to West Virginia.
— That time Jaden McDaniels and Kahlil Whitney got into a scuffle.
— Two big 2019 recruits that could be especially impressionable at BBM.
— Who will be officially visiting UK in the near future.
— One Advantage for Dontaie Allen.
— What do we think of Erin and Nelly?
— Toby Flenderson: Big Creep.
— An acute Monster Mash observation.
Subscribe to Hardly Committed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app to get the podcast delivered directly to your phone. You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play, and streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.
The end of Oscar Tshiebwe’s recruitment is in sight. The five-star big man just posted on his Instagram account that he will announce his college decision on October 21.
Tshiebwe is coming off his official visit to West Virginia and the Mountaineers are the heavy favorite in his 247 Sports Crystal Ball, accounting for 90% of the predictions, including that of Evan Daniels; however, Tshiebwe’s coach told TJ Walker yesterday that there is no leader right now. Coaches are expected to come in for final pitches this week.
West Virginia’s been recruiting the Congo native the longest, but Kentucky would provide the best path to the NBA. Who will win: the heart or the head?
By TJ Walker on ©October 09th, 2018 @ 9:00pm
Easy come, easy go… maybe. After taking the lead in 247 Sports Crystal Ball just eight days ago, Kentucky now has zero picks after National Recruiting Analyst Brian Snow became the last expert to switch from UK. Snow has Stewart going to Washington.
UK was riding high in Stewart’s recruitment after he announced his second official visit would be to Kentucky after the Cats were able to jump back into his recruitment despite being cut in the spring. Stewart even cut his list again later in the summer and the Cats were still excluded.
But with Kentucky needing several frontcourt players for the 2019-2020 season the Cats reached back out to Stewart and were warmly received. John Calipari was able to conduct an in-home visit and shortly after Stewart announced he would officially visit Lexington on Sept. 28th. After the visit Crystal Ball picks flooded in for Stewart to commit to UK.
Since that visit Stewart hasn’t scheduled any other official visits, which seems like good news for Kentucky, but after the USA Junior Minicamp over the weekend there has been almost no pro-Kentucky buzz.
I wasn’t in Colorado over the weekend, so I didn’t hear all the juicy rumors. I can tell you people close to UK still think they’re in a solid spot for Stewart. Surprisingly, the rumors are that Stewart’s family prefers Kentucky but others close to him prefer other schools. Lately in a few recruitments it’s been the other way around.
My guess is we hear of an official visit to Michigan State in the next couple weeks and that may be why the majority of former UK picks switched to the Spartans.
Stewart seems on pace to commit and sign in the fall, although there’s no guarantee his recruitment is wrapped up by November. For what it’s worth, Evan Daniels’ pick is still “foggy”.
He had a great showing in Colorado, so let’s hope the 247 analysts are wrong and UK can land the powerful center.
— Courtside Films (@CourtsideFilms) October 9, 2018
By TJ Walker on ©October 09th, 2018 @ 1:00pm
The official visits are completed and now all that is left is the decision for five-star center Oscar Tshiebwe. The 6-foot-9, 250-pound Kennedy Catholic (Hermitage, Pa.) star, born in Congo, returned home from his official West Virginia visit on Monday and will make a final decision in 7-10 days, his coach Tom Droney told KSR.
A decision date in that 7-10 day window will be decided on after this weekend.
WVU is the heavy favorite in Tshiebwe’s Crystal Ball logging 90 percent of the picks, but UK is thought to be right there with West Virginia. The Mountaineers have been recruiting Tshiebwe for years, but we’ve been told that Tshiebwe is impressed by UK’s pitch and track record with bigs. In what seems to be a head vs. heart decision for Tshiebwe, WVU continued to work on strengthening that bond over the weekend.
“Oscar had a good, productive visit at WVU,” Droney said. “He has obviously been to campus many times but this was his first time getting a tour of the campus, seeing school buildings, and getting to spend more time with the team away from the basketball facilities.
“He’s going to make his decision in 7-10 days and now he is weighing the pros and cons of all his options.”
Tshiebwe is also considering Baylor and Illinois, but those two schools are longshots to land a commitment from the bruising center.
Droney said coaches will be permitted to get in final pitches this week, so don’t be surprised to hear of coaching staffs from all four schools coming and visiting Tshiebwe one final time. John Calipari has already visited a couple times.
Droney told KSR last month that he believed WVU was the leader (before his visit to UK) but it’s unclear where things stand now.
“I don’t think there is a leader at this junction,” he said.
By TJ Walker on ©October 08th, 2018 @ 2:00pm
The USA Basketball Junior Minicamp concluded over the weekend and there was unsurprisingly plenty to talk about. UK commits Tyrese Maxey and Kahlil Whitney were there and did some much needed recruiting for the Cats, plus we have interesting news from some of Kentucky’s biggest targets in the class of 2019.
Let’s get to the notes.
I don't know how it all shakes out but I feel really good about UK landing two of Stewart, Wiseman, Carey and Hurt. https://t.co/omzBuo3h5u
— T.J. Walker (@TJWalkerKSR) October 8, 2018
Carey: He talked in Colorado about wanting to play with Isaiah Stewart or James Wiseman in college. He also said that he would like to decide in 2018 after initially planning to decide in the spring. We heard a few other players mention they may be announcing earlier than anticipated, but while Carey had mentioned the spring as his timetable he never seemed adamant about it. Both of these things are incredibly interesting and seem like positives for UK, especially wanting to play with Wiseman and Stewart.
What I found to be most interesting is that he said some pitches involve him being the guy on the frontcourt and others involve him playing with another star like he will be doing in the NBA. He admitted he liked the former pitch. Again, also great news for UK.
Wiseman: The five-star center seems almost certain he will make his college decision by the end of January at the latest, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he decides in November. The biggest news from this weekend with Wiseman is how he continues to say it’s not just between Memphis and Kentucky. He still has visits planned to Memphis along with Florida State and Vanderbilt, but I still think the Cats are the team to beat. I don’t blame Wiseman for reiterating that all five schools have a chance and I wouldn’t really expect him to say anything different, but people behind the scenes that know Wiseman’s recruitment have told me that UK has put in the most work and Wiseman and his family have a stronger connection to UK’s staff than any other. Then you mix in UK’s platform and available playing time, I think the Cats are in a great spot.
Stewart: There wasn’t a great deal of tell when it came to Stewart’s recruitment over the weekend, but the sooner we hear of a decision date the better for UK. He currently hasn’t set any other official visits and if that is still the case in a month than Stewart will likely either already be committed to Kentucky or the Cats will be the clear favorites when he does announce a decision. But, I’m hearing at least one other official is likely and probably two. That will change things for Stewart but I like where things stand as of today. One analyst that was in Colorado told me he was the best big.
Hurt: As we get surprised by new timetables for other recruits, Hurt doesn’t appear to be in any sort of rush. I love Hurt’s game and I think UK has done a good job in his recruitment, so nothing would surprise me, but I’m told there’s a lot of Kansas buzz after this weekend. Again, it doesn’t seem like there will be a decision anytime soon, and that’s good for UK and Hurt, but the connection Hurt and Bill Self made this summer being together for USA Basketball may be too tough to overcome.
So, how does it shakeout?:
I don’t know. If UK doesn’t currently lead for Carey, Wiseman and Stewart I think the Cats are easily in second. Second doesn’t mean anything in recruiting, but it shows the Cats are right there. Without using an inside source for this take- it seems like the odds would indicate that two of those guys end up at Kentucky. UK will be losing its entire frontcourt, a couple of those players have mentioned playing together and it would come as a surprise if UK misses on three out of the four.
Carey and Hurt will be on campus this weekend for Big Blue Madness. I know UK jokingly, but also serious, extended the invite to Stewart and Wiseman to also come and check it out, but Wiseman will be in Nashville checking out Vandy and it seems unlikely that Stewart returns to UK so suddenly when he’s still debating on taking other official visits.
This is a big weekend for UK’s chances with Carey and Hurt. I think the Cats can make up a lot of ground on Hurt and maybe extend its lead with Carey.
He visited West Virginia this weekend and sadly I won’t hear more of the visit from folks close to Tshiebwe, including his coach, until later this evening or tomorrow. I’ll be sure to make a post based on what I’ve heard. Tshiebwe won’t return home until later this afternoon, so we don’t have much information at this point.
I was told the visit went well (drink) and that WVU was really pushing how long they have been recruiting him and how they have considered him part of their family for years. Of course Tshiebwe’s host parents are pushing WVU. They made the trip with him to Morgantown but skipped the trip to Lexington.
If Calipari can pull this one out it would be something special from a recruiting standpoint because the odds were stacked against UK from the beginning. I still think UK has a chance but I need to hear more from the official to WVU.
I was told by someone out in Colorado that Kahlil Whitney could go down as John Calipari’s best wing player. Ever. Better than Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who was the No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft. Whitney’s growth over the last few months is incredibly promising and while we figure out the big situation in 2019 it should make Kentucky fans feel better knowing the backcourt and wing will be elite in 2019-2020.
Cole Anthony: He will being visiting Oregon this weekend. Notre Dame, UNC and Oregon have landed visits from the best point guard in the class. Two left for Anthony. If UK doesn’t land a visit there’s no chance, but I think it’s a longshot regardless if he checks out Lexington. It’s a bummer because he’s that good, but UK should be fine in the backcourt next season.
Keion Brooks: He will officially visit UK on 10/20 and I think I made a mistake somewhat moving on from this recruitment. Since UK missed on Scottie Lewis I’m told that Brooks is the next option for UK. They want to use him like a Kevin Knox (I don’t think it’s an amazing comparison FWIW, Knox was a much better scorer at this level) but both were incredibly long and Brooks is still versatile. I don’t think he ends up at UK, but the Cats have convinced him it would work.
Jaden McDaniels: He will visit San Diego State officially this weekend, where his brother plays. It’s his first announced official visit. A little piece of me is wondering if McDaniels will make all five official visits. Obviously he will have to officially visit UK for the Cats to have a chance. I don’t think he ends up at UK but they are giving him the same pitch they are giving Brooks and he’s receiving more attention after Lewis picked Florida.
Jeremy Roach: He will officially visit Duke (remember, 2020 kids and a few 2019 kids get more official visits). UK has had the lead in this recruitment for months and I don’t think that changes just because he officially visits Duke. Often UK has to make up ground in recruitments but this is one where the Cats have the lead. Great player in 2020 that’s worth getting to know.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©October 07th, 2018 @ 4:00pm
Over the past several months, we’ve heard on numerous occasions that John Calipari is interested in a dynamic 2019 frontcourt pairing featuring both Vernon Carey Jr. and James Wiseman, two top-three prospects in the class.
More specifically, he noticed just how well the Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins frontcourt duo worked in New Orleans last year, and he wants to emulate that next season at Kentucky. Wiseman plays a very similar style to Davis, while Carey has drawn comparisons to Cousins for years. Bada-bing, bada-boom.
Both elite big men have mentioned being interested in that potential scenario on several occasions in the past, though they each reiterated they would make the best decisions for themselves.
Yesterday, however, Carey added gasoline to the flame yet again by saying he would not only mind playing with another elite big man, he welcomes it.
In an interview with Jason Jordan of USA Today, Carey said he is extremely interested in playing with both Wiseman and Kentucky target Isaiah Stewart.
“I think it would be great,” said Carey. “I feel like I have the type of game that can play with anyone. So, yeah, I’d love it.”
Carey said he watched how well Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter played together in the frontcourt at Duke last year, and he’s excited to see Kentucky’s ridiculous big men depth with Reid Travis, PJ Washington, EJ Montgomery, and Nick Richards this season. If that’s the recipe for a national title, that’s what he’s going to do.
“Some schools are selling me on playing with another elite big and some are focusing on me,” Carey said. “I think it’s more attractive to play with another big, actually. I think it would help both of us. I want to win and whatever gives us the best chance to do that is what I want to do.”
So what about Kentucky, in particular?
In an interview with Corey Evans of Rivals.com, Carey said the one-and-done aspect is intriguing, and Kentucky commitments Kahlil Whitney and Tyrese Maxey are pushing hard for the elite big man to join them in Lexington.
“Coach Cal (John Calipari) has just said that he really wants to coach me and that I can be a go-to guy and a one-and-done there. He has just been saying that Kentucky would be the best place for me.
“I have been talking to Kahlil (Whitney) and Tyrese (Maxey) about Kentucky; we are all going their next weekend for Big Blue Madness, along with RJ (Hampton), I think,” said Carey. “They are just saying that they have some of the best crowds in college basketball and Coach Cal and Coach (Kenny) Payne, along with the other assistants, they are all a good, collective group. Coach Cal has compared me to DeMarcus (Cousins) and Anthony Davis.”
Carey has four official visits scheduled in the next four weeks, with Kentucky coming first (October 12), followed by Duke (October 19), Miami (October 26), and UNC (November 3). After those visits, it’s decision time.
“After I take my officials, I’ll probably get my decision over with,” Carey told USA Today. “I should know by then. My goal is to sign during the Early Signing Period. If it’s with another big, I think that’s great, but either way, it’ll be what I feel is the best situation for me.”
By Jay Winkler on ©October 07th, 2018 @ 12:00pm
It has been assumed pretty much since day 1 that 2019’s star recruit would either wear Kentucky blue or Memphis duller blue. I think most of us are still operating under this assumption, but according to Wiseman himself, he’s entertaining other options.
“I understand why people think it’s either Kentucky or Memphis and, don’t get me wrong, I love both of those schools,” said Wiseman, who dominated the morning session at USA Basketball Men’s Junior National Team Minicamp on Saturday. “But I’ve got three other great schools that I really love, too. They’re all even to me.”
Wiseman’s final five schools are UK, Memphis, Florida State, Kansas, and Vanderbilt.
The only true contender I see among those other three is Kansas, and even then, with the potential fallout from the ongoing FBI case, we could see Bill Self dragged into the mud sooner rather than later. As a player, you probably don’t want your head coach involved in a criminal trial.
So I’m gonna stick with the UK/Memphis toss up. At least then I can say we’ve got a 50-50 shot at landing the golden goose of next year’s class.
By TJ Walker on ©October 05th, 2018 @ 5:30pm
Kentucky head coach John Calipari made another trip to see Oscar Tshiebwe on Thursday. The five-star big officially visited UK over the weekend and will take his final official visit this week to West Virginia.
The Mountaineers were the perceived leader before Kentucky entered Tshiebwe’s recruitment and still hold 90 percent of the Crystal Ball picks on 247 Sports.
Sources told KSR earlier this week that Tshiebwe himself prefers UK, but Tshiebwe’s hosts parents are pushing West Virginia. His host parents previously hosted current WVU star Sagaba Konate, who was also a native of Mali.
Tom Droney, Tshiebwe’s AAU and high school coach, told KSR earlier this week that Tshiebwe’s (pronounced Shoob-way) official visit this week went great and Calipari answered all of his questions.
Last month Droney told KSR that WVU was the leader but didn’t say that was the case heading into this weekend’s visit to West Virginia. You can read that Q&A HERE.
It appears to be a head (UK) vs. heart (WVU) decision for Tshiebwe. The Mountaineers have been recruiting him for years, but it’s tough to ignore Kentucky’s success with bigs and sending them to the NBA. There’s reason to worry about WVU having the last visit before Tshiebwe makes a final decision in the next week or two, but Calipari is making sure to get plenty of face time.
He’s also considering Illinois and Baylor, but both of those schools appear to be on the outside looking in and running third and fourth.
Host parents, let Tshiebwe go where he wants.
Busy basketball night in the Kennedy Catholic gym… Making visits were Joe Lombardi (IUP), Scott Drew and staff (Baylor University), and here's John Calipari (University of Kentucky) with Father Glover: pic.twitter.com/94yLvwsl6w
— Bob Greenburg (@BobGreenburg) October 5, 2018
By all accounts Memphis Madness was a smashing success last evening. Sure, Justin Timberlake and Drake were no shows, but Yo Gotti sang a breathtaking rendition of “Rake it Up” and something called “Blocboy JB” also performed.
Front and center at the FedExForum taking it all in was five-star center James Wiseman. Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway was going to do whatever it took to make sure Wiseman was in the building for the Tigers’ special evening.
But, there was one issue; the Tigers committed an NCAA violation. Memphis showed James Wiseman on the jumbotron, who received a standing ovation.
That’s against the rules.
This isn’t the end of the world and isn’t a serious NCAA violation for first time offenders, but it is something that Memphis will have to report and will likely lead to a minor punishment from the NCAA, but as you can see it won’t impact Wiseman’s eligibility.
The newspaper in Memphis, the Commercial Appeal, spilled the beans on Memphis’ infraction.
You can read the entire breakdown on Memphis Madness HERE.
James Wiseman watching himself on the video board…crowd went nuts for him moments before I shot this. pic.twitter.com/ulUCHXK67Z
— Sudu Upadhyay (@SuduUpadhyay) October 4, 2018
Memphis is pulling out all the stops to try and land Wiseman and that even includes committing minor NCAA violations. Bold strategy. I’m sure Wiseman was impressed with last evening, but I still think the Cats are the team to beat in this recruitment. A recruitment that we found out yesterday may end sooner than later, click HERE to learn more.
Play by the rules, Memphis.
Kentucky has been keeping tabs on 2019 shooting guard Lester Quinones since the beginning of the summer, and even visited the four-star 6-foot-5, 200-pound IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) star last month.
UK missed on Scottie Lewis earlier this week and the Cats only other 2019 guard target is Cole Anthony, who appears to be a North Carolina lean. Kentucky will likely return at least a couple guards from the 2019-2020 season, but if UK wants to add another guard in 2019 that isn’t a grad-transfer Quinones is one of their only options.
But don’t expect things to move too quickly between UK and Quinones. The Cats like his game, but I’m told UK will want to see how big of need guards are after the season starts. Basically, if UK feels like they will lose more guards than anticipated that would make Quinones a more serious target.
There’s no denying Quinones can play. He holds offers from Arizona, Florida, Michigan, UCLA and dozens of other targets and fits the mold of what Calipari is looking for in his two guards. He’s most likely not a one-and-done player, but could be a nice piece to hang around a program for a few years.
Quinones doesn’t appear to be in a rush to make a final decision, and that’s good news for UK. As of now he’s not a major Kentucky target but that could change come January or February.