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Basketball Recruiting News

Today on KSR: An SEC showdown in Columbia and official visits in Lexington

Good morning, friends, and congratulations on making it to Friday. We’ve got a big, big weekend coming up, so let’s go ahead and get right to it.

All eyes towards South Carolina

It’s very easy to be pessimistic about tomorrow’s game at South Carolina. Not only is Jordan Jones out, the atmosphere in Columbia will be absolutely nuts, and the Cats haven’t exactly inspired a lot of confidence in their first two games; however, Kentucky DOES have a three-year winning streak on its side, and how many times can we say that? Here’s hoping that gives the Cats the mental edge on Saturday.

The Gamecocks are a 6.5-point favorite

I expected South Carolina to become an even bigger favorite once the news that Jordan Jones is out spread, but it the spread hasn’t budged in the last few days.

Immanuel Quickley and Keldon Johnson begin their official visits

This is a huge weekend for football, but it’s also a huge weekend for basketball recruiting. Five-star prospects Immanuel Quickley and Keldon Johnson are on their official visits to Lexington this weekend, which means our ears will be pressed to the ground to listen for rumblings. Quickley, who got to town last night, is the recruit most likely to commit to Kentucky first, and a good visit could result in an announcement in the next few weeks. Meanwhile, Kentucky was late to the game for Keldon Johnson, but has made up ground and could surge ahead.

ICYMI last night, Aaron Torres had an excellent feature on Quickley that explains why he’s the perfect player to build the 2018 class around:

As Immanuel Quickley prepares for his official visit we talk to the people who know him best

Other recruiting notes: Calipari offered two 2019 prospects yesterday: five-star PF James Wiseman from Memphis and five-star SF D.J. Jeffries from Olive Branch, MS. Then, he stopped by the set of the new Uncle Drew movie in Atlanta because why not?

The man never stops, does he?

This picture of Wenyen Gabriel is intense

REVEN9E🔵#UpWay

A post shared by Wenyen Gabriel (@rcg_upman) on

Gabriel shared this picture from UK’s picture day and I’m a little terrified. Huge fan of the #REVEN9E hashtag though. Check out more pictures from the photoshoot below:

Meet the bigs. #EmbraceFamily

A post shared by Kentucky Men's Basketball (@kentuckymbb) on

Meet the guards. #EmbraceFamily

A post shared by Kentucky Men's Basketball (@kentuckymbb) on

Who else suffered through Bengals/Texans?

As a lifelong Kentucky fan, I’ve seen some bad football, but last night’s game between the Bengals and the Texans may take the cake. I tuned in because I had some fantasy guys playing, but it didn’t take me long to switch the channel. Judging by my Twitter feed, a lot of you suffered through the entire thing. How long before the Bengals give up on Andy Dalton and hand the reins to AJ McCarron?

It’s Matt Jones Day in Middlesboro

Middlesboro’s celebration of their native son started last night with a concert by the O’Connor Band, and continues this morning with the radio show at the downtown concert stage. If you’re in the area, come on out and enjoy the fun.


Calipari is on the set of the “Uncle Drew” movie because sure why not

Calipari is on the set of the “Uncle Drew” movie because sure why not

Remember all those “Uncle Drew” Pepsi commercials starring Kyrie Irving? Lionsgate is making an entire movie based on them, and John Calipari stopped by the set in Atlanta tonight:

The man himself, Uncle Drew.

A post shared by John Calipari (@ukcoachcalipari) on

If you’re unfamiliar with the commercials (do you even YouTube, bro?), Irving plays Uncle Drew, a old man who schools others in pickup games at Rucker Park. LilRel Howery (“Get Out”) Nick Kroll (“The League”), and Erica Ash (“Survivor’s Remorse”) will star alongside him in the film version, and several former NBA and WNBA players will make cameos, including Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Webber, Nate Robinson, Reggie Miller, and Lisa Leslie:

While you may not think this is very cool, high school basketball players will, which is exactly the point.


@lildjj0

Calipari offers 2019 SF D.J. Jeffries

@Grind2Shine_SE 

John Calipari has been a busy man today, handing out his first and second scholarship offers in the 2019 class. First, Calipari and Tony Barbee went to see James Wiseman in Memphis, and afterwards, swung by nearby Olive Branch, Mississippi to offer five-star small forward D.J. Jeffries. The 6’7″ Jeffries tweeted about his offer a few minutes ago:

Jeffries with Cal and Barbee:

Jeffries is considered the second best small forward and the ninth overall player in the class by ESPN. He’s also got offers from Kansas, Florida, Alabama, Ole Miss, LSU, Wake Forest, Texas A&M, and Memphis.

 D.J. Jeffries ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Small Forward 6-7 | 185 lbs. Olive Branch, MS Olive Branch
ESPN: 9 | 2 SF Top 247: 16 | 4 SF Rivals: 37 Scout: 15 | 6 SF

 


(Photo by Bart Young/USAB)

James Wiseman gets Kentucky’s first 2019 offer

@bigticketmom

We’re in the thick of 2018 recruiting, but it’s worth mentioning that John Calipari just handed out his first offer in the 2019 class. James Wiseman, a five-star power forward out of Memphis, Tennessee, received a scholarship offer today during a visit with Calipari. Pat Lawless of MADE Hoops was the first to report the news, but Wiseman quickly confirmed it on Twitter:

Adorably, his mother tweeted out a pic from the visit:

Arizona, Kansas, Louisville, and North Carolina have also offered Wiseman, ESPN’s top player in the 2019 class. This summer, he won a gold medal at the FIBA Americas with the USA U16 squad and played for Team Penny on the EYBL circuit. He recently transferred to East High School in Memphis from Ensworth in Nashville, where he averaged 20.0 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per game last season.

 James Wiseman ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Power Forward 6-11 | 216 lbs. Memphis, TN East High/Team Penny
ESPN: 1 | 1 PF Top 247: 4 | 2 PF Rivals: 2 Scout: 2 | 2 PF

 


Quentin Grimes includes Kentucky in final four

According to Adam Zagoria, five-star guard Quentin Grimes has cut his list to four schools, and Kentucky is included. 

Grimes has been rumored to be a heavy Kansas lean, but Kentucky has reportedly made a major push in his recruitment.

Evan Daniels of Scout.com recently reported that Grimes has cancelled his visit to Kansas at the Late Night in the Phog to officially visit Kentucky on September 29th.

In an interview with Eric Bossi of Rivals.com, Grimes said that the UK coaching staff has “turned it up over the last month.”

Kentucky: “Coach (JohnCalipari feels he can help me reach my dreams and he feels that I’m definitely one of the best guards in the country. He thinks that I could come in there with the other players and that he can help me get better. Their practices stand out because of all the other five-star players you go against and that you have to get better because of the competition. They can help me reach my goals. I think how strong they have come on is unique. Coach (KennyPaine and Coach Cal have been really turning it up and that’s stood out to me. They’ve turned it up over the last month for sure.”

As far as other factors in his recruitment, Grimes says that his relationship with the coaching staff will be the biggest factor in his recruitment.

But he’s not in any rush to make a decision.

“I’m not rushing to make any decision. Whenever the timing is right I will do it,” said Grimes. “Waiting is an option. If I go take my visits and feel like I need to take unofficials and see them again I could do that. I’m not in a rush.

“Definitely the relationship with the coaches, I feel like that’s the most important thing. I’m going to have to be the coach on the court so I have to have a relationship with him because he’s expecting a lot and you have to be on the same page.”

Could UK manage to finish with a ridiculous guard class of Immanuel Quickley, Keldon Johnson, and Quentin Grimes?


Bol Bol is coming to Big Blue Madness

(Photo by Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

Looking for a good sign when it comes to Kentucky and five-star center Bol Bol? He’s coming to Big Blue Madness. 

Evan Daniels just broke the news that the 7-2′ Bol will take his official visit to Kentucky the weekend of October 13-15, which means he’ll be front and center at Rupp Arena for the Madness festivities. Bol will also visit Oregon (Sept. 30), UCLA (Oct. 21), Arizona (Oct. 28), and USC (TBD). On Sunday, he’s expected to host John Calipari on an in-home visit, the first sign Kentucky’s back in the hunt after a few months of mixed signals.

Bol Bol ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Center 7-2 | 220 lbs. Santa Ana, CA Mater Dei/Cal Supreme
ESPN: 4 | 1 C Top 247: 4 | 1 C Rivals: 3 Scout: 2 | 1 C

If you’re keeping track at home, here’s Kentucky’s official visit schedule thus far:

  • This weekend: Immanuel Quickley (PG), Keldon Johnson (SF/SG)
  • September 22: Zion Williamson (F)
  • September 29: Quentin Grimes (G)
  • October 13 (Big Blue Madness): Bol Bol (C), Darius Garland (PG)

With the early signing period set for November 8-15, things are starting to heat up…

 


Zion Williamson taking official visit to Kentucky same weekend John Wall is in town

John Calipari will meet with Zion Williamson today in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and this morning, Rivals’ Corey Evans is reporting that the five-star forward has already scheduled his official visit to Kentucky.

Per Evans, the YouTube dunking sensation will come to Lexington the weekend of September 22, which is not Big Blue Madness, but is the weekend John Wall will be inducted into the UK Athletics Hall of Fame, an interesting and timely choice. A few weeks back, Wall called Williamson “one of the most athletic players I’ve ever seen” and gave him some advice, one high school mixtape star to another.

“I would tell him just to work on different things,” Wall said on an episode of his Ball is Life ‘No Offseason’ documentary.  “The game is so easy and boring at times for him, you can tell. Work on things you’re going to need for the next level. That’s kind of how I played in high school. When the game got serious, I played the way I knew how to play to get what I wanted to get done. But other than that, I was just trying stuff and trying to improve my game.”

Yesterday, Williamson told USA Today High School Sports’ Jason Jordan that he’s taking Wall’s advice to heart.

“Coming from a guy like John (Wall), that’s just a great honor,” said Williamson. “People think that because I get a lot of attention that I don’t get fazed by things like that, but I do. I’m still a fan of guys like John so that was exciting for me.”

Hopefully Wall can give him some more advice during his visit…like what school to go to.

Zion Williamson ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Forward 6-7 | 230 lbs. Spartanburg, SC Spartanburg/SC Supreme
ESPN: 2 | 1 PF Top 247: 1 | 1 PF Rivals: 2 Scout: 3 | 2 SF

 


Quentin Grimes schedules official visit to Kentucky

Quentin Grimes schedules official visit to Kentucky

Kansas may be the favorite for five-star guard Quentin Grimes, but he still wants to take an official visit to Kentucky; so much so that he’s skipping the Jayhawks’ Late Night in the Phog event to do so.

According to Chris Fisher, Grimes will take his official visit to Lexington the weekend of September 29. On Sunday, Grimes hosted John Calipari and Kenny Payne on an in-home visit, which he told Fisher went “really well.” Cal and Payne tied the visit on to their trip to Houston, where they visited the Red Cross Disaster Recovery Headquarters following the Teaming Up for Texas telethon, which raised over $1 million for victims of Hurricane Harvey.

It’s hard for me to imagine Grimes going anywhere but Kansas, but turning down their midnight madness event to come to Lexington is a noteworthy development. Come on down and enjoy yourself, young man.

[247 Sports]

Quentin Grimes ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Shooting/Point Guard 6-4 | 185 lbs. The Woodlands, TX The Woodlands/Basketball University
ESPN: 13 | 3 SG Top 247: 17 | 5 PG Rivals: 11 Scout: 11 | 4 PG

 


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John Calipari visits Zion Williamson

After Williamson canceled Monday’s visit with Calipari and raved about Duke in his USA Today HSS blog, we were all a teeny bit concerned, so it was reassuring to see Ben Roberts’ report that Calipari will see the five-star forward tonight in Spartanburg. If all goes well, I expect Zion will schedule his official visit to Lexington, likely for the weekend of Big Blue Madness, October 13.

Recruiting timeline for the rest of the week

I went over this last night in detail, but here’s who Calipari has seen and will see the rest of the week:

  • Sunday: Quentin Grimes, PG
  • Monday: Keldon Johnson, SF/SG
  • Tuesday: Simi Shittu, PF
  • Wednesday: Zion Williamson, SF
  • Friday – Saturday: Immanuel Quickley, PG & Keldon Johnson, SF/SG (OFFICIAL VISITS)
  • Sunday: Bol Bol, C

Mark Stoops will be on the SEC Coaches Teleconference

Stoops will take questions from the league’s reporters around lunch on the SEC Teleconference. ICYMI yesterday, freshman Lynn Bowden addressed reporters for the first time and said he’s ready to move past the distractions of the first few weeks and just play ball.

“It was hard, but I’m fine,” Bowden said of being ejected for targeting vs. EKU. “I’m an athlete.  I got to adjust.”

More maturity where that came from in last night’s feature from Nick:

Tired of Talking, Lynn Bowden is Ready to Show Fans What He Can Do

Last night, UK got a new preferred walk-on

Waggener High School two-way star Manny Harper committed to Kentucky last night as a preferred walk-on. With a 4.2 GPA, the Governor’s Scholar will get a full academic scholarship and also be able to play football for the Cats, a dream realized for the wide receiver/defensive back from Louisville.

“It felt great to hear coach say that I had a spot on the roster after touring the campus and facilities,” Harper told KSR after receiving his offer a few weeks ago. “UK has a lot to offer to me academically, socially and athletically. I can see myself fitting in well in all those areas at UK, it was just a really good vibe. I thank God for blessing me with opportunities and options.”

Already impressed by this kid.

I get to tour the new TopGolf in Nashville

If you’ve driven through Nashville in the past few months, you’ve seen the massive nets near downtown marking the spot of the new TopGolf, a golf entertainment mega-complex that’s popping up in cities across the nation. Nashville’s is set to open later this month and I’ve been invited to tour it with other sports media folk this evening. Between basketball, football, and everything in between, Kentucky fans love to come to Nashville to party, so I’ll share some pictures and thoughts on the facility tomorrow.

Speaking of the BBN in Nashville, the alumni group has moved its game watch location to the new Double Dogs at 4017 Charlotte Avenue, presumably because the Hillsboro Village location is absolutely insane on Saturdays.

Adorable animal video of the day

Ava the cat was abandoned in a garage in London, England and brought into an animal shelter, where she met her new best friend Barney the dog. The video of the two cuddling is the cutest thing you’ll see today:

I needed that after seeing the price tag on the new iPhone X.


Naz Reid commits to LSU

LSU just landed a huge addition to its 2018 basketball recruiting class with the commitment of Naz Reid, a five-star big man out of New Jersey.

Reid is No. 15 overall in his class and had drawn interest from Kentucky, although he never received an offer from the Cats. John Calipari and Tony Barbee watched him play at his Roselle High School (former home of one Isaiah Briscoe) back in February; I was also in attendance and Reid dominated in front of the UK coaching staff.

Reid’s commitment to the Tigers came after a visit from LSU head coach Will Wade on Monday. He joins five-star point guard Ja’Vonte Smart in what is a monster class for Wade in his second year.

LSU is back on track in the SEC.


Kentucky Basketball 2018 Recruiting Update: Big visits coming up

Kentucky Basketball 2018 Recruiting Update: Big visits coming up

It’s a big week for basketball recruiting, with John Calipari criss-crossing the country to check on players and two of 2018’s top prospects headed to Lexington for an official visit. Here’s the latest on Kentucky’s chances with each of their 2018 recruits.

Seeing on Wednesday

Zion Williamson ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Forward 6-7 | 230 lbs. Spartanburg, SC Spartanburg/SC Supreme
ESPN: 2 | 1 PF Top 247: 1 | 1 PF Rivals: 2 Scout: 3 | 2 SF

Williamson’s family has been helping family in the path of Hurricane Irma, so they had to move Monday’s in-home visit with John Calipari to tomorrow night, per Ben Roberts. Tonight, they will meet with Bill Self, per Matt Scott. On Monday, Zion set official visits to Duke (October 22) and UCLA (October 27), and will likely pick dates for his trips to Lawrence and Lexington during his visits with Self and Calipari.

Coming in this weekend

Immanuel Quickley ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Point Guard 6-3 | 175 lbs Bel Air, MD John Carroll School/Team BBC
ESPN: 12 | 3 PG Top 247: 13 | 2 PG Rivals: 10 Scout: 8 | 3 PG

Quickley had to cancel an official visit to Miami this past weekend due to Hurricane Irma, but is still taking his official to Kentucky this weekend. The Cats remain the overwhelming favorite over the Canes and the Kansas Jayhawks and this weekend could seal the deal. Will Calipari get a commitment on the spot? Maybe, but Quickley will likely want to announce the news on his own terms. Regardless, barring a total change of heart, it’s coming.

Keldon Johnson ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Small Forward 6-6 | 205 lbs. South Hill, VA Oak Hill Academy
ESPN: 7 | 3 SF Top 247: 11 | 2 SG Rivals: 18 Scout: 24 | 2 SG

Last week, Texas was surging for Johnson, but after Calipari watched him practice yesterday at Oak Hill Academy, the five-star SF/SG moved up his official visit to Kentucky to this weekend. He’ll also visit Maryland the weekend of September 22 and potentially Florida State before the end of the month (he was originally scheduled to see the Seminoles this past weekend, but had to cancel due to Hurricane Irma). Having Johnson on campus at the same time as Quickley is significant and could help Kentucky move back to the front of the pack in his recruitment.

Seeing on Sunday

Bol Bol ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Center 7-2 | 220 lbs. Santa Ana, CA Mater Dei/Cal Supreme
ESPN: 4 | 1 C Top 247: 4 | 1 C Rivals: 3 Scout: 2 | 1 C

After hosting Immanuel Quickley and Keldon Johnson on campus Friday and Saturday, Calipari will head to California to see Bol Bol. Interest between the two seemed to drop off during the summer following the U19 Team USA training camp, so this weekend’s visit is one to watch.

Just checked on

Simi Shittu ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Power Forward 6-10 | 220 lbs. Burlington, Ontario, CAN Vermont Academy
ESPN: 6 | 2 PF Top 247: 8 | 1 PF Rivals: 8 Scout: 9 | 1 PF

Calipari was one of 37 coaches at a 5:45 a.m. workout at Vermont Academy this morning to see Shittu play. The versatile Canadian told Adam Zagoria he still doesn’t have an offer from Kentucky but hopes to get one soon; if he visits Lexington this fall as expected, he will.

Quentin Grimes ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Shooting/Point Guard 6-4 | 185 lbs. The Woodlands, TX The Woodlands/Basketball University
ESPN: 13 | 3 SG Top 247: 17 | 5 PG Rivals: 11 Scout: 11 | 4 PG

Kansas is still the favorite for Grimes, whom Calipari visited on Sunday, but he still wants to take an official visit to Kentucky this fall. I don’t expect that to change things.

Holding pattern

R.J. Barrett ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Small Forward 6-7 | 185 lbs. Mississauga, Ont., CAN Montverde/Nike UPlay Canada
ESPN: 1 | 1 SF Top 247: 2 | 2 SF Rivals: 1 Scout: 1 | 1 SF

Barrett visited Kentucky earlier this month and will be in Durham this weekend to visit Duke. He’s also got trips to Arizona (Sept. 21), Oregon (Sept. 23), and Michigan (Sept. 29) lined up. Don’t enjoy yourself too much, R.J.

Cooling off


Romeo Langford ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Shooting Guard 6-5 | 191 lbs. New Albany New Albany/Eric Gordon All Stars
ESPN: 5 | 1 SG Top 247: 5 | 1 SG Rivals: 6 Scout: 5 | 1 SG

Calipari hasn’t scheduled an in-home visit with Langford, and Langford hasn’t scheduled an official visit to Kentucky. It looks more and more like the New Albany native will end up at Indiana.

Darius Garland ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Point Guard 6-2 | 170 lbs. Brentwood, TN Brentwood Academy/Bradley Beal Elite
ESPN: 11 | 2 PG Top 247: 15 | 4 PG Rivals: 15 Scout: 7 | 2 PG

Garland is scheduled to visit UK on October 13, but with Immanuel Quickley likely to commit and Quade Green and Shai Alexander potentially sticking around for a second year, I imagine he’ll take his talents elsewhere.


Calipari to meet with Zion Williamson tomorrow

John Calipari will meet with Zion Williams this week after all. The five-star forward will host Calipari for an in-home visit on Wednesday, according to Ben Roberts of the Herald-Leader.

Williamson was originally scheduled to meet with Cal on Monday, but Hurricane Irma postponed the visit. Calipari instead used his Monday to check in on Keldon Johnson after Williamson’s cancelation, and convinced Johnson to take an official visit to Lexington this coming weekend.

Bill Self is expected to meet with Williamson tonight.


Keldon Johnson to take official visit to Kentucky this weekend

Keldon Johnson to take official visit to Kentucky this weekend

One day after he hosted John Calipari and Joel Justus at Oak Hill Academy, news is out that Keldon Johnson plans to take an official visit to the University of Kentucky.

CatsPause.com’s Chris Fisher has the scoop after talking to Johnson’s father, who confirmed the five-star guard canceled his official visit to Florida State this coming weekend and will instead make a trip to Lexington.

Johnson has already taken official visits to Texas and N.C. State, and he plans to take another to Maryland later this month.

The timing of his new trip to Kentucky couldn’t be better for the Cats as Immanuel Quickley, believed to be the first commit in UK’s class, will be taking the visit with him.


After postponing visit with Calipari, Zion Williamson schedules two official visits

If you missed it earlier, John Calipari was supposed to meet with Zion Williamson today in South Carolina, but Hurricane Irma is forcing them to reschedule the visit; however, there’s still Zion news to be had.

In his latest blog entry for USA Today High School Sports, Zion says he’s scheduled two official visits, one to UCLA on October 27 and one to Duke on October 22. While his mother told Kyle Tucker earlier today that they still plan to take an official visit to Kentucky, Zion did not mention Calipari or the Cats in today’s blog. Annoyingly, he mostly wrote about a recent conversation he had with Coach K.

So he started telling me his original plan for the class and how he’d already planned to get those two players and how everything is working according to his plan. He said that every year he changes his system with new players. He said he was gonna play me the way he played LeBron (James) in the Olympics in 2012 so I did my research!

Coach K gave him the chance to showcase that he was still the best player in the world.

I thought that was a real, genuine answer because Coach K is always 10 steps ahead.

Gag. Regardless, Kansas remains Kentucky’s primary competition for Zion, especially after his trip to Clemson this past weekend with AAU teammate and fellow Jayhawk target Devin Dotson.

Zion also wrote that he won’t bother with narrowing his list or setting a timetable for his decision; instead, he’ll just announce his decision once he “[finds] the right school and it feels right for me and my family.” That means it’s more important than ever for Calipari to get down there and recapture some momentum, and for Zion to be at Big Blue Madness on October 13.

 


Calipari visiting Zion Williamson today (UPDATED: Visit canceled)

This is a huge week for basketball recruiting as players across the country host coaches on in-home visits, and Calipari is getting things started by visiting arguably the most prized prospect in the class. According to Ben Roberts, Calipari will travel to Spartanburg, South Carolina to see five-star forward Zion Williamson, known the world over for his ridiculous dunks.

Zion Williamson ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Forward 6-7 | 230 lbs. Spartanburg, SC Spartanburg/SC Supreme
ESPN: 2 | 1 PF Top 247: 1 | 1 PF Rivals: 2 Scout: 3 | 2 SF

Yesterday, Calipari and Kenny Payne visited Quentin Grimes, the five-star guard many believe will commit to Kansas. The Jayhawks have the momentum, but Grimes will take an official visit to Kentucky this fall.

Here’s who Calipari is expected to see this week:

  • Monday: Zion Williamson, F (Spartanburg, South Carolina)
  • Tuesday: Simi Shittu, PF (Saxtons River, Vermont)
  • Wednesday: Keldon Johnson, SG (Virginia)
  • Sunday: Bol Bol, C (California)

On Friday, five-star point guard Immanuel Quickley will begin his official visit in Lexington. Kentucky’s still the overwhelming favorite for Quickley, who is expected to commit in the coming weeks. Needless to say, this is a very, very big week for Kentucky’s 2018 class. Last week, I updated Kentucky’s status with each prospect, so while Calipari criss-crosses the country, catch up on who he’s going to see:

Where Kentucky stands with its top 2018 basketball recruits

UPDATE: Kyle Tucker spoke to Williamson’s mother, who says the visit had to be canceled due to Hurricane Irma. They’ll reschedule and Williamson’s mother says they’ll also set up an official visit to Lexington “soon.” Instead, Calipari will head to Oak Hill Academy in Virginia to check in on Keldon Johnson, the five-star shooting guard he was scheduled to see on Wednesday.


UK Basketball Recruiting Rewind: Karl-Anthony Towns

It’s time for another Recruiting Rewind. Want more? Reminisce with me as we look back on the recruitments of John Wall, Terrence Jones, and Nerlens Noel.


The reality of recruiting is that players are sought after primarily for their athletic ability and skill, with intangibles like personality and academic prowess being secondary. We as fans accept this for the sake of wins, but oftentimes, we long for a player that can do it all: dominate on the court, and be an ambassador for our school everywhere else. But multifaceted players like this are few and far between, and when they do come around, it can be an absolute recruiting dogfight to get them to suit up for your team.

But in the case of Karl-Anthony Towns, one of the most articulate and personable Wildcats of all time, the stars were aligned just right for him to come to Kentucky.

The Recruitment

To make a not very long story even shorter: KAT was always pretty much a lock to come to UK. As a sophomore in high school, Karl qualified to play for the Dominican Republic national team alongside NBA players like Al Horford and Charlie Villanueva, a team which also just happened to be led by Coach Cal and Orlando Antigua.

KAT and Cal developed such a rapport early on in Karl’s recruitment that it would’ve taken a Herculean effort for any other coach to close the gap. Towns even got to see future Wildcat great Anthony Davis talk some trash with Coach Cal from the floor:

So by the time Karl was ready to commit, which was sooner than expected on account of his reclassification to 2014, he was already indoctrinated into the ways of John Calipari.

For posterity’s sake, Towns also considered North Carolina, NC State, Michigan State, Florida, and Duke, among others. But his interest never seemed to go further than just compiling a list.

The Commitment

Cal shoots…

He scores.

With the 2012-2013 season barely in full swing, UK already had the centerpiece for its 2014 recruiting class, which would go on to be bolstered by two other fan favorites and best buds Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker.

The Performance

Towns statline from his freshman season, consisting of averaging 10.3 PPG, 6.7 RPG, and 2.3 BPG, would be considered productive regardless, but it gains some much needed context when you factor in that Towns barely averaged more than 21 minutes per game. The infamous “platoon” system generally kept individual stats low, but Big KAT’s performances shouldn’t be judged on paper anyway.

@JayWinkKSR


Shai Gilgeous-Alexander may be X-Factor in landing RJ Barrett

In the recruiting circuit each year, we often hear of package deals and top prospects talking about teaming up to form college super teams. The vast majority of time the official “package deals” fall through, but the super teams are a regular occurrence each year, specifically at top schools like Kentucky, Duke, Kansas, and UNC.

Despite many high school prospects recruiting one another each year, one of Kentucky’s biggest recruiting advantages for 2018 No. 1 recruit RJ Barrett may already be on the team.

According to Barrett’s AAU coach Dwayne Robinson, current Wildcat and fellow Canadian Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is extremely close to the elite forward.

The awesome guys over at SEC Country interviewed Washington on their relationship that developed in Canada and has continued ever since.

Barrett “talks to Shai every day,” Washington said. “Shai is like his big brother. They train in the summer, they hang out, Shai works with him and shows him a lot of stuff. Shai is very serious and focused, so if he picks a school, you really gotta take it seriously.”

When Barrett visited Kentucky last weekend, Gilgeous-Alexander told him how he could get better as a Wildcat, even if he’s in school for just a year.

“It was good for the family to see and echo everything about why Shai went there: because they can make you better,” Washington said. “If you’re somebody who is No. 1 in the class, you definitely have to say, ‘What did they do with the other No. 1 guys?’ Who is getting those players to be better than they are, noticeably, in a short period of time?”

With Gilgeous-Alexander likely to return for a sophomore season next year, Barrett would be able to team up with his “big brother” and continue Kentucky’s recent trend of Canadian talent going strong.

Head on over and read SEC Country’s entire interview here.


Marvin Bagley cleared to play at Duke this season

The NCAA Eligibility Center officially cleared Marvin Bagley III on Friday, which gives Duke one of the best players in college basketball, if not the best.

Bagley reclassified from the Class of 2018 and committed to Duke back in August, but his eligibility wasn’t certain at the time. Now it’s a done deal and he is good to go.

“From the outset of this process, we were optimistic that it would end with the NCAA Eligibility Center certifying Marvin to compete for Duke University in 2017-18,” said Mike Krzyzewski. “We are thrilled for Marvin and the Bagley family. Their organization and efficiency were key to the successful conclusion of the certification process, as were the efforts of our Duke Athletics administration.”

Game on, Duke. Game on.


The OTT Podcast: Getting to Know Aaron Torres

The OTT Podcast: Getting to Know Aaron Torres

Earlier this week, Aaron Torres joined the KSR family, and to continue his initiation, Tyler invited him on The OTT Podcast, sponsored by DRAFT. Get to know Aaron in this candid interview, which includes…

— How a lifelong UConn fan started writing about Kentucky Basketball

— The latest on UK’s 2018 basketball recruiting, and whether or not Bol Bol is out of the picture

— How an outsider views Kentucky football

— His time at Fox Sports and our thoughts on the future of sports media

— Why it’s perfectly acceptable to list “children” as a pet peeve

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play.  Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to “Kentucky Sports Radio” on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.


Where Kentucky stands with its top 2018 basketball recruits

Where Kentucky stands with its top 2018 basketball recruits

Photo by adidas

College football is stealing the headlines right now, but with Duke gaining momentum on the 2018 recruiting scene, what’s the latest on Kentucky’s chances with the nation’s top players? Here’s a quick refresher.

The best shot for fall commitments 🎯

Immanuel Quickley ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Point Guard 6-3 | 175 lbs Bel Air, MD John Carroll School/Team BBC
ESPN: 12 | 3 PG Top 247: 13 | 2 PG Rivals: 10 Scout: 8 | 3 PG

Quickley remains the most likely player to commit to Kentucky in the fall. The 6’3″ point guard from Maryland just took an official visit to Kansas and had to cancel his visit to Miami this weekend because of Hurricane Irma. He’ll be in Lexington September 15-17 and is poised to make his decision in early October. If he comes on board, he’ll immediately try to bring this person with him…

Zion Williamson ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Forward 6-7 | 230 lbs. Spartanburg, SC Spartanburg/SC Supreme
ESPN: 2 | 1 PF Top 247: 1 | 1 PF Rivals: 2 Scout: 3 | 2 SF

Kansas has been the buzz lately for Williamson due to their affiliation with adidas and Bill Self offering scholarships to two of Zion’s AAU teammates, Dontarius James and Devon Dotson. Before you get too discouraged, don’t forget all the talk this summer of Immanuel Quickley and Zion being a package deal. Also, don’t count out Cal, who may be bringing in Zion’s pal Drake to Big Blue Madness. Get Zion to Lexington that weekend with Quickley at his side and I like Kentucky’s chances, especially if he decides this fall.

R.J. Barrett ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Small Forward 6-7 | 185 lbs. Mississauga, Ont., CAN Montverde/Nike UPlay Canada
ESPN: 1 | 1 SF Top 247: 2 | 2 SF Rivals: 1 Scout: 1 | 1 SF

Barrett just wrapped up an official visit to Lexington, and the reviews ranged from “alright” to “great.” It’s best not to read too much into the words of a 17-year-old, but Barrett still plans to take all of his visits, including one to Duke, the perceived favorite, on September 15. He’ll also visit Arizona (Sept. 21), Oregon (Sept. 23) and Michigan (Sept. 29) and reiterated that he wants to make his decision in the fall. Calipari is really stressing Kentucky’s Canadian pipleine to the NBA, so I like the Cats here.


Heating up 🔥

Simi Shittu ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Power Forward 6-10 | 220 lbs. Burlington, Ontario, CAN Vermont Academy
ESPN: 6 | 2 PF Top 247: 8 | 1 PF Rivals: 8 Scout: 9 | 1 PF

The versatile Canadian forward still doesn’t have an offer from Kentucky, but that’s just a formality at this point. Calipari likes Simi so much he took Jamal Murray up to Canada with him to watch him play, a gesture that impressed the 6’10” Ontario native so much that he’s planning to come to Lexington this fall. If he does, he’ll get that offer, and if he likes it enough, he may just commit on the spot.


Holding pattern 💬

Keldon Johnson ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Small Forward 6-6 | 205 lbs. South Hill, VA Oak Hill Academy
ESPN: 7 | 3 SF Top 247: 11 | 2 SG Rivals: 18 Scout: 24 | 2 SG

Johnson is a new name on the scene after a monster summer and a surprise unofficial visit to campus a few weeks ago, which resulted in a scholarship offer. After that, Kentucky seemed to have all the momentum; however, Johnson just visited Texas and now the Longhorns are surging. He was scheduled to visit Florida State this weekend but because of Irma, will travel to NC State instead. He’ll check in with the Seminoles next weekend, and Maryland later this month. Yesterday, Chris Fisher reported that Johnson was “blown away” by his visit to Kentucky, so if the Cats can get him on campus for an official, perhaps for Madness, they can likely make up some more ground.


Long shots ❄️

Bol Bol ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Center 7-2 | 220 lbs. Santa Ana, CA Mater Dei/Cal Supreme
ESPN: 4 | 1 C Top 247: 4 | 1 C Rivals: 3 Scout: 2 | 1 C

At one point, Kentucky had all the momentum with the son of the late NBA great Manute Bol, but the relationship cooled when he was cut from Calipari’s U19 national team (only one naturalized citizen was allowed on the roster and the staff chose a more experienced player). Things could change, but for now, it looks like Bol will stay out west at Arizona, while Cal has shifted his focus northward to 6-10 Simi Shittu.

Romeo Langford ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Shooting Guard 6-5 | 191 lbs. New Albany New Albany/Eric Gordon All Stars
ESPN: 5 | 1 SG Top 247: 5 | 1 SG Rivals: 6 Scout: 5 | 1 SG

Langford kept Kentucky in his top seven, but there hasn’t been any chatter about the two for months. Buzz continues to surround Indiana and Vanderbilt in his recruitment.

Quentin Grimes ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Shooting/Point Guard 6-4 | 185 lbs. The Woodlands, TX The Woodlands/Basketball University
ESPN: 13 | 3 SG Top 247: 17 | 5 PG Rivals: 11 Scout: 11 | 4 PG

Kansas is the overwhelming favorite for Grimes, who did not list Kentucky among the schools he plans to visit this fall in a recent interview with Evan Daniels.

Darius Garland ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Point Guard 6-2 | 170 lbs. Brentwood, TN Brentwood Academy/Bradley Beal Elite
ESPN: 11 | 2 PG Top 247: 15 | 4 PG Rivals: 15 Scout: 7 | 2 PG

Garland is scheduled to visit UK on October 13, but with Immanuel Quickley likely to commit and Quade Green and Shai Alexander potentially sticking around for a second year, I imagine he’ll take his talents elsewhere.