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Vernon Carey Jr. Commits to Duke

@MarchMadness

Coach K is still landing top five targets without Jeff Capel.

Live on SportsCenter, Vernon Carey announced he will attend Duke next year.  The No. 3 player in America picked the Blue Devils over North Carolina and Michigan State.  Carey used a new commitment trick: he pulled out an embroidered handkerchief to reveal his selection.

@SIncaabb

Kentucky was initially in the picture for Carey but failed to make the final cut.

It’s always a blow to see a former UK recruit commit to Duke, but there is a positive spin: Carey’s commitment takes up a Duke frontcourt spot next season.  Will Matthew Hurt want to split time with Carey?  Duke’s 2018 class didn’t mind, but it could potentially help the Cats land Hurt in 2019.


Insider Notes: Matthew Hurt visits and the latest with Keion Brooks and Jaden McDaniels

Scott Jacobson / Post Bulletin

I hope everyone had a great weekend! UK hosted five-star forward Matthew Hurt and that’s where we will start. Kentucky had a few other unofficial visitors but that was a team visiting and I wouldn’t consider any of those players UK targets, but Kentucky may keep tabs on a couple of those players. So, Hurt was the main attraction and received the blue carpet treatment over the weekend.

Matthew Hurts:

The visit went well (drink). Actually, I’m told the visit went really, really well and folks close to UK feel that things couldn’t have gone better. There were three things that stood out to the Hurt family.

  1. Atmosphere: Hurt and his family said they wanted to take their visits during the season to see schools play home games. They wanted to watch team’s pregame activities and the crowd during the game. I’m sure plenty of fans (myself included) were worried the crowd would be mediocre for Greensboro, but I was wrong. It was the best home crowd of the season and one of the best non-Power Six crowds I can remember in recent memory. Of course the game being close led to the wild crowd but I’m told that the Hurt family was really impressed. UK’s staff supposedly made sure the family knew that wasn’t a “big” game for UK standards and the crowd was still great. They pitched the idea of the Hurt family returning for a bigger game to blow them away. We’ll see if they return.
  2. Path to the NBA: Hurt, like any normal kid, wants to get the NBA. Obviously he knew about former UK players that are currently in the NBA, but supposedly Calipari and UK’s staff mapped out their plan for Hurt. That was well received, I’m told.
  3. The way the coaches treat the players: This isn’t verbatim but Hurt and his family wanted to see how the coaches interacted with players off the floor and out of practices/games. I don’t think I’d hear anything differently, but Hurt’s family was impressed with the family atmosphere. Surprisingly, UK sometimes isn’t known to have a “family atmosphere” in some recruiting circles. That’s a conversation for a different day, but supposedly the Hurt family liked what they saw.

The only issue with all three of those points is I’m sure every school on his list will make sure to check all three of those boxes. Kansas, Duke and UNC will probably have good atmospheres (it depends on the game, but as the season progresses the cupcakes fall off the schedule). All three of those schools have sent players to the NBA and I’m sure the coaches won’t be jerks when recruit’s parents are around. So, while things look good for UK as of today, other school’s will certainly have some momentum when they host the Hurt family.

One of the biggest things from the visit is the Hurt family did tell UK they plan to take their time. Previously there was a thought that Hurt may commit in the next two months but supposedly their plan is to take other visits. They want to see how roster situations shakeout and this could go later than I thought last week. I don’t take that as a negative for UK, but obviously the Cats would hope he wouldn’t visit other places.

Supposedly UK missing on other bigs and losing at least Reid Travis and PJ Washington is a big draw. “Waiting to (look) at the roster helps (UK),” I was told. Other schools will either be returning bigs or are bringing in other star bigs. Hurt isn’t afraid to play with other great players, but naturally he’s going to want to be able to have a chance to be the guy. Kansas may have a similar frontcourt pitch as UK, but UNC and Duke will have more crowded frontcourts.

I still like UK’s chances.

(Photo: Lopez/Nike)

Keion Brooks:

I still think he ends up going to Indiana but I don’t have anything new that would make me feel better or worse about that prediction. Trayce Jackson-Davis picking the Hoosiers likely only helps IU’s chances with Brooks, but it seemed likely that TJD was going to IU, so just because it’s official doesn’t mean much to me. UK is in second maybe we will all be in for a surprise.

But, when talking  with someone on the AAU side of things they brought up an interesting point that wasn’t directly related to Brooks or any recruit in particular, but I wanted to share because of a tweet I saw this weekend:

A nice gesture from Mr. Brooks. I’ve heard nothing but great things about UK’s relationship with the Brooks’ family and I think it’s the only reason why Keion hasn’t already committed to Indiana. UK’s done a great job building a relationship with Keion and his entire family. It’s funny as the field goal post moves for UK in recruiting the Cats try to adjust. A couple years ago it was that the parents didn’t prefer UK and now I think the majority of parents in this class have preferred UK. I know Mr. Brook thinks very highly of UK’s staff (tweet aside).

But what this AAU person told me was in his opinion UK has become too easy to say no to on the recruiting trail. Cal’s pitch of “UK’s not for everyone” and his “We want you, but we’re going to respect your decision” has made it easier for recruits to go where they feel “more important.” I’m not sure what Cal should do differently. Panic more? Put more pressure on kids that if they don’t pick UK he will be in a bad spot? Get on his knees and beg? I’ve always respected the way Calipari recruits and I would almost guarantee that this approach has helped more than it hurts, but at least one AAU coach thinks it could hurt UK in some instances, especially when recruiting against hometown schools. FWIW I’ve never heard of that being an issue with any recruits, coaches and I can’t imagine folks close to UK think it’s a problem.

The only reason I bring it up is to hear your thoughts on it.

Photo via Endless Motor

Jaden McDaniels:

I was able to touch base with someone close to McDaniels and the family is saying they will wait until the spring to make a final decision, despite already finishing all five official visits. This person thought there was a chance that McDaniels would announce in the next few months, but he differed to the family’s plan to announce later. So, it’s going to be a wait and see approach but after things were quiet for a couple weeks I still think the Cats are in a good spot.

The only thing that worries me about UK’s chances is McDaniels deciding to spend his likely one year in college so far away from home. UK can beat the home school, but it’s never easy being the school farther away.

Anthony Edwards:

He took his first official to Georgia over the weekend. UK still expects him to check out Lexington, but normally optimistic, I get the sense that even UK believes it will be an uphill battle beating out Florida State for Edwards.

Never say never, but I wouldn’t expect Edwards to end up at Kentucky.

Vernon Carey Jr.:

He will pick between UNC, MSU or Duke. It’s a tough spot for UK. You probably want MSU because they would possibly be less of a title threat than UNC or Duke, but the Cats would play Carey next season in the Champions Classic. UK currently isn’t set to play UNC or Duke next season and the only possible matchup would be in the NCAA Tournament. Seems like Duke is the slight leader with MSU right there. UNC a distant third.


Kentucky is Hosting a Seven-Foot Center

@areacodes

Kentucky is hosting quite a few prospects for today’s game against UNC-Greensboro.

The biggest name on the guest list is five-star forward Matthew Hurt.  The top ten player in the 2019 class is on his official visit.  T.J. Walker will detail how things went for Hurt in the Monday Insider Notes.

There will be a few other tertiary prospects in the building as well.  Madior Seye, a seven-foot center from the Senegal, is seeing a game at Rupp Arena with his teammates from Pennsylvania’s First Love Christian Academy.  Seye is a raw talent in the 2020 class with plenty of untapped potential.

The Cats and the Spartans tip-off at 1:00 on ESPN2.


Kentucky is NOT recruiting LaMelo Ball

Getty Images

The Ball family will not be joining the Big Blue Nation.

Earlier this month the youngest Ball, LaMelo, returned from the professional ranks in Lithuania to play high school basketball at Spire Academy in Ohio.  Naturally, there was an introductory press conference. LaMelo said he hoped to play college basketball at a school like Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina and Michigan State, even though he already played professionally.

LaMelo can hope all he wants, he isn’t playing at UK.  Ben Roberts reports that Kentucky is not recruiting LaMelo.

While the news may bring joy to some fans, I’m disappointed we’ll never see the day when Kentucky Sports Radio is hosted by Matt Jones and Lavar Ball.


The best, worst, and likely case for UK’s frontcourt next season

Photo by adidas

This weekend Kentucky will host five-star forward Matthew Hurt for his first official visit and there’s no denying how important of a recruit Hurt is for the Cats. UK has missed on big target after big target in the class of 2019, and only a few more remain. Here’s a look at UK’s best, worst, and most likely scenario for how the frontcourt situation plays out for the 2019-2020 season. For this exercise none of these scenarios include grad-transfers or 2020 players reclassifying. While both of those options are in play, and possibly even likely, we don’t have any names. Also, I’m trying to keep it somewhat realistic. Obviously the best care scenario will be bullish and worst bearish, but I’m trying to keep everything in reason and somewhat realistic.

Best Case:

The best case scenario is easy- Kentucky lands Matthew Hurt, one of Jaden McDaniels/Keion Brooks and hell, throw in five-star shooting guard Anthony Edwards while we’re at it. Then assuming UK would return at least one of Nick Richards or EJ Montgomery and the Cats would be locked and absolutely loaded for another season. The Edwards addition may seem bizarre when discussing UK’s ideal frontcourt for next season, but it makes sense. If the Cats landed Edwards, it would give UK more options on who to play at the four. Kahlil Whitney would get more run at that spot. The one addition of McDaniels/Brooks would allow them a more versatile role and you’d play EJ or Nick at the five. Hurt would also play a variety of positions. The addition of Edwards wouldn’t give you clarity on how the roster would look exactly, but you’d know you’d have enough talented players that are versatile enough to make something work.

That best case scenario is actually probably an abundance of players. It would give UK four players that could play a frontcourt position, where currently there is just one (Whitney) and some would possibly consider that a stretch (although I would disagree). I feel confident about one of Richards/Montgomery returning, so assuming that happens that would make two. They obviously need to land Hurt and one of McDaniels/Brooks to give UK four options on the frontcourt, even though just Hurt/Richards/Montgomery would be able to play the five. Three options for the frontcourt is a must for next season as UK couldn’t enter the season with just two post players. Foul trouble and possible injuries could ruin UK’s season before it even starts. Three bigs is minimum but four would make everyone feel warm and fuzzy heading into next season.

If UK could have a lineup like this next season, watch out:

PG: Tyrese Maxey (Green, Quickley, Hagans)

SG: Anthony Edwards (Green, Quickley, Hagans, Allen)

SF: Kahlil Whitney (Allen)

PF: Matthew Hurt (McDaniels/Brooks)

C: Richards/Montgomery

And that roster doesn’t include Tyler Herro (but does include all three PGs returning, which probably isn’t likely), who’s currently not being projected as a first rounder and could very easily return for a sophomore season. Regardless of UK’s recent recruiting misses, if the team looks something like that heading into next season it’s going to once again be a preseason top five team and rightfully so. That would be the nation’s best offense before they’d ever even play a game.

Worst Case:

Again, we’re trying to keep it somewhat in reason because the worst case scenario would lead to UK missing on Hurt, McDaniels and Brooks (along with Isaiah Stewart but I don’t see a scenario he ends up at UK so I’m already banking on that) and would also include all of UK’s current frontcourt players darting for the NBA. That’s the worst case. To briefly entertain that idea UK would have to hit up the grad-transfer market big time and probably try to get a few other 2019 players that aren’t UK caliber to commit to Kentucky just so they had bodies.

I don’t see that happening.

In a more realistic worst-case scenario the Cats miss on Hurt and McDaniels, but land just Brooks in 2019. Nick Richards returns for a junior season and UK’s roster looks something like this:

PG: Quade Green (Quickley, Hagans)

SG: Tyrese Maxey (Quickley, Hagans, Allen)

SF: Kahlil Whitney (Allen)

PF: Keion Brooks

C: Nick Richards

Is that lineup making the NCAA Tournament? Duh. Could that team make a run? Sure. UK went to the Final Four with Josh Harrellson starting. But that is the thinnest frontcourt in UK history and it would become critical for UK to land at least one grad-transfer. And yes, I think even in a realistic worst case scenario UK lands one of Hurt, Brooks or McDaniels. For this exercise I picked Brooks just because he would probably be UK’s “worst” option to have to put in the frontcourt.

If that’s the worst case scenario that’s not the end of the world, although it probably wouldn’t be a serious title contender.

My guess:

I haven’t been shy on this site saying I think UK lands Hurt. Of course there was a time (a long time) I thought UK was landing James Wiseman and another time (much shorter) that I thought UK was in a really good spot for Vernon Carey Jr. Point is, things can change in recruiting and do change, but currently I like where UK is at for Hurt.

So he’s included in the most realistic scenario at this time.

Then I think it’s realistic at this point to believe UK lands one of McDaniels/Brooks. I think IU holds a 65/35 lead over UK for Brooks, so McDaniels seems more likely, but things have gone quiet in McDaniels’ recruitment. It’s not a lock that UK lands either, but I think odds are they will land one, so we’ll roll with that.

I don’t expect Anthony Edwards to end up at UK. I do expect one of Richards/Montgomery to return and I wouldn’t be shocked if both came back, but it’s probably more realistic it’s just one. We’ll go with Richards for this exercise.

PG: Green (Quickley, Hagans)

SG: Maxey (Quickley, Hagans, Allen)

SF: Kahlil Whitney (,McDaniels, Allen)

PF: Matthew Hurt (McDaniels)

C: Richards

If that’s how things play out I would expect UK to add a grad-transfer, but there’s no telling the caliber of that player or even guess a name. So ignoring the transfer for now, what would we think of the above roster? It would be a really good scoring team, probably average defensively and thin upfront. It would probably be the type of Calipari team that would struggle on the road, take care of business at home and end up as a four seed in the NCAA Tournament. The talent would be there for a deep run, but consistency would be key.

One thing is for sure, regardless of how the roster turns it it’s shaping up to be a team that’s going to play as fast as any of Calipari’s. That will be fun to watch.