Basketball Recruiting News
By Nick Roush on ©November 27th, 2018 @ 9:00am
Kentucky commit Dontaie Allen began his season with a 50-burger.
The in-state signee scored a career-high 52 of his team’s 76 points Monday night. Allen’s efforts propelled Pendleton County past Williamstown, a team that was 2-29 a year ago, for a 30-point victory. Despite the competition, Allen’s moves are impressive against anybody. From LEX-18:
— Jonathan Dunn (@jdunnlex18) November 27, 2018
This year is one of the rare opportunities you’ll get to see a Kentucky commit in action around the state. John Calipari’s first in-state signee in years, Allen will play at the Marshall County Hoop Fest December 1, at George Rogers Clark December 7, in an Ashland Christmas tournament between December 27-29 and in Lexington at Sayre January 4. For more dates, see Pendleton County’s entire schedule here.
Football Coaches are on the Road
Two days after Kentucky’s season ended at Cardinal Stadium, Mark Stoops’s staff returned to Louisville to recruit. Kentucky coaches conducted in-home visits with a pair of committed prospects, Demontae Crumes and Shawnkel Knight-Goff.
They also brought a huge contingency to see the state’s top uncommitted prospect, J.J. Weaver. Mark Stoops, Vince Marrow, Brad White and Matt House visited Weaver and his Kentucky-clad mother four days before he announces his college decision. Many expect he will choose Kentucky over Miami, Louisville, Tennessee, Cincinnati and Purdue.
His mother’s Instagram caption should have UK fans feeling even more optimistic: “KENTUCKY’S in the house!!!! I am like a kid in a candy store…all smiles?? You guys have been the best and very professional. Thanks for visiting, Y’all come back now ya hear?”
I’ll be at Louisville Moore High School this Friday afternoon at 3:30 to see Weaver’s highly anticipated announcement.
New CFB Playoff Rankings
Kentucky’s bowl picture will become clearer tonight at 7:00 on ESPN. If the Cats are outside of the Top 12, prepare for a New Year’s holiday in Florida.
This afternoon around 1:30 we’ll get to hear from a slew of coaches at Memorial Coliseum. The UK volleyball team will kick things off with SEC Coach of the Year Craig Skinner and SEC Player of the Year Leah Edmond. They’ll be followed by select men’s basketball players and John Calipari ahead of tomorrow night’s game against Monmouth. Matthew Mitchell will wrap things up after his team went 3-0 in the Paradise Jam.
Tickets to Volleyball, Soccer, Basketball and Bowls
Friday night a pair of NCAA Tournaments are coming to Lexington. The 10th-seeded Wildcats begin play at 7:30 against Murray State. With a win they will play the winner of Purdue-ETSU the following night at 7:30. Get your tickets to each session here.
Before the volleyball team takes the court, the UK men’s soccer team will host Maryland in the Elite Eight at The Bell at 6:00 p.m. Tickets to see Kentucky play for an appearance in their first College Cup are only $10.
Speaking of tickets, ERupption Zone tickets not claimed by students will be available for $15 each for the Monmouth and UNC Greensboro men’s basketball home games. They will be sold at the Rupp Box Office on game day, beginning 90 mins prior to tip-off, while supplies last. Also, season-ticket holders who plan on going to Kentucky’s bowl game need to register ASAP. Go through your MyUK account before Thursday at 4:00 to help build the Cats’ bowl street crew.
The only thing better than this powerful dunk is the color analyst’s piping hot take.
WHAT A DUNK BY JA MORANT pic.twitter.com/1hQ2mFNf2o
— Frankie Vision (@FrankieVision) November 27, 2018
ACC/Big Ten Challenge
There are a couple of marquee matchups in college basketball tonight.
- 7:30: #9 Michigan State at Louisville on ESPN
- 8:00: #5 Nevada at Loyola-Chicago on ESPNews
- 9:00: NC State at Wisconsin on ESPN2
- 9:00: Pitt at Iowa on ESPNU
- 9:00: Temple at Missouri on SEC Network
- 9:30: Indiana at #3 Duke
Orlando “Tubby” Smith has made quite a few stops since he coached the Kentucky Wildcats. Now at his alma mater of High Point, the season just began and he already has something to celebrate. Saturday Tubby won his 600th game as a head coach after High Point defeated ECU 55-52.
— HPU Men's Basketball (@HPUMBB) November 25, 2018
By TJ Walker on ©November 26th, 2018 @ 11:00pm
There’s no denying that last week for tough for UK basketball recruiting. Kentucky missed on two five-star bigs and if you’ve been living under a rock over the last couple months the Cats need frontcourt players for the 2019-2020 season. So, missing James Wiseman and Vernon Carey Jr., hurt.
But it’s a new week and shockingly there’s some positive momentum for Kentucky. Let’s get to the notes.
2019 five-star Matthew Hurt has scheduled his first official visit and it will be this upcoming weekend to Kentucky, he tells Stockrisers.
MAJOR visit for Coach Cal and staff.
— Jake (@jakeweingarten) November 26, 2018
Matthew Hurt will officially visit Kentucky this upcoming weekend. He then plans on visiting UNC, Duke and Kansas in the near future. His dad, Richard Hurt tells ESPN. #BBN gets the first shot at this ultra versatile forward.
— Paul Biancardi (@PaulBiancardi) November 26, 2018
This was the news that broke last evening. We had been saying the Cats would land an official visit from Hurt, but the timing is sooner than expected and I’m told it’s great news for UK. While the misses on Wiseman and Carey Jr. stung, it was better it happened in November than in April or May. Folks close to UK believe Hurt’s recruitment won’t go late into the spring and Hurt could make a decision in the next month or two.
Hurt’s family is trying to get things as quiet as possible and they weren’t thrilled that the official visit news to UK broke. Just my person opinion, I’m not sure if Hurt will take all five of his official visits. I don’t expect UK to be his only official visit, but I get the sense the family knows the realistic finalist and all that’s left is seeing a few schools. I would be surprised if he didn’t check out Kansas just as a favor to Bill Self, who coached him over the summer.
We’ve been saying it for a few weeks, but UK looks like the team to beat and him visiting Kentucky first without any other visits set in stone is positive news. I was asked about it on Twitter last night, but UK’s preference is to have the first visit when possible. Many schools have the notion that you either want the first or last visit, but most coaches would prefer the first because there’s never a guarantee a player won’t commit before taking all his visits. UK’s thrilled to have Hurt attending campus this weekend.
The Cats are all-in on Hurt. If he ends up at Kentucky it won’t be the end-all answer to rebounding and defensive concerns for the frontcourt for 2019-2020, but the Cats would be landing one of the best offensive players in high school basketball and UK would only HAVE to have one more frontcourt player. Maybe a Nick Richards or an EJ Montgomery, maybe a grad-transfer or a reclassification.
I wouldn’t expect a decision from Hurt after this weekend, but I do think UK will know where its stands with Hurt sooner than later and it seems unlikely this one last more than maybe a couple months.
I said last week I thought UK may reach out to a few new names in 2019 and several of you asked/guessed it would be Kofi Cockburn. Cockburn plays for Oak Hill and is ranked No. 41 in the 247 rankings. I’m told that as of today that UK won’t turn its attention to Cockburn. Can that change? Maybe. Things seem to change all the time in recruiting, but the sense I get is that UK is going to wait to see what happens with a few other 2019 targets before reaching out to new names, specifically Cockburn.
UK watched him a couple times this summer and had a chance to reach out and turn up the heat, but they never did. Even after Cockburn had a nice stretch this summer the Cats stayed quiet and instead started recruiting Oscar Tshiebwe. I get the sense that UK doesn’t believe he’d be a great fit, but that’s just my opinion.
I think new names would come from the grad-transfer ranks or a reclassification, but UK’s first choice is landing a couple of their remaining 2019 targets and seeing if anyone returns from this year’s team.
He officially visited Duke over the weekend and that’s it for official visits, which likely means a decision is near. He checked out Washington, Syracuse, Duke, Michigan State and Kentucky. As it often happens, there was a lot of buzz after the UK official visit.
What we heard was that Stewart visited UK and the dad really liked what he saw. There was even talks he may not take all of his other official visits. But within two weeks things changed. There’s no denying that Stewart is one of the best players in 2019, and UK supposedly liked the kid and the father, but there were plenty of other folks around Stewart that thought they were playing decision maker. If you want some evidence just check out his Instagram. It doesn’t seem like the tightest circle. It’s my opinion that UK wasn’t willing to “play the game” with Stewart and that’s why the Cats are no longer the favorite.
Indiana is the leader but UK is currently second. The Cats will be working hard to try and jump the Hoosiers, but it won’t be easy. I would expect a decision sometime in December. That’s all I got.
I have even less here. I still like UK’s position but I don’t love how quiet things have been. I’m starting to wonder if location will be a factor for McDaniels, but there’s no denying the kid and his father like UK. It doesn’t seem like this recruitment will last too much longer.
It wouldn’t be great from a rebounding/defensive standpoint, but pairing McDaniels/Whitney/Hurt on UK’s frontcourt would be incredibly intriguing. Offensive and competitiveness out the wazoo.
It’s going to be really, really tough to get him away from Florida State. UK will recruit him hard and will likely get him on campus for a visit, but everything I’ve heard screams Seminoles.
The Hillcrest star is one of my favorite players in 2020 and KSR will have more on Walker this week.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©November 25th, 2018 @ 8:20pm
After striking out on both James Wiseman and Vernon Carey Jr., John Calipari is putting the full-court press on 2019 five-star forward Matthew Hurt.
According to Stockrisers’ Jake Weingarten, Hurt has scheduled his first official visit and it will be to Kentucky this weekend.
2019 five-star Matthew Hurt has scheduled his first official visit and it will be this upcoming weekend to Kentucky, he tells Stockrisers.
MAJOR visit for Coach Cal and staff.
— Jake (@jakeweingarten) November 26, 2018
Calipari offered Hurt back on December 13, 2017 following a visit to see the star forward in Minnesota. He later visited Hurt on April 6, again on September 9, and one last time a little over a month ago on October 22.
The 6-foot-9 forward has offers from 18 schools, though Kansas, Minnesota, North Carolina, Arizona, and Kentucky are seen as the top five schools in his recruitment at this point. Kansas currently holds 83 percent of Hurt’s Crystal Ball picks on 247 Sports, followed by Minnesota at 8 percent.
With frontcourt options dwindling, Hurt becomes a massive priority for the Kentucky coaching staff going forward. Considered a consensus top-ten recruit, the Rochester, MN native is one of just two (Jaden McDaniels being the other) frontcourt targets remaining with heavy interest in Kentucky. Isaiah Stewart has also been flirting with the Cats over the last few months, though a decision is coming coon from him and it doesn’t look like UK will be the choice.
Watch Hurt’s most recent highlight tape:
Come on down, young fella.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©November 25th, 2018 @ 7:00pm
Former Kentucky basketball commit DJ Jeffries can’t help but keep making critical comments of the UK program and the Big Blue Nation as a whole.
In an interview with Christian Fowler of 247 Sports, the four-star forward said if his Memphis Tigers ever have the opportunity to take on Kentucky next season, he can assure fans it’ll end up like the Duke game to open the college basketball season: a blowout loss for the Wildcats.
“I really don’t have no message for them, but just know if we ever play them it’s going to be the same result as Duke,” Jeffries said.
The statement comes after Jeffries was asked of his thoughts on any negative comments made from the Kentucky fanbase following his decommitment from the program. A decommitment that came after Kentucky head coach John Calipari made other players at Jeffries’ position a priority and put him on the back burner because he liked his options.
Here’s the whole excerpt, courtesy of Derek Terry of 247 Sports:
Kentucky commit (and Jeffries’ replacement) Kahlil Whitney couldn’t help but laugh off the comments.
— THE DRAGON? (@KahlilWhitney) November 25, 2018
Jeffries should really worry about his future team beating lower-tier SEC schools first before talking about dominating against the most storied program in college basketball history.
Or middle-of-the-pack Big 12 schools, for that matter…
For those keeping track at home, Memphis also barely beat Yale (109-102) and Canisius (71-63) this season. So sure, have fun with that next year, buddy.
John Calipari should have to start paying rent for living in Jeffries’ head for so long.
By Kindsey Bernhard on ©November 25th, 2018 @ 12:30pm
LaMelo Ball recently said he hopes to play college ball at a high-profile program like Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, or Michigan State.
Soon after, Ball posted that he was in Lexington. No one knows why. It could have just been a layover at Bluegrass Airport or he wanted to try the famous cheesy tots at Tolly Ho.
— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) November 21, 2018
Love or hate him and his family, the youngest Ball can “ball.” He did so this weekend in Atlanta at The Skill Factory Holiday Invitational.
On Friday, LaMelo went 5-of-12 for 13 points with nine assists and four rebounds. On Saturday, he put on a show dropping 30 points.
— Overtime (@overtime) November 25, 2018
So BBN, let us know what you think. Would you want LaMelo in a Kentucky uniform or not? And remember, he’s a 17-year-old kid and not his father.
Good news, folks! UK looked much sharper in Wednesday’s 87-74 win over Winthrop. The bad news is Kentucky slept walked the final eight minutes. It was far from a perfect performance and Kentucky still struggled defending the perimeter, but we still saw plenty of positives.
Here are five takeaways from UK’s win over the Eagles.
1. The Win:
Four straight wins for UK! There have been several ups and a handful of downs during the month of November, but I think we saw the best stretch of UK basketball today. It wasn’t the best 40 minute game (I’d lean towards North Dakota) but the way UK started the second half was as impressive of a stretch as I can remember this season. This team’s bursts showcases their overall ability and while some folks aren’t high on this team they should still be considered a Final Four contender with the potential to win it all.
Obviously we know what happened when UK tried to run against Duke, but Kentucky will be at its best when they play uptempo. Several guys can get to the rim, but all week John Calipari talked about how good of a three-point shooting team he thought this group would be. We saw that today. The Cats hit seven threes and several more rattled out on open looks.
When UK is in the halfcourt it’s important for the Cats to work it inside-out, and we saw plenty of that today. Reid Travis, PJ Washington, Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery can all score on the block, but all four attract multiple defenders and have great passing instincts to kick it to wide open teammates on the perimeter.
2. Three-point shooting:
Like I mentioned, Calipari predicted this all week. Obviously Tyler Herro was on fire in the second half and he’s probably UK’s best shooter, but I have been really impressed with how far along Keldon Johnson’s shot has come in the last few months but especially since he was in high school and on the AAU circuit. We know Quade Green can hit outside shots and PJ and Reid have shown they can occasionally hit when open. That will likely mean at any given time UK will have three players on the floor that are good outside shooters. Immanuel Quickley has hit outside shots, too. That’s going to make this UK team incredibly tough to guard.
But where this team’s outside shooting is going to help UK the most is in SEC play. Most conference opponents will try to zone Kentucky and in the past UK’s inability to spread the floor has hurt them offensively. The Cats will have some off nights but this year should be different.
3. Three-Point Defense:
Still problematic, folks. The Cats gave up 13 made threes on the night and that makes 56 on the season. That’s an insanely high number and completely inexcusable. The Cats have run across some really good three-point shooting teams (or teams that at least throw up a lot of outside shots) but Kentucky must get better or it’s going to cost them games.
I couldn’t do it in the second half because of typing and liveblogging, but Winthrop took 17 threes in the first half. By my count 12 of those three were open and the Eagles made six of those open 12 shots. UK was in a good position on five of Winthrop’s threes and the Eagles made one contested shot. Simply put, you’re playing with fire giving up so many open shots.
Now, UK closed out on some of those open shots, but the opposing player had time to get set and get a shot up before a UK player was there. Several UK players were getting lost on defense, as they have most of the season, but Nick Richards is trying to protect the paint too much. Teams know that he’s looking to block shots and rebounds and they are daring him to drag out on the perimeter. When he doesn’t they get open outside shots. He needs to play further away from the basket and get his hand up.
4. Bad stretches:
What happened late in the second half is why this wasn’t UK’s best performance and why some fans are having a tough time buying in on this team. The Cats were outscored in the final 10 minutes and it’s a good thing Kentucky built the lead it did earlier in the half. Good teams win games but great teams blowout inferior opponents. There hasn’t been enough of that this season from Kentucky and it’s all effort. Competitors want to kill opposing teams. UK did it in the Bahamas, so I’m not sure what has changed over the last few months. Carelessness offensively and lackadaisical defense is to blame.
March is a long ways away and they have plenty of time to get better and work on closing out opponents, but the schedule won’t be this easy for too much longer.
5. Moving forward:
Kentucky gets Tennessee State on Friday and that needs to be a big win for the Cats. Tennessee State has already lost to Lipscomb, Arkansas Little Rock, CSU Northridge this season. There’s no excuse for the Cats to not to blow it open for a 30+ point win.
Today’s game only reassured me that offensively the Cats are going to be fine. 19 turnovers were way too many, but even despite the sloppy play the Cats scored 87 points and shot over 56 percent from the floor. I continue to hope to see Kentucky make strides on perimeter defense and cut down on the lazy lulls. The talent is there, but the Cats need to put to together for 40 minutes nightly.
Have a great Thanksgiving!
By Jack Pilgrim on ©November 21st, 2018 @ 9:00pm
Last week, John Calipari and the Kentucky basketball program announced two new signees for the 2019 recruiting class with Tyrese Maxey making it official on Wednesday and Dontaie Allen coming on Friday.
Noticeably absent from that group? Five-star forward commit Kahlil Whitney.
And it looks like it’ll stay that way until the Spring Signing Period rolls around.
Sources told Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com that Whitney will NOT sign with Kentucky in the fall due to a “logistical issue.” The report states the 6-foot-6 forward wants to sign at his old elementary school in Chicago, but the scheduling didn’t work before today’s deadline.
“He’ll be signing in the spring due to a logistical issue because he wants to do it at home in Chicago,” the source said. “His dream has always been to do it at his elementary school in Chicago and it didn’t work out for the fall.”
This falls in line with what Whitney’s mother, Chanel Tillmon, told KSR last week.
“It won’t be within the next week but he will be signing in one of the periods,” she said via text.
But don’t sweat it, BBN. Zagoria reports Whitney is still all-in on the Wildcats and won’t even entertain the possibility of sniffing elsewhere.
“He’s still 100 percent committed to Kentucky,” the source told Zagoria. “He’s not reopening his recruitment.”
Watch him work below:
Come on down…?
As you likely have seen, Kentucky missed the cut for five-star center Vernon Carey Jr. It’s been a pretty crappy recruiting week for the Cats. Here are a few notes on today’s news.
Carey cuts the Cats:
No one should be shocked UK missed Carey’s final three. A month ago it would have been surprising news and two months ago UK was in a great spot (so folks close to Kentucky though), but the Cats lost all momentum after Carey visited Duke. There’s good news and bad news with Kentucky not making Carey’s final three.
Given the recent trend of this recruitment it was unlikely that UK was going to land Carey. A year ago nearly every analyst was predicting Carey was going to end up at Duke but over the summer the Duke buzz staled. Some started predicting MSU. UK had momentum and the hometown Miami Hurricanes were also supposedly in the hunt.
But things changed after the Duke visit. Duke and Michigan State were the leaders with many going back to the original Duke pick.
The good news about UK missing Carey’s final three is the Cats know it’s over in November. They won’t waste anymore time on a player that was likely going elsewhere and now Calipari can start to construct a new frontcourt plan. The Cats are still recruiting Matthew Hurt and Isaiah Stewart is a possibility although a longshot.
Two of the best players in high school basketball eliminated UK this week. A good chunk of the Big Blue Nation panicked after Wiseman picked Memphis yesterday, but Carey cutting UK is more concerning in my opinion.
Kentucky did everything they could to land Wiseman, but ultimately the kid decided to play for his former AAU/HS coach that he had known for year. He didn’t even wait to see how Penny would do as a college coach. There was a blind trust and that tells us all we need to know.
The Carey news is more concerning because UK couldn’t make the top three for a player they really, really needed. They didn’t finish second, they didn’t finish third and they maybe didn’t even finish fourth. That’s not OK for such an important recruit. Obviously some recruits just don’t love what UK is selling, but this elimination is concerning.
Unless UK is trying to play this incredibly close to the vest (and that’s a possibility) I’m told that folks close to Kentucky are unsure what the youngest Ball is doing in Lexington.
I hope to learn more, but everyone in the college basketball world doesn’t believe that Ball will be eligible. Even if there’s a case for his eligibility it could be such a long and lengthy process that best case scenario would have him sitting out dozens of games.
So, I don’t think that Ball is a serious UK target. But could you imagine if he ends up being recruited by the Cats? The takes. The fan comments. The madness.
Part of me hopes it happens, but I doubt it does.
Hope y’all can put recruiting frustration aside for the weekend and enjoy Thanksgiving and a Cats beatdown of Louisville.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©November 21st, 2018 @ 7:11pm
Vernon Carey just dropped his top three and, as we all feared, Kentucky didn’t make the cut. The No. 2 player in the 2019 class is down to Duke, Michigan State, and North Carolina.
— Vernon Carey Jr. (@vernoncarey22) November 22, 2018
A bad recruiting week for John Calipari just got worse. In other news, LaMelo Ball is currently in Lexington and I can’t even deal with what that means:
Things could never be so bad that Calipari would get involved with that mess, right?
By KSR on ©November 21st, 2018 @ 5:00pm
After a rough start to the week in Kentucky basketball recruiting, Hardly Committed is here to talk about it all. If you don’t want the James Wiseman news to get you down, The Annex’s discussion on The Client will cheer you up. Highlights:
— Is the sky falling?
— A one-minute Winthrop recap
— Where it went wrong with Wiseman.
— Who is this Anthony Edwards guy?
— Should Calipari consider coaching staff changes?
— The process the staff uses to scout grad transfers.
— Dating women with the same name is an odd podcast trend.
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.
By TJ Walker on ©November 20th, 2018 @ 8:30pm
Things will move fast for the new No. 1 player in the class of 2019, Anthony Edwards. The five-star shooting guard from Atlanta reclassified from the class of 2020 to 2019 and bumped James Wiseman to become the top player in high school basketball according to 247 Sports.
At 6-foot-5, 215-pounds Edwards can do it all. Highlights will show him as a powerful backcourt player that plays the 1, 2 or 3 position with ease and he’s even has helped man the frontcourt in AAU and high school. He truly can do it all. Known for his offense, Edwards may actually be a more elite defender.
His versatility makes him a must have for the schools he’s considering, which includes Kentucky along with FSU, UGA, Michigan State and North Carolina.
Edwards has five official visits he can take over the next several months and expect him to take his time to make a final decision. He has unofficially visited Florida State, Auburn and Clemson, but a source close to UK told KSR that the Cats will make Edwards a priority now that he’s officially jumped to 2019.
However, an AAU source said that a school will have to “wow” Edwards to keep him away from Florida State. The Seminoles hold all the picks in Edwards’ Crystal Ball and I’m told that FSU was the school that first suggested/orchestrated the reclassification.
But as UK fans have found out the hard way as of late, things can change in recruiting. Folks close to Kentucky expect to get him on campus for a visit and if that happens who knows where things will stand.
If the Cats were to make up ground and secure a commitment from Edwards it would be an interesting cast of players for 2019-2020. Kentucky would seemingly have as much talent as any other team in the country, but it would be wing and backcourt heavy. In a way too early hypothetical, I’d expect Edwards to play the three and Kahlil Whitney to play the four. Maxey would be one of the two guards and the other guard would depend on who returns from the current roster. UK’s five man is TBA.
I know it’s unconventional but assuming UK brought in a Matthew Hurt, or returned Nick Richards or E.J Montgomery, I don’t care who the other starting guard is that would be a tough team to beat. As of today I don’t think Edwards ends up at UK as all signs currently point to FSU, but Calipari is motivated to land a big fish in 2019 so don’t count out the Cats.
How about some highlights?
By Drew Franklin on ©November 20th, 2018 @ 2:50pm
Tuesday has been a rough day for John Calipari, considering he lost one of his top recruiting targets, a player he has pursued for two years, in James Wiseman. Calipari seemed dejected throughout his afternoon press conference, and the topic of Wiseman was unavoidable, even if the five-star prospect wasn’t mentioned by name.
“We don’t get every kid,” Cal said to start the Q&A. “We get the ones we are supposed to get. It just kinda plays out that way and it always has. It’s not changed my approach to this.”
However, he does wonder if times are changing and kids these days want to hear things will be easy, which has never been his message at Kentucky.
“I gotta be able to sleep at night, knowing that I’m being honest and not embellishing. I’m not saying that against anybody else. Everybody recruits the way they recruit. But you’ve got good programs and good coaches and that’s why we don’t get everybody we recruit. We’re not the only ones out there trying to get good players and trying to help kids.”
When asked about Kentucky’s standing with the elite big men of the class, now that Wiseman is out of the fold, Cal told reporters, “We still have some guys there. It’s funny how it always plays out. The staff’s working at it. There are things that happen, things where, all of the sudden something changed — What happened there? It’s how recruiting is.”
He then said, “Me, personally… I’m overrated as a recruiter. I just try to tell them this is how it is and it’s hard. I want to under-sell and over-deliver.”
By TJ Walker on ©November 20th, 2018 @ 12:45pm
It’s official. The Cats have missed out on five-star center James Wiseman as he picked the Memphis Tigers over John Calipari and Kentucky. When UK landed Kahlil Whitney and Dontaie Allen in August it was clear that Kentucky would be fine in the backcourt and on the wing for 2019-2020, but would then turn its attention to the bigs.
Since those commitments in August it’s been nothing but bad news for the Cats on the recruiting trail and it’s time to worry about how UK fills out the frontcourt in 2019-2020.
What happened with Wiseman:
During his time at Kentucky, John Calipari has never recruited a player harder than James Wiseman. Karl-Anthony Towns and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist were recruited in a similar fashion. UK first reached out to Wiseman in 2016 and offered him a few months later in 2017. For a 2019 player that was an incredibly early offer for Kentucky standards. After the offer the Cats watched Wiseman any chance they could during the AAU period, UK traveled to watch Wiseman represent Team USA in Argentina and there were a handful of in-home visits and the Tennessee native visited UK a couple times.
The Cats did what they needed to do in this recruitment, but once Memphis hired his AAU/high school coach, Penny Hardaway, it was clear that Wiseman was no longer a lock for UK.
But Calipari and UK’s staff didn’t give up and started recruiting Wiseman even harder. They reached out and landed a commitment from Wiseman’s AAU teammate and friend, D.J. Jeffries. Jeffries would later decommit because he felt he wasn’t receiving enough attention, but the Cats didn’t feel that would hurt them with Wiseman.
For most of the summer it still seemed like the Cats were the team to beat, or at least that’s how people close to the program felt. I believe the cracks started to grow when Wiseman announced he would be staying in Memphis for his senior year instead of attending a prep school. Had Wiseman left Memphis I think he ends up at Kentucky.
But that wasn’t it. Wiseman’s initial plan was to be one of the last 2019 players to commit and announce in the spring. This still pointed towards him picking Kentucky. It was unlikely that Wiseman would commit early to UK and then play his senior season in Memphis with upset Tiger fans harassing him for months. Also, the thought process was if he were to pick Memphis he would want to commit early to help Memphis’ recruiting efforts with other 2019 players.
So, when Wiseman changed his plans from an April or May decision to December or January it became worrisome for Kentucky, and once he announced on Monday that he would be committing on Tuesday it became clear that he wasn’t going to end up at UK.
But the Tigers had momentum for the last month or two. It may have been better had the Cats not received the first official visit way back in early September because Kentucky lost momentum later that month and Memphis never looked back.
I wouldn’t expect Wiseman (or Penny) to trash talk Kentucky. The Cats did everything they could besides hire his former AAU/HS coach. And that’s not a knock at Memphis. Part of the reason they hired Penny was to land Memphis and other great recruits in the area and he delivered. It’s a major blow for Kentucky, but UK did what they needed to do in this recruitment but they were beaten by previous relationships/location. It stinks but it happens, and it’s extra crappy for UK because the Cats put so many eggs in the Wiseman basket and are running out of options for bigs in 2019.
But not all hope is lost:
So, where does UK go from here? Here are the remain big targets in 2019 and the latest with each.
Vernon Carey Jr.: Carey Jr. announced he will be cutting his list to three sometime this week. Michigan State and Duke seem like locks to be two of the three, but can the Cats beat out the hometown Miami Hurricanes or North Carolina to be the final team? If UK does make Carey Jr.’s final three they will battle to the end to land a commitment, but they are behind Duke and MSU at this point. Obviously if the Cats don’t make the final three that will be another crushing blow.
Isaiah Stewart: There hasn’t been much buzz lately between UK and Stewart. After Stewart visited Kentucky the scuttlebutt from the visit had UK as the favorite, but things changed a week or 10 days later. Stewart’s dad seemed to favor UK, but those around him preferred other options. Stewart has officially visited UK, Washington, Syracuse and Michigan State, and will take his final official visit to Duke this weekend. He’s hoping to make his decision shortly after this weekend. The Cats don’t appear to be in a good position here.
Matthew Hurt: Hurt is in no rush and hasn’t taken any official visits. The plan is for UK to bring him in for an official in January (tentatively the Kansas game). I’ve been told UK is in a good position, but if Hurt doesn’t plan on committing until March or April, being in a good position four or five months prior doesn’t mean too much as we learned with Wiseman and Carey. Kentucky will likely make Hurt their top target in 2019.
Jaden McDaniels: McDaniels’ recruitment is as quiet as you can get, but he has taken his five official visits. He’s considering UK, Washington, UCLA, Texas and San Diego State. Supposedly the father prefers UK or Washington, but those close to McDaniels are pushing SDSU, where his brother currently plays. McDaniels said he grew up as a Kentucky fan so we’ll see if UK can get back on track with the Washington native.
Keion Brooks: Brooks seems to be an Indiana lean, but the Cats have built a good relationship with Brooks and his father. Brooks, along with McDaniels, would be more of a wing option than a serious frontcourt piece, but Calipari may have to be creative with how he runs his team next season. It seems like the emphasis will be on offense, so Brooks would be a nice addition.
Kentucky desperately needs to land at least two of the players listed above and if UK can do that then the Cats will be loaded with talent for 2019-2020, although there will still be questions on how everything fits. There will be plenty of time to figure that out and Calipari will have to get creative.
If UK lands zero or one of the players above there is a contingency plan. Here are some of UK’s options:
- 2020 player reclassifies: I don’t love this option because I’m not sure if there’s a player in the class of 2020 that could make the jump and be the big UK would need for 2019-2020. Kentucky has offered Scottie Barnes, N’Faly Dante and Jalen Johnson in 2020. Barnes and Johnson are wings, not bigs, although Barnes could possibly play some four. Dante is a true big and physically looks college ready, but he would need plenty of scoring help on the frontcourt. Kenny Payne is the lead recruiter for Dante.
- Grad-transfer: Kentucky will look to go the Reid Travis route and get a grad-transfer big for the second straight season. I’m told UK is already gathering a list of possible grad-transfer bigs and regardless what happens in 2019, UK will strongly look to add a grad-transfer. My guess is that UK will look to fill a specific need with a grad-transfer, so possibly an elite rebounder or shot blocker. UK will try to fill a hole with a grad-transfer.
- Surprise returnee: Reid Travis is gone. P.J. Washington will leave. But there’s no guarantee that E.J. Montgomery or Nick Richards will bolt out of Lexington this year. If UK only brings in one, or zero bigs, I’m guessing UK may tell Richards/Montgomery that coming back could be in their best interest. My guess is Montgomery ultimately leaves, but he’s currently not wowing NBA executives. If Richards leaves it seems like he will be bolting just to start making a money regardless if it’s NBA, G-League or overseas. Cant’ blame that decision if that happens, but he’s a player that could benefit from another year of college.
- Anthony Edwards: Evan Daniels of 247 Sports broke the news on Tuesday that the five-star shooting guard would be moving to the class of 2019. He’s now the No. 1 player in the 2019 class, but the bad news for UK is that he’s a shooting guard. It’s unclear where UK stands in this recruitment, but if the Cats landed Edwards it would be a clear indication that the Cats would be playing some serious small ball for 2019-2020.
- John Calipari leaves: I don’t think this happens, but with all the recruiting misses and Brad Calipari sitting out this upcoming season, does John Calipari have other plans after this year? I’d be shocked if that happens, but there’s no denying it’s been a strange few months.
Wiseman going to Memphis will sting for UK and Calipari’s staff, but there are other options.
To no one’s surprise, James Wiseman has committed to Memphis.
The top big man in the 2019 class picked the Tigers over Kentucky, Kansas, Vanderbilt, and Florida State. Kentucky and John Calipari were once longtime favorites in the recruitment, but when Penny Hardaway took the job at Memphis, the pull to play for his former high school and EYBL coach was too much for Wiseman to resist.
With Wiseman out of the picture, Kentucky will focus on other options like Vernon Carey, Isaiah Stewart, Matthew Hurt, Jaden McDaniels, and Keion Brooks. Carey is set to narrow his list this week; it would be really, really great if the Cats made the cut.
TJ Walker will have more on the repercussions of Wiseman’s decision in a few.