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Insider Notes: Some positive momentum for the Cats?

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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.

Matthew Hurt:

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.

New names?:

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.

Isaiah Stewart:

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.

Let’s recap.

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.

(Photo: Lopez/Nike)

Keion Brooks:

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.

Jaden McDaniels:

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.

Anthony Edwards:

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.

Kyree Walker:

The Hillcrest star is one of my favorite players in 2020 and KSR will have more on Walker this week.

 

 


DJ Jeffries: “If (Memphis ever plays Kentucky) it’s going to be the same result as Duke”

DJ Jeffries: “If (Memphis ever plays Kentucky) it’s going to be the same result as Duke”

Kelly Kline | Under Armour

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.

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.


T.J.’s TAKES: Plenty of good and bad in UK’s win

T.J.’s TAKES: Plenty of good and bad in UK’s win

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!

 


Kahlil Whitney not signing in fall due to “logistical issue,” sticking with Kentucky

Photo: Jon Lopez / Nike

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…?


Wednesday evening recruiting thoughts

Photo by FIBA

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.

Good news:

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.

Bad news:

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.

LaMelo Ball:

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.


Vernon Carey releases top three, eliminates Kentucky

Photo by FIBA

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.

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?


Hardly Committed E16: James Wiseman to Memphis and The Client

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.