Howdy, folks, and welcome to a new week. It was a huge weekend for the →
Basketball Recruiting News
All seven of Kentucky’s Class of 2017 commitments are officially on board with the signings of the three spring additions — Kevin Knox, Jarred Vanderbilt and Jemarl Baker.
Coach Cal made a video to announce the news Thursday afternoon, and in it he gives his thoughts on the new three, plus the class as a whole.
“We will be the youngest team, most inexperienced team in the country,” he said (and will say many times again between now and next fall). “This may be my youngest team ever; but you know what, I love the challenge of it because we have guys that will share, that are going to give it up for each other, that are comfortable in their own skin, come from great homes, understand they’re on a mission and want to get better — those are the kind of kids we want here at Kentucky.”
See it all for yourself:
Mohamed Bamba’s recruitment is over and it didn’t go in Kentucky’s favor. Here are five quick thoughts on his decision to pick Texas as we get back on our feet after the disappoint blow to BBN’s recruiting momentum…
1. Hey, at least he didn’t go to Duke.
If you’re going to lose a recruitment, you always want to lose to a school that’s not a threat. Texas will be a good team next season, but nowhere near as good as if Duke, our arch nemesis, had added Bamba to its roster.
2. He makes a good point about Jarrett Allen.
I can’t say enough about the strides my friend Jarrett Allen made this past year. I saw his footwork improve. I saw the spots they put him in — where he was shooting, passing and stretching the paint like a modern five. Most importantly, I saw his confidence grow throughout the season as he distinguished himself as a possible lottery pick. I’m thankful for the blueprint he laid down and I hope to follow in his footsteps.
Now let’s look at Bam Adebayo and Sacha Killeya-Jones, two other five-star big men from Allen’s class who attended Kentucky. Bam went from projected lottery pick to fringe first-rounder after a year that didn’t live up to expectations; Killeya-Jones didn’t play at all. Calipari’s long-term record with bigs is good, but those are three guys Bamba has known most of his basketball life and probably kept close tabs on last season when Allen proved to make the most strides in one year. One point to Texas.
3. It’s really not a big deal for Kentucky next year.
As nice as it would’ve been to add a game-changer like Bamba, Kentucky is already pretty loaded in the paint, probably too loaded. A month ago you would’ve ranked Bamba third behind Kevin Knox and Hamidou Diallo based on need; well, you got Knox and Diallo is still TBD.
However, no Bamba puts pressure on Nick Richards and a sophomore Killeya-Jones to perform, but it’s not like Kentucky won’t have a big man because it didn’t get Bamba.
He would’ve been a great addition because he is special. It’s not the end of the world.
4. He is really, really, really smart and I’m a huge fan.
Unlike most (all) player contributions to The Players’ Tribune, I really believe Bamba wrote his own. Watch one interview with him and you know he’s a very special young man outside of his basketball talents. He clearly put a lot of thought into this decision and believes he is doing what’s best for his family, which is all that really matters in the end. How can you not love that he wants to, in his words, “build a long, successful career that will ensure that my father won’t have to drive a cab 70-plus hours a week, including nights and weekends”? Consider me a big fan of Mo Bamba for life.
5. I still like my team.
When the ball tips next fall, give me the University of Kentucky over anyone.
They’re at the table waiting to eat.
Mohamed Bamba is going to Texas. The five-star big man announced his commitment Thursday morning via his own words on The Players’ Tribune. In the end, he picked the Longhorns over Kentucky, Duke and Michigan in a disappointing decision for Big Blue Nation.
Bamba’s explanation of the decision is a long one and very well-written for the kid who is wise beyond his age. He explains living by a mantra of “filling his jar with big rocks first,” and he names Texas as the program that filled his jar the best, and Shaka Smart and academics as the biggest rocks:
Coach Smart may not have been aware of it, but I put him through a weeklong job interview last summer when he coached me on Team USA in Valdivia, Chile. We instantly formed a bond. Now, the tables have turned, and I’m the one interviewing with him, hoping to show I can play a major role in his team’s success next season. His attention to detail is truly unbelievable — I can’t tell you how many times he picked up on something I mentioned in passing and brought it back full circle several months later. I’ve seen firsthand how much he genuinely cares about me and my family and how he’s going to challenge me to be in a state of continuous improvement.
How can a projected “one-and-done” college athlete get a real college education? That gets thrown around a lot and I want to go on record as saying that the two concepts are not mutually exclusive. My academic focus is not just lip service. It’s extremely important to me and my family, but I also firmly believe that the best class I’ll ever take will actually be taught by the people I will surround myself with.
I feel especially fortunate to explore my academic interests within the McCombs School of Business, one of the nation’s top undergraduate BBA programs. Learning from world-class professors and classmates in Austin, a city that’s renowned for tech and innovation, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Oh, and that alumni network — man, the Horns are everywhere! I can see and feel their passion and I’m excited about aligning myself with them for a lifetime of support and learning. I’ve seen firsthand the power of this from my time at Westtown and Cardigan Mountain.
These two big rocks were the true keys to my decision — without the coach and without the “beyond basketball” element, the stones, pebbles and sand wouldn’t have mattered that much.
Bamba goes on to list strength, conditioning and skill development as his jar’s “stones,” followed by the campus environment and weather as the “pebbles and sand.”
It’s a very good read from a young man who just broke our basketball hearts.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©May 17th, 2017 @ 6:15pm
Kevin Knox showed us it’s not wise to read too much into the “expert” predictions in 247 Sports’ Crystal Ball, but today, the site’s national college basketball writer Kevin Flaherty picked Texas for Mohamed Bamba, the latest in a wave of momentum for the Longhorns in the big man’s recruitment. Kentucky still has 48% of the predictions, including recruiting guru Jerry Meyer’s, but I personally will take some comfort in the words of Evan Daniels, who told Ben Roberts that there’s practically zero word from Bamba’s camp, other than he’s probably down to Kentucky and Texas.
“I have nothing new. I wish I did,” Daniels said. “Mohamed is certainly taking his time, and he’s going through this process a little differently. … We’ll see how it plays out.”
While we wait on Bamba, let’s enjoy his latest highlights. If he commits to Kentucky while I’m in Italy, that means I have to stay there for good luck, right?
In a new set of questions for the Rivals Roundtable, basketball recruiting analysts Eric Bossi, Corey Evans and Krysten Peek made their updated predictions for Mohamed Bamba’s future.
And bad news for Kentucky fans who trust the trio’s opinions: two of the three picked Texas.
Eric Bossi was the only one in John Calipari’s corner, but even he seemed hesitant to pick the Cats. “There is a lot of buzz about Texas right now and the Longhorns are certainly in a good spot,” Bossi wrote in his prediction. “However, I’m still hearing just enough rumblings to stick with my prediction of Kentucky and if the Wildcats do land him it would be yet another testament to what John Calipari can do in recruiting.”
The one thing they all seemed to agree on is that Duke and Michigan are running third and fourth, behind Kentucky and Texas.
Read the entire discussion here.
By Drew Franklin on ©May 16th, 2017 @ 10:00am
One of the top point guards in the Class of 2018 narrowed his list down to six schools Tuesday morning and Kentucky is of course in the hunt.
Javonte Smart, the third-ranked point guard in the 247 Composite, announced he is down to a final six schools of Florida State, Kansas, LSU, Oklahoma State, UCLA and the Cats.
— Javonte Smart (@JavonteSmart) May 16, 2017
Smart does not hold an offer from Kentucky just yet, but he is on John Calipari’s radar. Cal visited him down in Louisiana last month.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©May 15th, 2017 @ 1:30pm
Bol Bol is one of the most recent 2018 players to get an offer from John Calipari thanks to an incredible spring on the EYBL circuit. The 7’2″ son of late NBA great Manute Bol is averaging 25.4 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 4.1 blocks for California Supreme, which was enough for Calipari to extend a scholarship offer back on May 1. Bol told Rivals’ Eric Bossi that he was so stunned by the offer he thought it was a joke at first.
“At first I didn’t believe it and I thought it was a joke,” said Bol of the Kentucky offer. “It was kind of cool. They are always good every year and always have good players. Everybody that goes there goes to the NBA.”
Also helping UK’s case with Bol: De’Aaron Fox, who hung out with the 7-footer a few weeks back in California. Both Fox and Bol posted this picture of themselves with Arizona commit Shareef O’Neal last week:
A post shared by Bol Manute Bol (@bol_bol1) on
A post shared by De'Aaron Fox (@swipathefox) on
I’m cool with this future. While we’re looking at Bol’s Instagram, LOOK AT HOW TALL HE IS:
A post shared by Bol Manute Bol (@bol_bol1) on
My goodness. Can you imagine a frontcourt of him and Marvin Bagley? Because I am and it’s really fun. Enjoy footage of Bol dropping 35 points in front of Calipari below.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©May 15th, 2017 @ 12:45pm
Landing Michael Porter Jr. (or rather, hiring his dad) was huge for Cuonzo Martin’s new regime at Missouri, but today, they got a commitment from another big recruit: four-star center Jeremiah Tilmon. Tilmon is considered a top 35 recruit by Scout, and originally signed on to play for Illinois, but got a release after John Groce was fired. He also had offers from Kansas, North Carolina, Michigan State, Texas, UCLA, and Indiana. The addition of Tilmon has rocketed Missouri up to sixth in 247 Sports’ 2017 recruiting class rankings.
So, since taking the job at Missouri, Cuonzo has Martin has snagged a five-star program changer (Porter), a four-star center (Tilmon), and a four-star point guard (Blake Harris). AND, they’re not done yet. Jontay Porter, Michael Porter’s younger brother, is a 2018 recruit, but is considering reclassifying to 2017 to join his brother and dad in Columbia.
Alright. We see you, Tigers.
By Nick Roush on ©May 14th, 2017 @ 11:00am
Usually when the shoe circuits are in session, this site is filled with updates from the courts, primarily answering the question, “Who’s Cal watching?” That’s not the case this weekend because it’s during a recruiting dead period. Coaches can’t attend games until later this summer. Still, there’s plenty of action happening in Atlanta.
The marquee matchup of the weekend featured Calipari’s two top targets on the EYBL. Small forward Cameron Reddish, the No. 4 player in America who just shrunk his list to eight, got the best of the nation’s No. 1 player, seven-foot phenom Marvin Bagley.
Bagley had 29 points (10-14 FG), 17 rebounds and 3 blocks, but the Phoenix Phamily fell to Reddish’s Team Final 71-68. Reddish finished with 35 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists in the win. You’ll appreciate the highlights from Courtside Films.
Darius Bazley (4-star No. 55 player in the country) is not being recruited by the big dawgs, but this could change things. Prepare to have your mind blown by one of the most unbelievable plays EVER.
— Courtside Films (@CourtsideFilms) May 14, 2017
Over the past few years, the Kentucky/Duke rivalry has amped up thanks to Duke’s 2015 title and Coach K’s success on the recruiting trail. As a result, John Calipari has upped his game and, in the past six months, recaptured the momentum from his friendly foe. Not only did Duke have a roller coaster season after everyone predicted they’d win the title and possibly go 40-0, it was full of drama, and this morning, freshman Frank Jackson announced he’s staying in the draft, the third Duke freshman to do so alongside Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum.
To add insult to injury for the Blue Devils, on Saturday, Kevin Knox shocked everyone by picking Kentucky over Duke, Missouri, Florida State, and North Carolina. All of the momentum was going in Duke’s direction before the announcement, but Knox chose Calipari over Coach K, a turn of events that pushed Cal into super swaggy mode. Not only did Cal ride a hover board around his kitchen, he told reporters he’s “not done yet” with his 2017 class yesterday at the combine, a not so subtle nod in Mohamed Bamba’s direction. Duke is also a contender for Bamba, which makes the tweet Cal sent earlier today so great. While having lunch in Chicago this afternoon (at which appears to be Rosebud on Rush again), he took a minute to compose this tweet that includes a shot at the Blue Devils:
I was in this restaurant the day we played Duke in 2015-16 and Malik Monk committed! It was like we won three times that day. pic.twitter.com/tHv98berFw
— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) May 12, 2017
That day was November 17, 2015, and not only did UK beat Duke that night, they got a commitment from Bam Adebayo that morning. Malik Monk announced his commitment to Kentucky the following day, the 18th, but I’m guessing Cal knew about it beforehand, making the 17th a red-letter day in his book.
Between Bamba, Diallo, and Cam Johnson’s decisions, there’s plenty of uncertainty right now, but Calipari feeling good makes me feel good.
Today’s a very special day for two very special players in the 2017 class: future Cat Quade Green and potential future Cat Mohamed Bamba. How crazy is it that the two friends and EYBL teammates were born on the same day in 1998? Green has been the frontman on Bamba’s recruitment, and after Kevin Knox made his announcement on Saturday, celebrated by turning towards the bench at the Ball is Life All-American Game (which Bamba also participated in) and yelling, “Mo, you next!”
— HoopFocus (@TheHoopFocus) May 7, 2017
No news on Bamba, other than he’s at home in Harlem focusing on his decision, which he plans to make before the NBA Draft next month. In the meantime, I’ll take solace in PJ Washington’s Instagram video from last weekend:
A post shared by PJ Washington (@pj_washington) on
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©May 12th, 2017 @ 12:39pm
It’s been almost a week since Kevin Knox shocked the recruiting world by picking Kentucky over Duke, Florida State, Missouri, and North Carolina, and yesterday, his father, Kevin Sr., opened up about the decision in an interview with CatsPause’s Chris Fisher. There’s a lot of good stuff in the Q&A, but most interesting to me were Knox Sr.’s comments about how so many experts thought this decision came out of left field. When Knox announced, not a single expert in 247 Sports’ Crystal Ball picked him to go to Kentucky; 87% of the predictions were for Duke, and the remaining 13% for North Carolina.
“We see everything,” Knox Sr. said, laughing when asked about the Crystal Ball picks. “We saw those and we would laugh.”
Even the UK staff didn’t know Knox was coming to Lexington until he announced his decision via Twitter on Saturday. Knox Sr. said the staff’s heartfelt reactions to the news made them feel as though he made the right decision.
“Coach Cal texted my wife. Our contact was Coach Kenny Payne and we were able to speak to him a little later. I don’t think he knew. He said his phone was getting blown up and said you’ll have to give me a minute. He was tearing up. It was a really good situation and a really good time. It’s good to feel wanted and feel like we definitely made the right decision.”
What about Calipari riding his hover board around the kitchen?
“That made us laugh. That made us laugh. The celebratory joyride. At the end of the day, it’s good to see your coach excited to want you. When you talk about relationships, it’s good to have that type of positive energy and you’re going to play for someone you trust with the handling of your son and be a part of something special.”
Check out the entire Q&A by clicking the link below.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©May 11th, 2017 @ 7:30pm
Hamidou Diallo has yet to make his decision about the draft, but given today’s performance, it’s looking like he could have good reason to stay in it. If so, you know what would make us all feel better? A commitment from Mohamed Bamba. Before Diallo enrolled at Kentucky, he was a member of the 2017 class, and is very close with Kentucky’s incoming freshmen. According to Kyle Tucker, Diallo received a good luck text today from UK’s 2017 class, which he referred to as a brotherhood. What would that class look like if they added Bamba?
Hamidou Diallo: "If Mohamed Bamba comes to Kentucky, it's going to be really scary."
— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_SEC) May 11, 2017
Meanwhile, all is still quiet on the Bamba front. With the all-star circuit finally over, he’s back home and focusing on his decision. During the tournament, Diallo told Adam Zagoria that he’s been trying his hardest to get Bamba to come to Lexington.
“Definitely, we’re trying to get Mo down here,” Diallo said. “He’s been a head case but we’re still working on that. Hopefully it happens.”
Even Hami knows we gotta get Bamba.
John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats are finalists for five-star 2018 small forward Cameron Reddish. According to Pat Lawless, Reddish trimmed his list to eight: Kentucky, Duke, Villanova, UCLA, UConn, Arizona, Miami and Maryland.
Small Forward | 6-8 | 196 lbs.
Norristown, PA | Westtown
AAU: Team Final
|ESPN||No. 4 | 1 SF||Top247||No. 4 | 2 SF|
|Rivals||No. 5 | 2 SF||Scout||No. 4 | 1 SF|
Prep school teammates with Mo Bamba, Reddish first received an offer from Calipari back in April of 2016. Duke was originally perceived as the prohibitive favorite, but since the start of the EYBL he’s decided to take his time and leave all options open in his recruitment. Still, all 11 247 Crystal Ball predictions are for Duke.
A visitor for Big Blue Madness, he last hosted John Calipari and Tony Barbee back in January. Kentucky coaches have been present for most of his EYBL games. Here’s some of what they saw:
On Saturday, Kevin Knox took Derby Day to another level when he shocked the world by picking Kentucky over Duke, North Carolina, Florida State, and Missouri. I was hosting a Derby party when the news broke and didn’t see it until I picked up my phone about a half hour later, at which point all of my friends learned who Kevin Knox was and were forced to watch the video of John Calipari riding his hover board around his kitchen. It’s been a few days since then, but I’m still basking in Knox’s decision; here are my ten favorite things about it.
1. No one saw it coming
Between the AAU circuits, Crystal Ball predictions, countless all-star games, and social media, basketball recruiting gets almost as much coverage as the sport itself, to the point that 90% of the time, you know where a kid’s going by the time he announces. Not so with Knox. Heading into Knox’s announcement, 87% of the predictions in his Crystal Ball were for Duke and only 13% for North Carolina. Not one of the 23 experts thought Knox would end up at Kentucky, and after the news broke, recruiting messiah Evan Daniels said that while he is very rarely shocked by college commitments, Knox’s pretty much stunned him. In recent weeks, we heard the folks at UK still thought they had a shot with Knox, hence Calipari’s trip to Tampa last month, but none of us actually predicted he would end up a Cat, which is why Saturday’s news was especially sweet.
2. It came at Duke and North Carolina’s expense
Remember this time last year when Duke was putting together a mega class that had people whispering about 40-0 and pundits gleefully pounding out articles about how Coach K had stolen Calipari’s thunder in recruiting? What a difference a year makes. Not only did Duke fail to live up to expectations during a roller coaster season, they’ve only got two five-star commitments so far in the 2017 class in Gary Trent Jr. and Wendell Carter…AND they had to steal a three-star recruit from Eastern Kentucky. Knox would have been a game-changing addition to Duke’s class; instead, Coach K struck out and Calipari got a home run.
Meanwhile, if there was ever a time for Roy Williams to land a superstar like Knox, it was now. Coming off a national championship, Roy brought his box of rings to Tampa to impress Knox last month. It didn’t work, and the Tar Heels have zero five-star players in the 2017 class. Luckily, their fan base is pretty used to that these days.
3. It eases the shooting concerns
Knox may be 6-9, 205 lbs., but he’s also a good shooter, so much so that Calipari plans to use him at the two or three spot to fill the void left by Malik Monk. The main concern with next year’s team is a lack of shooters, and while Knox won’t be the scorer that Monk was from the outside, having a 6-9 wing that can punish you in the lane and hit a consistent jump shot will be HUGE for the Cats. His size, ball handling skills, and jump shot make him the perfect example of the positionless player Calipari so often covets.
4. It takes pressure of the Hamidou Diallo decision
With the NBA Combine starting tomorrow, we’re going to hear a lot about Hamidou Diallo’s pro potential and whether or not he’ll stay in the draft, a debate that’s embroiled the BBN since Diallo declared a few weeks ago. If Diallo does stay in the draft (and I’m starting to think he will), it will be a difficult pill for most Kentucky fans to swallow; landing Knox makes that a little easier. People will still grumble, but at least we’ve got one of the top ten players in the country coming in to distract us.
5. It opens up a whole world of combinations
Say Kentucky gets Bamba and Diallo stays in the draft…what will the roster look like? Thanks to Knox, there are tons of options, specifically at the two/three spot, Kentucky’s biggest weakness before his commitment:
- PG: Quade Green/Shai Alexander
- G: Kevin Knox/Jemarl Baker
- G/F: Kevin Knox/Jarred Vanderbilt/PJ Washington
- F: PJ Washington/Jarred Vanderbilt/Wenyen Gabriel
- F/C: Mohamed Bamba/Nick Richards/Sacha Killeya-Jones/Tai Wynyard
If Diallo comes back, he’ll start as the two guard, shifting Knox to the three spot; if he doesn’t, I’d expect Cam Johnson to commit and help out at the two, giving Knox more time at the three.
Or, Calipari could say screw it and just platoon again.
6. It might help with Bamba
Knox’s dad told SEC Country that his son and Mohamed Bamba talk five days a week, and while Knox’s decision has no impact on Bamba’s roster wise, the fact that he’s joining Bamba’s other friends on UK’s roster (notably Quade Green) has to help the Cats’ chances, right? Knox’s dad seems downright giddy at the thought of the two teaming up next season.
“I just know Bamba really likes Kevin; Kevin likes Bamba. I think it would be really great for them to play together. So we just gotta see how that conversation goes over the next couple of weeks.”
Come on down and join the super team, Mo.
7. It means that the U19 National Team might actually have a Kentucky starting five
Next year’s team will be John Calipari’s youngest, and therefore, most challenging; however, it does help that the core of that team will also play for Cal this summer in the FIBA U19 World Championships in Egypt. Quade Green, Kevin Knox, Jarred Vanderbilt (if his foot injury isn’t serious), PJ Washington, Hamidou Diallo, and Mohamed Bamba will all likely be on that squad, meaning that if Bamba comes to Kentucky, Vanderbilt’s able to play and Diallo doesn’t stay in the draft, Cal could have an all-Kentucky lineup. Nick Richards (Jamaican native), Wenyen Gabriel (too old), and Shai Alexander (Team Canada) can’t be on the roster, but what’s stopping Cal from bringing Sacha Killeya-Jones and Jemarl Baker along with him?
Kentucky can’t go on an overseas trip until 2018, but the ten days in Egypt (July 1-9) and the week of training camp in Colorado (June 18-25) will be a great head start for a team that desperately needs it.
8. It came with a football assist
The hidden hero in getting Knox to Kentucky? UK Football recruiting guru Vince Marrow, who played professional football with Knox’s father, Kevin Sr. The elder Knox played wide receiver at Florida State and was drafted in the sixth round by the Buffalo Bills, where he met Marrow. The two are still great friends and met up when Knox visited for Big Blue Madness. Knox Sr. also knows Lamar Thomas, who played at Miami from 1989-92, the same time Knox was at Florida State.
Marrow was especially happy to hear the news Saturday night:
Yahtzee. The whole BBN will like that one. Congrats Coach Cal
— CoachMarrowUK (@vincemarrow) May 7, 2017
Thanks for the assist, big dawg.
9. It instantly makes Kentucky a Final Four contender next season
Even if Diallo came back to school, without Knox, UK still had some issues at the two/three spot. With the body of a small forward and the handle/stroke of a guard, Knox instantly vaults Kentucky from a team with some weak spots to a team that, once they gel and grow up a bit, can contend for a title on talent alone. By now, we’ve learned the pitfalls of overhyping a recruit, but Knox’s athleticism and versatility changes the game for Kentucky next season.
10. It gave us one of the greatest Calipari videos of all time
Knox’s commitment reportedly moved Kenny Payne to tears, but Calipari? Well, Cal was so happy he risked his life by jumping on his hover board and spinning around his family’s kitchen.
“This is a celebration,” Cal said. “That’s right, I had to do it.”
— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) May 7, 2017
That will never ever get old.
Uh oh, uh oh, uh oh…