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2019 five-star forward Jaden McDaniels commits to Washington

2019 five-star forward Jaden McDaniels commits to Washington

2019 five-star forward Jaden McDaniels has made his decision.

As expected, the 6-foot-10 prospect out of Federal Way, WA has decided to stay home and play for the Washington Huskies.

He made the following post on Twitter this evening:

McDaniels, a consensus top-15 prospect, chose Washington over Kentucky, San Diego State, Texas, and UCLA.

Over the last several weeks, we’ve seen multiple momentum shifts in this recruitment. Washington was seen as the favorite for the majority of his senior season, but recently, Kentucky took over as the (temporary) favorite.

In the end, though, the draw of staying at home to play in front of friends and family every night won out. Instead of playing in the spotlight several hundred miles away in Lexington, he’ll have the ability to distance himself from the pressure at Washington one more year before making the jump to the NBA.

We’ll have more on the decision and what it means for Kentucky moving forward in Pilgrim’s Insider Notes tomorrow afternoon.


If Jaden McDaniels is Truly Torn, Let’s Give Him His Space

(Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports)

We’re now officially towards the back-end of May, and yet we somehow don’t appear to be any closer to the end of the recruitment… that just won’t end. I’m of course talking about Jaden McDaniels, the five-star forward from Seattle, who has seemingly been trying to decide between Washington and Kentucky since the Obama administration. Yet despite summer school starting in just a week or two, he doesn’t appear to be any closer to actually making his college decision.

Or is he? Who knows.

Frankly, it feels like he could commit a minute after this article publishes. Or a month from now. No one seems to have any idea. McDaniels doesn’t do interviews, doesn’t seek attention on social media and doesn’t truly seem in any rush to make a decision.

If anything, he is the opposite of what college basketball recruiting is in 2019. He doesn’t seek the spotlight. He actively avoids it.

Never was that more apparent than this weekend, when we actually got some interesting information about McDaniels recruitment. Information that came from the most unlikely source: His older brother Jalen.

San Diego State’s Jalen McDaniels was at the NBA Draft Combine this weekend, where he was stopped by the Lexington Herald-Leader’s Jerry Tipton and asked about his younger brother.

There, Tipton asked if the elder McDaniels had any idea when his brother would decide. I mean, his older brother would have to know, right?

Maybe not.

“Whew, man, I’m wondering the same thing, honestly,” Jalen said. “I mean, honestly. I feel like it should be coming soon, though.”

“To be honest, I don’t know what’s holding it up,” Jalen said. “I know it’s between two schools. He’s just trying to make the right decision.”

My goodness. In a world where it’s easier to get information out of Fort Knox than it is the McDaniels camp, doesn’t this interview tell you everything you need to know about Jaden McDaniels recruitment? If McDaniels own brother has no idea where he is going, is it possible that maybe, just maybe, Jaden himself has no idea either?

The answer is probably a “yes.” And if Jaden really does have no idea where he wants to go to college then let me say this: He deserves respect from all of us (especially folks like me in the media) while making his decision.

Now look, before we go any further, I already know what some of you are thinking: “Aaron, do you really believe that Jaden McDaniels own brother has no idea where he is going to college?” It of course possible that the elder McDaniels does know and doesn’t want to give away the suspense. It’s also certainly possible that, considering that Jalen McDaniels has been at San Diego State the last three years, that he just isn’t all that close to his brother’s decision-making process any more. That certainly seems plausible.

At the same time, if you just read his comments, do you really believe that the elder McDaniels is part of some big conspiracy and trying to shield his brother? Or do the comments read like an older brother who genuinely has no idea what his baby bro is thinking (and yes, I just dropped a casual, Johnny Drama “Baby Bro” in this article).

To me it’s the latter.

And when you think about it, doesn’t it kind of make sense that Jaden McDaniels might be genuinely confused as this point? After all, as much as we professionalize all these big-time basketball players and assume that they’ve got it all figured out (since they’ll be in the NBA within a year), the reality is that they’re still 17, 18 and 19-years-old. For most of them, this is the first truly big decision that they will make in their lives. That’s especially the case for Jaden McDaniels. He isn’t a kid who has been the focus of a big-time recruitment since he was a sophomore in high school, but was relatively unknown until about a year ago. He also isn’t some kid who spent a year or two at Oak Hill Academy or Montverde adjusting to life away from home. This is all, quite literally, new to him.

So, you think that this might be overwhelming for him?

Seriously, think about everything he’s choosing between right now: The place he has called home his whole life, or a school that’s 3,000 miles away. Playing in front of friends and family for the next year, or on the biggest stage in college basketball. Playing for a solid Pac-12 program where expectations will be somewhat low, or on a team that will very likely start the season ranked in everyone’s Top 5 and be expected to compete for a national title. Being the hometown hero? Or playing for his “dream school.”

When you think about it like that… man is that a lot on the shoulders of an 18-year-old kid.

Maybe I’m overthinking things, but to me, this doesn’t seem like the type of kid to simply use social media to build drama between two fan-bases. He doesn’t seem to be waiting on anything honestly, other than for his heart to tell him where to go to college.

To me, this just seems like an 18-year-old kid who is truly torn on his college decision.

If his brother has no idea where he’s going, it probably means no one does including Jaden McDaniels.

So let’s all give him the respect he deserves as he tries to figure things out.


Kentucky no longer in the running for RJ Hampton

@CourtsideFilms

This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but Kentucky is no longer in the running for RJ Hampton. John Martin of 92.9 ESPN in Memphis is reporting that the five-star guard is down to Memphis, Kansas, and Texas Tech and cut the Cats from his list because “Kentucky’s backcourt is set.”

While Hampton is an exciting prospect and we’ve heard that those around him actually prefer Kentucky to other schools on his list, between Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley, Tyrese Maxey, and Johnny Juzang, the Wildcats’ backcourt is simply too loaded for the scenario to make sense.

Kansas leads Hampton’s Crystal Ball with 81% of the predictions.


USA Today Sports

Head-to-head recruiting: Coach Cal vs. Coach K

USA Today Sports

When the college basketball season ends (and sometimes before), the recruiting season begins, and it’s no secret that John Calipari is a master recruiter (despite how much he may downplay it). Since 2011, Kentucky has been the only school with a consensus top-5 recruiting class among 247SportsScout, and ESPN. Furthermore, the Wildcats have had a consensus top-2 class every year except for 2019 (though they could rise in the rankings if Jaden McDaniels goes against predictions and chooses the Cats).

While Coach Cal’s recruiting prowess has paid dividends, it’s placed a target on his back, and other schools have elevated their game in the recruiting arena. Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway has put together the No. 1 recruiting class so far this cycle, but the most consistent competition comes from Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

From 2014 to 2018, the Wildcats and the Blue Devils have shared the top-2 spots in recruiting, and the latter has owned the consensus No. 1 class the past two years. Last year, Duke boasted the first class in the modern era with the No. 1, 2 and 3 ranked players on their roster.

A variety of factors go into the players a coach chooses to recruit and the schools a player is interested in joining. Coach Cal and Coach K have different play styles which call for different skill sets and, as such, they often recruit different players. However, players inevitably come along who are so talented that both coaches compete for them. These head-to-head battles are where things get extra competitive – and interesting.

These decisions, the ones made by the most sought after players in a class, often come down to Kentucky, Duke and a handful of other schools. It may be worthwhile then to examine those cases and see how Cal and K stack up as “closers” when they’re vying for the same prospect. These are the athletes (and their ESPN rankings) since 2014 who were considering both UK and Duke at the time they made their final decision:

2019

Matthew Hurt (No. 11)—Duke

2018

R.J. Barrett (No. 1)—Duke

Zion Williamson (No. 2)—Duke

Cam Reddish (No. 3)—Duke

E.J. Montgomery (No. 14)—Kentucky

2017

Kevin Knox (No. 10)—Kentucky

2016

Harry Giles (No. 1)—Duke

Jayson Tatum (No. 3)—Duke

Wenyen Gabriel (No. 14)—Kentucky

Marques Bolden (No. 16)—Duke

2015

Brandon Ingram (No. 3)—Duke

Luke Kennard (No. 24)—Duke

2014

Karl Anthony-Towns (No. 9)—Kentucky


So, since 2014, the score is 9-4 in favor of Krzyzewski. Of course, there were players considering both schools who eventually dropped one and went to the other (i.e. Trey Lyles), but when it comes down to arguably the two most prestigious programs in college basketball history, Duke seems to be winning out on the recruiting trail, at least right now.

This is not to say Calipari & Co. has not done extremely well on said trail. Like previously mentioned, the Wildcats have had a consensus top-2 class every year until 2019, and things could still change in that department. Regardless, it hurts just a little bit more when the Cats miss out on top talent to none other than Coach K and his Blue Devils, right?


Where UK Stands With the Remaining Frontcourt Options for 2019

(Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports)

UK’s 2019 roster is already formidable, but Coach Cal is still searching for that final cog that would have the machine running at full strength. Even if we assume EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards both return to Lexington for another season, there is still potentially room for one more big body to fill out the front-court rotation. Who that player will be, or if the Cats wind up with just three big men for next year, remains to be seen, but there are several options still technically on the table.

The likelihood that any of them end up in blue and white is a mixed bag.

Jaden McDaniels

The premier recruit still left undecided in the 2019 class, McDaniels seems to be having trouble making his final decision. We all know UK is his “dream school,” but with plenty of hometown Washington advocates certainly in his ear, the pressure of making a final commitment has to be weighing on the guy.

As recently as last week, it seemed UK was firmly in the driver’s seat as the clear leader to land McDaniels, but when his suspected decision day came and went without any official announcement, the waters got much murkier. 247Sports’ Evan Daniels flipped his prediction yesterday, now saying he believes Washington will snag the 5-star forward. With minimal whispers and no firm date set for his decision, expect the McDaniels saga to drag on just a bit longer.

Kerry Blackshear, Jr.

The former Virginia Tech standout is also ruminating on a decision of his own: to risk the uncertainty of the NBA Draft or spend one more year in college boosting his stock.

The most recent rumblings on Blackshear point to him leaning towards staying in the draft. That being said, our own Jack Pilgrim did note that should Blackshear not get the feedback he’s looking for from the League, Kentucky may be the favorite destination for arguably the top grad transfer in 2019. We’ll know soon enough: only 10 days remain until the draft withdrawal deadline.

Jordan Brown

UK reached out to the former Nevada big man and McDonald’s All-American almost immediately after his name popped up in the transfer portal, but updates on Brown have been few and far between since then. Arizona is pushing hard to woo the 6’10” power forward, but other than that, there haven’t really been any indicators on Brown’s status.

Maybe he’s waiting to see where other chips fall? Or could he be holding out for a different school to show interest? As soon as we know, so will you.


For now, I wouldn’t call the situation with any of these guys critical. But on the off chance EJ or Nick explore their options elsewhere, Coach Cal might have to put on his big boy recruiting cap and get to work once again.

@JayWinkKSR


2020 five-star wing BJ Boston cuts list to four, includes Kentucky

2020 five-star wing BJ Boston cuts list to four, includes Kentucky

Kentucky is a finalist for one of the top prospects in the class of 2020.

Five-star wing Brandon Boston Jr. trimmed his list down to four this evening, with Kentucky, Duke, Auburn, and Florida making the cut.

Ever since Kentucky offered the 6-foot-6 prospect back on February 23, most recruiting analysts felt it was a two-horse race between the Wildcats and Blue Devils, with the latter being the rumored favorite.

Over the last week, however, the Wildcats have received four consecutive Crystal Ball picks, including one from 247 Sports Director of Basketball Scouting Jerry Meyer and Duke insider Andrew Slater.

At the recent Nike EYBL event in Atlanta, Boston told KSR that while his recruitment is open, there are four schools recruiting him the hardest right now.

“I would say Duke, Alabama, Kentucky, and Florida,” he said. “I think that’s it.”

Since then, however, the Tigers have recruited him as a package deal with AAU teammate and fellow five-star guard Sharife Cooper, something that intrigues Boston. This would explain Alabama being dropped from the final list and Auburn being added.

The five-star prospect added that he loves Kentucky because of how focused they are on winning in Lexington, something he is definitely interested in when he gets to college next year.

“I love how Coach Cal, all of the coaches and players, they all hold each other accountable,” he said. “They just want to win.”

In his official scouting report over on 247 Sports, Jerry Meyer highlights his length, athleticism, and “natural feel for the game.”

A long athlete who is still growing. Has good athleticism and a natural feel for the game. Lack of strength needs to improve, especially to be effective long term on the defensive end. Terrific scorer who is effective at all three levels. Has a nose for the ball and the length to be a dangerous rebounder. Has tremendous upside, which makes him a potential lottery pick.

Watch some of his most recent highlights during his time on the Nike EYBL circuit this spring here:

Come on down, young fella.


Jaden McDaniels’ brother weighs in on the ongoing recruitment

Photo via Endless Motor

Jaden McDaniels is still quiet as a mouse regarding his will-he or won’t-he commitment that’s down to Kentucky and Washington, but his brother, Jalen, is breaking his silence. In a new report from Jerry Tipton and the Herald Leader, Jalen weighed in on his brother’s pending decision. Unfortunately, he seems as confused as the rest of us.

When will a decision be made?

“Whew, man, I’m wondering the same thing, honestly,” Jalen said Thursday. “I mean, honestly. I feel like it should be coming soon, though.”

He’s also not sure why it’s taking this long.

“To be honest, I don’t know what’s holding it up,” Jalen said. “I know it’s between two schools. He’s just trying to make the right decision.”

Although there is definitely some McDaniels recruiting fatigue, it’s certainly not caused by Jaden McDaniels himself. The five-star prospect has remained silent throughout this entire process, leaving some with questions regarding his ability to handle the spotlight that comes with playing basketball at Kentucky. His brother isn’t convinced that would be an issue.

“He’s a low-key guy. He doesn’t get caught up in that. Like, the attention doesn’t mean a lot to him,” Jalen says. “He knows it comes with it, but something that he doesn’t get caught up in it. So I feel he’d do fine.”

[Herald Leader]


Last-minute (hopefully) recruiting update on Jaden McDaniels

Photo via Endless Motor

We may (or may not) be coming up on a decision for 2019 five-star forward Jaden McDaniels, so I’ve spent the day reaching out to as many people as possible to get a better feel on just what the heck we should expect if and when the news finally breaks this evening.

In Pilgrim’s Insider Notes last night, I wrote that as of late last week, the Kentucky coaching staff felt extremely confident in McDaniels joining the fold for 2019. There were various sets of rumors that Kentucky not only received a silent commitment from the five-star prospect, but that a National Letter of Intent was also signed. While the latter was proven to be false by McDaniels himself, there is still a bit of confusion in terms of the extent of what exactly happened to make everyone and their mothers jump to make a prediction in favor of Kentucky.

No matter what the specific phrasing was or whether it was a true “silent commitment,” the point remains that as of this weekend, UK was operating under the assumption that McDaniels was going to be a Wildcat.

While the Kentucky staff felt extremely confident in their position last week, sources tell KSR that those on Washington’s side of things also felt that UK was the overwhelming favorite. One individual told me today that the Huskies felt it was “either 90/10 or 100/0” in favor of the Wildcats going into the weekend.

As discussed in-depth last night in my notes, Evan Daniels of 247 Sports then backed off of his Kentucky Crystal Ball prediction and changed his status to “undecided,” causing an obvious frenzy throughout the recruiting world. While Daniels wouldn’t budge on the information that led him to have this change of heart on KSR, he did say that if the five-star forward were to announce today, he would likely lean Washington. He then added, however, that he truly didn’t have a great feel either way to make him confident in either finalist.

After diving a bit further into the overall momentum shift throughout the day, specifically from Washington’s side of things, I am told that while they genuinely feel that they chipped away at Kentucky’s overwhelming lead a bit, they don’t believe it’s a done deal that they took the lead by any means. In fact, at the time of this update, the Huskies still think it’s 50/50 between both finalists. They were happy that they weathered the first storm a bit when it comes to all of the Kentucky smoke, and they think it’s good news that staying home is still pulling on McDaniels’ heartstrings, but Kentucky is and always has been a serious player. They understand that.

Sources tell KSR that even after this weekend and going into Monday, the Washington staff was not told of any decision, UK or UW, nor do they expect to find out until McDaniels announces his decision to the public. I find this somewhat significant. In my eyes, if this was truly a shift in momentum from the Wildcats to the Huskies, wouldn’t Washington have heard news similar to what Kentucky heard last week? This could be by design for the 6-foot-10 forward and his inner circle, but it certainly strikes me as a bit odd.

The expectation is still that McDaniels will make his announcement tonight, but with him being three hours behind us out on the West coast, we don’t know how late this could go. Just be sure to keep your eye on one social media outlet in particular.

“Watch Instagram this evening,” one source said.

All of the drama will soon be over, BBN.


Pilgrim’s Insider Notes: Jaden McDaniels, Kerry Blackshear Jr., and RJ Hampton

Pilgrim’s Insider Notes: Jaden McDaniels, Kerry Blackshear Jr., and RJ Hampton

(Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports)

After taking the week off last week, we’re back for another edition of Pilgrim’s Insider Notes. I graduated from the University of Kentucky last weekend, and as a graduation present, my dad took me on a surprise trip to the Bahamas for the week. After a hectic end to basketball season and a strenuous last couple of weeks finishing up my degree, it was a much-needed break and I certainly appreciated the patience while I took some time off to rejuvenate.

Side note: If you’re ever planning an exotic trip, specifically to the Bahamas, avoid Nassau and go straight to one of the smaller islands. I spent two days in Nassau, explored the city, did the Atlantis thing (waterpark, casino, “private” beach), etc., and while I enjoyed my time there, it just didn’t compare to our next stop, Crooked Island. With only a few hundred people on the island, it was a complete disconnect from the world. No stress, no traffic, flawless scenery, incredible food, tight-knit community of locals, etc.

Can’t recommend it enough. Absolute paradise.

Now onto the good stuff, and goodness there is plenty of it.

We’ll break down the latest rumblings with Jaden McDaniels, the status of Kerry Blackshear Jr., where RJ Hampton stands in his recruitment, and the NBA decisions of Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery.

Let’s dive right in.

Jaden McDaniels

Last time I did my insider notes, it was a two-parter with closing out the class of 2019 on May 1, and looking ahead to 2020 on May 2. In both of those posts, I added brief tidbits on 2019 five-star forward Jaden McDaniels and the latest on his recruitment (If you want to go back and catch up on both, I linked each post above).

To give you a quick SparkNotes, though, I essentially said that McDaniels was finally ready to get into the nitty-gritty of his recruitment and we should expect to see some movement in the coming days/weeks. In terms of a decision, while no one is certain of a final date set, what we do know (and did know even back then) is that it will come in the form of a post on either Twitter or Instagram and nothing more. And when that time comes, the general thought was that the hometown Washington Huskies would win out in the end based entirely on his quiet demeanor and tendency to shy away from the spotlight. He has always loved Kentucky, even called them his dream school at one point, but after talking with him at several different events, I just never got the vibe from him that he’d ever leave the comfort of his own home.

Just a day later, though, word leaked out that Kentucky was picking up momentum and may actually end up being the choice. In fact, I had heard at the time that the UK coaching staff not only felt confident in their position, but genuinely felt they had done enough in this recruitment to come out on top.

From there, the momentum has been all Kentucky, with nearly all major recruiting analyst (Evan Daniels, Jerry Meyer, Andrew Slater, etc.) picking the Cats to be the final choice. Daniels went as far as to say that he would be “shocked” if McDaniels ended up anywhere but Lexington this weekend. After talking to some people on both sides of the equation, while I’m not sure if there was ever an actual commitment from McDaniels behind the scenes as rumored, the UK coaching staff felt late last week that they were the pick. Whether that is why the recruiting experts flocked to make UK predictions, I’m not certain, but what I am very confident about is that the Kentucky buzz was legitimate.

Moving on to the next aspect of those rumors circling around social media that McDaniels had submitted his National Letter of Intent to Kentucky, I was told from the jump that while the smoke surrounding UK’s status was real, the signing talks were bogus. Daniels then confirmed that with the five-star prospect himself late last night.

Those in his inner circle, namely Cartiea French-Toney, his trainer, have actually pushed recently for McDaniels to not sign a LOI and only sign financial aid paperwork. As a side note, with the deadline being tomorrow to submit a letter of intent, this means that he could ultimately opt to wait a bit longer before making his announcement.

Around the same time of Daniels’ aforementioned tweet, he also made headlines by changing his Crystal Ball pick from Kentucky to “undecided,” which usually isn’t a good sign when it comes from arguably the best source of recruiting news (93.51% all-time prediction success rate) in the game. To put the cherry on top, 247 Sports’ Josh Gershon, another plus-90% predictor, also changed his pick to “undecided.”

So where did this change of heart come from?

“New information would probably be the best way to put it,” he told Matt Jones on KSR this morning.

After trying to work the phones today, I genuinely think this is nothing more than a high school kid being torn between staying home and being the hometown hero or making the first legitimate leap of faith in his basketball career. It’s down to Washington and Kentucky, without question. Those close to him want him to stay home one more year before heading to the NBA, though I’ve also been told that his parents have opened up to the idea of him landing in Lexington. As for McDaniels himself, I genuinely believe he knows Kentucky is the best move for his future, but doesn’t know if he’s ready for the spotlight that comes with being a UK basketball player. The former part of the argument is why the Cats gained so much steam recently, and I think the latter is why it has since cooled off.

I’ve also heard a theory that this could be McDaniels and his camp telling recruiting folks to back off their UK predictions to add intrigue to the decision, but I seriously don’t think that carries much weight, if any at all. This is a group of people that try to stay as tight-lipped and low-key as possible, so I just don’t see a benefit in that method of thinking at all. Maybe they simply just want to let McDaniels have his moment? While that may true, I don’t see a correlation there.

At the same time, we’ve also seen situations like Julius Randle, the Harrison Twins, and Trey Lyles in the past, where Kentucky was seen as the consensus favorite, we saw some last-minute rumors and momentum shifts, only to find out it was UK all along. That could come into play here, as well.

At this point, while I do not believe he will sign a letter of intent and will only sign financial aid paperwork, I still anticipate a decision this week, with Wednesday still being a legitimate option. His high school coach, who says he talked to McDaniels last night, also feels an announcement could come tomorrow.

Before yesterday, I planned on writing an incredibly optimistic post about how I would be surprised if it’s anything but Kentucky and it was time to pencil McDaniels in as a future Wildcat. Now, I’m genuinely conflicted and feel it could go either way. Unlike the Keion Brooks Jr. decision where it became apparent the Indiana native thrived under pressure and loved the spotlight, I don’t know if I can say the same for McDaniels. I keep going back to my conversation with him at the Jordan Brand Classic, where he said, “There’s nothing like playing at home.”

While I’m not certain where McDaniels is going, I do know that he is now in the process of coming up with a final destination. As we’ve seen throughout his entire recruitment, it could go back and forth over the course of the next few hours, let alone days, and neither Kentucky nor Washington would shock me at this point.

I’ll stick with the Cats based on just how much pro-UK smoke there was over the last several days, but it’s nothing more than a gut feeling.

Above all else, I’ll be happy when this recruitment is finally over.

Kerry Blackshear Jr.

The other major frontcourt prospect Kentucky is rumored with right now is Virginia Tech graduate transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr.

When word leaked out originally that the 6-foot-10 forward was putting his name in the transfer portal, Kentucky was immediately associated, with the UK coaching staff even making a trip down to Florida to meet with Blackshear’s family. Texas A&M and Florida were the two other schools that seemed to be the strongest contenders to land the former Hokie big man.

But the biggest question right now isn’t which school he’ll be transferring to, but whether or not he’ll be going back to school at all.

Right now, I’m told that the hope for Blackshear is that he works his way into NBA Draft contention or at least feels he can find the right fit as an undrafted free agent. If that’s the case, I think he says goodbye to college basketball and begins his professional journey.

Corey Evans of Rivals.com also added this morning that while his camp is relatively quiet right now, the general thought right now is that he keeps his name in the NBA Draft.

“Sources have told Rivals.com that Blackshear seems to be leaning toward keeping his name in the NBA Draft,” he said. “While he may go undrafted, the feeling is that he would be OK spending a year in the G-League instead of spending next year at a new college program.”

If he doesn’t receive the feedback he’s looking for (and he only has two more weeks to figure that out), sources tell KSR that Kentucky is in a great position to land Blackshear this offseason. In fact, before the recent developments of McDaniels, there was serious momentum that the Wildcats could have landed all three of McDaniels, Blackshear Jr., and Johnny Juzang to close out the class of 2019.

If McDaniels does opt for Washington, I fully expect the Kentucky coaching staff to go all-in on Blackshear and will ultimately find themselves as the favorites (if they aren’t already) to land the talented graduate transfer if he decides to head back to college for one final season.

RJ Hampton

Two weeks ago, five-star combo guard RJ Hampton announced he would be reclassifying from 2020 to 2019 and was down to four schools: Kansas, Kentucky, Memphis, and Texas Tech.

From the start, most major recruiting analysts felt the local Texas Tech Red Raiders weren’t serious contenders, leaving just the Jayhawks, Wildcats, and Tigers.

From there, former Duke commit Boogie Ellis and graduate transfer Rayjon Tucker (who may end up keeping his name in the NBA Draft) both committed to Memphis over the last week, leaving just one scholarship spot for the Tigers. If five-star forward Precious Achiuwa commits to Memphis this weekend, as expected, they’re out of roster spots. The way things are looking now, there just isn’t room for Hampton to sign with Memphis, ultimately leaving just Kansas and Kentucky, right?

Well, not exactly.

Last night, Evan Daniels added that he doesn’t believe it will be Kentucky, either.

Interestingly enough, I’ve heard over the last two weeks or so that Kentucky was in a better position than most believed, and that Hampton’s inner circle actually prefers the Wildcats over all the schools involved. The reality of the situation is that UK’s backcourt is simply too loaded and while Hampton feels he could start no matter who is currently on the roster (he has said as much), the logjam would make things just a bit too complicated. In fact, if Ashton Hagans had decided to put his name in the NBA Draft, I genuinely believe Hampton would be a Wildcat.

Using process of elimination, and that leaves Kansas as the winner, the school most believe has been either the No. 1 or No. 2 school on Hampton’s list for several months now. As of today, I would be shocked if he ends up anywhere other than Lawrence, KS next season.

One thing I will say to watch out for, however, is Hampton heading overseas for a year before turning pro. While I still strongly believe he ends up at Kansas, I’ve been told that the overseas route is intriguing for the five-star combo guard, and there’s an outside chance that he considers it.

In terms of when we’ll hear a final decision, Hampton told his followers on Twitter yesterday to check his profile bio, which says “Your question will be answered soon.”

Expect him to announce for Kansas sooner rather than later.

Nick Richards/EJ Montgomery

The last two current pieces on the Kentucky basketball roster with NBA decisions to make are former five-star forward prospects Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery.

For the former, the situation is a bit more simple. He is going through the NBA process simply learning from professional scouts and personnel about what he needs to work on next season in college. The expectation is that Nick Richards returns to Kentucky for a junior season, just as it has been since he originally put his name in the draft back in April.

As for Montgomery, it’s not as simple.

From the start, the working assumption was that while they may test the waters, UK would eventually return both Richards and Montgomery. That being said, there is growing concern that while the latter isn’t necessarily looking for a reason to leave, he’d jump on the opportunity in a heartbeat if one presented itself. To take it a step further, KSR’s Matt Jones said last night that a team guaranteeing a two-year deal in the second round would likely sway him to leave.

While Montgomery’s draft stock is extremely low right now and most teams are likely telling him he needs to return to school, it only takes one. We’ve seen it plenty of times before in the past, including last year with Jarred Vanderbilt, that teams take chances on players based solely on potential alone. Montgomery would likely, unfortunately, fit in that category.

I still think it’s more likely than not that Montgomery returns for a sophomore season at Kentucky, but it’s certainly not a clear-cut decision and we’ll likely have to wait at least another week before we hear anything.

No matter what happens with the key targets in the immediate future, the UK coaching staff has a backup plan in place. If the “nightmare” scenario happens where McDaniels goes to Washington, Blackshear Jr. stays in the NBA Draft, and Montgomery leaves his name in to explore his professional options, look for Kentucky to push for a reclassification from 2020 prospects N’Faly Dante and/or Makur Maker. And though Isaiah Todd has said on multiple occasions he wasn’t making the jump, he also said at the Nike EYBL event in Atlanta that he wouldn’t rule anything out if a team came calling at the last minute needing immediate help.

In short, Kentucky will be fine.