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Zion Williamson: “The time is coming” to make a decision

When will Zion Williamson make his decision? According to him, sooner than you may think.

The five-star phenom posted a new blog entry for USA Today High School Sports today and said he feels “the time is coming” to decide where he wants to go to college.

“I honestly feel like I’ll be making a decision soon. I’ve been really thinking here lately about the pros and cons and I just feel like the time is coming.

I won’t say that I feel pressure, but the fact that I have to actually pick one school is starting to be more real in my mind.”

Zion has been sidelined with a foot injury the past few weeks, but plans to be back in action in January. Clemson has had the momentum for the Spartanburg native in recent months, but he said the time off the court has allowed him to focus on his college decision and “grow mentally.”

“I’ve been watching all of the schools recruiting me on TV a lot and I watch the players in my position and how the schools use those guys; just doing my homework on everybody.”

I didn’t realize Clemson’s games were televised on anything other than ACC Network Extra. Good for them. For more on Zion, check out his blog at the link below.

[The Zion Williamson Blog]


Is a James Wiseman reclassification still an option?

USA Basketball

In case you haven’t heard, Kentucky is the heavy favorite for the No. 1 prospect in the class of 2019, James Wiseman. And there have been rumors spreading for months that he could be reclassifying and joining UK’s class of 2018 for a potential superteam next season.

In early December, Wiseman told reporters at the Marshall County Hoopfest that a move to 2018 “wasn’t an option” and that he didn’t even know where these rumors were coming from.

According to SEC Country’s Kyle Tucker, however, there are still whispers of Wiseman reclassifying to 2018.

He has said he will not. But I continue to hear rumblings that such a move is far from off the table. And as of this moment — two days after UK assistant Tony Barbee was courtside for Wiseman’s game at a holiday tournament in Florida — I’d still give it a 50 percent chance of happening.

And he brings up an extremely valid point. This past offseason, top 2018 recruits Marvin Bagley III and Jontay Porter told reporters constantly that they wouldn’t be reclassifying, even playing through the summer AAU circuit when other 2017 signees were making their way to campus. Within a few weeks of summer AAU championships, they both “surprisingly” made the jump to 2017 and were both deemed eligible to play this season.

Tucker reports if you reclassify to the prior recruiting class, you are ineligible to play in the AAU summer championships, hence why Bagley and Porter kept it a secret for so long. With Wiseman’s Memphis East AAU team being a national powerhouse with a legitimate shot at the EYBL Championship, he could be keeping it quiet so he can help his team win at the Peach Jam next summer before making his way to Lexington.

Considering John Calipari has yet to offer another big man in the class of 2018, even with five-star center Moses Brown essentially begging for an offer from Kentucky, the theory seems plausible.

Here’s just one reason the Kentucky staff and the rest of the top coaches in America are so high on Wiseman:

And a few more reasons:

Having Wiseman in the class of 2018 would make for a monster recruiting class, but as long as he’s here sometime in the next two years, I think the Big Blue Nation will be happy.

Go Cats.


WATCH: Keldon Johnson, Tyler Herro, and Immanuel Quickley already turning heads this season

High school basketball season is finally kicking into full gear, and we’re already seeing why Coach Cal fell in love with Kentucky’s three early signees.

Keldon Johnson, Tyler Herro, and Immanuel Quickley are all putting on shows, with some pretty impressive highlights to prove it.

Johnson finished with 31 points and ten rebounds this afternoon, including some pretty ridiculous dunks. Check it out:

Tyler Herro has already had games of 42, 34, and 43 points this year. Just two days ago, he dropped 31. Here are some of his early highlights:

Immanuel Quickley recently returned from injury/illness, and he’s already turning heads this season, as well:

In case you missed it last week, Quickley went in-depth with SLAM Magazine to talk about John Calipari and how excited he is to play at Kentucky next year. Check it out:

The Cats have three unbelievable talents signed, sealed, and delivered for next season, and it’s only going to get better from here.

Next stop: Zion Williamson.


Calipari in Pennsylvania watching 4-Star Forward

Calipari in Pennsylvania watching 4-Star Forward

Following Kentucky’s 93-86 win over Virginia Tech, John Calipari made the trip to New Castle, Pennsylvania to watch Kennedy Catholic’s Oscar Tshiebwe. Tshiebwe is a 6’9 Power Forward from Hermitage, PA and a member of the Class of 2019. Hermitage is just east of Youngstown, Ohio.

Calipari is watching Tshiebwe against Sewickley Academy. He is currently still awaiting a possible offer from Kentucky, but does hold offers from West Virginia, Georgetown, Clemson, Oklahoma State and others, but Duke and Virginia have expressed interest recently. Here is a view of Calipari from the game:

@Jpfrketic

Here is a look at Tshiebwe:

Calipari could also show interest in 3-star Kennedy Catholic guard Maceo Austin. The 6’4 member of the class of 2019, Austin just recently picked up an offer from Virginia. Currently 24/7 Sports predicts that both will go to West Virginia, but you can never count Cal out. Here is Austin in action:

 

 


USA Basketball

So James Wiseman is pretty good, huh?

USA Basketball

Kentucky’s top target in the Class of 2019 is showcasing his talents on ESPN2 right now as James Wiseman and Memphis East take on a team out of Missouri. Wiseman is the No. 1 overall prospect in his class and there is some talk that he could reclassify to 2018 and commit to Kentucky this spring.

In the meantime, Big Blue Nation is left hoping Wiseman makes that jump while marveling at his game whenever we’re able to see him, like tonight. So do some of that marveling now via this clip of the Memphis big man blocking a shot on one end and busting a three-pointer from the top of the key on the other.

Get on over to ESPN2 to see more Wiseman on national TV. Maybe you’ll see a lot more of him around this time next year when he’s playing for Kentucky?


James Wiseman plays on ESPN2 tonight

Get on those tippy-toes, Cal!

Want to check out one of Kentucky’s most coveted players in the 2019 class? Tonight at 7 p.m. James Wiseman’s Memphis East (Tenn.) will take on Webster Groves (Mo.) on ESPN2, giving you the perfect chance to do a little Thursday night scouting.

Memphis East is currently ranked number one in the country, and, as you can see above, is coached by Penny Hardaway. Because Wiseman also played for Hardaway on Team Penny in the EYBL, he was ruled ineligible for this season at Memphis East, but yesterday, was granted a temporary injunction so he can play for the time being.

There were some rumblings Wiseman might reclassify to 2018, but he shot those down last week. Regardless, Kentucky is still the clear favorite for his services, which is an excellent thing because he’s very good at basketball.

 James Wiseman ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Power Forward 6-11 | 216 lbs. Memphis, TN East High/Team Penny
ESPN: 1 | 1 PF Top 247: 4 | 2 PF Rivals: 2 Scout: 2 | 2 PF


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One step closer to Virginia Tech

The Hokies may not be the marquee non-conference opponent we all had hoped for, but the closer we get to Saturday’s game, the more excited I am to see how the Cats respond to their potent offense. We’re used to seeing Kentucky overwhelm opponents with its speed and athleticism, but Virginia Tech is one of the rare teams thus far capable of keeping up. Plus, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s cousin plays for them and he’s very good.

ICYMI, Kentucky offered Matthew Hurt

There was a lot of news last night (most of the Louisville variety), so you may have missed John Calipari extending a scholarship offer to Matthew Hurt, the fifth-ranked prospect in the 2019 class. Clearly, watching Hurt drop 48 points Tuesday night made an impression. UK has now handed out eight offers in the 2019 class:

  • PG: Tyrese Maxey
  • G: Bryan Antoine
  • SG/SF: Scottie Lewis
  • SF: D.J. Jeffries
  • SF: Keion Brooks
  • PF: Vernon Carey
  • PF: James Wiseman
  • PF: Matthew Hurt

The Music City Bowl Gift Suite looked awesome

Yesterday, the football team got to choose their bowl gifts from the Music City Bowl gift suite, which included HDTVs, Yeti Coolers, recliners, gaming consoles, and pretty much any cool electronic you can think of:

Which gifts would you have chosen?

Did you see the end of the Wisconsin/Western Kentucky game?

The Hilltoppers would have gone to overtime with Wisconsin if not for this terrible call by officials:

Rick Stansbury had every right to be furious. I’m furious.

Podcasts everywhere!

The football podcast crew is reuniting this morning to tape a new podcast, and later today, the OTT Podcast crew is tackling yet another bracket to determine the Worst Christmas Song ever. I know you’ve got feelings on this, so feel free to share them in the comments.

ICYMI, new episodes of the Funkhouser Situation and the Free Money podcast dropped yesterday, so refresh that KSR Podcast feed.

Anyone else seeing Star Wars: The Last Jedi tonight?

I’m tagging along with my husband and friends to check out the latest installment of the Star Wars series. I’m far from a Star Wars nerd but I enjoyed The Force Awakens, and the people watching should be spectacular. Plus, popcorn.

Shoutout to Brandon for repping KSR on the cliffs of Ireland

I hope you warmed up with a nice pint of Guinness, Brandon.

Radio in an hour. I have a feeling they’ll mention Rick Pitino once or twice.


2019 five-star PF Matthew Hurt earns scholarship offer from Kentucky

@CourtsideFilms

On Tuesday night, five-star forward Matthew Hurt dropped 48 points and nine rebounds with John Calipari and Joel Justus in attendance.

Just a day later, Kentucky extended a scholarship offer to the No. 5 prospect in the class of 2019.

The talented forward out of Minnesota also holds offers from Kansas, North Carolina, Duke, Louisville, and just about every other big-name program in America.

“I’m very honored and blessed (to get an offer) because they’re a great program and Coach Cal is a great coach and it’s an amazing feeling, really,” Hurt told Evan Daniels of 247Sports.

Hurt told Daniels that Kentucky’s track record with one-and-done prospects certainly helps their chances in his recruitment.

“They have great one-and-done players, Coach Cal does a great job with that,” Hurt said. “The culture is great, but especially they have great one-and-done players and that’s what I’m trying to be right now. They are definitely up there.”

Watch him work:

Come on down, Matthew.


John Calipari back on the recruiting trail

John Calipari back on the recruiting trail

On his radio show last night, John Calipari said he might do a little recruiting today, and now, we know who he’s going to see. According to ZagsBlog, Cal and Joel Justus will check in with Matthew Hurt, a 2019 forward from Rochester, Minnesota. North Carolina’s Roy Williams, UCLA assistant David Grace, and potentially coaches from Duke will see Hurt today as well.

Matthew Hurt ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Power Forward 6-9 | 199 lbs. Rochester, MN John Marshall
ESPN: 5 | 2 PF Top 247: 6| 3 PF 247 Composite: 5 | 3 PF Rivals: 5

Hurt took an unofficial visit to Kentucky back on September 29, but has not been given a scholarship offer yet. That could change soon. Here’s what ESPN has to say about him:

“Hurt is long and very skilled power forward with very good athleticism. He has a high basketball IQ and feel for the game. Hurt is an excellent shooter in and around the lane and has range to the arc. He can also score in the post on duck ins and can put the ball on the floor and straight line drive. He can pick and pop or roll and can score very well in either case. Hurt does a good job of moving without the ball within the halfcourt offense. He runs the the floor well and can finish above the rim on the break. Hurt is a good area rebounder as well.”

On Friday, he scored 38 points, and followed it up with 46 points and 17 rebounds on Saturday:

[ZagsBlog]


Trae Young’s father: “There was no way (Trae) was not going to Kentucky”

Getty Images

Every year, there is an elite recruit that is deemed a “lock” to end up at Kentucky. A lot of times, there are two or three. In fact, all three of UK’s 2018 signees were all Wildcat locks almost immediately after receiving their respective scholarship offers.

For last year’s recruiting class, five-star guard Trae Young was just about as guaranteed to end up at Kentucky as anyone we’ve seen in the Calipari era.

In interviews, he raved about the program and the coaching staff. Most recruiting analysts had him penciled in as UK’s starting point guard for this season without thinking twice. It just made too much sense.

There were rumors Coach Cal was willing to accept his commitment at any time for several months, but Young never pulled the trigger. Eventually, Quade Green earned a scholarship from Kentucky and developed massive interest in the program, and the first to commit got the roster spot.

Several top recruits were outspoken about wanting to play with Green, as he was seen as a leader and a better floor general than anyone in the country. Young, on the other hand, was seen as a ball-dominant volume shooter, and it has since been confirmed that recruits did not want to play with him for that reason. Calipari put the full-court press on Green to commit, and he finally did. Young eventually landed at Oklahoma, where he could be the No. 1 option and put up as many shots a game as he could ever dream of.

In an interview with Matt Norlander of CBS Sports, Ray Young, Trae’s father, confirmed the talented scorer was just about guaranteed to end up at UK, but “things didn’t work out.”

“He was going to Kentucky or Kansas,” Ray Young said. “It wasn’t even that big of a debate for a while. Once he got the offer from Kentucky, it’s like, ‘Dad, Coach (John) Calipari just left our house.’ I would never say it was a done deal because we really liked Coach (Bill) Self a lot, and being around the coaches at Oklahoma and Coach Kruger, but there was no way he was not going to go to Kentucky, for about six or eight months. That’s the thing people don’t understand. He really wanted to go there but things didn’t work out.”

There were recruiting whispers that Young wanted to play with five-star talent Michael Porter Jr., with some saying they were the ever-popular “package deal.” Porter, however, eventually committed to Washington, a school Young had little interest in. From there, Young-to-Kentucky was full speed ahead.

“Michael Porter was never going to Kentucky,” Ray Young said. “For the longest time Trae and Mike wanted to play together. When Michael Porter Sr. got the job at Washington, we strongly considered Kentucky. Things changed, we started watching both teams (Kentucky and Kansas) and looking at things a bit differently.”

Norlander also interviewed Trae Young about his decision, who simply said if UK was the place that made him the most comfortable, he would be a Wildcat.

“When you go to the next level you want to feel comfortable,” Young said. “If going to Kentucky was best for me, I would’ve done that.”

Funny how things change.

Seeing plays like this, I think I’m just fine with Kentucky’s roster situation.

I like my team.


Calipari watching Moses Brown tonight

Calipari watching Moses Brown tonight

John Calipari headed up to New York a little early to do some recruiting. According to Pat Lawless, Calipari and Tony Barbee are at Archbishop Molloy in Jamaica, New York tonight to watch 2018 center Moses Brown and 2019 point guard Cole Anthony.

 Moses Brown ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Center 7-1 | 241 lbs. Briarwood, NY Archbishop Molloy/New Heights
ESPN: 17 | 2 C Top 247: 27 | 3 C Rivals: 13 Scout: 13 | 2 C

Calipari has yet to offer Brown, but Kentucky’s interest in him picked up considerably once the staff figured out Bol Bol was headed to Oregon. With few big man options in the 2018 class and the possibility of Nick Richards going pro after his freshman year, expect Brown to stay on Kentucky’s radar, as evidenced by tonight’s visit. Luckily, his dad told the Herald-Leader Kentucky is his “dream school.”

Watch him square off vs. Bol Bol in the video below:


Nick Richards has been more efficient than Mohamed Bamba to start the year

Last night, former Kentucky target and current Texas Longhorn Mohamed Bamba threw down one of the craziest dunks we’ve seen in this young college basketball season.

With nearly an eight-foot wingspan, we knew we’d see things like this in his first, and likely only, season in college. That still doesn’t take away from how absolutely bonkers it truly was:

Just for comparison’s sake, Bamba’s dunk matched Dwight Howard’s sticker dunk from the 2009 Dunk Contest and several of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s poster dunks from this season:

Bamba making headlines made me think back to his recruitment and just how bad Kentucky fans wanted this kid coming out of high school. UK commitments, Quade Green in particular, relentlessly recruited Bamba right to the end, but his prior relationship with Texas coach Shaka Smart won out in the end.

The end result has been pretty significant for both teams.

The Wildcats have experienced great inconsistency in the frontcourt, with a big question mark at the four-spot even to this day. PJ Washington has had moments, Sacha Killeya-Jones has thrived in limited playing time, and Wenyen Gabriel has been an energizer, but offensive production has been minimal. Nick Richards had a slow start to the year at the five, but he’s picked up major steam in the past several weeks.

Bamba has been one of the lone bright spots of the Longhorns, and has remained at the top of the draft boards throughout the year. That being said, he hasn’t been able to carry the team by himself like some Texas fans thought he could when he signed.

With Bamba thriving at Texas, many people still wonder just how dominant this Kentucky team could be had he signed here back in May. Most UK fans would tell you they were extremely worried about this team when Bamba told Calipari no, and the Richards-Bamba comparisons started almost immediately afterward.

So how do the numbers stack up?

In 28 minutes per game, the Texas big man is averaging 10.7 points, 10.1 rebounds, four blocks, and a steal per contest.

Kentucky big man Nick Richards is averaging 8.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game in just 17.6 minutes.

Though Bamba leads Richards in just about every statistical category, the Kentucky big man has been more efficient in limited playing time. Per 40 minutes, Richards is averaging 19.6 points on 65% shooting, 14.8 rebounds, 3.4 blocks, and just 1.7 turnovers per game. Bamba is averaging 15.3 points, 14.5 rebounds, 5.7 blocks, and 2.7 turnovers per 40.

Both players certainly have immense potential and will only get better as the year progresses, but it’s still interesting to see just how impressive Richards has been on the court, while Bamba has garnered all the media attention. If Richards can manage to work on the foul issues, we could have a serious talent on our hands. Regardless, folks thinking the Kentucky freshman will be around for two or three years are sadly mistaken.

Even still, it’s impossible to deny just how special this frontcourt would be with both Richards and Bamba. We’ve seen a major progression in Richards’ game already, and to think what Kenny Payne could mold a guy of Bamba’s potential into is just scary to think about.


An update on Zion Williamson’s recruitment (sort of)

As always John Calipari is closing in on another top ranked recruiting class – in case you hadn’t heard, Tyler Herro went for 43 points on Tuesday night – but as we all know there are still scholarships to fill, and at least one mega-star left on Kentucky’s big board. That player is of course Zion Williamson.

While there had been initial buzz that Williamson might commit in the early signing period, that buzz came and went, and as things stand Zion remains uncommitted and unsigned. He now cannot sign any official paperwork until April, and it sounds like he may need the five months between now and then.

That’s because 24/7 Sports recruiting czar and FS1 analyst Evan Daniels joined Aaron Torres on KSR’s new podcast, “The Aaron Torres Sports Podcast” on Tuesday and gave an update on Williamson’s recruiting.

The truth of the matter is that the update on Williamson’s recruiting is, there is no real update at all:

“The truth is there’s not a lot to [update],” Daniels said. “He took four official visits. Kansas first, then Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina. Clemson and South Carolina are still certainly involved. I think all six are legitimately involved.

If you asked me to give a favorite right now, I couldn’t pick one. I really couldn’t… I think Clemson and Kentucky get the most buzz, but I don’t know that means they’re leaders or anything like that.

There’s a ways to go. I don’t think that Zion Williamson has an idea of where he wants to go to school. I really don’t. As of today I don’t think he knows that he’s going to a specific school.  I know that’s a roundabout way to tell you that there’s not a lot new. But that’s the deal with Zion Williamson. I think he’ll take some unofficials, but I don’t think he’s close to making a college choice.”

So Clemson and Kentucky are getting the most buzz, huh? Could Zion follow in the footsteps of so many other big-time high school players in recent years like Michael Porter Jr., Mo Bamba or Markelle Fultz and choose a non-traditional school like Clemson over a blue blood like Kentucky?

It wouldn’t surprise Daniels:

“No it wouldn’t [surprise me if he picked Clemson]. It wouldn’t at all. He’s from not too far from there [Clemson]. He’s been there a bunch. He has a relationship [with the coaching staff]. They’ve done a really good job recruiting him.

Now I’m not saying they’re going to get him. But they’ve done a really good job recruiting. He doesn’t strike me as a kid whose afraid of doing something different.”

To listen to Evan Daniels’ full interview with Aaron Torres, click here


Tyler Herro Dropped a Casual 43 Points Last Night

247

Since Tyler Herro committed to Kentucky we’ve learned a lot about the four-star shooting guard, but there’s really only one thing that matters: the kid gets buckets.

Since high school season has started, the nation’s fourth-ranked shooting guard has been on a scoring tear.  Last night he had his best performance yet for Milwaukee’s Whitnall High School.  Herro posted 43 points and 11 assists with ease in a runaway victory.

This is nothing to new Herro.  Last night’s 43-point performance is just one better than the 42-point game he had last week.

In-between his 40-point performances, Herro drained a go-ahead bucket in the final seconds and blocked a potential game-winning three-pointer to secure a one-point victory.  That all overshadowed a subpar scoring performance by Herro’s standards; he finished with only 34 points Saturday night.


Kenny Payne would rather his son go somewhere other than Kentucky

Last week, Josh Moore of the Herald-Leader reported 2018 prospect Zan Payne, son of UK assistant coach Kenny Payne, could end up at Kentucky next season.

“He’s going to play out the season then consider his options, which include prep school or possibly walking on for the hometown Wildcats,” Moore said.

This weekend, SEC Country’s Joe Mussatto caught up with Zan at the Marshall County Hoopfest and talked to him about the idea of playing for his father at Kentucky.

Not only did he say his father wasn’t recruiting him to Kentucky, he said the UK assistant was pushing him to play elsewhere.

“He would rather me play D-I somewhere else, but if not I’d walk-on at Kentucky,” Payne said.

So why would a father not recruit his son to the school he coached at? Because Payne thinks Zan is good enough to earn a scholarship elsewhere.

“He thinks I’m better than walking-on, so that’s why he would rather me go to a different school,” he said.

The addition of Brad Calipari likely kept Coach Cal at Kentucky for another four years, so the idea of keeping Payne here another four years (at minimum) sounds pretty great. That being said, can you blame a guy for wanting his son to earn a scholarship and more playing time at a smaller school?

Zan Payne didn’t completely rule out playing at UK, but it certainly isn’t the lock many people expected.

We’ll see what happens in the next few months.