Basketball Recruiting News
By Jack Pilgrim on ©December 03rd, 2017 @ 8:45pm
After months of speculation, 2019 No. 1 prospect James Wiseman told reporters he would not be reclassifying to 2018.
â€œNo, thatâ€™s not an option,â€ Wiseman toldÂ Al Willman of Rivals.com. â€œIâ€™m just going to stay in 2019.â€
In fact, Wiseman doesn’t even know where the reclassification rumors came from.
â€œI really donâ€™t know,â€ Wiseman said. â€œI have no clue (where they started). I was just looking on Twitter and they were talking about it. It was crazy.â€
Though he plans on staying in the class of 2019, Wiseman says Kentucky is near the top of his list and Calipari is recruiting him extremely hard.
â€œIâ€™ve got Kentucky visiting me a lot,â€ Wiseman said. â€œCoach Calipari has been talking to me. Really, itâ€™s just Kentucky reaching out to me the most. He has been texting me almost every day, checking on me to see how I am.â€
The top prospect of 2019 says Coach Cal believes he’d be a great fit in his system at Kentucky.
â€œHe just wants me to work hard, because Kentucky does a lot of pick-and-pop plays with bigs, and stuff like that,â€ Wiseman said. â€œHe thinks Iâ€™d be a good fit for that system.
Wiseman visited Kentucky for Big Blue Madness, and he said it’d be great to be part of that someday.
â€œThe atmosphere was crazy,â€ Wiseman said. â€œThe fans were just going crazy for the players. For me to go there, itâ€™d be great.â€
Wiseman’s decision leaves the Wildcats in a tough situation, as they have no scholarships extended to any big men in the class of 2018, and options are limited at this point. MosesÂ Brown is the likely option, but most analysts see him as a long-term project in college. Will they look for someone else to reclassify? Will they find a graduate transfer?
That being said, this leaves Kentucky in fantastic position with several of the top prospects in 2019, and things are set up well for a monster recruiting class then.
To read the entire Rivals article, head here.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©December 03rd, 2017 @ 2:00pm
On Friday afternoon, the Marshall County Hoopfest tipped off featuring several futureÂ Kentucky targets.
One of those talented prospects? 2019 five-star forward DJ Jeffries.
Jeffries is considered a consensus top-20 recruit, and his stock continues to rise. Kentucky offered him a scholarship back in September, and the Cats are seen as the heavy favorite in his recruitment.
He didn’t do much to shut down those rumors in an interview with SEC Country’s Joe Mussatto last night.
â€œPeople in Kentucky, they love their basketball team,â€ Jeffries said after the game. â€œI feel like thatâ€™s something I probably want to be a part of.â€
Countless Wildcat fans were in attendance sporting blue and white, doing their part to make the talented prospect feel at home. Jeffries said he certainly noticed the fans and wanted to put on a show for them.
â€œI tried to put on a good show for the fans cause they might see me in a couple years,â€ Jeffries said.
Also in attendance? Kentucky coach John Calipari, a guy Jeffries has admired for several years. He grew up a Memphis fan with Cal as the head coach, and now, he’s excited to be recruited by him.
â€œHeâ€™s one of the legendary coaches, so it feels good that he came to watch me play,â€ Jeffries said.
To read the entire article, head on over to SEC Country here.
By Jay Winkler on ©December 03rd, 2017 @ 12:00pm
Don’t get it twisted. Zion Williamson is still the prize of the remaining undeclared 2018 recruiting class. But Coach Cal may have snagged one of the most underrated prospects of the crop in Tyler Herro.
The kid dropped 42 points this past Wednesday, and last night, he followed that up with a 34 point performance, including a go ahead 3-pointer and a game winning block.
â€” Overtime (@overtime) December 3, 2017
Given how inconsistent the Cats may prove to be from beyond the arc this season, seeing Herro waiting in the wings dropping bombs left and right is a welcome sight.
By Nick Roush on ©December 02nd, 2017 @ 9:20pm
John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats defeated Harvard just after 5:30. Â He spoke with the media until about 6:15. Â Two hours later Coach Cal was walking into the Marshall County Hoop Fest.
Calipari made the quest to Western Kentucky to watch a handful of talented underclassmen and one of his 2018 signees, Keldon Johnson. Â This is what Johnson did last night.
Keldon Johnson, everyone. pic.twitter.com/yTuUxLbtUG
— Joe Mussatto (@joe_mussatto) December 1, 2017
— Overtime (@overtime) December 1, 2017
The primary reason Calipari rushed across the state is to see the matchup between Zion Harmon and D.J. Jeffries.
Jeffries is a five-star small forward ranked in No. 18 in the junior class. Â He has an offer from UK and the Cats lead in his recruitment ahead of a handful of other SEC programs. Â Harmon caught the eyes of the Commonwealth when he led Bowling Green to a Sweet 16 Title as an 8th grader. Â Now the No. 1 freshman point guard in America, he played with seniors on the EYBL last year and was still one of the better point guards on the circuit.
No matter what Calipari sees, nobody will be happier tonight than this guy.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©December 01st, 2017 @ 10:00pm
The Marshall County Hoopfest is officially underway, and Kentucky signee Keldon Johnson is one of the headlining prospects in the event.
Tonight, the future Kentucky guard helped Oak Hill defeat Hamilton Heights by a final score of 84-63. Johnson finished the game with 16 points onÂ 6-17 shooting, seven rebounds, one assist, and two steals.
After the game, SEC Country’s Joe Mussatto interviewed Johnson on his decision to come to Lexington, recruiting other prospects, and what it was like to play in front of the BBN for the first time as a Wildcat commit.
Though he hasn’t reached out to other Kentucky targets, Johnson says he will reach out to Zion Williamson and Moses Brown soon to seal the deal.
â€œI know Tyler (Herroâ€™s) been talking to Zion a lot, staying on him, and talking to Moses (Brown),â€ Johnson said. â€œMaybe Iâ€™ll get in contact sometime soon and see where their head is at and see if we can get this done.â€
In his recruitment, it was well known Johnson’s father, Chris, was very hesitant aboutÂ his son going to Kentucky. His biggest concerns were playing time and having to compete against some of the nation’s best to put up points, a worry many parents of top recruits have. After a long discussion, the 6-6 wing convinced his father Kentucky was the best place for him.
“I was more for Maryland and N.C. StateÂ because they were local and he would have been the man from day one,” Chris Johnson said in an interview with Chris Fisher ofÂ CatsPause.com. “We went back and forth but he was sold on Kentucky. That was where he really, really wanted to go. He just wanted to be part of that tradition.”
Tonight, Johnson went a little further on his father’s thought process with SEC Country and why the Cats ended up being the best fit for him.
â€œHe just knows a lot of good players are gonna come to Kentucky and that no slackers come to Kentucky,â€ Johnson said. â€œFrom day one I gotta fight. I think he was a little hesitant on that, but I know my dad believes in me that I can do it.â€
The Marshall County Hoopfest is always packed with Kentucky fans waitingÂ to see the newest Wildcats in action. Johnson said it was great to see the Big Blue Nation out in full force to cheer him on.
â€œThere was a lot of people out there calling my name and things like that,â€ Johnson said. â€œIt was an awesome environment… I fed off (the crowd) and they fed off me.â€
To read the entire SEC Country article, head on over to this link.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©December 01st, 2017 @ 10:00am
The Marshall County Hoop Fest is underway in Benton, and this year’s event features two very familiar names. Kentucky signee Keldon Johnson and 2019 big man James Wiseman are participating in the event, along with a handful of other UK targets:
- Keldon Johnson, Oak Hill Academy (2018) — SIGNED
- Zan Payne, Lexington Catholic (2018) — Interest (son of Kenny Payne)
- James Wiseman, Memphis East (2019) — Offered
- D.J. Jeffries, Olive Branch (2019) — Offered
- Jaemyn Brakefield,Â Huntington Prep (2020) — Interest
- Zion Harmin, Adair County (2021) — Interest
Not only is this a great chance to welcome Keldon Johnson to the Big Blue Nation, it’s an opportunity to see James Wiseman in action. As we’ve mention, there’s a possibility Wiseman will reclassify to the 2018 class, and, because of his age, he would have to stay at the school of his choice for two years. It’s not clear whether he’ll actually do that, but one thing is for certain: Kentucky is his favorite right now.
The event will also feature Zan Payne, Kenny Payne’s son, who is currently a senior at Lexington Catholic. Add in D.J. Jeffries, Jaemyn Brakefield, and Zion Harmon and it’s a safe bet John Calipari makes his way to Benton this weekend. Oregon signee Bol Bol will also be there with Findlay Prep, coached by PJ Washington’s father, as will top 2019 prospect Charles Bassey.
Here’s when Johnson and UK’s targets play:
4 p.m.:Â Oak Hill Academy (Va.) [Keldon Johnson] vs. Hamilton Heights (Tenn.)
8:30 p.m.:Â Huntington Prep (W.Va.) [Jaemyn Brakefield] vs. St. Benedictâ€™s (N.J.)
3:45 p.m.:Â Prolific Prep (Calif.) vs. Huntington Prep (W.Va.)Â [Jaemyn Brakefield]
5:15 p.m.:Â Lexington Catholic [Zan Payne] vs. Marshall County
6:45 p.m.:Â Adair County [Zion Harmon] vs. Olive Branch (Miss.) [D.J. Jeffries]
8:15 p.m.:Â Tennessee Prep (Tenn.) vs. Oak Hill Academy (Va.)Â [Keldon Johnson]
1:30 p.m.:Â Aspire Academy vs. Memphis East (Tenn.) [James Wiseman]
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©November 28th, 2017 @ 4:15pm
Keldon Johnson is one of three signees in Kentucky’s 2018 class, and after watching his tape, Kevin Durant thinks he’s the scorer the Cats need next season. Our friends at The Overtime had the NBA All-Star critique Johnson’s highlights, along with those of Zion Williamson, LaMelo Ball, Cam Reddish and other top prospects, and Durant was impressed.
“If you need a scorer, man, this guy is who you need,” Durant said. “He can score points in bunches.”
Durant got to watch Johnson in person at the Peach Jam this summer.
“I had a chance to watch him at the Peach Jam, so I’ve seen him up close. When you talk about scorer, this guy’s it. He’s athletic, nice with the right hand. It’s hard to stop him going right. He can shoot the J, too. Nice.Â I think the next step for him is figuring out how to play at each level he can go to, figuring out the team game because he has everything you need one-on-one.”
As you might imagine, Durant was also impressed by Zion Williamson.
“Just a bull in a china shop. Freakish athlete. Like a once-in-a-generation type athlete.”
“In transition, it’s kind of hard to stop this dude. It’s like nearly impossible…He can’t have any space around him. If you give him any space, he’s taking off.”
You can see Johnson play yourself at the Marshall County Hoop Fest this weekend, along with James Wiseman, DJ Jeffries, and 2021 Adair County star Zion Harmon.
Check out more videos of Keldon Johnson and Zion over at ItsOvertime.com.
With almost a week between games, John Calipari is going recruiting. The first prospect on his list? James Wiseman, the 2019 big man who could reclassify to the 2018 class. According to Pat Lawless, Calipari will visit Wiseman in Memphis today.
|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|
Wiseman is an especially intriguing prospect because if he reclassifies, he’ll be at the program of his choice for two seasons because of his age. He also LOVES Kentucky. Not only is his Twitter page full of tweets and retweets about the Cats, he was the recruit most into Big Blue Madness, interacting with fans and not even bothering to hide his smile on the blue carpet.
Come. On. Down.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©November 28th, 2017 @ 9:59am
Last December, Jim Harbaugh came on John Calipari’s podcast, and this week, Calipari returned the favor. Cal is a guest on the Michigan head coach’s “Attack Each Day” podcast, and spent about 30 minutes chatting about his team, the recruiting process, and how annoyed Cal was that Harbaugh met the Pope before did.
The conversation includes a lot of Calipari-isms we’ve heard before, but one interesting part came towards the beginning when Cal dropped a reference to Trae Young, the point guard he once coveted most in last year’s class. Young went to Oklahoma and scored 43 points vs. Oregon on Sunday night.
“Tell me what kind of program you want to be in,” Cal said of how he talks to families on in-home visits. “Tell me how you want to play or be coached. And through the questioning, sometimes I look and say, this is not going to work. Now, it doesn’t mean they’re wrong in not coming to Kentucky. There’s a kid that’s father wanted him to shoot every ball and I said, we just don’t do that here. Well, he’s gone to a school and he had 40 last night as a freshman. The most in 20 years. Well, that may have been right for their son.”
Hmm. Calipari also details the grueling process he’s going through with this team right now, including how he recently played a trick on one of his players during a film session. Classic Cal, so listen to the podcast below. He comes on around the 11-minute mark.
We already have one coach’s son on the team, and it looks like another is entirely possible for 2018.
Kenny Payne’s son, Zan Payne, is currently turning heads forÂ Lexington Catholic, and he’ll be exploring his options for college this offseason.
According to Josh Moore of the Lexington-Herald, Zan could possibly walk on at Kentucky.
The son of UK assistant coach Kenny Payne doesnâ€™t have any Division I offers at the moment. Heâ€™s going to play out the season then consider his options, which include prep school or possibly walking on for the hometown Wildcats.
â€œHeâ€™s gonna leave here being a 1,000-point scorer and is probably one of the best rebounders weâ€™ve ever had in school history,â€ Coach Brandon Salsman said of the 6-foot-5 forward.
Brad Calipari likely kept Coach Cal here for another four years, and it’s likely this move would make a similar impact on Payne staying in Lexington for the next several years.
Here are the highlights from his junior year:
What do you guys think?
Instead of spending Black Friday in shopping mall traffic, the Kentucky basketball coaches are on the road recruiting.
Today Kentucky is court-side to evaluate the game of 2019 point guard Ashton Hagans. Â The rising junior is considered a top twenty prospect by all of the major recruiting services.
PointÂ Guard| 6-4 | 180 lbs.
Covington, GA |Â Newton
AAU:Â Georgia Stars
|ESPN||No. 19 | 4 PG||Top247||No. 14 | 3 PG|
|Rivals||No. 6 | —||Scout||Â — | 5 PG|
Hagans has yet to receive a scholarship offer from John Calipari, but the Cats have an 80-20 advantage over Auburn in the 247 Crystal Ball predictions. Â See a sample of what the coaches are watching today:
Vanderbilt’s gonna be legit next year, y’all.
Canadian power forward Simi Shittu just announced his commitment to Vanderbilt, the second five-star recruit to do so this year. Shittu joins fellow former UK recruit and five-star point guard Darius Garland and four-star small forward Aaron Nesmith in Vanderbilt’s 2018 class. With five-star shooting guard Romeo Langford also considering the Commodores, there’s no denying Bryce Drew is getting it done.
A few months ago, it appeared John Calipari was ready to jump in the race for Shittu, even taking Jamal Murray up to watch him play in Ontario, but Cal never extended an offer. Now, the Cats will face him twice next season. What a massive get for Bryce Drew.
Here’s Shittu’s announcement via the Players’ Tribune:
Simi Shittu wants to let you know where he’s going to college.
â€” The Players’ Tribune (@PlayersTribune) November 22, 2017
By Drew Franklin on ©November 21st, 2017 @ 4:00pm
Ben Roberts over at the Herald-Leader took a deep dive into college basketball’s biggest rivalry: John Calipari versus MikeÂ Krzyzewski on the recruiting trail.
The new narrative is Krzyzewski has overtaken Calipari’s throne as the king of recruiting, but is that really the case? And if so, how did he do it?
Roberts enlisted the help of some of the top national scouts and analysts to discuss whether or not it is true. They all seemed to agree that, yes, Coach K and Duke are at the very top; but Kentucky is right up there with them.
Prior to Duke’s theft of the 2015 national championship, Kentucky was undoubtedly the top dog in recruiting elite talent, and it wasn’t even close. But since stealing the Cats’ title that year, Duke surged ahead and landed more top-five players over the last three recruiting cycles, plus the current 2018 class. If we’re to only look at those six top-five signees, it would seemÂ Krzyzewski has surpassed Calipari as the best recruiter.
Top-five prospects since Duke won the 2015 title:
Brandon Ingram | #3 | 2015 (From North Carolina)
Harry Giles | #2 | 2016 (From North Carolina)
Jayson Tatum | #4 | 2016
Marvin Bagley | #1 | 2017
Cameron Reddish | #4 | 2018
R.J. Barrett |#1 | 2018
Skal Labissiere |#1 | 2015
Only in 2015 did Calipari land a top-five player (and it was the No. 1 overall player), but he did sign De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, Bam Adebayo and Wenyen Gabriel the very next year, who were all ranked in the Top 15. As noted in Roberts’ story, Duke “badly wanted” Gabriel, and lost him to Kentucky. Then throw in a fifth five-star player in the 2016 class, Sacha Killeya-Jones, and Cal landed more five-star prospects than Duke. Cal just didn’t have the two top-five players Coach K got, one of whom, Harry Giles, was an in-state commitment who stayed home and brought his best friend, Tatum, to join him.
Moving on to this past class, Duke landed the No. 1 overall player, Marvin Bagley, by convincing him to reclassify from 2018 and enroll early, way late in the process. It was a brilliant move by Coach K and his staff, but let’s not ignore how Calipari beat out Duke for Kevin Knox, who Duke really wanted. Knox wasn’t ranked in the top five, but he was a huge recruiting win for Calipari in a direct competition with Krzyzewski.
Duke is already off to a good start in 2018 with the early additions of Cameron Reddish and R.J. Barrett, who Kentucky recruited heavily. Those were definitely big wins for Duke, but Zion Williamson still has to decide and it’s unlikely he’ll become a Blue Devil. We also don’t have the final rankings for the class, which may not keep Reddish in the top five.
With that long-winded breakdown of how the “top-five” count is misleading, I’ll share with you an excerpt from Roberts’ story, to stress there’s no validity to Duke standing out above Kentucky in recruiting:
All of the recruiting analysts presented with the statistics of this top-five shift among Duke and Kentucky recruits in recent years reached the same conclusion.
â€œI see the numbers, but I donâ€™t think thereâ€™s any meaning there,â€ Meyer said. â€œEach recruiting scenario is itâ€™s own individual case. And those players who happened to be ranked in the top five, who chose Duke over Kentucky â€” they were going to choose Duke over Kentucky if they were ranked No. 50 in the country. Thatâ€™s just where those guys wanted to go to school.
â€œSo I donâ€™t see any significance to it. Itâ€™s not like thereâ€™s some groupthink among top-five recruits. â€˜Oh, weâ€™re top five, so, if youâ€™re top five you want to go to Duke, not Kentucky.â€™ Thatâ€™s not how it works.â€
Playing the numbers game, there’s no arguing Coach K has more top-five guys in recent years. But looking at a wider range of prospects and talent, Duke and Kentucky are pretty even, and both are way ahead of everyone else. It’s not that Duke hasÂ passed Kentucky; it’s that there is another program on the top tierÂ withÂ Kentucky.
Coach K and Duke joined the game, but Calipari and Kentucky are still playing it well.
Read more on the matter:Â Has Duke replaced Kentucky as the king of college basketball recruiting?
(Very nice work there by Mr. Roberts.)
Bol Bol has committed to Oregon.
The five-star big man and son of Manute Bol announced his commitment to the Ducks via a piece in The Players’ Tribune on Monday.
— Bol Bol (@bolmanutebol) November 20, 2017
In the following excerpt, Bol admits growing up a Kentucky fan, but it was the Oregon coaching staff’s vision for him that was the deciding factor in the end:
About a week after I made my official visit to Eugene, I knew that that was where I wanted to go.
Doesnâ€™t mean it wasnâ€™t a hard decision. It came down to Oregon and Kentucky â€” which is kind of funny that it was those two schools. Because when I was a kid, after my family moved to Kansas, everyone on my AAU teams and school teams was a Jayhawks fan. As someone who likes to do his own thing â€” and yeah, troll a little bit â€” I always rooted for Kentucky. In Kansas, cheering for the Wildcats is like against the law. So I started telling telling people that I was cheering for Kentucky because I wanted to go to school there. Then when I got older, as a recruit, I really liked how Coach Calipari went about developing young players. That speaks for itself. Kentucky had been in my mind my whole life, so it was a little mind-blowing to me that I was offered an opportunity to be a Wildcat.
Oregon was just the opposite, in a way. I didnâ€™t know much about the school until I started getting recruited by Oregonâ€™s assistant coach, Tony Stubblefield. And then later by Coach Altman. Before that, I knew they had a lot of jerseys, a lot of different shoe combinations, but that was about it. But it was really those first few meetings with Coach Stubblefield that impressed me the most. He was accessible. He got to know me. He was really real with me.
And he was honest about the fact that Oregon has never really gotten a top recruit when it was between the Kentuckys and Dukes. He didnâ€™t shy away from that.Â What he did was lay out the vision they had for me.
He also wrote, “Kentucky had been my dream school ever since I was a kid. I respect Coach Calipari a ton.”
Read the entire explanation of why it was Oregon here.
College basketball’s fall signing period is over and the University of Kentucky had three signees join its 2018 class.
The school officially named the three future Wildcats — who are Immanuel Quickley, Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro — in a press release Thursday morning.
“We’ve signed three really good players, really good kids who had a burning desire to be at Kentucky, which tells you they’ve got a toughness to them,” John Calipari said. “They didn’t need to be begged; they wanted to be here. All three are guards, all three are tough, and all three have a fight and a skill about them. All three of them are gym rats â€“ the kind of guys who come here and do well. All three are driven and wired the way you have to be to be successful here. They’re going to add to what we do.”
In a video attached to the release, Calipari shared his thoughts on his new guys:
“I’m excited for this class,” he added. “And we’re not done yet. We have to see where all this stuff goes, but our need, we have filled. These three guys are what we needed, and that’s what’s happened. I’m excited.”