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Basketball Recruiting News
By Drew Franklin on ©September 12th, 2017 @ 10:30am
One day after he hosted John Calipari and Joel Justus at Oak Hill Academy, news is out that Keldon Johnson plans to take an official visit to the University of Kentucky.
CatsPause.com’s Chris Fisher has the scoop after talking to Johnson’s father, who confirmed the five-star guard canceled his official visit to Florida State this coming weekend and will instead make a trip to Lexington.
Johnson has already taken official visits to Texas and N.C. State, and he plans to take another to Maryland later this month.
The timing of his new trip to Kentucky couldn’t be better for the Cats as Immanuel Quickley, believed to be the first commit in UK’s class, will be taking the visit with him.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©September 11th, 2017 @ 2:15pm
If you missed it earlier, John Calipari was supposed to meet with Zion Williamson today in South Carolina, but Hurricane Irma is forcing them to reschedule the visit; however, there’s still Zion news to be had.
In his latest blog entry for USA Today High School Sports, Zion says he’s scheduled two official visits, one to UCLA on October 27 and one to Duke on October 22. While his mother told Kyle Tucker earlier today that they still plan to take an official visit to Kentucky, Zion did not mention Calipari or the Cats in today’s blog. Annoyingly, he mostly wrote about a recent conversation he had with Coach K.
So he started telling me his original plan for the class and how he’d already planned to get those two players and how everything is working according to his plan. He said that every year he changes his system with new players. He said he was gonna play me the way he played LeBron (James) in the Olympics in 2012 so I did my research!
Coach K gave him the chance to showcase that he was still the best player in the world.
I thought that was a real, genuine answer because Coach K is always 10 steps ahead.
Gag. Regardless, Kansas remains Kentucky’s primary competition for Zion, especially after his trip to Clemson this past weekend with AAU teammate and fellow Jayhawk target Devin Dotson.
Zion also wrote that he won’t bother with narrowing his list or setting a timetable for his decision; instead, he’ll just announce his decision once he “[finds] the right school and it feels right for me and my family.” That means it’s more important than ever for Calipari to get down there and recapture some momentum, and for Zion to be at Big Blue Madness on October 13.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©September 11th, 2017 @ 11:23am
This is a huge week for basketball recruiting as players across the country host coaches on in-home visits, and Calipari is getting things started by visiting arguably the most prized prospect in the class. According to Ben Roberts, Calipari will travel to Spartanburg, South Carolina to see five-star forward Zion Williamson, known the world over for his ridiculous dunks.
|Forward||6-7 | 230 lbs.||Spartanburg, SC||Spartanburg/SC Supreme|
|ESPN: 2 | 1 PF||Top 247: 1 | 1 PF||Rivals: 2||Scout: 3 | 2 SF|
Yesterday, Calipari and Kenny Payne visited Quentin Grimes, the five-star guard many believe will commit to Kansas. The Jayhawks have the momentum, but Grimes will take an official visit to Kentucky this fall.
Here’s who Calipari is expected to see this week:
- Monday: Zion Williamson, F (Spartanburg, South Carolina)
- Tuesday: Simi Shittu, PF (Saxtons River, Vermont)
- Wednesday: Keldon Johnson, SG (Virginia)
- Sunday: Bol Bol, C (California)
On Friday, five-star point guard Immanuel Quickley will begin his official visit in Lexington. Kentucky’s still the overwhelming favorite for Quickley, who is expected to commit in the coming weeks. Needless to say, this is a very, very big week for Kentucky’s 2018 class. Last week, I updated Kentucky’s status with each prospect, so while Calipari criss-crosses the country, catch up on who he’s going to see:
UPDATE: Kyle Tucker spoke to Williamson’s mother, who says the visit had to be canceled due to Hurricane Irma. They’ll reschedule and Williamson’s mother says they’ll also set up an official visit to Lexington “soon.” Instead, Calipari will head to Oak Hill Academy in Virginia to check in on Keldon Johnson, the five-star shooting guard he was scheduled to see on Wednesday.
By Jay Winkler on ©September 10th, 2017 @ 12:00pm
The reality of recruiting is that players are sought after primarily for their athletic ability and skill, with intangibles like personality and academic prowess being secondary. We as fans accept this for the sake of wins, but oftentimes, we long for a player that can do it all: dominate on the court, and be an ambassador for our school everywhere else. But multifaceted players like this are few and far between, and when they do come around, it can be an absolute recruiting dogfight to get them to suit up for your team.
But in the case of Karl-Anthony Towns, one of the most articulate and personable Wildcats of all time, the stars were aligned just right for him to come to Kentucky.
To make a not very long story even shorter: KAT was always pretty much a lock to come to UK. As a sophomore in high school, Karl qualified to play for the Dominican Republic national team alongside NBA players like Al Horford and Charlie Villanueva, a team which also just happened to be led by Coach Cal and Orlando Antigua.
KAT and Cal developed such a rapport early on in Karl’s recruitment that it would’ve taken a Herculean effort for any other coach to close the gap. Towns even got to see future Wildcat great Anthony Davis talk some trash with Coach Cal from the floor:
So by the time Karl was ready to commit, which was sooner than expected on account of his reclassification to 2014, he was already indoctrinated into the ways of John Calipari.
For posterity’s sake, Towns also considered North Carolina, NC State, Michigan State, Florida, and Duke, among others. But his interest never seemed to go further than just compiling a list.
With the 2012-2013 season barely in full swing, UK already had the centerpiece for its 2014 recruiting class, which would go on to be bolstered by two other fan favorites and best buds Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker.
Towns statline from his freshman season, consisting of averaging 10.3 PPG, 6.7 RPG, and 2.3 BPG, would be considered productive regardless, but it gains some much needed context when you factor in that Towns barely averaged more than 21 minutes per game. The infamous “platoon” system generally kept individual stats low, but Big KAT’s performances shouldn’t be judged on paper anyway.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©September 08th, 2017 @ 8:00pm
In the recruiting circuit each year, we often hear of package deals and top prospects talking about teaming up to form college super teams. The vast majority of time the official “package deals” fall through, but the super teams are a regular occurrence each year, specifically at top schools like Kentucky, Duke, Kansas, and UNC.
Despite many high school prospects recruiting one another each year, one of Kentucky’s biggest recruiting advantages for 2018 No. 1 recruit RJ Barrett may already be on the team.
According to Barrett’s AAU coach Dwayne Robinson, current Wildcat and fellow Canadian Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is extremely close to the elite forward.
The awesome guys over at SEC Country interviewed Washington on their relationship that developed in Canada and has continued ever since.
Barrett “talks to Shai every day,” Washington said. “Shai is like his big brother. They train in the summer, they hang out, Shai works with him and shows him a lot of stuff. Shai is very serious and focused, so if he picks a school, you really gotta take it seriously.”
When Barrett visited Kentucky last weekend, Gilgeous-Alexander told him how he could get better as a Wildcat, even if he’s in school for just a year.
“It was good for the family to see and echo everything about why Shai went there: because they can make you better,” Washington said. “If you’re somebody who is No. 1 in the class, you definitely have to say, ‘What did they do with the other No. 1 guys?’ Who is getting those players to be better than they are, noticeably, in a short period of time?”
With Gilgeous-Alexander likely to return for a sophomore season next year, Barrett would be able to team up with his “big brother” and continue Kentucky’s recent trend of Canadian talent going strong.
Head on over and read SEC Country’s entire interview here.
The NCAA Eligibility Center officially cleared Marvin Bagley III on Friday, which gives Duke one of the best players in college basketball, if not the best.
Bagley reclassified from the Class of 2018 and committed to Duke back in August, but his eligibility wasn’t certain at the time. Now it’s a done deal and he is good to go.
“From the outset of this process, we were optimistic that it would end with the NCAA Eligibility Center certifying Marvin to compete for Duke University in 2017-18,” said Mike Krzyzewski. “We are thrilled for Marvin and the Bagley family. Their organization and efficiency were key to the successful conclusion of the certification process, as were the efforts of our Duke Athletics administration.”
So we're clear: anyone can quit H.S. and get into Duke two weeks before the semester? Because I was led to believe it's much more difficult.
— Drew Franklin (@DrewFranklinKSR) August 15, 2017
Game on, Duke. Game on.
Earlier this week, Aaron Torres joined the KSR family, and to continue his initiation, Tyler invited him on The OTT Podcast, sponsored by DRAFT. Get to know Aaron in this candid interview, which includes…
— How a lifelong UConn fan started writing about Kentucky Basketball
— The latest on UK’s 2018 basketball recruiting, and whether or not Bol Bol is out of the picture
— How an outsider views Kentucky football
— His time at Fox Sports and our thoughts on the future of sports media
— Why it’s perfectly acceptable to list “children” as a pet peeve
You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise. You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to “Kentucky Sports Radio” on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©September 07th, 2017 @ 12:15pm
College football is stealing the headlines right now, but with Duke gaining momentum on the 2018 recruiting scene, what’s the latest on Kentucky’s chances with the nation’s top players? Here’s a quick refresher.
The best shot for fall commitments 🎯
|Point Guard||6-3 | 175 lbs||Bel Air, MD||John Carroll School/Team BBC|
|ESPN: 12 | 3 PG||Top 247: 13 | 2 PG||Rivals: 10||Scout: 8 | 3 PG|
Quickley remains the most likely player to commit to Kentucky in the fall. The 6’3″ point guard from Maryland just took an official visit to Kansas and had to cancel his visit to Miami this weekend because of Hurricane Irma. He’ll be in Lexington September 15-17 and is poised to make his decision in early October. If he comes on board, he’ll immediately try to bring this person with him…
|Forward||6-7 | 230 lbs.||Spartanburg, SC||Spartanburg/SC Supreme|
|ESPN: 2 | 1 PF||Top 247: 1 | 1 PF||Rivals: 2||Scout: 3 | 2 SF|
Kansas has been the buzz lately for Williamson due to their affiliation with adidas and Bill Self offering scholarships to two of Zion’s AAU teammates, Dontarius James and Devon Dotson. Before you get too discouraged, don’t forget all the talk this summer of Immanuel Quickley and Zion being a package deal. Also, don’t count out Cal, who may be bringing in Zion’s pal Drake to Big Blue Madness. Get Zion to Lexington that weekend with Quickley at his side and I like Kentucky’s chances, especially if he decides this fall.
|Small Forward||6-7 | 185 lbs.||Mississauga, Ont., CAN||Montverde/Nike UPlay Canada|
|ESPN: 1 | 1 SF||Top 247: 2 | 2 SF||Rivals: 1||Scout: 1 | 1 SF|
Barrett just wrapped up an official visit to Lexington, and the reviews ranged from “alright” to “great.” It’s best not to read too much into the words of a 17-year-old, but Barrett still plans to take all of his visits, including one to Duke, the perceived favorite, on September 15. He’ll also visit Arizona (Sept. 21), Oregon (Sept. 23) and Michigan (Sept. 29) and reiterated that he wants to make his decision in the fall. Calipari is really stressing Kentucky’s Canadian pipleine to the NBA, so I like the Cats here.
Heating up 🔥
Simi Shittu ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
|Power Forward||6-10 | 220 lbs.||Burlington, Ontario, CAN||Vermont Academy|
|ESPN: 6 | 2 PF||Top 247: 8 | 1 PF||Rivals: 8||Scout: 9 | 1 PF|
The versatile Canadian forward still doesn’t have an offer from Kentucky, but that’s just a formality at this point. Calipari likes Simi so much he took Jamal Murray up to Canada with him to watch him play, a gesture that impressed the 6’10” Ontario native so much that he’s planning to come to Lexington this fall. If he does, he’ll get that offer, and if he likes it enough, he may just commit on the spot.
Holding pattern 💬
|Small Forward||6-6 | 205 lbs.||South Hill, VA||Oak Hill Academy|
|ESPN: 7 | 3 SF||Top 247: 11 | 2 SG||Rivals: 18||Scout: 24 | 2 SG|
Johnson is a new name on the scene after a monster summer and a surprise unofficial visit to campus a few weeks ago, which resulted in a scholarship offer. After that, Kentucky seemed to have all the momentum; however, Johnson just visited Texas and now the Longhorns are surging. He was scheduled to visit Florida State this weekend but because of Irma, will travel to NC State instead. He’ll check in with the Seminoles next weekend, and Maryland later this month. Yesterday, Chris Fisher reported that Johnson was “blown away” by his visit to Kentucky, so if the Cats can get him on campus for an official, perhaps for Madness, they can likely make up some more ground.
Long shots ❄️
|Center||7-2 | 220 lbs.||Santa Ana, CA||Mater Dei/Cal Supreme|
|ESPN: 4 | 1 C||Top 247: 4 | 1 C||Rivals: 3||Scout: 2 | 1 C|
At one point, Kentucky had all the momentum with the son of the late NBA great Manute Bol, but the relationship cooled when he was cut from Calipari’s U19 national team (only one naturalized citizen was allowed on the roster and the staff chose a more experienced player). Things could change, but for now, it looks like Bol will stay out west at Arizona, while Cal has shifted his focus northward to 6-10 Simi Shittu.
|Shooting Guard||6-5 | 191 lbs.||New Albany||New Albany/Eric Gordon All Stars|
|ESPN: 5 | 1 SG||Top 247: 5 | 1 SG||Rivals: 6||Scout: 5 | 1 SG|
Langford kept Kentucky in his top seven, but there hasn’t been any chatter about the two for months. Buzz continues to surround Indiana and Vanderbilt in his recruitment.
|Shooting/Point Guard||6-4 | 185 lbs.||The Woodlands, TX||The Woodlands/Basketball University|
|ESPN: 13 | 3 SG||Top 247: 17 | 5 PG||Rivals: 11||Scout: 11 | 4 PG|
Kansas is the overwhelming favorite for Grimes, who did not list Kentucky among the schools he plans to visit this fall in a recent interview with Evan Daniels.
|Point Guard||6-2 | 170 lbs.||Brentwood, TN||Brentwood Academy/Bradley Beal Elite|
|ESPN: 11 | 2 PG||Top 247: 15 | 4 PG||Rivals: 15||Scout: 7 | 2 PG|
Garland is scheduled to visit UK on October 13, but with Immanuel Quickley likely to commit and Quade Green and Shai Alexander potentially sticking around for a second year, I imagine he’ll take his talents elsewhere.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©September 06th, 2017 @ 12:45pm
Last night, Adam Zagoria released his interview with the No. 1 player in the class of 2018, RJ Barrett, on his trip to Lexington this past weekend.
While the majority of the interview was pretty straight forward, one quote caused a stir among the BBN, where Barrett said his trip to Lexington was “alright.”
Eric Bossi of Rivals.com also got the chance to interview Barrett on his experience in Lexington, and it’s definitely a lot more pleasing to the Wildcat fan base.
“It was good,” Barrett told Rivals.com. “I got to learn more about the school and how they operate. I got to meet with coach Calipari and coaching staff and really get to know them better so that was great.”
While playing for Team Canada in the FIBA event in Egypt, Barrett scored 38 points against Calipari’s USA team. According to the star forward, Coach Cal is using that game as a recruiting tool.
“That was one of the first things that came up,” said Barrett. “He said I gave him 40 and now he wants me on his team to do the same thing.”
“Positionless” basketball tends to be Cal’s go-to pitch as of late, and it sounds like he’s pitching something similar to Barrett. That being said, with no one committed to Kentucky in the class of 2018 just yet, it’s tough to get a read on the exact role the No. 1 player in the nation will have.
“Coach Cal told me he can’t give me an exact pitch for how I would play just yet because he doesn’t really know what his team is going to look like,” said Barret. “He just knows that I am a fit anywhere and that they can help me get better.”
As far as a final decision goes, Barrett says we’re right around the corner.
“November is the plan,” said Barrett of his timetable for a decision. “I’m just trying to not have to worry about during the season. It will mean more interviews and stuff like that where I’m not focused. I’m a simple person, if I go to a school and see what I like then I’m going to go ahead and commit to going there.”
For the rest of the interview with Bossi, head on over to this link.
By Drew Franklin on ©September 06th, 2017 @ 9:15am
Immanuel Quickley was all set to take his official visit to Miami this weekend, but that visit has been called off, at least for the meantime.
Quickley postponed the trip due to Hurricane Irma, the massive Category 5 storm tearing through the Caribbean islands. The city of Miami has been gearing up for Irma as it is set to hit the area in the coming days, which is why Quickley is making the very wise move of staying home in Maryland for the weekend.
There’s no indication of when, or if, Quickley will reschedule his visit. With Kentucky as the presumed leader and a trip to Lexington coming up, he may just go ahead and get this thing over with.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©September 05th, 2017 @ 9:13pm
R.J. Barrett, the number one player in the 2018 class, took an official visit to Kentucky this past weekend. How did it go? In an interview with Adam Zagoria, Barrett said his trip to Lexington was “alright.”
“It was alright, I got meet to meet Coach Cal and learn about the school so it was good,” Barrett said Tuesday evening by phone. “I just kind of went on a tour and watched practice and stuff.”
On the visit, Barrett said Calipari stressed Kentucky’s new Canadian pipeline, which has included Jamal Murray, Mychal Mulder, and now, Shai Alexander, and could include Barrett and Simi Shittu if things go Cal’s way.
Barrett said he will still visit Duke (Sept. 15), Arizona (Sept. 21), Oregon (Sept. 23) and Michigan (Sept. 29) and plans to sign in the fall period. When asked if it was true he grew up cheering for Duke, he was careful to say he grew up watching both the Blue Devils and the Wildcats.
“Duke and Kentucky, they’re the best of the best so obviously I wanted to watch that.”
Read more of Barrett’s comments about the visit at the link below. Or, just watch his highlights.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©September 04th, 2017 @ 4:15pm
Simi Shittu is likely the next 2018 prospect that will get an offer from John Calipari, and judging by a recent interview, the versatile Canadian forward already thinks Kentucky is the best place to prepare him from the pros.
247 Sports’ Andrew Slater posted a lengthy interview with the 6-10 Shittu, the eighth ranked player in the 2018 class, and a lot of it focuses on his thoughts on Calipari. Shittu said that even though he doesn’t have an offer from Kentucky yet, the fact that Cal came to Canada last month to watch him play AND brought Jamal Murray with him shows he’s interested.
“Just saying how much they want me,” Shittu said of Cal’s message to him. “They feel like I could make major impact at Kentucky. It showed me a lot that he was willing and able to come up to watch me play during that time.”
Shittu said he and Murray, one of Canada’s most famous pros, are “pretty cool” and that he also knows current Cat Shai Alexander, whose family lives 20 minutes from his in Ontario. What has Shai told him about Kentucky so far?
“It’s a great atmosphere. If you want to make it to the next level, it’s one of the places you should be. They make pros every day. He’s a good coach.”
Shittu is known for his versatility. At 6-10, he’s got the size of a big but passes and drives like a guard. How unique is he? When asked, Shittu said Calipari couldn’t come up with a player to compare him to.
“Not at all, actually. He says I’m one of the different players. I couldn’t really be compared to some of the other guys he’s had there.”
What’s the next move? Shittu said Calipari and the UK staff want him to come visit this fall. If he does, I doubt he’ll leave Lexington without an offer.
Good morning, friends, and happy Labor Day. KSR doesn’t do holidays, so while you’re relaxing around the house or firing up the grill, Nick and I will be here to bring you the latest UK news in the most ridiculous manner possible. Let’s start with the obvious: football.
Mark Stoops’ press conference is at noon
Stoops will recap Saturday’s win over Southern Miss and preview the next showdown against EKU with his favorite media friends at noon. We’ll have a live stream on the site, and a full recap from Nick once it’s over. A new depth chart should drop sometime before then, so stay tuned to see if there are any changes.
Freddie’s already got an EKU post for you
This won’t surprise you, but Freddie Maggard’s already moved on to Saturday’s game vs. EKU. Check the site a little later to read his preview of the Colonels.
ICYMI, Kentucky basketball raised $1 million for Hurricane Harvey relief
We take you behind the scenes of an incredible afternoon raising money for victims of Hurricane Harvey. pic.twitter.com/SLk5IH6Vd4
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) September 4, 2017
Yesterday, John Calipari and the UK Basketball team teamed up with Joe and Kelly Craft and WKYT to hold a disaster relief telethon to raise money for the victims of Hurricane Harvey. As we always do, the Big Blue Nation answered the call, raising $1 million. Calipari couldn’t be prouder.
“I’m just so proud of the people of Kentucky,” Calipari said. “I grew up in Western Pennsylvania and Ellen grew up in Osceola, Missouri. These are people that we just feel so comfortable around, and I know there were $25 donations, there were $50, there were $100, and you know they really were like, ‘I don’t have this $25, but I’m going to do it.’ There were people that gave $10,000 to have dinner (with us). Great. They could afford it. But it was more about how many (donated).
“And the other thing is, when you’re doing this kind of event, you have to have matching dollars. You cannot do numbers that really make a difference unless people help. Joe and Kelly Craft, they called right away, ‘Hey, how can we help?’ I said we’re going to need matching funds. How about Mark (Stoops) and Matthew Mitchell and their families giving $25,000 each? How about our golf coaches (Brian Craig and Golda Borst) throwing in money? It was everybody doing their part to make this happen.”
Well done, everyone.
We got a basketball practice report
In September, basketball teams are allowed two hours of “skill instruction” per week, and on Friday, the squad hit the court for the first time. It got lost in the football excitement on Saturday, but Metz Camfield of CoachCal.com put together a practice reporter with his observations. One that stood out to me: Kevin Knox warmed up with the guards, furthering the buzz that Calipari will play him at the three spot. Head on over to CoachCal.com to read more, or enjoy a brief highlight reel from @KentuckyMBB:
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) September 1, 2017
R.J. Barrett’s official visit is over
Did the No. 1 player in 2018 enjoy his time in Lexington? Hopefully we’ll find out soon. Barrett heads to Duke next, then, Arizona, Oregon and Michigan. Meanwhile, Immanuel Quickley took his official visit to Kansas. Kentucky’s still the overwhelming favorite for the five-star point guard, who will travel to Miami this upcoming weekend before his final official visit to Lexington on September 15.
What a night of college football
I made the mistake of turning off the West Virginia/Virginia Tech game early and it sounds like I missed a hell of an ending. The Hokies held off a late drive from the Mountaineers to take home the Black Diamond trophy, thanks to freshman quarterback Josh Jackson, who looked like an absolute star. Across the country, UCLA QB Josh Rosen led the Bruins to an incredible comeback against Texas A&M:
We’ll get more college football tonight in the form of Tennessee/Georgia Tech (8 p.m, ESPN). Nick and I will do our best to entertain you until then.
No new radio show today
Somehow, the radio crew got the day off, but we didn’t, so there won’t be a new episode of KSR today. What show did Shannon pick for the “Best of”? Tune in an hour from now to find out.
2018 five-star SF Cam Reddish has committed to Duke.
Duke and Kentucky were considered the final two schools in consideration, with UCLA, Villanova, and UCONN on the list, as well.
Reddish was on Calipari’s FIBA team in Egypt, where it was reported the Wildcats made up a ton of ground in the forward’s recruitment. In the end, though, the heavy favorite won out.
The latest speculation in recruiting circles is that Kentucky was only going to be able to land two of Reddish, Zion Williamson, and RJ Barrett. With Williamson and Barrett considered heavy favorites for UK, this news was bound to happen sooner or later.
On that note, here are highlights of the two (potential) future Wildcats to cheer you up:
Go. Big. Blue.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©September 01st, 2017 @ 4:21pm
Well, here’s a surprising piece of news. According to Evan Daniels, five-star small forward Cameron Reddish will announce his college decision TONIGHT.
Reddish is down to Kentucky, Duke, and UConn. The Blue Devils are the heavy favorite right now, accounting for all 16 of the predictions in his 247 Sports Crystal Ball. Kentucky made up some ground when John Calipari coached the versatile forward at the FIBA World Cup, but all of the momentum has gone Duke’s way in recent weeks.
Never say never, but it looks like Duke will pick up yet another top prospect tonight in Reddish, which makes R.J. Barrett’s official visit to Lexington even more important. Hopefully he enjoyed watching the team practice this afternoon: