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James Wiseman update after his Memphis visit

Well, some not-so-great news. In yesterday’s Monday Insider Notes I said I was unable to talk with any AAU sources about Wiseman’s visit to Memphis over the weekend but one did get back with me this afternoon.

This is someone I’ve been able to chat with about Wiseman’s recruitment for a long time and nearly two months ago he told me he thought Wiseman would end up at Kentucky.

His reasons were reasons we’ve heard (and I’ve repeated) throughout Wiseman’s recruitment:

  • He wants to win a championship
  • UK has done an incredible job building a relationship with the family
  • He will be the guy on the frontcourt
  • John Calipari’s track record with bigs and getting them selected at/near the top of the NBA Draft.

This fella told me today that he now thinks Memphis is the leader and he would be “pretty shocked” if he ended up going anywhere else. He did mention if not Memphis it would be UK, but he thinks Penny has done enough to earn a commitment.

I did ask if his information came from someone on Memphis’ staff and it did not, so that’s good news. But here are the reasons he provided for why this Nike EYBL source believes Memphis will land Wiseman:

  • Penny hasn’t missed with his former AAU/HS players that he’s wanted to coach at Memphis.
  • The family is convinced he can be a No. 1 pick at Memphis (I found this interesting. Did they initially not think he could be drafted as the No. 1 player at Memphis? That would be surprising).

Then he listed off some hints he thinks people have been missing in this recruitment to “validate” his prediction:

  • Wiseman stayed in Memphis instead of going to prep-school.
  • Wiseman’s mom was set on an April or May decision, but now he’s wanting to announce in November or December. My guy said there’s still time for Wiseman to get other players to join him in Memphis.
  • Wiseman initially wasn’t going to officially visit Memphis, but gave the Tigers the last official visit. (I don’t know it’s true he was deadset on not officially visiting Memphis, but instead had planned other visits first).
  • The entire town is trying to get him to stay in Memphis and it would be a “bad business” move to commit while still living in the city. (I also slightly disagree with this, but no doubt he’d get boo’d during his home games)

I passed along this information with folks close to Kentucky and they weren’t phased. They still think they’re in a great spot to land Wiseman and while I don’t feel overly confident about it one way or the other, I’m still leaning UK as of today. That may change in the next few weeks or months, but the Cats have still put in a lot of work in this recruitment and they’re not panicking just yet in Lexington.

Also, 247’s Evan Daniels is still picking UK. So even though the tide may be turning in the AAU ranks there’s still reasons to believe the Cats will be the choice.

I hope my guy is wrong but it’s clear that Memphis has the momentum (again) after the official visit. Gotta love the rollercoaster ride that is recruiting.

 


Insider Notes: James Wiseman and Vernon Carey Jr. take more official visits

Hey, folks. I hope everyone had a great weekend and enjoyed another UK football win. I love that we’re rolling into November, one of the most important basketball recruiting months of the season, and the vast majority of UK fans are prioritizing football. That’s the way it should be and I hope it continues for years to come. However, there’s still plenty of basketball recruiting news to get to and that’s what we do on the Monday Insider Notes.

James Wiseman took his official visit to Memphis and is now finished with visits. Vernon Carey also checked out his hometown school, Miami (Fla.). He will see North Carolina this weekend and will be finished with visits. Both players are open to committing in November or December, so the end could be near.

Let’s get to it.

James Wiseman:

He checked out Memphis and the Tigers pulled out ALL the stops for the five-star center.

The unicorn bit is a nickname for Wiseman. People call him a “unicorn” and he’s adopted it. So, if you ever see him posing for a picture with a finger over his forehead that’s his unicorn pose. He does it often.

Memphis fans chanted his name during the exhibition game (no word on if they put him on the jumbotron again). Memphis coaches made sure Wiseman and his family felt the love all weekend and they paraded him around in public any chance they had.

I was unable to talk with any AAU sources/any Memphis connections over the weekend about Wiseman, so unfortunately I don’t have a “Memphis” side of this recruitment, but I did talk with someone close to UK after the Memphis visit. Two things stood out, one is an interesting point that gets lost in the shuffle and the other point I disagree with.

Let’s start with the disagreement:

When I mentioned that Memphis pulled out all the stops I was told that UK wasn’t worried and it showed that Memphis is getting desperate. I understand the logic, but this was Wiseman’s last official visit and he may announce at some point in the next two months. Was Memphis supposed to play it cool? If they feel like the leader they aren’t going to just have it be a run of the mill official visit. Once Memphis was given a chance to pay for Wiseman and his family to enjoy a weekend on them, the Tigers were going to go all out. So, I disagree with that sentiment as a sign of panic from Memphis. Penny put on a show and he’s going to do whatever he can to land a commitment.

The other talking point: Memphis can do whatever they want to try and land Wiseman, but at the end of the day Wiseman has told people close to UK that winning is one of the most important aspect of his recruitment. He wants to play in a Final Four and he wants to realistically compete for national championship. Now, of course he could just be saying that to UK, or maybe he commits to Memphis and genuinely thinks he has a chance to win big there, but at least one person close to UK thinks if he truly wants to play for a national contender his one year in college it won’t be at Memphis.

This recruitment seems too close to call. Nationally it seems like the majority of analysts believe he will stay home, but people close to UK (and Evan Daniels) feel like they are still the team to beat.

I’m guessing you will see some Crystal Ball picks flip and flop over the next couple weeks.

My personal opinion, if you hear of a decision date set in the next week or two I wouldn’t take that as good news for Kentucky. I don’t think that happens, but you never know. If he can make it through the next few weeks without committing that would be promising.

D.J. Jeffries:

He committed to Memphis over the weekend giving the Tigers even more momentum on the recruiting trail. UK is obviously fine with not having Jeffries on their commitment list. Kahlil Whitney is better and Dontaie Allen gives UK more options offensively, but many will look at Jeffries’ commitment and think it will impact Wiseman’s recruitment.

I wouldn’t worry about that. If Wiseman goes to Memphis it’s because of Penny, it won’t be because of Jeffries. I talked about it back when Jeffries committed, over the summer and certainly after he decommitted- Jeffries and Wiseman are friends but there was never a package deal and they’re not best friends. Even on the floor the two hardly communicated with one another.

So, maybe Wiseman ends up at Memphis but it won’t be because of Jeffries.

Photo by FIBA

Carey:

Carey checked out Miami and nothing I’ve heard makes me think the Canes are a serious threat to land a commitment from Carey. Sadly, there’s still a Duke buzz. Maybe that wears off when he visits North Carolina this weekend, but the Tar Heels would need to do something special to get in the conversation with UK, Michigan State and Duke.

But UK is doing what they have to do in this recruitment. John Calipari will once AGAIN travel to Florida to visit Carey on Monday. Calipari will likely check out a couple targets this week, but UK is making sure they aren’t going to be outworked for their top targets. Carey is as big of a target as any other player.

We hope to hear more about the in-home visit, and if we do we’ll post it, but you gotta love Calipari’s work ethic.

I’ll be curious to see if Carey will take another visit to Michigan State. There’s a chance he could take advantage of the new NCAA rules and officially visit Michigan State again, but he hasn’t indicated that’s something he’s planning on doing. He checked out MSU back in February.

I was told that if Wiseman cares about winning then Carey is obsessed with it. So, I doubt Carey goes to Miami. That’s good. However, unlike Wiseman, Carey has other elite options that could compete for titles and Final Fours.

One thing that worries me, and this was tossed around in Kevin Knox’s recruitment and was obviously untrue, but Carey may equally like UK/Duke but picks the Blue Devils because ACC games will be closer for him and his family. No inside information that it matters to Carey, but something I think about when looking at this recruitment.

Isaiah Stewart:

I haven’t heard anything to make me think that UK is back in the drivers seat. He is officially visiting Duke this weekend and there’s a little part of me that worries about him and Carey pairing up at Duke. Carey wants to play with Stewart or Wiseman, so that’s something to keep an eye on.

I would be surprised to see Stewart end up at UK with where things stand today.

CJ Walker:

There was a lot of buzz last week that UK was becoming a major player in CJ Walker, but Walker made it clear he’s focusing on Miami, Oregon and LSU. Walker wanted an offer and the only way Walker was going to be a serious option for UK is if he waited until the spring and the Cats could look at other options first. He didn’t want to do that and that was that.

Photo by adidas

Hurt:

I’m still trying to figure out when Hurt will officially visit UK. It will be during the season and my guess is the Kansas game is the one that everyone is trying to make work. Hurt’s high school season/schedule will play a big part in his visit schedule, but don’t worry, Hurt will check out UK’s campus at some point.

I’m still confident the Cats are in a great spot for Hurt.

Maxey:

He will play three games in Kentucky later this year. December 28th-29th at Marshall County. It will be a great chance for UK fans to watch the future Cat, and Larry Vaught has you covered on the details. Read those HERE.


D.J. Jeffries Commits to Memphis

Kelly Kline | Under Armour

Once upon a time, D.J. Jeffries was the only member of Kentucky’s 2019 recruiting class.  Now he’ll play for Penny Hardaway at Memphis.

The No. 47 player in America initially committed to Kentucky in March.  After a few cordial months on the AAU circuit with James Wiseman, Jeffries de-committed July 30.  The next day, Jeffries’ father said some things that solidified the split with Kentucky.  Shortly after the split, John Calipari picked up commitments from a pair of wings, Dontaie Allen and Khalil Whitney.

Memphis was the early leader for Olive Branch, Mississippi native.  Mississippi State had a shot, but at the end of the day, the four-star small forward could not turn down his former AAU coach, Penny Hardaway.


Afternoon recruiting news on CJ Walker, Vernon Carey and Matthew Hurt

We’re not too far away from signing day and UK’s 2019 recruiting efforts are wild. A new(ish) name has emerged, UK coaches are traveling the country for some final in-home visits and it’s crunch time for several recruits.

Here’s the latest:

CJ Walker:

CatsIllustrated’s David Sisk has been adamant that UK is a major player in Walker’s recruitment and talks have intensified. I suggest everyone read his latest update. It’s great work and more insight from those close to Walker, the five-star, 6-foot-8, 200-pound wing from Orlando. You can read that HERE.

UK did watch Walker in July, but that was mostly when watching Vernon Carey Jr. and Scottie Barnes (2020). UK wanted to go another direction and instead of turning up the heat with Walker, Kentucky offered and landed commitments from Kahlil Whitney and Dontaie Allen. During that time and to the present UK remained in contact with Keion Brooks and Jaden McDaniels. Kentucky never considered Walker one of their top priorities then, but perhaps the Cats are coming back around. I haven’t been shy in saying UK would like to add one more perimeter player. Scottie Lewis was option No. 1, but now Brooks and McDaniels become even more important.

So, after this detailed update from Sisk I reached back out to people close to UK. I was told on Wednesday from one source they were surprised to hear that UK was surging with Walker and the other person said they thought UK had reached out but it was just to see if they could get on his list.

A Thursday update- UK has reached out but I still haven’t heard anything from people close to Kentucky to make me think that Walker will pick UK this week. I can’t confirm if Payne will be down there today, but I would think if UK doesn’t see Walker in the next week and if we don’t hear of an official visit soon then Walker likely won’t end up at UK.

We’re in the wacky stage of the recruiting season. Teams do strange things. New prospects can emerge. A year ago UK hadn’t offered or met with Tyler Herro, but by mid-November he was committed to Kentucky. Things can change and move quickly in a recruitment and I can’t rule out that possibly happening with Walker. But UK has put in a lot of work with Brooks and McDaniels. Brooks may commit this year but not sign in the fall (it’s unclear) but it definitely appears McDaniels will be waiting until the spring. One person I spoke with mentioned the possibility (and this is a wild theory) that this Walker hype could be used against Kentucky in other recruitments. If McDaniels or Brooks heard the Cats were prioritizing another wing it probably wouldn’t help UK’s chances in those recruitments. But, it’s worth mentioning– people close to UK may want to gauge interest with Walker quietly and if there is interest they may go all-in, and if there’s not they wouldn’t want Brooks or McDaniels to know they were poking around. According to Sisk, the interest is there from Walker’s camp, but I can’t help that notice people close to UK are either downplaying that interest or they want things to remain quiet. We’ll know our answer in UK’s interest by the end of this week. Like I said, if UK doesn’t visit then Walker won’t end up at UK.

I have quickly tried to catch up with Walker’s recruitment. He’s down to LSU, Miami and Oregon (three schools mentioned in the FBI scandal, not that there’s any indication of a shady recruitment with Walker) and in his latest blog post to USA Today, which was published today, he didn’t mention Kentucky. You can read his entire blog HERE.

Here’s what he had to say about his recruitment:

“It’s getting down to the point that I have to make a decision and those were the three schools that really stood out to me.

It was hard to cut Florida because my guy Tre Mann is there, but, in the end, we both know that we have to do what’s best for us individually.

Oregon: They play an up-tempo style and I love that offense. I have a great relationship with the coaches and I feel like that’s a school that will let me showcase my skills.

Miami: I love their style and the coaches and, of course, it’s close to home so I’d be close to my family.

LSU: They’ve got a great plan on how to use me and I really like the staff there.

Now that I’ve done all three of my visits I’m gonna sit down and talk with my family and my coaches about everything and figure it all out. I’ve got enough people in my inner circle that will help me think everything through. That really takes pressure off of me.

I want to have my decision done before my season starts in late November.”

So, it certainly doesn’t seem like UK is going to swoop in this week and land a commitment in just a few days. But if Walker is truly willing to wait another month to make a final decision, as we saw with Herro and other recruits over the years, that would be plenty of time for UK to make an impression.

But I’ll stand by what I said yesterday, I wouldn’t be on commitment watch over the next week. If we don’t get an in-home visit or scheduled official visit soon this may be much ado about nothing. UK has reached out but it’s tough to gauge if he has become a priority. Rivals says yes, people close to UK aren’t saying yes just yet.

Photo by FIBA

Vernon Carey Jr.:

Rivals had updates with the five-star center and the biggest piece of news is that Carey’s father said that he’s “sure” Miami is in the top three. You can read the entire update HERE.

“I’m sure Miami is in his top three,” Carey Sr. said. “It’s home. he’d love to play at home in front of his family and friends. I’m with him either way he goes.”

I wouldn’t make too much of that quote. If Miami is truly in his top three that could be slightly concerning since 247 Sports’ Evan Daniels believes Michigan State and Duke are the leaders, but I’m not sure I’m buying Miami is actually in the top three because his dad said they may be to a Miami website. Whether a school finishes second or fifth doesn’t really matter in recruiting, so I wouldn’t get too worked up about that quote.I would be more concerned about Daniels’ opinion and all the buzz I heard after he visited Duke over the weekend. I no longer feel great about UK’s chances, although the Cats will still be a major player when it’s all said and done.

I’m also not 100 percent convinced he commits and signs in November, although that’s currently his plan.

Matthew Hurt:

When talking with someone close to UK about Walker, the conversation briefly turned to Hurt. There won’t be a decision anytime soon from Hurt but supposedly Kentucky is really liking their positioning with Hurt. He will likely commit in March or sometime in the spring.


Hardly Committed E13: Mike DeCourcy and Costume Contest

After a one-week hiatus, Hardly Committed is back!  T.J. Walker has updates on all the latest UK basketball recruits before a conversation about the new G-League rules with the Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy.  The finale of the show will get you in the Halloween spirit with a discussion on Costume Contest episode in The Annex.  Highlights:

— Where do things stand after Keion Brooks’ official visit?

— Jaden McDaniels’ connection to San Diego State.

— Hair-ties and rubber-bands.

— Cal is on the road in-between practices.

— There’s Duke buzz around a UK recruit.

— Suspicious optimism for a top five target.

— What college basketball will look like in seven years.

— Pam Beesly, probably a bad kisser.

Subscribe to Hardly Committed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app to get the podcast delivered directly to your phone.  You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play, and streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.


UK recruits weigh in on new G-League option

Scott Jacobson / Post Bulletin

By now, you’ve heard about the NBA G-League initiative announced last week that would allow elite prospects to play in the G-League for one season for $125,000 instead of going to college. The option will be available starting with the 2019 recruiting class, so ESPN interviewed five prospects and/or their families about it, including Isaiah Stewart and the father of Matthew Hurt, two of Kentucky’s top targets.

Hurt’s father likened the year in the G-League to trade school.

“My first reaction was I’d like to hear more,” Richard Hurt, father of top-10 recruit Matthew Hurt, told ESPN in a phone conversation. “In terms of what this would involve. And who it would potentially involve. It’s different. Now is it intriguing? There are some things that are intriguing about it. It’s not the money. It’s the opportunity to focus solely on what your craft will be. Similar to what a trade school would be.

“Matthew has aspirations to play in the NBA. If this moves him closer to that, it’s something he would have to evaluate. I am a pretty big proponent of the college experience, but ultimately this decision will be Matthew’s. People ask me all the time. ‘What does Matthew want to study?’ Basketball is what I say. There is something to be said for being singularly focused on what you can do to make the NBA.”

Meanwhile, Stewart said the G-League option is not for him.

Isaiah Stewart, the No. 4 prospect in the ESPN 100, doesn’t appear to be as curious about the possibility, telling ESPN’s Jeff Borzello that it “is pretty cool that they’re at least installing an option for high school players that doesn’t want to do college and go straight to the pros,” but adding that for him personally “my eyes are set on college,” and that the G League option is “never a thought that crossed my mind.”

On Sunday night, John Calipari said he believes the G-League initiative will actually help the program because the players who will take advantage of it aren’t Kentucky material anyways.

“Well I talked about it and if it’s what they say three or five guys, and that’s it, I don’t think it affects us. As a matter of fact probably makes us better. The kids that come here are kids that want the competition and want to get better. They’re not going somewhere so that they only gotta shoot all the balls. They don’t come here. I think this may even separate us some. So I’m not worried about it.”

“I looked at it and said, this is going to help us. We weren’t getting those guys anyway. They weren’t going to come here, the guys that would do that. The guys that come here, they come here for a reason.”

Calipari visited both Hurt and Stewart earlier this week. Something tells me they both heard similar speeches on the matter.

[ESPN]


James Wiseman gets an in-home visit from John Calipari

IG: bigticket_j13

John Calipari made a trip to Memphis this afternoon to visit one very important prospect.

Evan Daniels reports Coach Cal had an in-home visit with five-star center James Wiseman tonight, per his mother:

We figured Cal was up to something tonight, as he posted the following tweet just 40 minutes before Daniels released the report:

Wiseman, a 7-foot center out of Memphis, is set to officially visit the Tigers this weekend on an official visit. He cut his final list to Florida State, Kansas, Kentucky, Memphis and Vanderbilt, though most assume the decision will likely come down to the Cats and the Tigers, with Memphis having a slight lead.

Wiseman has said in the past that he is planning on announcing his decision in the spring, though he backed off of that a bit recently, saying there’s a chance he commits and signs in the fall.

Though Memphis is seen as the perceived leader, Daniels (one of the best in the business) is still picking the Cats to land the elite big man whenever that decision does finally come.

Until then, watch him work:

Come on down, young fella.


KyKy Tandy, remember him?

Remember KyKy Tandy, the talented guard out of Hopkinsville? The one whose dad probably ruined his shot at a Kentucky offer with his “he’s not going with three or four point guards there” comment?

Yeah, him. We have an update on his basketball future.

Tandy committed to Xavier on Tuesday, choosing the Cincinnati school over Ole Miss. Tandy is the third-ranked player in the state of Kentucky going into his senior season at University Heights Academy and he announced via Twitter he will leave the state for college to be a Musketeer:

There was a time last spring when many UK fans, especially those in Western Kentucky, hoped Tandy would earn and accept an offer to stay home in the Bluegrass, but he never became a priority for Coach Cal’s staff. (I wrote about that in detail back in May: Why hasn’t Kentucky offered KyKy Tandy?) The staff instead pursued another in-state target, Dontaie Allen, and Tandy was left behind.

Now he’s off to the Big East next summer, but he’ll probably lead the state in scoring in his senior season first.

Good luck to him.


Zion Harmon appeal denied, still ruled ineligible

Jon Lopez | Nike EYBL

Class of 2021 guard, Zion Harmon has had his appeal to play this season at Marshall County High School denied by the KHSAA. The Marshals would Harmon’s third school in the last three years. He played for Bowling Green his eighth grade year and last season played for Adair County.

In August, the KHSAA ruled the high school sophomore ineligible due to their rule that a player must sit out a year if they transfer schools. This rule can be tweaked if a player has circumstances that they control like their parents moving for work.

Harmon almost immediately appealed the decision, but it was denied on Thursday according to the West Kentucky Star.

One of the radio show’s regular callers, Harold, lives in that area and has been following the story. He said that Harmon’s father is working locally and thinks the KHSAA should let him play.

The five-star guard currently has offers from teams like Alabama, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, WKU and Auburn. It is possible that he could be a possibility for Calipari in the next year or so.

Harmon is an electric player to watch. While he is only 5’11, he makes up for it with good ball handling skills and shooting. I personally would like to see him in Blue and White in a few years. You can watch Harmon work below:

 


Oscar Tshiebwe Commits to West Virginia

247 Sports

One of Kentucky’s top interior targets will be a Mountaineer.  Oscar Tshiebwe announced on Twitter that he has committed to Bub Huggins and West Virginia.

The No. 22 player in America chose West Virginia over Kentucky, Baylor and Illinois.  At one time, many believed Coach Cal was in the driver’s seat for Tshiebwe.  Kentucky fought tooth and nail, but could not compete with Oscar’s deep ties to West Virginia.

Bob Huggins was the first to recruit Tshiebwe.  The exchange student also lives with the same family that hosted West Virginia center Sagaba Konate.  The pull from the country roads was too much for Cal to overcome.