Basketball Recruiting News
After hosting Kentucky on Sunday evening for an in-home visit, forward Zeke Nnaji landed an offer from the Cats.
I thank The Most High for receiving an offer from the University of Kentucky ??? pic.twitter.com/9gId0KLB6i
— Zeke Nnaji (@ZekeNnaji_Hoopz) September 9, 2018
Things moved quickly with Nnaji. It was just a week ago we learned the Cats were interested and they made a good enough first impression to land an in-home visit. Nnaji plans to unofficially visit UK this month and potentially return for an official visit the following month.
Nnaji played AAU basketball with Matthew Hurt, and while the Cats would love to have both targets it’s another remainder that the Cats are going to need several frontcourt players in the 2019 class.
UK has offered James Wiseman, Vernon Carey, Matthew Hurt and now Nnaji. It’s expected that Oscar Tshiebwe will land an offer this week. The Cats are also interested in Aidan Igiehon.
The Cats would like to have at least one or two bigs sign in the fall. UK will always have a spot for Wiseman, Carey and Hurt, but there may be some pressure on the other bigs to be the first to commit to secure their spot.
With James Wiseman ending his official visit this weekend UK coaches left town for in-home visits with Hurt and Nnaji. Here are some highlights of the 6-foot-10, 215-pound forward from Hopkins, Minnesota.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©September 07th, 2018 @ 9:15pm
The No. 1 player in the class of 2019 is having a great time on Kentucky’s campus.
James Wiseman is currently on his first official visit, where the Wildcat coaching staff is showing him around what could be his future locker room.
He sent out the following tweet this evening:
— James Wiseman (@BigTicket_JW) September 7, 2018
Side note, are those two uniform combinations without checkerboards? Looks like it.
Ashton Hagans also posted the following picture on Instagram, where he was in the car with the elite big man.
Oddly enough, John Calipari sent out this video on Twitter, unboxing a gift he received this afternoon from Anthony Davis.
— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) September 7, 2018
Davis is Wiseman’s favorite NBA player and has said on multiple occasions that he models his game after the former Wildcat. And Coach Cal showed off this gift while Wiseman is on campus. What are the odds?
Bring him on home, coach.
By TJ Walker on ©September 07th, 2018 @ 4:00pm
James Wiseman is on Kentucky’s campus for his first official visit and it seems momentum is flipping back into UK’s favor. Here’s a brief look at where things stand with Wiseman as he checks out Lexington.
What he’ll do on his visit:
Wiseman arrived to Lexington last night and hung out in the gym and did some shoot around with the team. Today he will tour the campus, check out the facilities he didn’t see on Thursday and meet with the coaches. Tonight will be a fancy dinner and then Wiseman will have a chance to hangout with the team afterwards. Wiseman doesn’t strike me as the type that’s going to be out searching for the hottest parties, but that option is always available in Lexington.
Tomorrow the family will take in more practices and workouts while spending time with the staff. This is a pretty typical visit for most athletes, but the good news for UK’s staff is they won’t have to spend too much time with the meet and greet with Wiseman or his mom, Donzaleigh Artis.
What will be different:
UK has made James Wiseman a priority for years. That’s not hyperbole, it’s been multiple years. You can rarely say that about a John Calipari basketball recruit. Usually UK will start recruiting players anywhere from their junior summers to the beginning of their senior years. Kentucky started following and actively recruiting James Wiseman back in 2016 when he was finishing his freshmen year of high school. Not just keeping tabs but actively recruiting him. Calipari has never recruited a player this long at UK.
As I mentioned, there won’t be your general meet and greet. John Calipari will tell recruits and their families that he wants to get to know them and he wants to get to know what they’re about, but they won’t waste time doing that with Wiseman. They know the family. They know Wiseman.
Think of it like when you start a new job. You want to get know your coworkers and your bosses and once you do everything becomes a bit more comfortable, but it takes time and it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s the same way with recruiting. Once you’re comfortable with people around the office maybe you go and grab drinks after work or find yourself having conversations that aren’t just about business.
Only two schools on Wiseman’s list will have the advantage of the latter: UK and Memphis. Florida State, Kansas and Vanderbilt will spend most of their time on their official visits just getting to know the family.
Now, you may think that’s all fine and dandy, but this is between UK and Memphis and if the Tigers have that advantage then it’s not a huge deal for Kentucky. Donzaleigh Artis would tell you that every school has a fair chance, but let’s pretend it is a two-horse race (it probably is)- I could make the case that Kentucky has a better relationship with Wiseman and his mother than Memphis. Obviously Penny and Wiseman are boys, but they’re not as comfortable with his entire staff. Joel Justus and John Calipari have been in constant communication with Donzaleigh Artis for years. They know Kenny Payne and Tony Barbee. They know that those guys have been at UK for years and I don’t think the announcement of the contract extensions the day Wiseman arrived on campus is a coincidence. Artis has said she wants to see if staff members/coaches will be leaving and going.
After the visit:
The official visit will come to an end this weekend and Wiseman has three other officials schedule over the next few months: Kansas (9/28), Vanderbilt (10/12) and FSU (10/26). There’s one official visit unaccounted for and it’s unclear if Wiseman will use that to travel down the road to Memphis, or potentially use it to see another school he is considering (UNC, Texas, Arizona).
But the majority of those coaching staffs will see Wiseman before he arrives on their campuses, and UK’s staff will be back just days after Wiseman has left Lexington. UK will visit Wiseman for an in-home visit on 9/12. I’ve been asked what’s an in-home visit like and it’s similar to an official visit. John Calipari isn’t going to have a PowerPoint presentation showcasing all his NBA Draft picks or a detail printout of how the Cats will use Wiseman next season. They will hang out, talk, have fun and continue to build their relationship. The Cats are going to have plenty of face time over the next few days.
There’s no denying that UK has seized momentum in this recruitment and Memphis is slowly seeming to fade. I would remind people that unless something wild happens, Wiseman is going to wait until the spring to announce. While things have been positive for UK over the last week or so, I wouldn’t be surprised if the tide changes again and changes back. It’s recruiting.
But Wiseman wants to wait and see who stays and goes at each school, UK and Kansas are the only places that will feature players that have serious NBA Draft decisions.
Memphis also does not want Wiseman to wait. They don’t just want Wiseman, they want Wiseman to play on a team that can compete for a Final Four. If Wiseman were to commit to Memphis tomorrow other 2019 five-star recruits would notice and be more likely to follow his lead. If Wiseman truly wants to wait until late spring then he may be one of the last players to sign. That’s not good news for Memphis. Plus, if you were going to spurn your hometown school would you do it before your senior season? If Wiseman picked Kentucky tomorrow Memphis fans would not be happy and there would be a different energy during Wiseman’s high school games. It may be smarter to wait and then get the hell out of dodge.
We still have months to go, but the Cats are doing great things in this recruitment.
Kentucky will meet with 2019 five-star guard Scottie Lewis on Monday. Lewis’ teammate, Bryan Antoine, was once a Kentucky target but committed to Villanova earlier this week. Lewis and Antoine haven’t ruled out playing together in college but have said they will make individual decisions on their college recruitment.
Let’s hope so.
But the Cats will continue to make Lewis a priority in 2019. Earlier this summer Lewis cut his list to seven- UK, Duke, Villanova, Stanford, Harvard, Florida and St. John’s. Florida and UK are the perceived leaders, but Duke was considered the leader in Antoine’s recruitment before he committed to Jay Wright. Antoine did a good job keeping things quiet and Lewis is doing more of the same.
September is going to be a crazy busy month for UK’s staff. Here’s how things currently look (this list will be updated):
9/8- Official visit: James Wiseman.
9/9 In-home visit: Matthew Hurt and Zeke Nnaji.
9/10- In-home visit: Scottie Lewis.
9/10- In-home visit: Aidan Igiehon
9/11- In-home visit: Vernon Carey Jr.
9/12- In-home visit: James Wiseman
9/13- In-home visit: Oscar Tshiebwe (tentative and it could be a day before or after)
9/15- Official visit: Scottie Lewis
9/29- Official visit: Oscar Tshiebwe
10/12- Big Blue Madness: R.J. Hampton, Vernon Carey (official), Dontaie Allen (official), Khristian Lander, Matthew Hurt (official)
So, that covers everyone but Cole Anthony in 2019, but I’m told UK will see him and he is likely to officially visit Kentucky this fall. We still don’t have confirmations on when UK commits Kahlil Whitney and Tyrese Maxey will return to Lexington. Whitney has already used his official visit, but Maxey’s official is available. My guess would be UK would love to get both those guys in town for Big Blue Madness.
Did I miss something? Let me know.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©September 06th, 2018 @ 10:30am
In an effort to stay on top of the recruiting game, John Calipari made a change to his staff. Brady Kennedy, who has been with the program since 2012, has been promoted to the newly-formed role of recruiting analyst.
“Recruiting will always serve as the lifeblood of our program,” Calipari said in a release from UK. “I think our success in getting and developing kids over our time here speaks for itself, but as our game continues to change, we wanted to have someone who would oversee what we’re doing from an organizational standpoint. Ultimately we get who we are supposed to get and they come here because of the success we’ve had with our players on and off the court, but we are always looking for ways to improve the consistency of our message and managing how we are delivering it to potential future players.
“Brady has been with us for a while now in various roles and has always stood out for his hard work and versatility. When he came to me with some ideas of some ways we can do things more efficiently, I was all for it. I’m looking forward to seeing how he can grow this role to take our recruiting efforts to the next level.”
Kennedy joined the program in 2012 as a student manager and in 2016, went full-time as a video graduate assistant. In his new role, he will assist with the day-to-day recruiting operations of the program, including but not limited to facilitating communication and correspondence efforts for prospective student-athletes, managing the schedule of prospects during on- and off-campus visits, assisting with travel arrangements of the coaching staff for recruiting, and developing marketing ideas to connect with potential future Wildcats.
Congrats to Kennedy on the promotion. Go Cats.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©September 05th, 2018 @ 9:00pm
Just a few hours after James Wiseman scheduled an in-home visit with Kentucky, another elite big man in the class of 2019 has followed suit.
According to Corey Evans of Rivals.com, Vernon Carey Jr., a top-three player and top-two center in 2019, has scheduled an in-home visit with Kentucky next week.
He will host John Calipari and company on Tuesday, September 11, one of five total in-homes next week.
Miami will get the first visit on September 9, followed by Duke on September 10, Kentucky on the 11th, Michigan State on September 12, and UNC on September 13.
Carey will also take an official visit to Kentucky on the weekend of October 12, followed by Duke on October 19, Miami on October 26, and UNC on November 2.
Most of the attention has been on Miami, Michigan State, and Duke, but sources told KSR’s TJ Walker that the Cats are in excellent position with Carey, likely in his top-two. Calipari has been pitching the DeMarcus Cousins comparisons to the elite prospect, something he is extremely fond of. Carey has said several times in the past that he actually models his game after Cousins, so it’s a match made in heaven.
Watch him work:
Bring home both Carey and Wiseman, Coach Cal. We need Cousins and Davis v.2, and we need it now.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©September 05th, 2018 @ 7:30pm
Kentucky will have back-to-back chances to sway the No. 1 recruit in 2019 to Lexington.
James Wiseman, a 7-foot center from Memphis, TN, already has an official visit scheduled to Kentucky this weekend, where he’ll head to Lexington on Thursday night and stay through the weekend.
Now, according to 247 Sports, he has also scheduled an in-home visit with John Calipari next Wednesday, one of three visits his family will host throughout the week.
He also has meetings set up with Penny Hardaway and his Memphis staff on Monday, and then Bill Self and Kansas on Tuesday before Coach Cal and company arrive on Wednesday.
As for Wiseman’s official visit list beyond Kentucky this weekend, he will head to Kansas the weekend of September 28, Vanderbilt the weekend of October 14, and Florida State the weekend of October 25.
Back in July, Wiseman officially cut his list to eight schools: Arizona, Florida State, Kansas, Kentucky, Memphis, North Carolina, Texas, and Vanderbilt.
Most believe his recruitment will come down to just Kentucky and Memphis, though his mother said that’s not the case.
“We have our options wide open. Kansas keeps in touch all the time, Vanderbilt is always on him, Florida State is emailing and texting, they’re on him. It’s not just Kentucky and Memphis,” she told 247 Sports late last month. “Right now, we’re just scheduling visits with different schools that we want to visit. Everybody is to the point now where they want to say that James is going to Memphis.”
While Coach Cal rehearses his best pitch for what should be a crazy week for the program, take a look at Wiseman’s EYBL mixtape from this summer:
Come on down, big fella.
By TJ Walker on ©September 05th, 2018 @ 10:30am
Bryan Anotine was scheduled to visit UK this month for an official visit and had other visits planned, too. That’s why it came as a surprise on Tuesday afternoon when he pulled the trigger and committed to Villanova.
Nova was always considered a major player in Antoine’s recruitment, but not the favorite. At least not according to 247 Sports’ Crystal Ball, which had Duke as the 85-percent favorite to land Antoine.
The truth is it’s a blow for Duke, not Kentucky. UK liked Antoine and would have gladly accepted a commitment from the five-star shooting guard, but the Cats weren’t banking on Antoine in 2019. They knew they were behind.
The Cats will need one more backcourt player in 2019 and would probably be OK if they ended up with just Tyrese Maxey, Kahlil Whitney and Dontaie Allen (the three committed players in 2019). It wouldn’t be the most ideal situation, but it wouldn’t sink UK’s 2019-2020 season. It’s likely there will be some backcourt returnees from this year’s team.
Antoine committed to Villanova on Tuesday because come Sunday college coaches from five different staffs would be visiting him. He would be traveling nearly every weekend to check out other campuses and if you already know where you wanted to go then that seems like an unnecessary amount of travel.
The good news is UK is still recruiting Antoine’s teammate, Scottie Lewis, and many believe the Cats are in the top two. He will officially visit UK on Sept. 15th and is also considering Florida, Duke, Stanford, St. John’s and Villanova. As of today it seems unlikely that he will join Antoine at Villanova, but the Villanova pick came as somewhat as a surprise for Antoine.
That’s recruiting. UK has offers out to Cole Anthony and Lewis and just adding one of those players with at least two frontcourt targets would give the Cats a great chance at the No. 1 class in 2019.
Best of luck to Antoine at Villanova and you gotta love when Duke misses out on a priority target. Especially after their pull last season.
By TJ Walker on ©September 04th, 2018 @ 9:27pm
Five-star forward Matthew Hurt will visit Kentucky for Big Blue Madness. Hurt is one of UK’s top targets in the class of 2019 and before he makes it to Kentucky’s campus the Cats will see him on Sunday.
Kentucky will meet with Hurt and four-star forward Zeke Nnaji. It’s the first time we’ve heard UK reaching out to Nnaji, who played AAU basketball with Hurt. Per the Star Tribune, Nnaji will visit UK unofficially this month and take his official visits in October.
We knew UK would visit Hurt and Hurt had mentioned over the summer that Big Blue Madness would be a possible landing spot for his official visit, but the Nnaji meeting is an interesting development.
Kentucky has offered James Wiseman, Vernon Carey and Hurt as bigs in 2019, but interest remains with Aidan Igiehon and Oscar Tshiebwe although UK hasn’t offered either player.
It certainly seems like UK wants a safety net big in the fall, and I can’t say I blame them. Carey and Wiseman are waiting until the spring to decide and it’s unclear when Hurt will pull the trigger. In the summer Hurt said he wanted to get his decision over with before his senior season started, but things can change and often do in recruiting. If UK could land a Igiehon, Tshiebwe or Nnaji (6-foot-10, 215-pound forward) in the fall it wouldn’t put as much pressure on the Cats in the spring.
UK seems to be following other schools leads in recruiting Hurt and Nnaji as a package deal. The pair haven’t said they will definitively play together, but if a school that is in the thick of things with Hurt were to land Nnaji, it wouldn’t hurt that school’s chances.
What a wild two months this will be with in-home visits and official visits.
Senior @HurtMatthew will be attending UK’s Big Blue Madness according to a source. In the long, storied history of UK basketball, no Minnesota prepster has ever signed with UK. Stanford transfer Reid Travis will be first player from Minnesota to play at UK this year. #BBN https://t.co/Dj6geWpgv7
— Oscar Combs (@wildcatnews) September 4, 2018
By KSR on ©September 04th, 2018 @ 2:00pm
Hardly Committed is back a day early after a holiday weekend to help you prepare for a September that is filled with official visits on Kentucky’s campus. T.J. Walker is also joined by Oscar Tshiebwe’s coach and Nick Roush to talk about the Dundies, the first episode in season two of The Office. Highlights:
— An incredibly brief football recruiting update.
— An announcement of an announcement that did not feature an announcement.
— Kentucky is “all in” on Matthew Hurt.
— Zebra print is the worst.
— Forecasting Kentucky’s future post players.
— The Annex adds a celebrity listener.
— A plot-hole in the Dundies.
* Unfortunately, this recording wrapped up about 15 minutes before Bryan Antoine committed to Villanova. Reaction will have to wait until next week.
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.