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Calipari meeting tonight with 2018 five-star phenom Zion Williamson

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You want some recruiting news? You got it.

Coach Cal is meeting with 2018 five-star sensation Zion Williamson out of Spartanburg, SC tonight according to recruiting guru Evan Daniels.

Williamson was named to the All-USA first team today, yet another outstanding feat for one of the most sought-after recruits in all of high school basketball.

Kentucky has yet to offer the 6’7 forward, but many believe that could change tonight.

Watch him dominate the competition with some of these ridiculous dunks this year:


******UPDATE*******

Reports say Williamson was offered a scholarship by Coach Cal and Joel Justus tonight on their visit.

Come on down, big fella.


Calipari recruiting 2017 four-star SG Jemarl Baker

Calipari recruiting 2017 four-star SG Jemarl Baker

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This morning, Drew told you Kentucky reached out to 2017 guard Mark Smith about joining the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation. This afternoon, four-star shooting guard Jemarl Baker has been added to Coach Cal’s short list.

After Cuonzo Martin took the head coaching job at Missouri, the Cal-Berkeley signee requested his release from the school, and decided to re-open his recruitment.

Kentucky was listed as a school with immediate significant interest, joining the likes of Maryland, Utah, Oregon, Arizona, Duke, Marquette, Virginia, and ASU.

With guards De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, Isaiah Briscoe, Dominique Hawkins, and Mychal Mulder all considered likely (or guaranteed) departures for the Wildcats, UK has several more roster spots to fill for the 2017-18 season.

Baker averaged over 20 ppg en route to a state title this season in California. He is known for his silky-smooth jump shot, one that would be absolutely deadly at Kentucky. He was named to the Desert Valley All-Star Game, which will be played tomorrow night.

The 6’2, 170 lbs. guard is considered the 65th best player in the country and the 19th-best shooting guard according to ESPN. 247 Sports lists him at 119th overall and the 22nd-best shooting guard.

According to Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe, NBA executives view Baker as a potential future lottery pick in the draft.

Watch his ridiculous highlight reel below:


Nick Richards misspelled ‘BBN’ on cookie for Mo Bamba

Nick Richards misspelled ‘BBN’ on cookie for Mo Bamba

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Nick Richards is a great young talent, which is why he is a McDonald’s All-American, but he needs to learn a few things before he moves to Lexington.

For instance, he should know that it is BBN, as in Big Blue Nation — not BNN, as he wrote on his cookie for Mohamed Bamba.

Bamba shared the icing mistake on his SnapChat last night:

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Good try, good effort.


Photo by Chet White | UK Athletics

How Hamidou Diallo is Preparing His Peers for Kentucky

 Photo by Chet White | UK Athletics

Photo by Chet White | UK Athletics

During the many discussions surrounding next year’s team and the 2017 recruiting class, people forget the most important player is already on campus: Hamidou Diallo, 2017’s top-ranked shooting guard.

Diallo arrived on Kentucky’s campus for the spring semester to join the team, but only on the practice court.  During games he sat on the sidelines.  Diallo is using the time to physically improve, but also mentally prepare his team for the next season.  That means he’s making sure his future teammates know what to expect when they arrive on campus.

“He just told us to be ready for it,” P.J. Washington said today.  “I think it’s going to help him a lot, strength-wise, body-wise, getting his body right and his shot.”

Diallo talks to all of his future teammates periodically.  He doesn’t have any horror stories, but there’s one message everyone hears: be ready.   “Go in the gym and get ready for the season,” Nick Richards said.

Nobody talks to Diallo more than his future backcourt running-mate, Quade Green.  The northeast guys have played basketball for many years and look forward to playing together again in Lexington.

That’s like my best friend.  I just got off the phone with him before we got here,” Green said at media day.  “That’s my boy.  He told me to come there and be ready to work, block all the noise out, block the fans out because they’re going to be crazy out there.  He already told us it’s going to be crazy so we have to be focused.”

Diallo isn’t just talking to Kentucky’s commits, he’s talking to Cal’s recruits.  “He really wants me to come in next year,” Kevin Knox said today. “He just really wants me to come there and play along with him.”

Diallo’s relationship with Mohamed Bamba goes way back too, maybe even further than Quade Green.

“I played on the same AAU team with Hami when we were in like eighth grade,” Bamba said.  “I’ve always been tight with him.”  Diallo’s message to Bamba is one we’ve heard from Calipari: “if you’re not trying to work, don’t come.”

Diallo has rarely been heard from, but he could be the cornerstone to Kentucky’s 2017-18 success.

 


Kentucky Commits Use Alternative Recruiting Tactic: Cookies

Kevin Knox can’t even enjoy dessert without receiving a recruiting pitch.  The nation’s second-ranked small forward and No. 8 player overall received a surprise at yesterday’s visit to the local Ronald McDonald House.

“Nick Richards, P.J. (Washington) and Jarred (Vanderbilt) all made me ‘BBN’ cookies.  (They) Handed it to me, patted me on the back and wanted me to commit,” Knox said.  “It was real funny.  I had a great time yesterday.”

Quade Green was the only who didn’t try to persuade him with sweets.  “I can’t cook,” the point guard said.

Using sweets is a much different approach, one that didn’t work immediately.  “I didn’t eat none of the cookies.  They were kinda mad I didn’t eat the cookies, but I couldn’t,” Knox said.  “I’m not a big sweets guy.” 

Knox may not have enjoyed their culinary art, but he is enjoying his time with all four commits.  They’re constantly cutting up and making jokes.  Sticking together for most of the trip, they sometimes persuade Knox to join in on the Kentucky fun.  All four started media day by sitting at the same table.  Quade Green was shouting across the room, “Where’s Mo? Where’s Kevin?”  Kevin conceded.

It may seem like pestering to some, but Knox enjoys the tongue-in-cheek recruiting from the players.  It’s what he likes most about Coach Cal.

“He’s just a great guy.  He has a great sense of humor.  Every time I’m around him, he’s always making jokes, always laughing.  He’s just a great guy all around,” Knox said.  “He gets along with everybody.”

Knox will choose between Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina and Florida State in the week after April 14th’s Jordan Brand Classic.  If you see desserts on the table instead of hats, I like Kentucky’s chances.


Knox sitting at UK table at McDAAG Media Day

Knox sitting at UK table at McDAAG Media Day

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It should make you very happy to see Kevin Knox sitting with the four Kentucky signees at today’s McDonald’s All-American Game Media Day in Chicago.

The five-star small forward was recruited to sit with the UK guys as they take questions from the media, and he accepted the invite.

Last night, he was given BBN cookies from the UK class, seen here in this KSTV video:

John Calipari has gotta be proud of the great work his signees are doing this week.


McDonald’s All-American Practice Thread

McDonald’s All-American Practice Thread

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Right past the Karl-Anthony Towns-covered door is this morning’s final open practice for the 40th Annual McDonald’s All-American Games. I’ll provide updates below throughout the morning until they head to the United Center for Media Day.


11:20: The team moved on to the closeout drill, the one that put Quade on the wrong end of a poster yesterday. It didn’t start too well for him today either.

The first one up, he closed out to Nick Richards, stopping the center near the rim with what looked like a block. They called a foul and Quade couldn’t believe it. The talking started and didn’t stop, until he gave Richards some space to shoot it.

“Thank you. I appreciate it,” Richards told Quade after he buried a 15-footer.

11:16: The first 5v5 period of the day ended with the Kentucky trio on top, again. It was close, but Vando refuses to miss. His slow-moving form makes me think it’s gonna get blocked, but nobody can come close to that long left arm.

We’ll get one, maybe two more five minute team periods before they call it a day.

11:04: Richards, Green and Vanderbilt are still destroying all takers and they’re doing it in a variety of ways. Vando went one-on-one and off the pick-and-roll while Green created space.

This is fun.

10:53: Things have slowed down a little bit as the guards and posts have temporarily split up. The early star of the day is Jarred Vanderbilt. He’s done everything: blocked shots, thrown lobs, hit step-backs. His game has been the greatest surprise so far this week.

10:46: The 3v3 team of Richards, Green and Vanderbilt could not be stopped.

10:40: Washington’s back, but while he was gone, Jarred Jarred Vanderbilt was lighting it up. He knocked down a few contested jumpers in 3v3 and did this.

10:35: Here’s what Washington was doing before he had to go to the sideline.

10:33: Washington rolled his ankle up during the 3-on-2, 2-on-1 drill. Hopefully tape can easily fix it for now.

10:18: There’s probably 50 NBA scouts crowding the bleachers on the other side of the court. Luckily I arrived early enough to grab a seat in the crowded media section. The players are still warming up, but stuff will start getting real here in about five minutes.

Until then, remember this name: Collin Sexton. The explosive point guard won last night’s dunk contest. He’s destined to do big things for Avery Johnson at Alabama next year.

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New Name To Watch: Mark Smith

Photo: Scout.com

Photo: Scout.com

There is a new name on Kentucky’s basketball recruiting board for the Class of 2017.

Mark Smith, a guard out of Edwardsville, Illinois, heard from the UK coaching staff Monday night. The staff is looking to add another guard to next year’s roster, and Smith is in the mix.

Here’s more about him…

 

 

He was named Mr. Basketball in the state of Illinois.

He led his high school team to 30-2 record while averaging 21.9 points, 8.4 assists and 8.2 rebounds per game.

Other recent Illinois Mr. Basketball winners include Jabari Parker (twice), Jahlil Okafor, Jaylen Brunson and Derrick Rose.

He has several schools fighting for him.

Smith reportedly holds offers from Illinois, Butler, Indiana, Ohio State, Texas, California, Northern Illinois, Nebraska, Kansas State and Missouri, among a few others.

Cuonzo Martin and Brad Underwood are all over him.

Martin is the new coach at Missouri; Underwood the new coach at Illinois.

He plans to visit Butler sometime this week.

An Illinois radio host says Smith will take a couple of official visits before making his decision.

He was committed to play baseball for Missouri.

Smith was all set to be a pitcher for the Mizzou baseball program after committing in December of his junior year, but an elbow injury and the resignation of Mizzou’s baseball coach made him reconsider his future in the sport.

He pulled out of the commitment to the Tigers and directed his focus toward basketball in his senior season of high school, which appears to have been the right move.

He is a four-star prospect in Scout.com and Rivals.com rankings.

Scout.com ranks him the No. 35 shooting guard in the class, while Rivals.com has him at No. 78 overall. He is the No. 22 point guard and the No. 102 overall player in the 247 Composite Rankings.

Watch him play:

 

Smith is definitely one to keep an eye on this spring…


Three Late Night Notes from Chicago

Three Late Night Notes from Chicago

@McDAAG

Knox knocking down treys via @McDAAG.

1. Knox Almost Won the Three-Point Contest.  The small forward target couldn’t get enough momentum going, failing to finish his final rack.  His long arms simply and shooting motion simply take too long.  Trae Young got the win, but was worried Knox wouldn’t cool down before they took the challenge to television.  “Kevin was hot today.”

2. Ready for Revenge.  Last night’s all-star game practice prevented any of the players from seeing the South Regional Final.  They didn’t get to feel the heartbreak firsthand, but they feel for their friends.

“They really care.  It’s a passion,” Jarred Vanderbilt said.  “Some guys, they don’t care to lose.  They just want to go to the next level.”

Standing next to Vanderbilt, P.J. Washington echoed that sentiment.  He knows his peers are prepared to do what’s necessary to make sure the Cats don’t take any steps back.

“We want to pick it back up next year with the freshman class and I feel like we have the power to do that.  We just got to play together and play with Coach Cal and we’ll be fine.”

3.  Short-shorts are back.  Future WKU center Mitchell Robinson’s shorts are short.  He is not alone, but those long legs make his shorts look even shorter.

Robinson (22) next to P.J. Washington.

Robinson (22) next to P.J. Washington.

If you still can’t tell just how short those shorts are, watch those long legs fly through the air on this pass from Kevin Knox.

4. Green vs. Sexton is going to be AWESOME.  Collin Sexton was last summer’s breakout star.  After watching him for just one day, I can understand why.  The combo guard is only about 6’2″ but the man has bounce.  Today’s Slam Dunk Champion EARNED IT.  He can do more than dunk.  Sexton is physical, yet he has a soft touch.

Watching Sexton duel with Green was quite the treat after day one.  Once Avery Johnson gets ahold of him and Calipari can do some work on Green…next year’s matchups with the Crimson Tide will just mean more.


Quade Green using his TV time to recruit Mohamed Bamba

Quade Green using his TV time to recruit Mohamed Bamba

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Quade Green is using this week’s McDonald’s All-American Game to put the full-court press on his good friend and fellow All-American, Mohamed Bamba.

Green has constantly been in Bamba’s ear about becoming a Kentucky Wildcat with him, and tonight he begged Bamba to join BBN during his on-court interview with ESPN following his Legends and Stars Shootout win.

“I’m wanting Mo to commit to BBN,” he said. “Please commit to BBN! Please commit to BBN!”

Listen to him, Bamba!


Look to the future by watching the McDonald’s All-American Dunk Contest tonight

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Want to get over last night’s loss by looking ahead to the future? Tune in to ESPN2 at 8 p.m. ET to watch some future Cats participate in the Powerade Jam Fest at the McDonald’s All-American Game.

We won’t know the final list of participants for the dunk contest until right before it starts, but our man on the ground, Nick Roush, tells me that UK signee PJ Washington and five-star target Kevin Knox were practicing their dunks for it earlier. The three-point contest will also take place tonight, but I wouldn’t expect any future Cats to participate. Maybe Quade Green or Knox. If you remember, last year, Malik Monk won the three-point contest and almost took home the dunk title too:

 


P.J. Washington Dunked On Quade Green’s Face

P.J. Washington Dunked On Quade Green’s Face

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This morning I saw a preview of what’s to come this summer at the Joe Craft Center.  With four Kentucky commits on the same team, future Cats went toe-to-toe all morning long.

The East Team’s practice began with a variety of small group drills.  Quade Green’s demise came as soon as they started a one-on-one closeout drill.  With P.J. Washington at the three-point line and Green starting at the baseline, Green’s goal was to keep Washington from scoring.  Instead, he got dunked on.

Washington started chirping and didn’t stop.  “I was talking to him the whole practice about it.”

“I was ready to fight him right there,” Green said.  “Y’all are lucky y’all were here.  I would’ve been ready to fight.”

But that wasn’t the worst of it.  When it was Quade’s turn for redemption, Washington buried a three in his face.  Unfortunately, my fingers were too busy typing to capture it on video, but the guys at Courtside Films did.  See the dunk around the 12-second mark and the trey around the 37-second mark.

After it all, the point guard din’t hold it against his future teammate.  During a 5-on-5 period he fed Washington for an open three and screamed, “EAT!” before Washington buried the bucket.  It’s just one small example of how the four future Cats are using this week to foster a chemistry that can take them to the top of the college basketball world.

“We all have the same goals, and that’s a championship,” Washington said.


Images via ZagsBlog and Andy Jones, Tampa Tribune.

Coach Cal has Four Recruiters for Knox and Bamba at the McDonald’s All-American Game

Images via ZagsBlog and Andy Jones, Tampa Tribune.

Images via ZagsBlog and Andy Jones, Tampa Tribune

John Calipari may have not got the best draw in the NCAA Tournament, but he couldn’t have asked for a better selection at the McDonald’s All-American Game.  Four Kentucky commits — Quade Green, Nick Richards, P.J. Washington and Jarred Vanderbilt — are teammates with Kevin Knox and Mohamed Bamba, Calipari’s remaining two targets in the class of 2017.

“They’re in my ear 24/7 talking about how good it is to play with each other and how we’re getting along with each other,” Knox said after this morning’s practice.  Bamba’s description is the same: “Non-stop. Non-stop.  Seriously, non-stop.”

Bamba is third-ranked player in the 2017 class.  The lengthy 7-footer is down to Kentucky, Duke, Michigan and Texas.  Knox is the eighth-ranked player in the class, choosing between the Cats, Duke, North Carolina and Florida State.

Knox is also hearing it from Duke players, but the Cats have another ace-in-the-hole: P.J. Washington’s father, Paul.

“Him and my Dad are really close.  They always talk at every camp.  My mom and his mom are really close.” Knox said Paul asked him after practice, “‘How does it feel playing with Jarred and P.J. and Quade?’  He’s recruiting me too.  It’s all fun when my parents and their parents get together.  It never stops.  They’re always in my ear.”

Knox dunks one home at today's practice as Green and Richards look on, via McDAAG.

Knox dunks one home at today’s practice as Green and Richards look on, via McDAAG.

Green’s form of recruiting simple.  “When I see Mo and Kevin, I just tell ’em ‘BBN’ and walk away from ’em.”

Washington might be the biggest talker of the bunch and he’s feeling pretty good about the Cats’ chances.  “We’re trying to get them and I feel like we have a really good chance to get both of them.”

Jarred Vanderbilt echoed Washington’s statement.

“I’ve been in Mo’s ear all weekend.  Kev too.  We’re trying to make a dynasty,” Vanderbilt said.  “I feel like we got some good chances.  They’re still a work in progress but I think I we can get ’em.”

Knox will be making his decision during Spring Break after the Jordan Brand Game.  He initially planned on announcing in March, but wanted to see how the college basketball season ended.

“That’s one of the reasons I pushed it back from March to April is to wait to see how people did in the tournament, what people are leaving, what people are staying.  That’s definitely going to play a big part in my decision.”

When the small forward was discussing each of his finalists, I laughed a little when I heard, “Duke, they lost pretty early.”  Knox cracked a smile when he started talking about his Kentucky-bound teammates.  “I’m on a team with all the Kentucky commits.  It’s good to play with them.  They like to run and gun.”

A slam from Bamba via McDAAG.

A slam from Bamba via McDAAG.

Bamba’s perspective on Duke is different than I’ve ever heard before, validating those who say Coach K’s time as the Team USA head coach is a recruiting advantage.

“With Duke, you get something a little bit different because you’re getting three different brands,” Bamba said.  “You’re getting the university, you’re getting the program and you’re getting Coach K.  Coach K has his own global brand, which is pretty outstanding.”

When Bamba visited UK’s campus, he was taken aback seeing the walls filled with NBA players and banners at the Joe Craft Center, but that will not be the primary reason he chooses Kentucky.

“I really like their coaching staff and I really like the players that are coming in next year.”

Next year’s players have two more days in Chicago to convince two more All-Americans to become Cats.


Believe it or not, McDonald’s All-American Game coverage starts today

Believe it or not, McDonald’s All-American Game coverage starts today

It seems impossible to believe, but the McDonald’s All-American festivities kick off today in Chicago. Four future Kentucky players (Quade Green, PJ Washington, Nick Richards, and Jarred Vanderbilt) and two remaining targets (Mohamed Bamba, Kevin Knox) are participating in the All-Star Game, which takes place Wednesday night, but all of the fun starts today with practice and the dunk contest. Nick Roush is in Chicago for us and will bring you updates throughout the day.

Kentucky’s commits are already enjoying themselves:

Blessings 🙏🏾🍟🍔

A post shared by PJ Washington (@pj_washington) on

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Duke visiting Kevin Knox because Duke is no longer in the tournament

Coach K is making the most of his new free time by hitting the recruiting trail to check in on Kevin Knox, one of the last remaining top prospects in the 2017 class.

While Duke’s competition for Knox continues to play in the tournament because they didn’t lose to a No. 7 seed in the second round, Duke will try to get a leg up in the chase.

Mike Krysyekjksjekskwskafski is scheduled to meet with Knox later today, according to Knox’s father.

Kentucky and North Carolina will have to wait to pay a visit to Knox, because they didn’t lose to a No. 7 seed in the second round.