“Sources have told Rivals.com that Blackshear seems to be leaning toward keeping his name in the NBA Draft,” he said. “While he may go undrafted, the feeling is that he would be OK spending a year in the G-League instead of spending next year at a new college program.”
Xavier Peters is going to end up in the Bluegrass after all. 247 Sports’ Steve Wiltfong is reporting that the former Florida State linebacker is transferring to Kentucky. The one-time Kentucky commit and four-star recruit entered the transfer portal two days ago.
Peters, a 6-foot-4, 235-pound freshman out of West Chester, Ohio, played in two games as a Seminole last fall, registering one tackle and one pass breakup. After putting his name in the portal back in December, Peters told Wiltfong he finally made the decision to leave Tallahassee to be closer to his one-year-old son at home.
“I had a lot to think about,” Peters said earlier this week. “I knew I wanted to be closer to home. This is a family move. I told Coach Taggart this had nothing to do with his program or Florida State. This is all because of family issues.”
Peters just made the news official on Twitter:
— ?xavier peters? (@xavierpeters22) May 15, 2019
Back in December, Jack Pilgrim broke down what Peters’ transfer would mean to the Kentucky Football program. Check it out below:
Big, big get for Mark Stoops and Vince Marrow.
UPDATE: KSR is hearing Peters will appeal to the NCAA for immediate eligibility, but regardless, will have four years to play in Lexington. Based on this picture a little birdie sent us, Kentucky blue looks good on him.
By Brent Wainscott on ©May 15th, 2019 @ 12:45pm
On the diamond, this is a HUGE weekend for Kentucky. The softball Cats begin their path to the Women’s College World Series when they host the Regionals at John Cropp Stadium and just a few feet away, the baseball team will play in a massive weekend series against No. 2 Vanderbilt with the postseason on the line. Here’s what the baseball team has to do to get into the SEC Tournament.
Heading into the last weekend of the year, the Cats are currently in a three-way tie for the last spot in the SEC Tournament with Alabama and South Carolina. Despite Kentucky dropping two of three to South Carolina just last week, most scenarios do favor the Cats getting into the SEC Tournament. This weekend, Kentucky will face No. 2 Vanderbilt, South Carolina will see No. 5 Mississippi State, and Alabama will take on No. 7 Georgia. This can get confusing, so just stay with me here.
Kentucky gets in the tournament IF…
They win more games than South Carolina and Alabama this weekend
Despite South Carolina beating Kentucky two out of three this weekend, if Kentucky takes more games this weekend than the other teams, they will outright have the better record than both Alabama and South Carolina. In my opinion, it is most likely that Bama and USC get swept this weekend, and Kentucky can steal one with their ace Zack Thompson on the mound.
This is the clearest path to Hoover. Just win, and you’re in essentially, but the Cats will need to be fans of both Georgia and Mississippi State this weekend.
They get in a two-way tie with Alabama
Because Kentucky and Alabama did not play each other this season, there is no head-to-head record. So how can Kentucky get in if they tie with Alabama since Alabama has a better non-conference record? Well, it’s simple, kind of. In the SEC Tournament, when two teams are tied who haven’t played each other, the tiebreaker is their record against common opponents against the highest seed. So, in this case, Vanderbilt is the highest seed in the SEC Tournament, and luckily for the Cats, Alabama got swept by Vandy nearly a month ago. Therefore, if South Carolina gets swept and Kentucky can match what Alabama does this weekend, Kentucky will get in.
They get into a three-way tie
Now for many obvious reasons, you want to avoid the scenario of getting swept because no one wants to lose, and you would then have to bank on South Carolina and Alabama getting swept as well. However, in the case that all three teams get swept this weekend, that bodes well for Kentucky. By the end of this weekend, all three teams would have played Vanderbilt (the top seed in the SEC Tournament) this season. So, if Kentucky DOES get swept this weekend, they can still survive because the next common opponent for all three teams will be Georgia, who swept South Carolina earlier this season. In the scenario that Georgia sweeps Alabama and South Carolina gets swept to force this three-way tie, Kentucky will own the tiebreaker on South Carolina and Alabama with their victory against Georgia back in March when Zack Thompson went the distance.
However, if things go well and Kentucky wins one this weekend, they are in great shape as long as South Carolina doesn’t win one. If South Carolina does win one along with Kentucky this weekend, Kentucky will really need Alabama to win one too because Kentucky needs to avoid a two-way tie with South Carolina.
Kentucky will NOT get into the tournament IF…
They get into a two-way tie with South Carolina
This is why Kentucky needs to cheer hard for Mississippi State this weekend. Kentucky MUST avoid a two-way tie with South Carolina. Last weekend hurt Kentucky with this scenario, so now South Carolina owns the tiebreaker over the Cats. If South Carolina gets swept this weekend, the path becomes a lot easier for Kentucky to get to Hoover. Kentucky really needs to outplay or match South Carolina and hope Alabama can do the same to get in this weekend.
They don’t win as many as South Carolina or Alabama
This scenario is just as clear cut as winning more than the other two teams. If Kentucky can’t win as many or more games than both teams, they will be out of the tournament because they will have a worse record which will knock them out of the tiebreaker.
In short, be HUGE Mississippi State fans this weekend, hope Alabama doesn’t win more than Kentucky, and just beat Vanderbilt.
This massive weekend against Vandy kicks off Thursday at 6:30 p.m. ET at Kentucky Proud Park.
Go Cats. @BrentW_KSR
By Jack Pilgrim on ©May 14th, 2019 @ 9:30pm
After taking the week off last week, we’re back for another edition of Pilgrim’s Insider Notes. I graduated from the University of Kentucky last weekend, and as a graduation present, my dad took me on a surprise trip to the Bahamas for the week. After a hectic end to basketball season and a strenuous last couple of weeks finishing up my degree, it was a much-needed break and I certainly appreciated the patience while I took some time off to rejuvenate.
Side note: If you’re ever planning an exotic trip, specifically to the Bahamas, avoid Nassau and go straight to one of the smaller islands. I spent two days in Nassau, explored the city, did the Atlantis thing (waterpark, casino, “private” beach), etc., and while I enjoyed my time there, it just didn’t compare to our next stop, Crooked Island. With only a few hundred people on the island, it was a complete disconnect from the world. No stress, no traffic, flawless scenery, incredible food, tight-knit community of locals, etc.
Can’t recommend it enough. Absolute paradise.
Now onto the good stuff, and goodness there is plenty of it.
We’ll break down the latest rumblings with Jaden McDaniels, the status of Kerry Blackshear Jr., where RJ Hampton stands in his recruitment, and the NBA decisions of Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery.
Let’s dive right in.
Last time I did my insider notes, it was a two-parter with closing out the class of 2019 on May 1, and looking ahead to 2020 on May 2. In both of those posts, I added brief tidbits on 2019 five-star forward Jaden McDaniels and the latest on his recruitment (If you want to go back and catch up on both, I linked each post above).
To give you a quick SparkNotes, though, I essentially said that McDaniels was finally ready to get into the nitty-gritty of his recruitment and we should expect to see some movement in the coming days/weeks. In terms of a decision, while no one is certain of a final date set, what we do know (and did know even back then) is that it will come in the form of a post on either Twitter or Instagram and nothing more. And when that time comes, the general thought was that the hometown Washington Huskies would win out in the end based entirely on his quiet demeanor and tendency to shy away from the spotlight. He has always loved Kentucky, even called them his dream school at one point, but after talking with him at several different events, I just never got the vibe from him that he’d ever leave the comfort of his own home.
Just a day later, though, word leaked out that Kentucky was picking up momentum and may actually end up being the choice. In fact, I had heard at the time that the UK coaching staff not only felt confident in their position, but genuinely felt they had done enough in this recruitment to come out on top.
From there, the momentum has been all Kentucky, with nearly all major recruiting analyst (Evan Daniels, Jerry Meyer, Andrew Slater, etc.) picking the Cats to be the final choice. Daniels went as far as to say that he would be “shocked” if McDaniels ended up anywhere but Lexington this weekend. After talking to some people on both sides of the equation, while I’m not sure if there was ever an actual commitment from McDaniels behind the scenes as rumored, the UK coaching staff felt late last week that they were the pick. Whether that is why the recruiting experts flocked to make UK predictions, I’m not certain, but what I am very confident about is that the Kentucky buzz was legitimate.
Moving on to the next aspect of those rumors circling around social media that McDaniels had submitted his National Letter of Intent to Kentucky, I was told from the jump that while the smoke surrounding UK’s status was real, the signing talks were bogus. Daniels then confirmed that with the five-star prospect himself late last night.
Jaden McDaniels tells @247Sports he has NOT signed a Letter of Intent, despite rumors that he has.
Washington & Kentucky battling for the five-star talent.
— Evan Daniels (@EvanDaniels) May 14, 2019
Those in his inner circle, namely Cartiea French-Toney, his trainer, have actually pushed recently for McDaniels to not sign a LOI and only sign financial aid paperwork. As a side note, with the deadline being tomorrow to submit a letter of intent, this means that he could ultimately opt to wait a bit longer before making his announcement.
Around the same time of Daniels’ aforementioned tweet, he also made headlines by changing his Crystal Ball pick from Kentucky to “undecided,” which usually isn’t a good sign when it comes from arguably the best source of recruiting news (93.51% all-time prediction success rate) in the game. To put the cherry on top, 247 Sports’ Josh Gershon, another plus-90% predictor, also changed his pick to “undecided.”
So where did this change of heart come from?
“New information would probably be the best way to put it,” he told Matt Jones on KSR this morning.
After trying to work the phones today, I genuinely think this is nothing more than a high school kid being torn between staying home and being the hometown hero or making the first legitimate leap of faith in his basketball career. It’s down to Washington and Kentucky, without question. Those close to him want him to stay home one more year before heading to the NBA, though I’ve also been told that his parents have opened up to the idea of him landing in Lexington. As for McDaniels himself, I genuinely believe he knows Kentucky is the best move for his future, but doesn’t know if he’s ready for the spotlight that comes with being a UK basketball player. The former part of the argument is why the Cats gained so much steam recently, and I think the latter is why it has since cooled off.
I’ve also heard a theory that this could be McDaniels and his camp telling recruiting folks to back off their UK predictions to add intrigue to the decision, but I seriously don’t think that carries much weight, if any at all. This is a group of people that try to stay as tight-lipped and low-key as possible, so I just don’t see a benefit in that method of thinking at all. Maybe they simply just want to let McDaniels have his moment? While that may true, I don’t see a correlation there.
At the same time, we’ve also seen situations like Julius Randle, the Harrison Twins, and Trey Lyles in the past, where Kentucky was seen as the consensus favorite, we saw some last-minute rumors and momentum shifts, only to find out it was UK all along. That could come into play here, as well.
At this point, while I do not believe he will sign a letter of intent and will only sign financial aid paperwork, I still anticipate a decision this week, with Wednesday still being a legitimate option. His high school coach, who says he talked to McDaniels last night, also feels an announcement could come tomorrow.
Before yesterday, I planned on writing an incredibly optimistic post about how I would be surprised if it’s anything but Kentucky and it was time to pencil McDaniels in as a future Wildcat. Now, I’m genuinely conflicted and feel it could go either way. Unlike the Keion Brooks Jr. decision where it became apparent the Indiana native thrived under pressure and loved the spotlight, I don’t know if I can say the same for McDaniels. I keep going back to my conversation with him at the Jordan Brand Classic, where he said, “There’s nothing like playing at home.”
While I’m not certain where McDaniels is going, I do know that he is now in the process of coming up with a final destination. As we’ve seen throughout his entire recruitment, it could go back and forth over the course of the next few hours, let alone days, and neither Kentucky nor Washington would shock me at this point.
I’ll stick with the Cats based on just how much pro-UK smoke there was over the last several days, but it’s nothing more than a gut feeling.
Above all else, I’ll be happy when this recruitment is finally over.
Kerry Blackshear Jr.
The other major frontcourt prospect Kentucky is rumored with right now is Virginia Tech graduate transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr.
When word leaked out originally that the 6-foot-10 forward was putting his name in the transfer portal, Kentucky was immediately associated, with the UK coaching staff even making a trip down to Florida to meet with Blackshear’s family. Texas A&M and Florida were the two other schools that seemed to be the strongest contenders to land the former Hokie big man.
But the biggest question right now isn’t which school he’ll be transferring to, but whether or not he’ll be going back to school at all.
Right now, I’m told that the hope for Blackshear is that he works his way into NBA Draft contention or at least feels he can find the right fit as an undrafted free agent. If that’s the case, I think he says goodbye to college basketball and begins his professional journey.
Corey Evans of Rivals.com also added this morning that while his camp is relatively quiet right now, the general thought right now is that he keeps his name in the NBA Draft.
If he doesn’t receive the feedback he’s looking for (and he only has two more weeks to figure that out), sources tell KSR that Kentucky is in a great position to land Blackshear this offseason. In fact, before the recent developments of McDaniels, there was serious momentum that the Wildcats could have landed all three of McDaniels, Blackshear Jr., and Johnny Juzang to close out the class of 2019.
If McDaniels does opt for Washington, I fully expect the Kentucky coaching staff to go all-in on Blackshear and will ultimately find themselves as the favorites (if they aren’t already) to land the talented graduate transfer if he decides to head back to college for one final season.
Two weeks ago, five-star combo guard RJ Hampton announced he would be reclassifying from 2020 to 2019 and was down to four schools: Kansas, Kentucky, Memphis, and Texas Tech.
From the start, most major recruiting analysts felt the local Texas Tech Red Raiders weren’t serious contenders, leaving just the Jayhawks, Wildcats, and Tigers.
From there, former Duke commit Boogie Ellis and graduate transfer Rayjon Tucker (who may end up keeping his name in the NBA Draft) both committed to Memphis over the last week, leaving just one scholarship spot for the Tigers. If five-star forward Precious Achiuwa commits to Memphis this weekend, as expected, they’re out of roster spots. The way things are looking now, there just isn’t room for Hampton to sign with Memphis, ultimately leaving just Kansas and Kentucky, right?
Well, not exactly.
Last night, Evan Daniels added that he doesn’t believe it will be Kentucky, either.
Don’t think he’s going to Kentucky
— Evan Daniels (@EvanDaniels) May 13, 2019
Interestingly enough, I’ve heard over the last two weeks or so that Kentucky was in a better position than most believed, and that Hampton’s inner circle actually prefers the Wildcats over all the schools involved. The reality of the situation is that UK’s backcourt is simply too loaded and while Hampton feels he could start no matter who is currently on the roster (he has said as much), the logjam would make things just a bit too complicated. In fact, if Ashton Hagans had decided to put his name in the NBA Draft, I genuinely believe Hampton would be a Wildcat.
Using process of elimination, and that leaves Kansas as the winner, the school most believe has been either the No. 1 or No. 2 school on Hampton’s list for several months now. As of today, I would be shocked if he ends up anywhere other than Lawrence, KS next season.
One thing I will say to watch out for, however, is Hampton heading overseas for a year before turning pro. While I still strongly believe he ends up at Kansas, I’ve been told that the overseas route is intriguing for the five-star combo guard, and there’s an outside chance that he considers it.
In terms of when we’ll hear a final decision, Hampton told his followers on Twitter yesterday to check his profile bio, which says “Your question will be answered soon.”
Expect him to announce for Kansas sooner rather than later.
Nick Richards/EJ Montgomery
The last two current pieces on the Kentucky basketball roster with NBA decisions to make are former five-star forward prospects Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery.
For the former, the situation is a bit more simple. He is going through the NBA process simply learning from professional scouts and personnel about what he needs to work on next season in college. The expectation is that Nick Richards returns to Kentucky for a junior season, just as it has been since he originally put his name in the draft back in April.
As for Montgomery, it’s not as simple.
From the start, the working assumption was that while they may test the waters, UK would eventually return both Richards and Montgomery. That being said, there is growing concern that while the latter isn’t necessarily looking for a reason to leave, he’d jump on the opportunity in a heartbeat if one presented itself. To take it a step further, KSR’s Matt Jones said last night that a team guaranteeing a two-year deal in the second round would likely sway him to leave.
While Montgomery’s draft stock is extremely low right now and most teams are likely telling him he needs to return to school, it only takes one. We’ve seen it plenty of times before in the past, including last year with Jarred Vanderbilt, that teams take chances on players based solely on potential alone. Montgomery would likely, unfortunately, fit in that category.
I still think it’s more likely than not that Montgomery returns for a sophomore season at Kentucky, but it’s certainly not a clear-cut decision and we’ll likely have to wait at least another week before we hear anything.
No matter what happens with the key targets in the immediate future, the UK coaching staff has a backup plan in place. If the “nightmare” scenario happens where McDaniels goes to Washington, Blackshear Jr. stays in the NBA Draft, and Montgomery leaves his name in to explore his professional options, look for Kentucky to push for a reclassification from 2020 prospects N’Faly Dante and/or Makur Maker. And though Isaiah Todd has said on multiple occasions he wasn’t making the jump, he also said at the Nike EYBL event in Atlanta that he wouldn’t rule anything out if a team came calling at the last minute needing immediate help.
In short, Kentucky will be fine.
By Drew Franklin on ©May 14th, 2019 @ 9:03pm
The No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft belongs to the New Orleans Pelicans.
New Orleans won the Zion Sweepstakes by moving up six places to take the draft’s top pick after holding only a six percent chance going into the night. The Grizzlies, Knicks and Lakers were also in the hunt after the commercial break and finished in that order behind the Pelicans. (Sorry, Knicks fans.)
1. New Orleans Pelicans
2. Memphis Grizzlies
3. New York Knicks
4. Los Angeles Lakers
5. Cleveland Cavaliers
6. Phoenix Suns
7. Chicago Bulls
8. Atlanta Hawks
9. Washington Wizards
10. Atlanta Hawks (via Dallas Mavericks)
11. Minnesota Timberwolves
12. Charlotte Hornets
13. Miami Heat
14. Boston Celtics (via Sacramento Kings)
What does this mean for Anthony Davis’ future? After a tumultuous season in New Orleans, it looked like Davis had worn a Pelicans uniform for the final time. There was even talk of the Knicks trading Zion Williamson for Davis if the Knicks had won the lottery Tuesday night. But with Williamson heading to New Orleans by way of the draft, could Davis have a change of heart? Or is the relationship broken beyond repair (That’s all, folks!)?
It is going to be a wild offseason in the Association.
At least the Pelicans front office seems happy:
— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) May 15, 2019
Technically, it’s the offseason, but UK Sports never really stop; in fact, when you look at the calendar, there’s a ton of stuff happening over the next three and a half months to keep the news train churning.
Here’s what you can look forward to this summer.
May 14: NBA Draft Lottery
Which team gets Zion? We’ll find out tonight. We may also get a better picture of which team will draft PJ Washington, currently the only Kentucky player expected to go in the lottery.
May 14-19: NBA Draft Combine
PJ Washington, Tyler Herro, and Keldon Johnson are in Chicago until Sunday to be tested, measured, and interviewed by NBA executives alongside other top draft prospects.
May 15: End of the Spring Signing Period
That’s tomorrow! Will Jaden McDaniels announce his decision? His high school coach thinks so, which could be bad news for Kentucky considering recent buzz, but he could also drag this decision into the summer and sign financial aid papers at the school of his choice this fall.
May 17: UK Softball hosts NCAA Regional
The Hittin’ Kittens are the No. 14 seed in the NCAA Tournament and will host a regional at John Cropp Stadium this weekend. On Friday at 2:30 p.m., they’ll play Toledo to face the winner of Illinois vs. Virginia Tech on Saturday. Each regional follows a double-elimination format with at least three wins required to get to the NCAA Super Regionals, which take place May 23-26 at eight different sites.
May 18: The Preakness
With neither Country House nor Maximum Security running, does anyone care?
May 20: KSR Lexington Golf Scramble
AKA Ryan’s Putt for Prison. For each five-foot putt he misses, he has to stay in KSBar jail for two days.
May 29, 11:59 p.m.: Deadline to withdraw from the NBA Draft
Two weeks from tomorrow night, we’ll know for certain whether or not EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards are coming back to Kentucky and if Kerry Blackshear Jr. will go to the NBA or return to college for another season.
First week: Basketball players return to campus
It’s now customary for players to return to campus in early June to start summer classes and offseason workouts. Since the NCAA’s withdrawal deadline will have passed, the players who decided to come back to school will be back in Lexington with the rest of the team, including incoming freshmen.
June 4-21: John Calipari Satellite Camps
With the players back on campus, the satellite camps will also begin, giving fans across the state the chance to meet the new team. Calipari usually does a few media opps at the camps, so we’ll get to hear his first impressions of the squad.
June 7-9: Kentucky Football Camps
In early June, some of the top high school football players in the country will make their way to Kroger Field for UK’s Friday Night Lights Camp, the Saturday Night Prime Time Camp, and the Sunday Night Showcase Camp. Given the roll Vince Marrow and Mark Stoops are on right now, this could be another important week for the future of the program.
June 8: Belmont Stakes
June 20: NBA Draft
As always, Calipari will be front and center to see PJ Washington, Tyler Herro, and Keldon Johnson achieve their dreams.
TBD: KSR Summer Tour
The dates and locations are still being finalized, but the 2019 KSR Summer Tour will begin in early July. Once the schedule is final, we will post it on the site ad nauseam.
July 1-15: NBA Summer League
The NBA Summer League is bigger than ever. Utah and Sacramento will host leagues July 1-3, but the main draw is the Vegas Summer League, which takes place July 5-15 and will feature teams from China and Croatia. Expect to see plenty of former Cats in the mix.
July 10-14: Peach Jam & Under Armour Association Finals
Jack Pilgrim will split his time between the Peach Jam in North Augusta, South Carolina and the UAA Finals in Atlanta, Georgia to bring you the latest on Kentucky’s top prospects in the 2020 and 2021 classes.
July 15-18: SEC Media Days
SEC Media Days is back in Hoover and Kentucky will be up on the final day, Thursday, July 18. As always, Nick Roush will be there to cover the sights and sounds of the kickoff to talking season.
July 19-21: The Basketball Tournament (TBT) Regional in Lexington
The Bluegrass Boys, Kentucky’s Alumni Team, is hosting a regional of this year’s TBT at Frederick Douglass High School in Lexington. So far, the team consists of Dominique Hawkins, Derek Willis, Marcus Lee, Josh Harrellson and Ramon Harris, with Mark Krebs serving as team director. DeMarcus Cousins also has a team in the TBT Lexington Regional, Loyalty is Love. The winners of each region will meet for the semifinals and $2 million championship game in Chicago August 1-6.
July 22: Somerset Golf Scramble
TBD: Football Women’s Clinic
The date hasn’t been set for the annual football women’s clinic, but it typically takes place in late July. As someone who’s been to both, I can tell you it’s twice as fun as the basketball one.
Late July/Early August: Media Day
Talking season continues a few weeks later as the local media gets their turn to grill Mark Stoops, Eddie Gran, Brad White, Vince Marrow, and the players.
Early August: Football Fan Day, Fall Camp begins
Prepare yourself for practice reports.
August 31: Kentucky vs. Toledo
It’s finally football time in the Bluegrass.
By Nick Roush on ©May 13th, 2019 @ 11:00pm
A top 25 wide receiver in America has spent quite a bit of time in Lexington over the last month. Each time he’s returned home to Columbus, Ohio, he’s left impressed.
“I like everything about UK, the facilities, dorms, the people, fans. I like everything,” Kalil Branham told KSR Monday evening.
A four-star prospect ranked by 247 Sports as the No. 22 wide receiver in America, Branham first entered the BBN’s radar at the Blue/White Game. Not long after Branham watched the exhibition from the Kroger Field stands, the Michigan commit reopened his recruitment. Three weeks later he returned to Lexington for an official visit.
“It was nice,” he said. “It really opened my eyes to how nice the school is and what’s around it. We went through the whole school facilities and we got to eat at some of the finest restaurants there, like Tony’s, KSBar and Jeff Ruby’s.”
KSBar is in good company.
At one stop Branham ran into Tim Couch, also known as “the guy on the wall.”
That wasn’t the only big Kentucky football name to share a moment with Branham. Josh Allen posed for a picture with the four-star athlete just a week after he was drafted seventh overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Primarily recruited by Vince Marrow and wide receivers coach Michael Smith, their pitch to Branham is simple.
“They’re saying that I’m going to come in and replace Lynn Bowden. I’ll be the No. 1 guy. They say I’m a five-star recruit in their eyes.”
If Kentucky can convince Branham to commit to the Cats, the 2020 class will have an incredibly fast, hard-working athlete whose stock continues to rise. A few more things you should know about Branham and his relationship with UK:
Allen and Young are in Touch
Once they committed to Kentucky, John Young and Beau Allen vowed they would be two of UK’s staunchest recruiters. So far, they’re living up to that promise.
“I talk to John Young and Beau Allen a lot.” Branham has never thrown around the pigskin with Allen but, “His film is very nice. I think we could work together good.”
You People are Crazy
During Branham’s visits to Lexington, fans are making the most significant impressions. The Big Blue Nation is unlike any other fanbase, for better or worse.
“The fans are — they’re huggers. I’m not used to that, but I like it though.”
I don’t know how well hugs from strangers will go over with every recruit, but it isn’t scaring off Branham.
Not a One-Trick Pony
When he isn’t running through ladders or catching balls from the gun on the football field, Branham picks up the boxing gloves.
“It’s a training thing. I always kind of liked boxing. I figured it could make my hands quicker and my reactions, so I just kind of got into it.”
He’s never stepped into a ring for a formal fight, exclusively using pads and light sparring, but I would not mess with this man.
It aint grinding if you love it. while you at somebody's draft party watching their dreams come true . We with Coach Ron AKA The Champ working on quick hands
— Kalil Branham 2020 (@kbug_dash) April 26, 2019
Outside of boxing, Branham’s first love was lacrosse. As a high school freshman he lettered in football, baseball, basketball and track and field, a sport where he continues to completely crush the competition. Branham won the 2017 200m Ohio state championship and it wasn’t even close. In the following relay, his team was in dead last until he took over for the final leg. Watching him catch up with the competition is absolutely incredible.
Never question my effort or desire to win. im not a Ra Ra guy never have been. Dont take my quietness as a weakness. Its just why talk trash if you cant finish. #branhamboys pic.twitter.com/A2n81VBx0g
— Kalil Branham 2020 (@kbug_dash) April 16, 2019
He’s not just an athlete. Branham’s mind is incredibly sharp. To exercise his artistic side he plays piano.
“I just started, I’d say about three years ago; just taught myself and kept going with it.”
He learned to play like this simply by listening? Incredible.
— Kalil Branham 2020 (@kbug_dash) February 18, 2019
It might not be a rivalry per se, but Kalil does not deny that the competition between him and his older brother, John, has helped him grow.
“Me going against, or going with my brother, has always pushed me to go a little further, work a little harder and it’s made me better as a person and a football player,” Branham said. “He always stepped it up a little bit and taken it a little bit further than somebody my age would normally do. Since my brother is two years older than me, I’m working at a higher level than normal people are.”
Last season Kalil’s big brother John rushed for 2,013 yards and 22 touchdowns. A first team all-state selection, John Branham played in the annual Ohio North-South Classic. Next season the running back will suit up for Eastern Michigan.
Despite all the honors, if the two lined up to race, Kalil would leave him in the dust. “It’s not normally a competition, but when something like that comes up, always I dominate.”
— Kalil Branham 2020 (@kbug_dash) April 18, 2019
If you didn’t think athleticism runs in the family, his cousin Malaki Branham is a top 50 shooting guard in the 2021 class, playing for LeBron James’ alma mater St. Vincent-St. Mary’s.
When will Branham Decide?
It appears that Kentucky has all of the momentum in Branham’s recruitment, but there’s no end in sight.
“I’m taking my time, going through all my options,” Branham told KSR.
Branham has 14 reported offers but he does not have a list of finalists. When the time comes, Kentucky should be in position to contend. We’ll see if Smith and Marrow can seal the deal for “the next Lynn Bowden.”
By Nick Roush on ©May 13th, 2019 @ 1:03pm
Mark Stoops’ search for quarterback depth on the grad transfer market has come to a close. Former Troy pocket-passer Sawyer Smith has committed to Kentucky.
Excited to announce that I'm going to spend my last seasons as a Graduate Transfer at THE University of Kentucky!! Words can't begin to explain how proud my family and I are to be apart of the #BBN @UKFootball pic.twitter.com/b223Ixk3td
— Sawyer Smith (@smittyyy22) May 13, 2019
Smith will be tasked to immediately challenge UK’s starter, Terry Wilson, a familiar situation for the Florida native.
Last year Smith played a significant role for Troy following an injury to starting quarterback Kaleb Barker. In 13 games Smith completed 62.9 percent of his passes for 1,669 yards, 14 touchdowns and six interceptions to lead Neal Brown’s Trojans to a 10-win season. Smith can also use his legs. In 2018 rushed for 191 yards and a touchdown on 74 attempts.
Along with a year of experience in the Sun Belt, Smith brings two years of eligibility with him to Lexington.
By Zack Geoghegan on ©May 11th, 2019 @ 10:30pm
John Calipari and the Kentucky coaching staff have been working hard to stabilize the future of their favorite position – the point guard.
The target they’re currently locked in on? 2020 point guard Sharife Cooper.
Cooper is participating in the Nike EYBL in Indianapolis this weekend and I got a chance to meet up with him after he posted 29 points, five rebounds, and 11 assists for his squad, the AOT Running Rebels, based out of Georgia.
The five-star guard and 19th overall prospect according to ESPN said that Kentucky has been in constant contact with him.
“They’ve [Kentucky] been coming a lot. They show their face a lot,” Cooper said. “They’ve been to all the games. It’s really picking up with them. They show a lot of interest.”
Along with the Cats, a familiar face is also chasing the sought after lead guard – Bruce Pearl. Cooper described Kentucky and the Auburn Tigers as the two teams who have been on him the most.
There had been some chatter that Cooper was considering reclassifying to 2019 in order to replace Tigers guard Jared Harper, who left for the NBA, but that has been disproved.
Cooper noted that a couple of blue bloods – North Carolina and Duke – haven’t had much, if any, contact with him directly. Which should be noteworthy considering Cooper said he and his AOT teammate B.J. Boston have had discussions about potentially joining forces at the next level.
“We talk about that [teaming up] all the time,” Cooper said. “It’s really the best fit. You know, he’s gotta make the best decision for himself. And if that’s playing where I go, then I feel like we’re gonna be good.”
Boston is considered the sixth best player in the 2020 class according to ESPN and has been widely considered a Duke lean.
Bringing in Cooper alone would be a massive get. Packaging him and Boston together would be unfair.
Cooper even said that he is willing to play alongside other stars, even ones that play the same position as him.
“It doesn’t matter,” Cooper said about playing next to another high profile guard. “If we have chemistry and we play together, we’ll all be good.”
*Check out this 37-point performance from his trip to Atlanta.*
Standing at an even 6-feet, Cooper isn’t as big as a typical Calipari point guard, but he has the quickness and vision to make up for that.
He might already be one of the best instinctual passers in his class but he can also score on anyone. And when I say anyone, I mean anyone. Through six EYBL games (two in Indianapolis and four in Atlanta), Cooper is averaging over 28 points along with right at eight assists per game. He led the EYBL in scoring after the four games in Atlanta a couple of weeks ago with over 31 points per game.
His defense shouldn’t be ignored, either. He’s been a brick wall in Indianapolis whenever he digs deep into his stance.
But he’s a playmaker first and foremost, although you wouldn’t know from talking to him. He constantly repeated the phrase “make the right play” and he takes that to heart. It’s how he styles his game.
“Just naturally wanting to make the right play,” Cooper said. “Whatever is open, that’s what you take.”
Come on down.
By Nick Roush on ©May 11th, 2019 @ 3:30pm
The Big Blue Nation’s favorite news breaker is back at it again.
Kentucky point guard Ashton Hagans is a big fan of Instagram. Throughout the NCAA Tournament, his Instagram usage gave fans a sneak peek into the P.J. Washington saga, shedding light on an otherwise unclear situation. Last night he revealed some news that will pique the interest of conspiracy theorists.
In the middle of a Q&A on his Instagram story, Hagans posed this multiple choice question to his followers:
Those who are proficient at connecting the dots, like friend of the program KY_Clips, noted that one other potential future Wildcat is a big fan of the deuce, Jaden McDaniels.
Maybe Hagans isn’t ditching his number for Jaden McDaniels. Maybe Hagans just wants to wear the same number he wore at Newton High School. After all, Quade Green had No. 0 claimed prior to the start of last season.
Maybe the No. 2 isn’t for Jaden McDaniels. Maybe it’s for another incoming Wildcat, Kahlil Whitney. The Dragon wore the deuce on the AAU Circuit and at Roselle Catholic. Well, he’s not taking it to Kentucky.
If you need to connect more dots on social media, you may have also noticed that McDaniels started following Dontaie Allen on Instagram today. You know who else started following Allen the day before he committed? Johnny Juzang.
Speculation aside, we still do not definitively know when McDaniels will make a college announcement. Reports circulated yesterday that McDaniels would chose on May 20, only for the report to be quickly refuted by his trainer. 247’s Evan Daniels does not know exactly when McDaniels will decide, but it will be soon.
The final day of the spring signing period is May 15. Until Wednesday, enjoy reading all of the social media tea leaves.
By Nick Roush on ©May 11th, 2019 @ 11:00am
It’s good to see money has not changed Kentucky’s all-time leading rusher. Benny Snell is gonna Benny Snell.
Following his first NFL workout with the Pittsburgh Steelers at rookie mini-camp, reporters asked Snell about how he closed out games for the Wildcats, even though everyone in the stadium knew he was getting the ball.
“That’s just Benny Snell football,” the running back said as one reporter cracked a smile in the background. When asked to explain what exactly is Benny Snell football, Snell replied:
“Benny Snell football is — it could be second and three, third and three; it could be fourth and two, fourth and goal, third and goal or four-minute offense. It’s just feeding him, feeding him, let him run it up. He’s going to get up. He’s having fun. He might dance a little bit, but he’s gonna run back, he’s gonna do it again and everybody in the stadium, both teams know what’s happening.”
Snell is prepared to do whatever it takes to make a difference for the Steelers as a rookie. “I’m willing to fill my role in whether it’s on special teams, offense, defense, whatever they need me for, Benny Snell’s going to do it at his best.”
Benny Snell talks about nerves, his possible role, and explains what 'Benny Snell football' is. pic.twitter.com/3mYlqBHXft
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 10, 2019
Never change, Benny. Never change.
John Calipari may be in Italy, but he just added another impressive recruit to his roster for next season. Four-star wing Johnny Juzang just announced he’s committed to the University of Kentucky. He’s listed as the No. 30 overall player in the class, according to 24/7 Sports’ final rankings.
The Studio City, California native just posted the news on his Instagram, saying “Big Blue Nation, stand up.” He chose the Cats over Virginia, Kansas and Oregon.
View this post on Instagram
After reclassifying into the 2019 class just weeks ago, Juzang was thrust into the spotlight, quickly moving onto Kentucky’s radar, especially after news broke of Jemarl Baker’s pending transfer. He’s listed at 6-foot-6 and 200 pounds. In high school, he averaged 22.8 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game throughout 26 appearances. Juzang shot 43 percent from the floor, 35 percent from the three-point line and 85 percent from the charity stripe.
With the commitment, the Cats currently have the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation, followed by Arizona then Duke. Before Juzang’s commitment, UK was in third place, but the addition of the four-star player pushed the Cats back to the top. This isn’t necessarily finalized, as Memphis could make a move for the No. 1 spot if they land RJ Hampton and Boogie Ellis. However, if Coach Calipari is able to land Jaden McDaniels, Kentucky could still snag one of the top spots.
Regardless, Juzang’s commitment is great news for next season’s Wildcats. Welcome to the BBN!
By Adam Luckett on ©May 10th, 2019 @ 9:30pm
With Johnny Juzang officially joining the program, we are now starting to get a feel for what John Calipari’s 11th team at the University of Kentucky will look like. Seemingly every preseason ranking has UK in the top five and it’s clear that the Wildcats will again be a national title contender in 2019-2020. However, their playing style could be a bit different.
***Disclaimer: For this exercise, we’re going to assume that both EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards will be back on campus and that top-10 wing/small ball four Jaden McDaniels will be joining the top ranked recruiting class in the country.***
Throughout his coaching career, John Calipari has preferred to use a traditional two big lineup and it has been a big reason for his success. Yearly, Cal fields one of the sport’s best defensive teams but as the game evolves the lack of shooting hurts the Wildcats on the offensive end. We’ve seen Kentucky go small a couple times before and he’s going to have to do it again this upcoming winter on the hardwood.
Sitting here the weekend after Derby, the summer hasn’t even started but now is as good of a time as any to evaluate how UK will look next season. There’s no question that there is plenty of depth on the roster to go with length and interchangeable pieces on the perimeter. No matter what the look, John Calipari is going to have plenty of tools to tinker with.
To start off in the backcourt, it doesn’t feel like much of a discussion. Ashton Hagans returns for his sophomore season and he’ll run the point. Next to him will be five-star true freshman combo guard Tyrese Maxey. The top-1o recruit is a combo guard who will bounce back in forth between the one and the two. On paper, Kentucky will have on of the best backcourts in college basketball.
On the wing is where some major discussion will be. Keion Brooks Jr. is the lowest rated five-star recruit in the class, but he should be starting over at least one other. The 6-foot-7 wing picked Kentucky over Indiana and he brings some great versatility to the floor. Brooks plays within himself on the offensive end and has a polished game to this point in his development.
At the four will be another top-1o recruit. Jaden McDaniels, potentially, will be a huge recruiting win for Kentucky and if it happens he’ll likely lead the team in minutes. The long, lanky, athletic forward can put the ball on the deck and get wherever he wants on the floor. His length will make a significant impact on the glass and defensive end. Shooting will be a question, but there’s no doubt McDaniels will be an impact player for UK this season.
That’s four players that have been named and we haven’t even gotten into the paint yet. In 2016 and 2017, we saw Cal use a space floor on offense. When utilized, both Alex Poythress and Derek Willis were used in a stretch four role. That meant only one player in the post at one time. That’s what will happen for the majority of minutes this year.
Back for his sophomore year, potentially, EJ Montgomery will look to live up to that top-10, five-star ranking he was tagged with leaving high school. With a spaced floor, it will be easier for UK to take advantage of Montgomery’s unique skill set. The Georgia native is a rim running big who will be at his best catching lobs and occassionally shooting mid-range jumpers and baby hooks off quick post touches in the paint. On the glass, Kentucky will need the sophomore to really make an impact.
The first guy off the bench will likely be Immanuel Quickley and he’ll be the top backup at the one and two spots. However, don’t expect the sophomore to play much point. Right now it seems like that Hagans or Maxey will have the ball in their hands at all times so a spot shooter and energy player will need to play next to them. Getting shooting and solid defense from Quickley off the bench will be greatly needed.
On the wing, UK has all kinds of options off the bench. The first one people will want to talk about is top-12 composite recruit Khalil Whitney. It will come as a surprise to some to have him on the bench, but at this point Keion Brooks Jr. has the more developed game. Whitney, however, can play the three of four for Kentucky and will be a monster for teams to deal with in transition. Playing under control and with feel in the half-court will be Whitney’s biggest challenge at the college level.
Johnny Juzang is UK’s newest member to the 2019 recruiting class and the California native is bringing much needed shooting ability to the roster. Juzang can stroke it from deep, but that’s not all he brings to the table. The 6-foot-6 wing can play the two or the three in addition to being a solid rebounder and having a ton of defensive potential. Fellow freshman Dontaie Allen is built in the same mold and could be an answer if the Cats find themselves in foul trouble on the perimeter.
With the expectation for UK to be using a “4-out 1-in offense”, the perception will be that UK will not need a ton of big depth. However, that is not the case. In some specific matchups, UK will be forced to play a two-big lineup and right now they have two quality upperclassmen to bring off the pine. Nick Richards will be a junior who can bring size, length, athleticism, and rim protection to the lineup. Grad transfer Nate Sestina can space the floor with his three-shooting ability in addition to being a quality back to the basket block scorer. Cal will have options in the post.
There is still time for Kentucky to add more bodies to the roster and the coaching staff still needs to close the deal with Jaden McDaniels. That still doesn’t mean you shouldn’t feel very optimistic about the team. Kentucky has a loaded backcourt with plenty of quality options on the wing. Shooting and finding a reliable player that can go for 30 minutes per night in the paint still remain the biggest question marks. Sure this team will have some wrinkles to iron out, but they have the talent and the ability to be in the national mix.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©May 10th, 2019 @ 8:00pm
Editor’s Note: This piece from Jack Pilgrim originally ran after Johnny Juzang announced he would make the leap into the 2019 class. Now that he’s a Cat, allow KSR’s insider the chance to break down Juzang’s game, his background and how he will fit at Kentucky.
This evening, 2020 five-star wing Johnny Juzang announced he would be making a jump to the class of 2019, with many recruiting analysts submitting predictions in favor of the Wildcats not long after.
The 6-foot-7 prospect out of Studio City, CA is set to officially visit Kentucky starting on Monday, April 29, and there are rumblings that the Wildcats could receive a commitment on or soon after the trip.
So what do we need to know about Juzang and the likelihood that he ends up in Lexington next season?
Let’s take a look.
Who is Johnny Juzang?
In terms of basic information and measurables, Juzang is a 6-foot-7, 210-pound shooting guard/small forward out of Studio City, CA. Holding offers from Kentucky, Kansas, Virginia, UCLA, and USC, among others, Juzang is considered a consensus top-25 prospect in the class of 2020. ESPN lists him as the No. 19 overall prospect in the class, while Rivals has him at No. 22 and 247 Sports lists him at No. 24 overall.
On the offensive end, Juzang is one of the most gifted shooters in all of high school basketball. He’s got fluid mechanics, muscle memory down to a science, midrange, can hit shots from all three levels, catch-and-shoot, off the dribble, etc. With a nickname of “J-Silk,” it’s no surprise that he’s an incredibly smooth player. Last season for Harvard Westlake, Juzang averaged 22.8 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game, including a 35% clip from three. Solid, but not the best. Looking back to his time with the Compton Magic on the Adidas Gauntlet last season, however, the Kentucky target shot an impressive 43.4% from three, which is the number most believe closely shows his true shooting abilities.
Some recruiting analysts are comparing his game to that of a 6-foot-7 version of Doron Lamb, which would certainly provide a massive boost to Kentucky’s 3-point shooting next season.
Defensively, Juzang’s length is there, but he needs to improve on his lateral mobility and quickness to stay in front of smaller, faster guards. Kentucky is recruiting him to play at the two and three next season, so that will need to improve over time.
From a training perspective, Juzang has seen a spike in development over the last year or so not just with his basketball skillset, but his body. Over the course of his junior season, the forward prospect has put on 20 pounds of muscle, with those close to him calling him a “gym rat” who now lives in the weight room. He’s always been a gifted shooter, but now, he’s building up the strength necessary to be a force when driving the paint and finding separation against elite defenders. He’s also become a phenomenal rebounder, certainly a plus.
With Kentucky losing Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson, and Jemarl Baker on the perimeter, Juzang would be the perfect addition to rotate in with Ashton Hagans, Tyrese Maxey, and Immanuel Quickley, especially from a shooting perspective. Maxey is considered arguably the best shooter in the class of 2019, and Juzang has long been considered one of the best in the class of 2020. Bringing both of them in at the same time will bring back memories of Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb in the 2010-11 backcourt.
This evening, Juzang announced to the world that he would be making the jump to the class of 2019, a move that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.
“First off, I want to thank everyone who’s helped me and been there for me up to this point,” he said. “I’ve had an amazing experience in high school, and wouldn’t have had it any other way. I’d like to thank Harvard Westlake: the coaches, the trainers, the teachers, and the staff for making my 3 years so special. I also want to thank Compton Magic for all they’ve done for me in my journey thus far. And of course, I want to say thank you to my family and friends who support me no matter what. With that being said, I will be reclassifying to the class of 2019 and attending college this fall.”
There was a quiet buzz about it being a possibility over the last several months, but they seriously grew louder over the last week or so. Once Kentucky traveled out to California and offered him a scholarship face-to-face, the buzz soon became that not only is it likely that he made the jump to 2019, it would be a shock if he didn’t.
Now that he has shared the news with the world, it’s also important to factor in that Harvard Westlake, Juzang’s high school, does not have an early graduation program for students, so he will need to get his final academic credits in order elsewhere. His family believes they have a path in place that should make this transition relatively easy.
Already 18 years old, Juzang is both physically and mentally ready to make the jump. Tonight, he made that official.
Also in his reclassification announcement, Juzang said that he would be making a decision “in the next few weeks,” and I think that might even be generous.
Immediately after his in-home visit concluded with Kentucky, rumors leaked out that the Wildcats had done enough to jump out in front as the favorite to land the wing prospect. They offered him a scholarship for both 2019 and 2020, telling him that he’d be welcome whenever he wanted to end up in Lexington.
That being said, they pushed for Juzang to join Kentucky’s class of 2019 and pointed out his specific role on the roster for next season. From there, they convinced him to take an official visit to Lexington starting on April 29, where sources tell KSR that the staff believes they can seal the deal on a commitment before he leaves campus. If not, the expectation is that an announcement comes not long after that.
Outside of Kentucky, Juzang holds offers from Kansas, Virginia, Oregon, USC, Washington, California, and Arizona State, among others. Though Kentucky is still considered the favorite, Virginia is seen as the team running No. 2 in the race, with Villanova (who doesn’t have a confirmed offer) also making a recent push.
Before John Calipari and Joel Justus visited and offered on April 19, Juzang also visited Virginia last October and Kansas in February of 2018.
As of right now, Kentucky holds 83% of all predictions on 247 Sports, including picks from recruiting insiders Evan Daniels, Jerry Meyer, and Andrew Slater, three of the best in the business.
In fact, the only person who doesn’t predict Kentucky to land Juzang is 247’s Dain Ervin, who made a prediction in favor of Stanford back in October of 2018. Since then, Kentucky, Virginia, and Villanova have all surpassed the Cardinal on his list, and I would be shocked if they are even in the running at this point.
Not only do I believe Kentucky lands the 6-foot-7 sharpshooter out of Studio City, CA, I believe they get it done during (or not long after) his official visit to Lexington next week.
And the documentary he released last week:
Come on down.
By Maggie Davis on ©May 10th, 2019 @ 4:30pm
The NCAA Men’s Basketball Rules Committee has just released their latest official recommendations for collegiate basketball. These rules would begin affecting Division I teams as soon as next season. The recommendations must be approved by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel on June 5 in order to be finalized.
The biggest potential change is the committee’s proposal to extend the 3-point line to the international basketball distance of 22 feet, 1¾ inches. Currently, the three-point line’s distance is 20 feet, 9 inches. The committee cited the following reasons for the change:
- Making the lane more available for dribble/drive plays from the perimeter.
- Slowing the trend of the 3-point shot becoming too prevalent in men’s college basketball by making the shot a bit more challenging, while at the same time keeping the shot an integral part of the game.
- Assisting in offensive spacing by requiring the defense to cover more of the court.
The NIT completed a “test run” of the longer trey during the 2019 post-season, and teams, on average, saw a slight drop in their 3-point success. Teams in the NIT hit 33 percent of their three pointers during the tournament, compared to the regular season average of 35.2 percent.
Committee members also cited positive feedback from the annual rules survey as well as from coaches whose teams competed in the NIT with the experimental international line.
The three-point line extension isn’t the only potential change the committee has recommended: they also propose resetting the shot clock at 20 seconds – rather than a full 30 seconds – after a field goal attempt hits the rim and the offensive team rebounds the ball in the front court.
Again, the committee cited NIT feedback, after teams experimented with the 20-second shot clock in 2019. The reduced time would also “enhance the pace of the game,” according to the committee.
This next ones feels especially relevant for Kentucky (*cough cough, UK vs. LSU): the committee recommends allowing instant replay review for basket interference or goaltending calls made during the last two minutes of the second half or the last two minutes of overtime. The proposal makes it clear that their recommendation is directed toward calls that have been made, so it’s unclear at this time if the change would allow officials the opportunity to review a potential instance of goaltending and then make a subsequent call.
Another proposed change would give coaches the ability to call a live-ball timeout during the last two minutes of action (either during the second half or at the end of any overtime play). Currently, coaches are never allowed to call live-ball timeouts.
The committee also recommends a Flagrant 2 technical foul and ejection for any player who uses derogatory language regarding an opponent’s race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability.
Again, each of these recommendations must be reviewed and approved by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel on June 5 in order to be enacted for men’s college basketball. Any approved changes would apply for Division I teams during the 2019-2020 season, and for Division II and Division III teams the following year, due to the potential financial impact of re-painting three-point lines.
What do you think of the proposed changes?
Incoming UK quarterback Nik Scalzo has been on the mend for quite a few months. As he enters his final weeks in Ft. Lauderdale, the gunslinger is ready to get loose in Lexington.
KSR has learned the future Wildcat has been cleared to return to football activities, just before newcomers are set to report for the summer term in June. As you can see, Scalzo is moving around like nothing ever happened.
Knee is feelin ? pic.twitter.com/VIzeMWrf7r
— Nik Scalzo (@NikScalzo) May 8, 2019
Something did happen to his right knee less than six months ago.
In search of his school’s first ever state championship, Scalzo caught a pass out of the backfield on a trick-play. He took an awkward hit, felt a pop and immediately knew something was wrong significantly wrong with his knee. After sitting out for three series, he returned to lead his team to a go-ahead scoring drive that put Cardinal Gibbons in the Regional finals.
“I went back in and played through it,” Scalzo told the Florida Sun-Sentinel. “I had to do most of my stuff with just straight arm strength; I couldn’t use my feet at all. I dropped back like Jay Cutler. You know how he used to do his backpedal steps? I had to do that because I couldn’t cross over.
“But I stayed in the game. I’m glad I did.”
Since he tore the ACL in his right knee last November, future Wildcat Nik Ognenovic helped Cardinal Gibbons win the school’s first ever state championship. All the while, Scalzo has vigorously rehabbed his injured right knee, two-and-a-half hours a day, five days a week.
Scalzo is getting healthy at the right time. Kentucky will need the mobile quarterback prepared to compete this fall. Following Gunnar Hoak’s departure, the only players behind Terry Wilson on the depth chart are Scalzo, Walker Wood and incoming freshman Amani Gilmore.
While many ruled out his ability to compete this fall, it’s business as usual for Scalzo (without all of the backflips).