These are strange times for UK basketball. During a somewhat disappointing regular season many in the Big Blue Nation were able to hold their heads high knowing that John Calipari may have a shocking amount of players return. Late in the year it seemed UK would lose just Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Hamidou Diallo. Losing only three players would be a nice change of pace for UK fans.
But it hasn’t played out that way and the Cats could end up losing double that amount. Maybe more.
Luckily for UK fans John Calipari is prepared for whatever happens with his roster. Here are a few options Calipari will have to make while waiting for draft and transfer decisions from other players. Feel free to comment on which choice you think is best for Kentucky next season.
Kevin Knox: NBA Draft.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: NBA Draft.
Sacha Killeya-Jones: Transfer.
Tai Wynyard: Transfer.
Dillon Pulliam: Carnegie Mellon (I won’t count him moving forward but he is a departure).
What’s the Hold Up:
P.J. Washington: Testing NBA Draft waters.
Hamidou Diallo: Hasn’t made a decision (Certainly seems like he leaves for NBA).
Jarred Vanderbilt: Hasn’t made a decision (NBA).
Wenyen Gabriel: Hasn’t made a decision (NBA).
Quade Green: Hasn’t made a decision (transfer).
Nick Richards: Reports that he will return to UK but no official announcement (it would be surprising if he left).
Wait. What? UK could realistically lose nine scholarship players off a team that went 26-11 and lost to Kansas State in the Sweet 16 and none were seniors. That’s hard to swallow. For the record that isn’t necessarily my prediction, but it could happen.
So, what’s next?
Ashton Hagans (Currently 2019 but all signs point towards reclassifying)
If Duke didn’t add the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 players in the class of 2018 that would likely be the No.1 recruiting class in the country and a damn good one at that. But even with those talented five players teaming up in Lexington next season the Cats are still in the red from a numbers standpoint.
What’s Calipari’s plan to fill out a roster after potentially surprising departures? He has a few tricks up his sleeve.
If P.J. Washington, Wenyen Gabriel, Jarred Vanderbilt and Quade Green, or at least two/three of those players surprise folks and decide to leave UK, a grad-transfer could be in play for the Cats. Maybe even more than one.
F-Reid Travis: The Stanford senior averaged 19.5 points and 8.7 rebounds per game for an awful Stanford team. He’s 6-foot-8, 245-pounds and an absolute bully on the block and in the paint. He would be the ideal replacement if P.J. Washington were to leave. Travis is stronger and more physical, although Washington has a better touch around the rim and more potential.
Travis’ name has been linked to UK and is a serious option for Kentucky.
F-Mike Daum: The Dauminator averaged 23.9 points and 10.3 rebounds per game for South Dakota State last season while spraying 96 threes for the Jackrabbits at a 42.5 percent clip. Daum is a 6-foot-9, 250-pound stretch four that can score on the block but is better away from the basket. Daum’s unique game would be different than anything the Cats had last season.
I believe UK prefers Travis over Daum but I’m sure the Cats couldn’t go wrong with either.
G-Joe Cremo: I’ll fully admit I’ve only heard Cremo’s name mentioned a few times but if Quade Green were to transfer it’s clear Calipari will want to add another guard. Plenty of schools have reached out to the Albany grad-transfer that averaged 17.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game last year. Cremo hasn’t mentioned UK when talking about possible destinations but that’s not to say the Cats aren’t somewhat interested. It appears Calipari would prefer a player to reclassify but if the Cats were to go a grad-transfer option at guard expect it to be Cremo.
High School Options:
F- Vernon Carey: The No. 1 player in 2019 hasn’t been considered a Kentucky lean but it may be time for that to change. UK has been in touch with Carey about possibly joining UK for this upcoming season. The Cats recently visited Carey and don’t be surprised if there’s a followup visit that’s mentioned soon. Carey would be a top five player in the class of 2018 and may be UK’s best option when it comes to grabbing a new player. He’s 6-foot-10, 245-pounds and could be one of the best bigs in college basketball come next March if he elects to reclassify. Unlike some other players thinking of reclassifying, Carey wouldn’t have to worry about his body being college ready. His body was college ready about two years ago.
F- James Wiseman: The No. 2 player in 2019 is a name that UK fans are much more familiar with when it comes to recruiting. Sources tell KSR that it’s truly unlikely that Wiseman reclassifies but don’t be surprised to hear about him leaving Memphis for prep-school. Obviously things can change in any recruitment, but Wiseman seems more likely in 2019-2020 than 2018-2019, but the good news is it seems UK truly leads. If Wiseman were to reclassify he would have to put on some muscle and weight.
G- Tyrese Maxey: My favorite guard in the loaded 2019 class was recently visited by UK’s staff and reclassifying is on the table for Maxey. If the Cats were to lose Quade Green it appears UK’s preference is Maxey. Kentucky’s backcourt with Maxey, Hagans, Quickley, Herro and Baker would be extremely young but it would have the most potential in the country. If Hagans and Maxey stayed in 2019 and played for UK in 2019-2020 it would probably be one of Calipari’s best point guards. Could both possibly make that jump a year earlier? Time will tell.
So, now I’m curious what you all think. Feel free to tweet me (@TJWalkerKSR) or comment below. Let’s assume you only get these players for one year. That will stop the “Well, you may get him for multiple years” debate.
You get one additional guard to join Hagans, Quickley, Herro and Baker:
G- Hamidou Diallo/Quade Green/Joe Cremo/Tyrese Maxey
Just one more season. Who you got?
You get two bigs to join Richards and Montgomery:
F- Gabriel/Washington/Vanderbilt/Travis/Daum/Carey/Wiseman (I know Wiseman would likely get two years but let’s just make it one because it doesn’t seem likely he makes the jump)
Me personally? Green, Washington and Daum. But you really couldn’t go wrong with adding any of those players.
And with that my starting lineup would be:
Bench: Richards, Montgomery, Herro, Baker, Quickley. That’s a team that could legitimately go 10 deep and you would be able to play a variety of ways.
These next few months are going to be interesting. Buckle up.