This morning, recruiting guru Evan Daniels joined KSR to provide the latest updates on some of the biggest names left in the class of 2019, along with his thoughts on who might be reclassifying from 2020 and whether or not Kentucky has a shot with them.
To kick things off, Daniels talked about 2019 five-star power forward Matthew Hurt and his upcoming decision set for April 19.
While he believes Duke is the leader and has a Crystal Ball pick submitted in favor of the Blue Devils for the 6-foot-9 forward, the 247 Sports insider said Kentucky is also in decent shape and could make up some ground when they visit him in Minnesota on Sunday.
“I think it comes down to Duke and Kentucky,” he said. “It could be either, I wouldn’t be surprised. But as of now, I haven’t been given any reason to change my Duke pick.”
When it came to the other big name remaining in the class of 2019, five-star forward Jaden McDaniels, Daniels seemed a bit more uneasy about his ultimate landing spot.
He mentioned the obvious connection with the hometown Washington Huskies, and also added that he’s comfortable with the coaching staff at San Diego State because his brother played basketball there over the last two years.
“Jaden is one of the more interesting recruitments of this 2019 cycle,” he said. “He doesn’t like talking about his recruitment, but you dont get much out of him when you do get to talk to him. I wouldn’t call Kentucky a leader. In situations like these, usually the kids stay closer to home. But who knows.”
Outside of Hurt and McDaniels, Daniels said that there is a pretty decent chance (but not set in stone) that 2020 combo guard RJ Hampton reclassifies to the class of 2019. As for a specific destination, Hampton himself said he was interested in playing with an elite point guard in college, leading some to believe that this helps Kentucky’s chances since both Tyrese Maxey and Ashton Hagans will be in the backcourt next season.
While there’s certainly truth to what Hampton had to say, the 247 Sports insider said that he likely won’t make his decision based specifically on who is playing point guard at any school alone.
“At this point, RJ Hampton is in the 2020 class,” he said. “There has been talk of him reclassifying to 2019 and it’s something they’re still considering. Certainly not definitive. But to go with Kentucky as an option, he’s looking at Duke pretty strongly. With Tre Jones coming back, I think that’s also where that comes from. I wouldn’t say it’s just Kentucky, I’d say it’s a couple schools with elite guards. I don’t think RJ Hampton is making his college choice because of Tyrese Maxey.”
With potential additions out of the way, Daniels moved on to discuss the players who are already committed and/or signed to play at Kentucky next season.
When it comes to UK’s newest commitment, 6-foot-8 graduate transfer Nate Sestina, Daniels believes he will come in and be a difference-maker right away, but cautioned fans to not assume that we’ll be seeing Reid Travis 2.0 next season.
“I think he gives them experience and shot-making and skill,” he said. “But don’t expect him to be Reid Travis.”
The first commitment in the class, five-star guard Tyrese Maxey, was easily the player Daniels was most excited about for Kentucky next season.
“I saw Tyrese Maxey at the McDonald’s All-American festivities,” he said. “And he was awesome. He showed up in tremendous shape, the best shape I’ve ever seen him in. He can really score, he’s versatile, and I think he’s really improved his jump shot. I think that’s going to be key, especially if Kentucky loses – which I expect them to – Tyler Herro. I think Tyrese can fill that void. I’m on the Tyrese Maxey train.”
As for UK commitment Kahlil Whitney, Daniels said that he’s impressed with the 6-foot-6 forward’s potential and his versatility, something that separates him from his peers in the class of 2019.
“What I like about him is he’s versatile,” he said. “He can guard threes, he can guard twos, and he’s strong enough and long enough to guard fours, which he did some at USA basketball camp. Whitney is really, really gifted athletically. He has more upside than anyone else in Kentucky’s recruiting class. The upside is pretty scary.”
With five-star forward Keion Brooks Jr., Kentucky’s most recent addition on the 2019 recruiting circuit, Daniels also raved about the Fort Wayne, IN native’s versatility.
“He’s a good defender, can make pull-up jump shots,” he said. “Great size for the position, he’s versatile as well. You can utilize him as a slashing three-man, a face-up four. I think he’s going to provide that scoring punch.”
When asked about his recruitment, Daniels said that Kentucky just weathered the storm and maintained a consistent approach, something that resonated well with both Brooks and his family.
“Kentucky did a great job recruiting him,” he said. “There were different points in that recruitment that I thought he’d go to Indiana, sometimes thought he’d go to Michigan State, North Carolina made a run, but Kentucky just hung in there tough. Obviously these kids pay attention to on-court success, but I wouldn’t say that that played as much of a factor in his recruitment as some people are saying.”
And last but not least, Daniels broke down Kentucky signee Dontaie Allen, saying he was a big fan of the Pendleton County forward’s ability to score the ball.
“A local kid, Pendleton County, it’s unfortunate he got hurt during his senior season, because he probably would’ve smashed the scoring record,” he said. “He was putting up ridiculous point numbers. But he can really score. He’s 6-foot-6, he’s got long arms, he can make jump shots, he’s able to go off the bounce and create. I wish he was a tad more athletic, but I think he’s the type of guy that Kentucky needs to recruit more often. A top-75 type player that sticks around for three or four years that can complement some of these other one and done guys and top tier targets.”
In fact, Daniels said that Allen is the kind of player Kentucky needs to have on their roster going forward for a chance to win a national championship in the near future.
“I don’t think the straight one and done model is the way to win a national title,” he said. “I know it’s hard to get guys that stick around for a couple years and play behind players, but I think Dontaie Allen can be one of those players.”
To close things out, Daniels also touched on whether or not we should be anticipating any potential staff changes for Kentucky in the near future.
While Tony Barbee was in the running for the Georgia State head coaching job and Joel Justus was considered for the Appalachian State job, Daniels doesn’t think we’ll see any staff changes this offseason.
“As of now, I don’t see any changes coming,” he said.