I hope everyone had a great weekend! UK hosted five-star forward Matthew Hurt and that’s where we will start. Kentucky had a few other unofficial visitors but that was a team visiting and I wouldn’t consider any of those players UK targets, but Kentucky may keep tabs on a couple of those players. So, Hurt was the main attraction and received the blue carpet treatment over the weekend.
The visit went well (drink). Actually, I’m told the visit went really, really well and folks close to UK feel that things couldn’t have gone better. There were three things that stood out to the Hurt family.
- Atmosphere: Hurt and his family said they wanted to take their visits during the season to see schools play home games. They wanted to watch team’s pregame activities and the crowd during the game. I’m sure plenty of fans (myself included) were worried the crowd would be mediocre for Greensboro, but I was wrong. It was the best home crowd of the season and one of the best non-Power Six crowds I can remember in recent memory. Of course the game being close led to the wild crowd but I’m told that the Hurt family was really impressed. UK’s staff supposedly made sure the family knew that wasn’t a “big” game for UK standards and the crowd was still great. They pitched the idea of the Hurt family returning for a bigger game to blow them away. We’ll see if they return.
- Path to the NBA: Hurt, like any normal kid, wants to get the NBA. Obviously he knew about former UK players that are currently in the NBA, but supposedly Calipari and UK’s staff mapped out their plan for Hurt. That was well received, I’m told.
- The way the coaches treat the players: This isn’t verbatim but Hurt and his family wanted to see how the coaches interacted with players off the floor and out of practices/games. I don’t think I’d hear anything differently, but Hurt’s family was impressed with the family atmosphere. Surprisingly, UK sometimes isn’t known to have a “family atmosphere” in some recruiting circles. That’s a conversation for a different day, but supposedly the Hurt family liked what they saw.
The only issue with all three of those points is I’m sure every school on his list will make sure to check all three of those boxes. Kansas, Duke and UNC will probably have good atmospheres (it depends on the game, but as the season progresses the cupcakes fall off the schedule). All three of those schools have sent players to the NBA and I’m sure the coaches won’t be jerks when recruit’s parents are around. So, while things look good for UK as of today, other school’s will certainly have some momentum when they host the Hurt family.
One of the biggest things from the visit is the Hurt family did tell UK they plan to take their time. Previously there was a thought that Hurt may commit in the next two months but supposedly their plan is to take other visits. They want to see how roster situations shakeout and this could go later than I thought last week. I don’t take that as a negative for UK, but obviously the Cats would hope he wouldn’t visit other places.
Supposedly UK missing on other bigs and losing at least Reid Travis and PJ Washington is a big draw. “Waiting to (look) at the roster helps (UK),” I was told. Other schools will either be returning bigs or are bringing in other star bigs. Hurt isn’t afraid to play with other great players, but naturally he’s going to want to be able to have a chance to be the guy. Kansas may have a similar frontcourt pitch as UK, but UNC and Duke will have more crowded frontcourts.
I still like UK’s chances.
I still think he ends up going to Indiana but I don’t have anything new that would make me feel better or worse about that prediction. Trayce Jackson-Davis picking the Hoosiers likely only helps IU’s chances with Brooks, but it seemed likely that TJD was going to IU, so just because it’s official doesn’t mean much to me. UK is in second maybe we will all be in for a surprise.
But, when talking with someone on the AAU side of things they brought up an interesting point that wasn’t directly related to Brooks or any recruit in particular, but I wanted to share because of a tweet I saw this weekend:
Happy birthday from the Brooks family
— Keion Brooks (@keion_brooks) November 30, 2018
A nice gesture from Mr. Brooks. I’ve heard nothing but great things about UK’s relationship with the Brooks’ family and I think it’s the only reason why Keion hasn’t already committed to Indiana. UK’s done a great job building a relationship with Keion and his entire family. It’s funny as the field goal post moves for UK in recruiting the Cats try to adjust. A couple years ago it was that the parents didn’t prefer UK and now I think the majority of parents in this class have preferred UK. I know Mr. Brook thinks very highly of UK’s staff (tweet aside).
But what this AAU person told me was in his opinion UK has become too easy to say no to on the recruiting trail. Cal’s pitch of “UK’s not for everyone” and his “We want you, but we’re going to respect your decision” has made it easier for recruits to go where they feel “more important.” I’m not sure what Cal should do differently. Panic more? Put more pressure on kids that if they don’t pick UK he will be in a bad spot? Get on his knees and beg? I’ve always respected the way Calipari recruits and I would almost guarantee that this approach has helped more than it hurts, but at least one AAU coach thinks it could hurt UK in some instances, especially when recruiting against hometown schools. FWIW I’ve never heard of that being an issue with any recruits, coaches and I can’t imagine folks close to UK think it’s a problem.
The only reason I bring it up is to hear your thoughts on it.
I was able to touch base with someone close to McDaniels and the family is saying they will wait until the spring to make a final decision, despite already finishing all five official visits. This person thought there was a chance that McDaniels would announce in the next few months, but he differed to the family’s plan to announce later. So, it’s going to be a wait and see approach but after things were quiet for a couple weeks I still think the Cats are in a good spot.
The only thing that worries me about UK’s chances is McDaniels deciding to spend his likely one year in college so far away from home. UK can beat the home school, but it’s never easy being the school farther away.
He took his first official to Georgia over the weekend. UK still expects him to check out Lexington, but normally optimistic, I get the sense that even UK believes it will be an uphill battle beating out Florida State for Edwards.
Never say never, but I wouldn’t expect Edwards to end up at Kentucky.
Vernon Carey Jr.:
He will pick between UNC, MSU or Duke. It’s a tough spot for UK. You probably want MSU because they would possibly be less of a title threat than UNC or Duke, but the Cats would play Carey next season in the Champions Classic. UK currently isn’t set to play UNC or Duke next season and the only possible matchup would be in the NCAA Tournament. Seems like Duke is the slight leader with MSU right there. UNC a distant third.