Have we all calmed down from the weekend? No? That’s perfectly understandable. It was an unforgettable weekend for Kentucky football and one that we will be talking about for decades.
But, it was also a big weekend for Kentucky basketball recruiting and started what will be a busy month. UK hosted five-star center James Wiseman over the weekend for his first official visit and Kentucky’s staff visited several targets for in-home visits. Those visits will continue throughout the week and the Cats will have official visitors every weekend this month.
Let’s get to it.
So, how did his official visit go this weekend? John Calipari pulled out all the stops. He received a gift from Anthony Davis that wasn’t a coincidence. The team received a Call of Duty gift from Karl-Anthony Towns. If you were a teenager with NBA dreams wouldn’t it be cool to have a similar career as Towns or Davis? That was a smart move by Calipari and I’m told that Wiseman and his family thought both were very cool.
— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) September 7, 2018
— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) September 9, 2018
I’ve had a few fans tell me they have read that the visit didn’t go well and it didn’t push UK ahead or extend the Cats’ lead (depending on who you think is the current favorite). I looked into this because that’s a significant claim. It’s rare to hear visits not going well, especially with a prized recruit. I asked one person I spoke with if it ever appeared the family looked bored or wasn’t having a good time. I was told that was never case. I then asked if there was a way that they looked lax or disinterested? Again, nothing out of the ordinary.
The only thing my source could think of is that there is already such a strong relationship between UK’s staff and the Wiseman family that the entire visit was a little different than other official visits. They gave the Wiseman family a pitch but they wanted their family to get the experience as if their son was a student-athlete at UK. They allowed James to spend a lot of time with the team. The parents watched as much basketball/pickup games as they wanted. This recruitment is a different animal for UK because the relationship is already so strong. Maybe since there wasn’t a football game, charity game or because it wasn’t Big Blue Madness weekend some thought it lacked the bells and whistles, but it was a productive visit that only strengthened UK’s chances.
I think the Wiseman family is really trying to keep things as open as possible. They may have favorites in their mind but as a family are trying to give every school a fair chance and are willing to take their time on this recruitment. That being said, UK is in a great spot and I still believe the Cats have the momentum. They may be the leader and it would probably be my guess as of today, but things are going to change several more times (or at least appear to change) before he decides in the spring. I’m sure Memphis will get momentum back at some point and I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a surprise buzz from a Florida State or Vanderbilt. I don’t think those schools are serious players, but recruitments are weird and I’m sure we’ll hear positive things about those schools at some point.
This will be a long recruitment, so be prepared for the ebbs and flow. UK’s track record with bigs can’t be topped in this recruitment, but has UK done enough to have the strongest relationship? They’ve certainly done a great job up to this point.
Zeke Nnaji and Matthew Hurt:
Kentucky visited both prospects yesterday and Nnaji ended up with an offer from the Cats. Full disclosure, I haven’t heard too much about either recruitment. I’ll get to Matthew Hurt in a moment but what I was told about Nnaji is that UK just came in the picture about a week ago. They were able to get an in-home visit the first day coaches were allowed to see prospects. Nnaji plans on unofficially visiting this month and maybe coming back for an official visit next month. I don’t know where UK stands in his recruitment but my source alluded that obviously the Cats must be a player if they were able to make up this much ground in such a short amount of time. That’s good news and honestly probably pretty telling. Several schools have been on him for a very long time and the Cats are squarely in the thick of things.
As for what kind of player Nnaji is, I’ve been told he wasn’t offered just because he’s tight with Hurt. UK thinks Nnaji can play and would be a nice 2-3 year player. No, not an elite one-and-done player, but a good glue guy with a high ceiling. The Cats legitimately like him.
But UK would love to land both Hurt and Nnaji. Hurt is one of the most versatile players in the class and UK is recruiting him as hard as any other player in the class. I’ve been told UK likes where they stand but they don’t know if they lead, if they are in second, or third. It seems like the family likes what they’re hearing from UK, but it doesn’t seem like there’s a read on Hurt’s priority. Some may take that as negative news, and I understand why, but if the Hurt family is doing a good job keeping things close to the vest that doesn’t mean Kentucky is behind.
If I had to guess I wouldn’t say UK leads, but I would also guess that the family doesn’t know where Hurt will end up at this point. Hurt will visit for Big Blue Madness and it will be his first time checking out Lexington. That will be one of the most important official visits of this cycle.
Bigs in 2019:
So, what’s going on with UK’s big situation in 2019? UK has offered Wiseman, Hurt and Vernon Carey. Those three players could commit to UK tomorrow, or in May, and the Cats will make sure there’s a spot and plenty of playing time. That’s been the case for those three for nearly a year and that isn’t changing. All three are elite bigs that will have great college careers. UK knows that.
But the Cats just offered Nnaji and an offer is coming later this week for Oscar Tshiebwe (shoob-way). At least one assistant coach will meet with Aidan Igiehon today. Will an actual offer come to Igiehon? Time will tell. I still think UK likes Nnaji and Tshiebwe more than Igiehon, but if we hear of an offer and visit set for Igiehon that would make things interesting.
UK needs to add three bigs in 2019. You could maybe survive with two if someone returns and it would be special if the Cats could land four, but three seems to be the magic number.
Kentucky still thinks they can land two of Carey/Hurt/Wiseman. That’s important. I should say that UK expects to land two of Carey/Hurt/Wiseman. So, there may only be one other spot for the other tier. It’s strictly my opinion, but I think UK would take Nnaji and Tshiebwe in the fall and hope you can still get two of Carey/Hurt/Wiseman in the spring, but could survive with just one.
However, UK could also be telling Tshiebwe/Nnaji and maybe Igiehon (can we get a break with tough to pronounce last names) that it’s first come first serve. Kentucky putting some pressure on bigs would be a smart move because you don’t want to go into the spring with zero bigs committed.
UK really likes Tshiebwe and I think he’s the Cats’ first choice after Carey/Hurt/Wiseman, but they would glad take Nnaji, too.
He will visit UK for Big Blue Madness and the Cats will see him tomorrow for an in-home visit. I still think UK’s in a good spot (drink) but my only noteworthy update is that the coaches at MSU, Duke and UK feel the best about their chances. The coaching staffs at those places are confident where UNC and Miami (Fla.) aren’t as confident. Duke and UK are staffs that usually feel pretty good about their chances in nearly all recruitments, but MSU’s staff feels like they have put in the most work and they have the best relationship with Carey.
In my opinion this may be between UK and MSU, but like Wiseman, this is going to be a long recruitment. I’m excited to see where things stand after his official visit to UK next month. People close to UK are excited to have him on campus.
Here’s a look at the September/October schedule:
9/8- Official visit: James Wiseman.
9/9 In-home visit: Matthew Hurt, Zeke Nnaji, Kahlil Whintey.
9/10- In-home visit: Scottie Lewis, Aidan Igiehon
(UK will be in at some point this week to see Tshiebwe)
9/11- In-home visit: Vernon Carey Jr.
9/12- In-home visit: James Wiseman.
9/15- Official visit: Scottie Lewis.
9/29- Official visit: Oscar Tshiebwe.
10/12- Visits: R.J. Hampton, Vernon Carey, Dontaie Allen, Khristian Lander, Matthew Hurt.
It’s unclear when UK will see Cole Anthony and Tyrese Maxey