What the 2017 basketball recruiting class lacks in shooters, it makes up for in elite small forwards.
John Calipari has achieved unprecedented recruiting success during his tenure at Kentucky, but if there’s one thing he doesn’t do well, it’s recruit small forwards. Calipari’s three best teams all had one thing in common: exceptional play at small forward. Unfortunately, he’s had trouble luring the next Patrick Patterson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Trey Lyles to Lexington.
With a plentiful supply of elite small forwards in the 2017 class, that will not be the case this year. There’s already one 5-star small forward in the fold and Calipari could land another.
Two days before Christmas Jarred Vanderbilt announced his commitment to Kentucky. Considered the No. 20 player overall and the No. 6 small forward, Vanderbilt’s position ranking would be much higher in any other class. Vanderbilt’s play is reminiscent of MKG’s. His game isn’t built around scoring, it’s built around every other basketball skill, from ball-handling in the open floor, to passing, dunking and defense. This highlight reel accurately reflects the diversity of his game.
Normally Calipari would begin looking for options at other positions after landing Vanderbilt, but this ins’t a normal year. All eyes are on Hamidou Diallo today, but Cal’s next priority is probably Kevin Knox.
Knox is considered the No. 9 player in the class, the No. 2 small forward behind only Michael Porter Jr., the unanimous No. 1 player in America. Knox’s final four schools are Kentucky, North Carolina, Florida State, and Duke.
Since Vanderbilt committed to Kentucky, experts immediately pinned Duke as the favorite for Knox. Last Friday Calipari traveled to the John Wall Holiday Invitational in Raleigh, North Carolina to watch Knox play. Knox told Rivals there’s plenty of room for him at UK.
“Me and Coach Cal talked about me and Jarred. We don’t play alike and we talked about how we could make it all work,” Knox said.
Knox is the most physically gifted small forward in the class and he’s probably the best shooter. Smooth down the lane, he keeps defenders on their toes because of his ability to pull up and shoot from any spot on the floor. His range extends well beyond the three-point line.
Even when they don’t go in, they always look good. Every time he lets one fly, I say “BUTTA!” It happened plenty of times in this early game at the John Wall Invitational. He dropped 38 and nailed a contested game-winning three in transition at the buzzer.
Knox is waiting until February or March to decide. If Calipari can convince Knox to come to Kentucky, he’ll have a good problem at small forward.