This weekend Kentucky will host five-star forward Matthew Hurt for his first official visit and there’s no denying how important of a recruit Hurt is for the Cats. UK has missed on big target after big target in the class of 2019, and only a few more remain. Here’s a look at UK’s best, worst, and most likely scenario for how the frontcourt situation plays out for the 2019-2020 season. For this exercise none of these scenarios include grad-transfers or 2020 players reclassifying. While both of those options are in play, and possibly even likely, we don’t have any names. Also, I’m trying to keep it somewhat realistic. Obviously the best care scenario will be bullish and worst bearish, but I’m trying to keep everything in reason and somewhat realistic.
The best case scenario is easy- Kentucky lands Matthew Hurt, one of Jaden McDaniels/Keion Brooks and hell, throw in five-star shooting guard Anthony Edwards while we’re at it. Then assuming UK would return at least one of Nick Richards or EJ Montgomery and the Cats would be locked and absolutely loaded for another season. The Edwards addition may seem bizarre when discussing UK’s ideal frontcourt for next season, but it makes sense. If the Cats landed Edwards, it would give UK more options on who to play at the four. Kahlil Whitney would get more run at that spot. The one addition of McDaniels/Brooks would allow them a more versatile role and you’d play EJ or Nick at the five. Hurt would also play a variety of positions. The addition of Edwards wouldn’t give you clarity on how the roster would look exactly, but you’d know you’d have enough talented players that are versatile enough to make something work.
That best case scenario is actually probably an abundance of players. It would give UK four players that could play a frontcourt position, where currently there is just one (Whitney) and some would possibly consider that a stretch (although I would disagree). I feel confident about one of Richards/Montgomery returning, so assuming that happens that would make two. They obviously need to land Hurt and one of McDaniels/Brooks to give UK four options on the frontcourt, even though just Hurt/Richards/Montgomery would be able to play the five. Three options for the frontcourt is a must for next season as UK couldn’t enter the season with just two post players. Foul trouble and possible injuries could ruin UK’s season before it even starts. Three bigs is minimum but four would make everyone feel warm and fuzzy heading into next season.
If UK could have a lineup like this next season, watch out:
PG: Tyrese Maxey (Green, Quickley, Hagans)
SG: Anthony Edwards (Green, Quickley, Hagans, Allen)
SF: Kahlil Whitney (Allen)
PF: Matthew Hurt (McDaniels/Brooks)
And that roster doesn’t include Tyler Herro (but does include all three PGs returning, which probably isn’t likely), who’s currently not being projected as a first rounder and could very easily return for a sophomore season. Regardless of UK’s recent recruiting misses, if the team looks something like that heading into next season it’s going to once again be a preseason top five team and rightfully so. That would be the nation’s best offense before they’d ever even play a game.
Again, we’re trying to keep it somewhat in reason because the worst case scenario would lead to UK missing on Hurt, McDaniels and Brooks (along with Isaiah Stewart but I don’t see a scenario he ends up at UK so I’m already banking on that) and would also include all of UK’s current frontcourt players darting for the NBA. That’s the worst case. To briefly entertain that idea UK would have to hit up the grad-transfer market big time and probably try to get a few other 2019 players that aren’t UK caliber to commit to Kentucky just so they had bodies.
I don’t see that happening.
In a more realistic worst-case scenario the Cats miss on Hurt and McDaniels, but land just Brooks in 2019. Nick Richards returns for a junior season and UK’s roster looks something like this:
PG: Quade Green (Quickley, Hagans)
SG: Tyrese Maxey (Quickley, Hagans, Allen)
SF: Kahlil Whitney (Allen)
PF: Keion Brooks
C: Nick Richards
Is that lineup making the NCAA Tournament? Duh. Could that team make a run? Sure. UK went to the Final Four with Josh Harrellson starting. But that is the thinnest frontcourt in UK history and it would become critical for UK to land at least one grad-transfer. And yes, I think even in a realistic worst case scenario UK lands one of Hurt, Brooks or McDaniels. For this exercise I picked Brooks just because he would probably be UK’s “worst” option to have to put in the frontcourt.
If that’s the worst case scenario that’s not the end of the world, although it probably wouldn’t be a serious title contender.
I haven’t been shy on this site saying I think UK lands Hurt. Of course there was a time (a long time) I thought UK was landing James Wiseman and another time (much shorter) that I thought UK was in a really good spot for Vernon Carey Jr. Point is, things can change in recruiting and do change, but currently I like where UK is at for Hurt.
So he’s included in the most realistic scenario at this time.
Then I think it’s realistic at this point to believe UK lands one of McDaniels/Brooks. I think IU holds a 65/35 lead over UK for Brooks, so McDaniels seems more likely, but things have gone quiet in McDaniels’ recruitment. It’s not a lock that UK lands either, but I think odds are they will land one, so we’ll roll with that.
I don’t expect Anthony Edwards to end up at UK. I do expect one of Richards/Montgomery to return and I wouldn’t be shocked if both came back, but it’s probably more realistic it’s just one. We’ll go with Richards for this exercise.
PG: Green (Quickley, Hagans)
SG: Maxey (Quickley, Hagans, Allen)
SF: Kahlil Whitney (,McDaniels, Allen)
PF: Matthew Hurt (McDaniels)
If that’s how things play out I would expect UK to add a grad-transfer, but there’s no telling the caliber of that player or even guess a name. So ignoring the transfer for now, what would we think of the above roster? It would be a really good scoring team, probably average defensively and thin upfront. It would probably be the type of Calipari team that would struggle on the road, take care of business at home and end up as a four seed in the NCAA Tournament. The talent would be there for a deep run, but consistency would be key.
One thing is for sure, regardless of how the roster turns it it’s shaping up to be a team that’s going to play as fast as any of Calipari’s. That will be fun to watch.