When I first started doing the UK Recruiting notebook, I scanned over my list of UK recruits and basically just skipped Kyrie Irving. To be honest, I just didn’t see the point of doing a profile on a kid that (a) is so good everyone has heard of him and his game and (b) was basically locked into going elsewhere. However, I really got the chance to sit down and talk with Kyrie, as well as others “in the know,” and I’m having mixed feelings at this point.
Position: Point Guard (Primary Ball Handler in the DDM)
Weight: 170 lbs
High School: St. Patrick (Elizabeth, NJ)
Rivals Ranking: #5 PG, #21 Overall
Scout Ranking: #2 PG, #6 Overall
Kyrie Irving is the floor general that every team needs, but that description is only one part of his game. Kyrie has described himself as a pure point guard but adds, “I’ll have a scorer’s mentality when I need to.” At the NBA Camp, with critics a little down on his performances at that point, he needed to score and did. He poured in 26 points during game 4 with Josh Selby pestering him defensively. He added 15 more in the next game. The ambidextrous Irving can turn up the speed to blaze down the open lane and finish at the rim with either hand. He is very disciplined when it comes to defense and doesn’t slack on that end of the floor either. His outside and midrange shooting are the knocks on his game and something that Kyrie has openly said he plans on working on, along with getting his body in better shape for the college game. The three point line is sometimes a friendly spot for Irving and when it is, he can rack up huge numbers. Over the next year, adding more consistency to his jump shooting and a little more muscle to his frame will make him ready for a great college career.
Now onto the only part of this post most of you are going to read. Previously, I’ve told you how Kyrie gushed about his visit to Indiana, their campus and their academics. There has also been numerous reports saying that IU and Duke were his leaders, even some rumors about his possible commitment to Indiana following a sighting of his father (later confirmed as uncle) in IU gear. I arrived at the NBA camp thinking that Kyrie was just a player still listing UK even though he was eventually headed elsewhere. What most of you don’t know about these camps and AAU tournaments is that in between games there is a lot of downtime for the scouts and players. During this time I had the opportunity to discuss some UK recruiting with many scouts and recruiting analysts. What I was told on numerous different occasions was, “Don’t count out UK in the Kyrie race just yet.” Most cited his godfather, UK assistant coach Rod Strickland, as the reason and others cited Cal’s love for developing top point guards for the NBA. Some just got the feeling that the tide had changed a little bit recently.
I had the chance to sit down with Kyrie for awhile during the camp and came away with a very different feeling as well. As of right now, I have the feeling that he is still wavering back and forth and really hasn’t had the “gut feeling” that he has said he is looking for in order to pick his ultimate destination. When asked about how his relationship with Rod Strickland was, now that Strickland is also recruiting him, he said, “Usually when I talk to him it is really not about recruiting. When I talk to him it is just to help me with whatever I need or whatever problems I might be having. Occasionally he’ll bring up Kentucky and he’ll feel me in about Kentucky but most of our talks aren’t about Kentucky.” Kyrie has said in the past that he is looking for a good relationship with the coaching staff and a home-like feel to the school he’ll eventually attend. Rod Strickland obviously cares about Kyrie first and foremost and, oddly enough, that could possible help with Kyrie’s recruitment more than any UK pitch he could ever give him.
Kyrie has also cited academics as a main factor. IU may have the upper hand here, as they have one of the top schools in America for journalism (Kyrie’s probable major). Indiana, according to Scout, has also pitched the idea of Kyrie and Michael Gilchrist playing together. The two have discussed the idea and Kyrie has said that he really enjoys playing with Michael and having such a talented teammate to work with on his St. Patricks squad. One has to wonder whether IU is shooting themselves in the foot by pitching this idea since Michael has been rumored to be a heavy UK lean. This possible scenario, of the two possibly playing together, may be a big advantage for the UK.
The point is that if you take Kyrie’s stated three major factors for his college decision, academics, relationship with coaching staff, and a home away from home environment, UK has nailed two of three with the Rod Strickland relationship. The next question is whether UK’s journalism school is enough to satisfy Kyrie or, alternatively, how serious he is about finishing an undergraduate program before his hopeful leap to the NBA. My feeling at this point is that UK has a pretty darn good chance, based on the above assessment and from the way I’ve heard other recruiting analysts talk about the situation. To be clear, I’m not saying that UK is his leader or that IU and Duke aren’t. I’m just saying that maybe UK isn’t as completely out of it as we had originally believed. We may know the answer fairly soon. Kyrie said that he would like to make a decision by the fall, hopefully before his senior season begins. On whether or not he would visit Kentucky during the summer he said, “Probably, most likely.” On top of Duke, Kentucky and Indiana, Kyrie noted that Texas A&M, Texas, Marquette, UCONN, Seton Hall, Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, Florida and Maryland are still on his list but that’s subject to change.
As we all know, recruit’s minds can change on a daily basis. Sometimes for the worse and sometimes for the better, depending on which color you bleed. Maybe Kyrie’s situation is looking a little better for UK fans or maybe he’ll just commit to IU tomorrow. Just like any other recruitment, we have to hope for the best and take the wait and see approach. After the NBA camp, though, I feel like the Kyrie recruitment has gotten a little more interesting in the eyes of this UK fan.
Not too many to choose from here. The best one, from the Adidas May Classic, must be given with a link, so here you go. The second is a little tough to watch at first but once you get past the intro and some of the slow motion parts, it really showcases his talents pretty well, its here:
Other recruiting notes:
– Couple of ACC offers for UK targets: Scout’s #1 PF and Rival’s #4 overall prospect for 2011, James McAdoo, has his list of schools down to nine, including Duke, Kentucky, UNC, Florida, Virginia, UCLA, Texas, Georgetown and Syracuse. According to Scout.com, UNC has recently offered, leaving Duke as the only school on his list yet to offer. He plans on narrowing it down during the summer and making a final decision before his junior basketball season starts. UK is just getting into the mix with McAdoo and has a little ground to make up. Florida and North Carolina are probably the school’s to beat. With the early decision planned, this is a situation worth watching even though he is in the 2011 class. Also, Quincy Miller received an offer from Duke. He’s getting tons of top D-1 interest at this point. Kentucky is still just watching Miller and has yet to offer the 2011 combo forward.
– Lamont “MoMo” Jones committed to Arizona this week. This is a new record for commitments before college according to Evan Daniels, who covers this stuff nationally for a living. He had committed to Louisville, then Virginia Tech, then USC, and now finally Arizona. He picked ‘Zona over Florida, leaving Billy Donovan, when confronted with reporters outside his home, to cry, “Am I still relevant?”
– Harrison Barnes took visits to Duke and North Carolina this week. It is the first time he has visited North Carolina, but he’s been to Duke a couple times before. When talking to one of UK’s wing targets at the NBA Camp, I was told a few times that Duke wasn’t really recruiting him any longer and that he believes it is because they’ve got Barnes. I think I might have to agree that the Dukies are going to be pretty hard to beat on this one and it seems like they might know it as well. Barnes did tell Scout.com’s Evan Daniels that the North Carolina visit went very well and, even though they were late in entering, their business school and coaching staff has brought them into serious contention.
– Also, check out Jerry Meyer’s mailbag. He includes Lexington Catholic’s Jaylen Beckham, one of my personal favorites, in his list of possible “cream of the crop” picks for 2012. Congrats Jaylen, keep up the hard work. The sky is the limit for that young man. Jerry also gives a good description of Quincy Miller‘s game, comparing him to Kevin Durant.
– 2011’s Damien Leonard told SCPrepNation.com that UK is coming at him very hard, along with a lot of other top D-1 schools including UCLA and Kansas. UK has offered and Damien says that he would like to stop by Lexington to get a closer look at the campus soon. He is the #4 shooting guard in the 2011 class, according to Scout.com.