It’s been a hectic few weeks for the basketball world – especially in Kentucky – so no one could blame you if you’ve lost track of all of the recruitments, reclassifications and declarations for the NBA draft. Don’t worry, you’re probably not alone.
With that being said, a LOT still hangs in the balance for Kentucky’s 2018-19 season. Some of our questions could be answered by the end of the week. Others, by the May 30th NBA Draft deadline. And some we might not know until late summer. Here’s everything we know as of now, with predictions and even some *suggestions.*
When news of Hagans’ commitment broke less than two weeks ago, it became pretty obvious he would be the go-to point guard once he arrives at UK – which isn’t surprising, considering he’s the No. 1 point guard in the 2019 class. The question, of course, then becomes: when will he arrive at UK? Although he’s still technically a 2019 recruit, all signs point to a reclassification for 2018.
His commitment announcement, which came the day after 5-star EJ Montgomery’s commitment, continued to boost BBN morale after a disappointing March and the recent announcement of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s departure. Plus, it re-ignited the tradition of John Calipari and star point guards, which is something the Cats lacked this season. Hagans is the real deal, and it’s likely we’ll get to see him in action next season as the Cats’ starting PG.
He’s another highly-touted point guard for the 2018 class – 24/7 Sports has him listed as the No. 4 point guard in the nation. Quickley is an athlete; he’s just 6-foot-3, but he boasts a 6-foot-7 wingspan. He’s shown he’s a good facilitator, dishing out eight assists and grabbing four rebounds in his 17 minutes off the bench during the McDonalds All-American game. He struggled offensively in that game, ending the night 0-2 from the field. But, we’ve seen he can get hot from the outside. He did tie for first place in the 3-point shootout. Check out Nick Roush’s video:
— Nick Roush (@RoushKSR) March 27, 2018
With a guy like Hagans coming in, you expect to see Quickley coming in off the bench, and (possibly) even being a two-year player. But, then again, that’s what most of us thought about Gilgeous-Alexander too…
Just when Kentucky fans thought recruiting news was done, a report came out saying Coach Cal pitched reclassifying and joining the 2018 Cats to another star point guard. Tyrese Maxey is listed as the No. 2 point guard in the 2019 class, coming in right behind already-committed Hagans.
In an interview with SEC Country’s Kyle Tucker, Maxey seemed unphased by the possibility of having to compete with three other 5-star point guards.
“Coach Cal has had three 5-star guards on the roster before with Isaiah Briscoe and De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk, and he gets it done,” Maxey said. “And that’s not the first time he’s had it like that. He had Tyler Ulis, the Harrison twins, Devin Booker. That’s four 5-star guards on one team. He finds a way to make stuff like that happen and work, so you gotta trust him.”
That sounds like a very “Kentucky” answer from the Texan. UK is widely considered the leader in his recruitment, but, at this point, it’s still unclear as to whether or not he will actually reclassify. If he does, we probably won’t know until mid-July.
Even after rumors of positive feedback from Calipari’s recent heart-to-heart with Green, the sophomore’s decision is still up in the air. At this point, it seems like Green is leaning toward returning for his sophomore season, but it’s hard to be sure. Unlike transfer announcements, it’s extremely rare for a player to “announce” that he’s not transferring. And, under usual circumstances, that’s fine. But, with two – possibly three – major point guards coming in next season, it’s hard to ignore the idea that Green may have been “recruited over.”
Still, it’s important to note that Green is the only returning guard who saw considerable playing time last season. We saw this year that experience does matter – especially at point guard – and repeating another all-freshman team could be another huge challenge – especially without guys like Wenyen Gabriel and Sacha Killeya-Jones coming off the bench when the freshmen inevitably revert.
From a (possibly-biased) perspective, it’d obviously be ideal for Green to continue his time as a Wildcat. His calm nature and leadership qualities could be huge for this young team. If he stays, he’ll need to capitalize on his playing time at the beginning of the season, when Quickley and possibly Hagans and Maxey are still adjusting to college ball. Plus, he might have to be comfortable moving to and staying at the 2-guard position and letting one of the younger guys play point guard.
Johnson comes to Kentucky as a five-star guard and the No. 14 overall recruit. He’s a good size for a shooting guard – 6’6” and 216-pounds – and a good mid-range shooter (something Kentucky seems to love… Long-2-U, anyone?). He’s a “lights-out” scorer, he’s got good speed and he knows how to bring the energy. Fans got to see his competitive nature during the McDonalds All-American game, where he said he planned to “dominate and kill” during the game. If all goes according to plan, Johnson will likely be another one-and-done guard for Kentucky.
I’m not going to lie – I’m excited about this kid. He’s a four-star player whose recruitment flew mostly under the radar. He’s picked up steam recently though, especially since Zion Williamson called him the most underrated player in the class. He signed with the Cats early, so he’s given plenty of interviews and quotes with both KSR and Hey Kentucky!. He seems like a great person and an energetic leader, and all signs point to him bringing a lot to the table next season (and possibly for a few more seasons after that).
Status: Redshirt freshman
Baker is a real wild card in next year’s class. He’s been in Lexington for a year now, so he knows the ropes of Kentucky basketball and how to navigate John Calipari & Co. But, his knee injury benched him for the entire season, so he has no more game-time experience than any of the true freshmen.
He came in as a four-star recruit who was expected to stick around for a few years. But, a loaded class could push Baker a few more seats back. At one point in the season, there were rumors he could transfer. At this point, that doesn’t seem like an option. But, if he struggles to get playing time this season – which is definitely possible – a transfer may not be out of the question. On the other hand, if he works his way into a rotation off the bench this year, he could become a go-to older guy in the coming seasons. Here’s hoping for the latter.
Brad Calipari and Jonny David
Jonny David returns as the team’s lone senior this season, while Brad Calipari comes in as a junior.
While the backcourt is loaded, Montgomery is the only big-name recruit coming in, as of right now, as a 2018 forward. His commitment was huge for the Wildcats; he picked UK over Duke and North Carolina. The No. 5 power forward in the class, Montgomery is expected to dominate around the bucket. According to ESPN, he’s “asserting his will around the rim much more assertively and consistently now.” This is great news for the Cats, especially since this is an area Kentucky was desperately lacking in for the majority of last season.
Status: (likely) returning
Although Nick Richards hasn’t made any sort of announcement at this time, the BBN would be shocked if he did anything but return. Sure, you could make a case for him “testing the waters” without an agent alongside the rest of the world, but he’s not currently being projected anywhere close to a lottery pick.
Although his play was, at times, frustrating last season, another year of practice and experience could drastically improve not only his play, but his draft stock. Kentucky saw flashes of his potential last season, lead mostly by his athleticism and height. But… he just really needs to work on rebounding with both hands. I’m sure Cal is all over that.
Status: Declared for draft, no agent
PJ Washington, for me, is the biggest question mark for next season’s roster. He’s a bubble player right now, and he was originally expected to return to Kentucky for his sophomore season. However, he was the first UK player to announce he would be declaring for the NBA Draft (without an agent).
If he comes back, I’d fully expect to see a monster season out of Washington. Washington’s “bully tactics” and experience would be huge for next year’s team, especially if Montgomery struggles to adjust to collegiate basketball. Washington was one of the most-developed players by the end of the season, and, although he hasn’t quite reached lottery-pick caliber yet, it’s clear he could in the future. In fact, he’s listed as an easy first-round pick for the 2019 draft (No. 18, according to Jonathan Givony). That should make it an easy choice… he should return. If he doesn’t, opponents of the one-and-done system will be all over it.
Status: Declared for draft, no agent
Vanderbilt’s mysterious foot injury is once again making news, mostly due to the fact that it is prohibiting him from currently playing basketball, making his decision to declare for the draft all the more puzzling. Sure, he can have conversations and review footage with NBA coaches and scouts this way, but how much have they actually seen from him?
Based on Vanderbilt’s season and injury, it’s expected he will return. Montgomery-Washington-Vanderbilt could be a dangerous front court combination. However, if a team lets him know they would take a chance on him based on his athleticism, energy and potential, an early departure would certainly not be out of the question.
Status: Declared for draft, no agent
Although his current state is similar to Washington’s and Vanderbilt’s, his decision will not affect next year’s season quite as much. Sure, it’d be great to see a rare junior getting playing time at Kentucky, but I’m not sure how much that would happen, especially if Washington and Vanderbilt both return.
Throughout the past year, we’ve seen Gabriel develop a lot. But the question is, how much does he have left in him? Could he get substantially better and play for the NBA? Or is his best bet playing in the G-League or overseas? It’d be great to see Gabriel come back, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that didn’t happen.
That puts Kentucky at 13 scholarship players (including Brad Calipari), hitting exactly the NCAA’s limit. But, there are a lot of stars that have to align to hit that number 13. Hagans would need to reclassify; Maxey would need to reclassify and commit; Green would have to decide against transferring; Kentucky’s frontcourt would all need to return. If any of those things don’t happen, scholarships open up and last-minute recruiting efforts begin again. In other words, this roster is far from finalized.