On Thursday evening, Kentucky hosted 2022 five-star forward – one of the top prospects in high school basketball – on a virtual visit, his first with the school.
Huntley-Hatfield, the No. 4 prospect in the 247Sports Composite Rankings, took the visit with the entire Kentucky coaching staff, his mother, and his head coach.
After the Zoom video conference call, Huntley-Hatfield’s mother, Antoinette Huntley, spoke with KSR about the visit, her son’s recruitment, and where things stand on a potential reclassification decision, among other topics.
Check out the entire conversation with the five-star prospect’s mother below.
How are you guys doing during this pandemic? I saw the picture of Brandon wearing his UK mask, so I know he’s staying safe.
Yep, as best we can. … My mom’s got like OCD [about the coronavirus], so she’s got like 100 masks made. She had him a Tennessee one made, just different ones. Black Panther, different designs and stuff. He’s in Knoxville right now, so she sends him care packages with masks. He has a mask for every day.
This is obviously a new thing for fans with virtual visits. What was it like for you guys?
It’s different. We do it through Zoom, so everyone is on video. It’s an informal kind of setup, the whole staff was there. All the assistant coaches were there, Coach Cal was there. We just basically talked, had a conversation. They asked questions about his game, where he sees his game, how he has developed from last year to now, where he wants to see it go.
They were telling him they know a lot about him – they talk to him pretty regularly – but they wanted him to describe me, his mom. In his own words, how he thought I was and what I meant to him and the family.
His AAU coach was on with us – Bobby Maze – he was on the virtual visit too. They were asking him about [Brandon’s] game and where they see him going, how he’ll do in college and playing on that level.
We were on for about 45 minutes. It was good! We’ll do some more here in the next few weeks. It was different, it’s just a way to get through and navigate through the current circumstances. Stay engaged, just checking in and seeing how things are going. Just continuing to build that relationship, making sure we’re staying engaged with the schools that are interested. I think it’s a good thing to have those visits in light of what’s going on as an alternate to getting on campus and touring, doing those kind of things.
We haven’t had an official visit yet with Kentucky, but it allows them to check in with us and see how we’re doing as a face-to-face interaction. Just an informal video call, no stress. I like it. I think they should incorporate that throughout the year and engage with the players, especially if [recruits] can’t get to campus due to a scheduling conflict or whatever. Just jump on a Zoom, 15-20 minutes, and have a good conversation. It’s a way to stay in touch and stay engaged with the players.
Is Kentucky the only school you’ve done Zoom calls with? Or have you done others?
We did one with Ole Miss, that was our first virtual visit. We’ve got another one scheduled with Tennessee next week.
Bobby Maze, he has his connections with Tennessee. How receptive is he to Kentucky and how did he feel about the virtual visit?
They asked him that, and he mentioned in our visit that just because he comes from Tennessee or played at Tennessee, he’s there for the kids. Everybody knows – and it’s been put out there – that Kentucky is Brandon’s dream school, and [Bobby] doesn’t have an opinion either way. He just wants to make sure wherever Brandon goes, it’s the best fit for him. If it’s Kentucky, he’s okay with it, that’s fine.
If it’s Tennessee, Baylor, wherever the best fit is for Brandon, he’s going to be supportive regardless, even if he has the Tennessee connection.
Brandon’s been outspoken in the past about how much he likes Kentucky. You’ve told me before that he loves it and he’s said Kentucky is his dream school. What did he say about the visit?
We’re trying to decide if he’s going to stay in 2022 or come out in 2021. Because of the coronavirus, he hasn’t gotten the chance to take his official visit there yet. We’ve visited unofficially a while back, but haven’t gotten to get on campus and tour campus, see the full [experience]. They’re on his top list, he’s got a little bit over 13 offers, and they’re still there.
Right now, he’s just training and finishing his last couple weeks of school. Bobby has his own gym in Knoxville, so he’s there training. He’s trying the same way he’s been trains at IMG [Academy]. He’s on a schedule, working out 2-3 times a day. He’s lifting, trying to maintain his body so he’s in shape when he goes back to school in August.
So we haven’t gotten a chance to talk about when he’s going to cut his list down, who’s going to be in the top five or six when he does it, but we’re going to have that conversation soon. In the next few months, it’s going to be time to decide whether he’s going to stay in 2022 or reclass back to 2021 and go on and go to school. We don’t know yet, he’s only done two official visits to Ole Miss and Memphis, so he wants to still do the other ones. We’ve got to make some time to get that done once everything opens back up.
How hard is Kentucky pushing for him to go to 2021? Have they made it clear they want him to be one of the key pieces of that 2021 class?
Yes, they made that known at the beginning that they would like him to be a part of the 2021 class. We know that’s on the table, so we just have to figure out if developmentally, if he’s going to be ready. We want to make sure he’s where he needs to be. If he’s ready to come out in 2021, of course we’ll entertain that. But if we feel like he needs another year, we’ll look into that as well.
He’s getting better every day, he’s getting stronger. He got measured recently, he’s a solid 6-10, 230 pounds, so we’re really happy about that, his growth. As long as he continues to get better and no injuries – knock on wood – I think he’ll be ready to come out in 21. But it’ll ultimately be his decision with what he decides to do. As his mother, I’ll support him with whatever he decides to do.
Joel Justus is Brandon’s lead recruiter, right? How is your relationship and Brandon’s relationship to him?
He’s cool! We text a couple times [a week], he checks in with me and makes sure I’m good. Brandon actually took an unofficial visit to Kentucky when he was like 13, 12 or 13, so they continue to build a relationship with them. Brandon talks to him a little more than I do, but he does check in with me and sees how I’m doing, just have general conversations.
They’re [all] involved with Brandon, but Joel is the lead recruiter with him.
Fans all know about the Alex Poythress connection, how close is Brandon to Alex?
Alex has been playing overseas, so they haven’t connected [in person] yet since he’s been home. Brandon’s been in Knoxville and he’s basically been there since Spring Break, so when he comes home [they’ll connect]. He did come home recently for a week or so, but Alex wasn’t in town.
They have a group chat going, so they communicate that way, check in on each other and things of that nature.
Has Poythress helped at all with the recruiting process or offered advice?
He just wants to make sure he finds a school that fits his style of play. Of course, relationships are really important, making sure he finds the right fit for him. Everybody knows that connection is there and people think that’s the direction he’s going because of that, especially with it being out there that Kentucky is his dream school.
Regardless of where he decides to go, if it is Kentucky, he’ll support him like everyone else will.
Do you have a general timeframe on when he’d like to make a decision with his reclassification and college decision?
His commitment day is 1/21/21, we know that. That’s his sister’s birthday, so he’s already expressed that’s when he wants to commit.
Now, when he comes out and says, “I’m going to reclass,” I don’t know when that timeframe is going to be in reference to the commitment time. We were hoping that he’d know after summer, but since AAU season is a wash right now, I don’t think that’s going to happen. He was going to see where he was developmentally-wise after the AAU season, but since that’s been pushed back, we may have to decide that after this next [high school] season. He may, around his commitment time, come out and say he’s going to reclass.
We’re talking about it informally, a little bit more lately, flirting with the idea of maybe coming out in ’21. We just don’t know yet.
Check out some of Huntley-Hatfield’s highlights below: