John Calipari may have not got the best draw in the NCAA Tournament, but he couldn’t have asked for a better selection at the McDonald’s All-American Game. Four Kentucky commits — Quade Green, Nick Richards, P.J. Washington and Jarred Vanderbilt — are teammates with Kevin Knox and Mohamed Bamba, Calipari’s remaining two targets in the class of 2017.
“They’re in my ear 24/7 talking about how good it is to play with each other and how we’re getting along with each other,” Knox said after this morning’s practice. Bamba’s description is the same: “Non-stop. Non-stop. Seriously, non-stop.”
Bamba is third-ranked player in the 2017 class. The lengthy 7-footer is down to Kentucky, Duke, Michigan and Texas. Knox is the eighth-ranked player in the class, choosing between the Cats, Duke, North Carolina and Florida State.
Knox is also hearing it from Duke players, but the Cats have another ace-in-the-hole: P.J. Washington’s father, Paul.
“Him and my Dad are really close. They always talk at every camp. My mom and his mom are really close.” Knox said Paul asked him after practice, “‘How does it feel playing with Jarred and P.J. and Quade?’ He’s recruiting me too. It’s all fun when my parents and their parents get together. It never stops. They’re always in my ear.”
Green’s form of recruiting simple. “When I see Mo and Kevin, I just tell ’em ‘BBN’ and walk away from ’em.”
Washington might be the biggest talker of the bunch and he’s feeling pretty good about the Cats’ chances. “We’re trying to get them and I feel like we have a really good chance to get both of them.”
Jarred Vanderbilt echoed Washington’s statement.
“I’ve been in Mo’s ear all weekend. Kev too. We’re trying to make a dynasty,” Vanderbilt said. “I feel like we got some good chances. They’re still a work in progress but I think I we can get ’em.”
Knox will be making his decision during Spring Break after the Jordan Brand Game. He initially planned on announcing in March, but wanted to see how the college basketball season ended.
“That’s one of the reasons I pushed it back from March to April is to wait to see how people did in the tournament, what people are leaving, what people are staying. That’s definitely going to play a big part in my decision.”
When the small forward was discussing each of his finalists, I laughed a little when I heard, “Duke, they lost pretty early.” Knox cracked a smile when he started talking about his Kentucky-bound teammates. “I’m on a team with all the Kentucky commits. It’s good to play with them. They like to run and gun.”
Bamba’s perspective on Duke is different than I’ve ever heard before, validating those who say Coach K’s time as the Team USA head coach is a recruiting advantage.
“With Duke, you get something a little bit different because you’re getting three different brands,” Bamba said. “You’re getting the university, you’re getting the program and you’re getting Coach K. Coach K has his own global brand, which is pretty outstanding.”
When Bamba visited UK’s campus, he was taken aback seeing the walls filled with NBA players and banners at the Joe Craft Center, but that will not be the primary reason he chooses Kentucky.
“I really like their coaching staff and I really like the players that are coming in next year.”
Next year’s players have two more days in Chicago to convince two more All-Americans to become Cats.