Throughout this entire summer, 2020 five-star center N’Faly Dante has been considering reclassification into the 2019 class. He is currently considering Kentucky as a possible destination regardless if he reclassifies or not.
So this leads us to the million dollar question: How bad does Kentucky need N’Faly Dante for the 2019-2020 season? Would it possibly be better if Dante waits until next season to commit to the Wildcats? Kentucky is going to be a top-five team in the preseason poll, so I believe this is a very serious question to answer.
First, just how good is Dante? 247Sports has Dante ranked as the 12th best player in the 2020 class and the third-best center. However, it seems like he is a bit better than that ranking. As our own Jack Pilgrim reported, Dante received the MVP of the Peach Jam Classic today as he scored 22 points and grabbed 18 rebounds.
MoKan Elite defeats Team WhyNot to win the 2019 Nike EYBL Peach Jam. Kentucky target N’faly Dante finishes with 22 points and 18 rebounds en route to MVP honors. Jalen Green finishes with 27 points. UK had three coaches in attendance.
— Jack Pilgrim (@JackPilgrimKSR) July 14, 2019
N’Faly Dante goes and gets it. pic.twitter.com/1zlWfuZQaT
— Chris Fisher (@ChrisFisher247) July 14, 2019
Dante projects as a powerful big man who can be both a good lob-catcher and a dependable rim-protector. I won’t pretend to say that I’ve researched the 2020 class that much yet, but I can’t imagine there being anyone else like Dante in it. It’s very rare to see such a strong center have such a long wingspan, but Dante has it.
Seeing him dominate the Peach Jam as he did helps to reaffirm that he can play college basketball this fall. However, it isn’t just the fact that he played well, it’s the fact that Dante has a body that can withstand the wear and tear of a full college basketball season. He already has the size if he chooses to reclassify so the move would work for him.
Now that we have established that Dante is both very good and ready to play right now, how bad do the Wildcats need his services? The answer is short and sweet. Kentucky badly needs Dante.
Quite frankly, it has nothing to do with how good Nick Richards, E.J. Montgomery, or Nate Sestina are. What’s really important here is that only one of those three players is an actual center (Richards). Yes, Montgomery is very long, but he fits best as a stretch-four that causes huge mismatch problems. Sestina, on the other hand, is your typical power forward. Neither are both tall and strong enough to be a traditional, dominant center that can protect the rim.
That leaves the Wildcats with just one true center in Richards. Even if Coach John Calipari wants to play a lot of small-ball lineups, that still isn’t enough depth at that position. Adding Dante gives the frontcourt more depth and flexibility. Having two traditional centers that could play at any time with any other four players would be dangerously good.
Of course, this isn’t even taking into account how good Dante actually is. Rolling out a starting lineup that includes Tyrese Maxey, Ashton Hagans, Kahlil Whitney, and Dante has the potential to be the most dominant defensive lineup in college basketball.
Yes, Kentucky would still be a good team without him. But would it be a “great” team? It’s hard to say that they would be with the frontcourt depth being so light, but it’s possible. Dante could easily not reclassify and commit to the Wildcats as a member of the 2020 class. However, I think the time is now. Dante is ready and his addition would make Kentucky one of the best teams in college basketball.
It wouldn’t be the end of the world if he did not commit and reclassify, but it would certainly be the start of something special if he did.