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How Bad Does Kentucky Need N’Faly Dante Right Now?



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.

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.

Article written by John Reecer

16 Comments for How Bad Does Kentucky Need N’Faly Dante Right Now?

  1. Smyrna_Cat
    8:18 pm July 14, 2019 Permalink

    It would be nice to have him. But I am hoping our two bigs worked hard this summer and are ready for break-out seasons. I think it will happen!!

    • kjd
      8:43 pm July 14, 2019 Permalink

      After 2 seasons, there is little reason to expect Nick Richards to suddenly become a star. Reecer tries to be positive in his comments on Richards, but suggests Dante as our starting center.

    • JT55
      2:43 am July 15, 2019 Permalink

      Sounds like wishful thinking.

  2. ColoradoCatFan88
    8:37 pm July 14, 2019 Permalink

    After watching this guy play today, I want him in a Kentucky uniform ASAP. Plus, he could definitely help Richards improve in practice when they go head to head with as good of a defender as he is.

  3. IrishCat
    8:38 pm July 14, 2019 Permalink

    It all depends. If EJ does what I think he’ll do, Sestina is SEC caliber, Brooks can give some good minutes at the 4, and then of course Nick finally takes his step up, then we really don’t need him. That’s a lot of ifs.

  4. WKY Cat
    9:11 pm July 14, 2019 Permalink

    He’s a difference maker but not polished enough to think he’s the difference in a title or not.

    • Cokely53
      9:20 pm July 14, 2019 Permalink

      Bingo WKY. But the coaching staff is making me nervous that they are trying so hard to land another big that they must have that little faith in the guys we have.

    • VirginiaCat
      9:28 pm July 14, 2019 Permalink

      I agree, he would be a nice addition to our front court, but unlikely to have the impact of a battle tested veteran like Blackshear. Dante has the potential to add depth to our March run, but it’s likely that this year’s team will follow the same pattern as our post-1975 squad, i.e., Elite 8 ceiling. Hope I am wrong and that our front court equals our strong back court, but there is a lot of hoping in that statement.

  5. VirginiaCat
    9:31 pm July 14, 2019 Permalink

    Correction: Post-2015 squad

  6. dave1964
    9:42 pm July 14, 2019 Permalink

    Anyone thinking Richards will do anything but add five fouls is kidding themselves.

    • 4everUKblue
      9:51 pm July 14, 2019 Permalink

      So glad you’re not part of the coaching staff, you would suck at building his self confidence.

    • VirginiaCat
      11:32 pm July 14, 2019 Permalink

      I’m sure the coaching staff has been working with Richards in order to elevate his game. That said, his time thus far at Kentucky suggests that he will be a role player next year. I hope that I am wrong and that he has a breakout season, but the odds are against it. Whatever the outcome, he seems like a nice young man and I hope that the best for him.

    • Megan
      1:41 pm July 15, 2019 Permalink

      I like Virginia Cat’s mix of good cop-bad cop. Nick’ll be a role player, hope I’m wrong, he likely won’t have a breakout season, but he seems like a nice guy. VC doesn’t think much of him as a basketball player but tries to cushion the blow. “Hope I’m wrong” covers a lot of guilt.

  7. BlueByYou
    10:33 pm July 14, 2019 Permalink

    I think the real value here is for Dante. Instead of a year in high school dunking over 6′ 3″ kids, he will improve in a big way at Kentucky, possibly stick around for a second year, and be dominant then. Wishful thinking i’m sure, but could happen!

  8. CrystalBall
    10:38 pm July 14, 2019 Permalink

    My CrystalBallz indicate he will not reclassify.

  9. JT55
    2:46 am July 15, 2019 Permalink

    This team is obviously thin in the frontcourt. Sestina isn’t an SEC caliber post player. I seen him several times last season. I was hopeful we could land another quality big somehow.