Less than 48 hours after being added to his final list, Kentucky has received a Crystal Ball pick for 2022 four-star guard Nick Smith Jr.
Smith, the No. 2 shooting guard and No. 25 overall player in 247Sports’ junior rankings, previously cut his lists to ten schools back in October, with Arkansas, Auburn, Baylor, Florida, Georgetown, Kansas, North Carolina, Ole Miss, Oral Roberts and Texas Tech remaining in contention.
With John Calipari and the UK coaching staff ramping up contact in recent weeks, the four-star guard is now strongly considering Kentucky, pushing his list of finalists to 11 schools.
In fact, the mutual interest is serious enough for 247Sports recruiting insider Travis Branham to place a Crystal Ball pick in favor of the Wildcats on Wednesday, the first prediction for the 6-foot-4 guard out of Sherwood, AR.
What led to Branham, who has correctly predicted 76 of 77 recruitments (98.7%) in his time working at 247Sports, picking Kentucky for the dynamic scoring guard?
Smith’s interest in the Wildcats has always been strong, and if UK extends and offer and prioritizes him in the class of 2022, Branham believes they become the “team to beat.”
“Nick cut his list down to ten back in October but there was always interest and an opening for Kentucky and that was clearly shown this week when he added them to his list,” Branham told KSR shortly after submitting his Crystal Ball pick. “Kentucky has yet to offer, but I believe that if Kentucky makes that offer and makes him a priority, then they would become the team to beat.
“There is heavy interest on Smith’s side and he would fit in well alongside a player such as Skyy Clark and bring some fast-paced offense, shooting and toughness to the Kentucky perimeter.”
Despite Kentucky’s on-court struggles in 2020-21, Smith told Branham after adding UK to his list that the program’s culture remains the same and they still help elite guards get to the next level.
“You know the culture around there,” Smith said of why he added the Wildcats. “A lot of people just look at this year and think the worst but Kentucky has a great guards program and develop a lot of pros.”
As for Smith’s game and what he brings to the table, Branham says the four-star prospect is wired to score at all three levels and could end up being the top shooting guard in the class of 2022.
“Nick Smith is one of the best scorers in the country with a very confident and aggressive approach to the game. His foot never comes off the gas and he gets after it on both ends of the floor,” Branham told KSR. “He’s got size, length, athleticism and can fill it up from all three levels and does an excellent job for a high schooler at getting to the free throw line. He’s got range on his jumper off the catch and bounce, he has floaters, he defends and is excellent in the open floor.
“While he is very much a score-first wing, he is also a talented passer and with how much attention he draws as a scorer he has plenty of upside to expand his game as a playmaker. He’s having an outstanding year and given his physical tools, scoring package and mindset, he is making a case for the top shooting guard in the class.”
Check out some of the newest Kentucky target’s most recent highlights:
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