Welcome back to the Monday Insider Notes! I hope you all had a great weekend, enjoyed the Preakness, and watched the UK Softball Cats dominate their regional.
The NBA Draft Combine is over and while things are slightly more clear there’s still much to be determined in the next nine days. We only have nine days! The deadlines are confusing with the NBA’s deadline being in June and the NCAA’s deadline being May 30th, but circle May 30th. That’s when we will know about P.J. Washington, Jarred Vanderbilt and Wenyen Gabriel’s final plans.
Of course those three could decide earlier and make our job easier, but if Hamidou Diallo taught us anything last year this may come down to the wire.
Jarred Vanderbilt: Not only did Vanderbilt not compete in the NBA Combine, I don’t think Vanderbilt has met with many (if any) NBA teams since the season has ended. Calipari said last week that he met with a team or two, but I’m not so sure how formal those meetings were and how many actually took place. If it’s any it’s likely not more than two or three.
Obviously NBA teams do these interviews to learn more about potential prospects. They want to learn about their character, competitive nature and to try and smooth over any potential red flags.
But with Vanderbilt the obvious topic of conversation would be his injuries, possible surgeries and when he will be able to play basketball. The fact that we haven’t learned more about these meetings is telling but behind the scenes people close to the situation haven’t heard of any formal meetings between Vanderbilt and front-office executives.
Things look better for UK’s chance at having a sophomore Vanderbilt, but the crux of his decision remains prominent. Does he need to start making money because of injury concerns or does he need to prove he can stay healthy? He certainly isn’t drumming up more NBA buzz with how quiet things have been around Vanderbilt’s camp.
Some have asked if Vanderbilt is still hurt from the March injury that ended his season. Many folks believe he’s been rehabbing from a possible surgery required after that injury. That timetable would seem to line up and keep him out of NBA Draft Combine activities.
My guess is he comes back to Kentucky.
P.J. Washington: It seems more likely that P.J. Washington leaves for the NBA than returns to Kentucky as of today. Things had been leaning that way for a few weeks but the NBA Combine may have sealed the deal for Washington. I was told that if Washington completely stunk in Chicago then that could tilt the scales, but he didn’t stink. His measurements were great in some areas and underwhelming in others, but his performance on the floor in scrimmages turned heads.
It may be all Washington needed to officially make the jump. P.J. had the quote that if he wasn’t a guaranteed first round pick he would return to UK, but some fans have misinterpreted that quote. There will be no written agreement between Washington and an NBA team, but instead it will be a promise. Washington could be told that he will be a first round pick but there won’t be a binding agreement. Basically, an NBA team could screw over Washington. Or an NBA team could be sincere and take him with one of the last picks in the first round. Regardless, it’s been overblown. I know if Washington stays in the draft and doesn’t go to the second round some people will call him a liar. That won’t necessarily be true.
Regardless, I’m guessing Washington hears what he wants to hear and stays in the draft. UK has a plan in place if Washington leaves.
Wenyen Gabriel: Gabriel is the guy that I go back-and-forth on more often than any other player. Gabriel wasn’t invited to the NBA Draft Combine and wasn’t included in the Professional Basketball Combine (a second tier combine). However, Gabriel wasn’t invited to the PBC because you must have given up college eligibility to participate. He is still considering going back to school.
He continues to work out for teams (Sacramento Kings) but that seems to strictly be for summer camp roster spots, which Gabriel would land if he stays in the draft. It would be a major shock if he heard his name on draft night. However, while it is far from being set in stone my opinion has turned to Gabriel returning to Kentucky for his junior season.
If Gabriel was set on going pro he missed an opportunity not participating in the PBC. He will continue to work out for teams likely up until the deadline and that will be great learning experience for Gabriel.
Roster Outlook: If I’m right and Vanderbilt and Gabriel return to UK, let’s look at the frontcourt:
Jarred Vanderbilt, Nick Richards, Wenyen Gabriel and E.J. Montgomery. That wouldn’t be Calipari’s best frontcourt but it would be far from his worst. You would have scoring, rebounding and defense. Gabriel would be a threat from deep and Montgomery can stretch the floor, too.
The question is would Calipari continue with his plan to bring in a certain grad-transfer from the left coast? If just one of Gabriel or Vanderbilt join Washington in the NBA Draft then it’s a no-brainer. But, if Gabriel and Vanderbilt return it becomes tricky for Calipari. You would want an embarrassment of riches, but you also wouldn’t want to tick off any frontcourt players.
Keion Brooks: He remains one of UK’s big targets in 2019, but news broke over the weekend that his dad may try to coach his high school team. I always think it’s cool when a parent can coach their kids, but be on the lookout of other colleges trying to hire Brooks’ father. This is a somewhat common occurrence for recruiting. I think UK is in a great spot for Brooks, but that could clearly change things if his pops is hired elsewhere.
Jalen Lecque: He is still deciding whether to stay in 2019 or move to 2018, but it’s unlikely he ends up at UK in either class. 2018 certainly won’t happen for Lecque and UK, but there’s some rumblings that he prefers other schools. I actually think NC State and Tennessee are in really nice spots for Lecque. Lecque would be a fun combo guard to pair with Maxey in 2019, and it’s not impossible, but seems more unlikely.
Dontaie Allen: He continues to roll in nice offers and my advice for UK’s staff would to be to offer the kid ASAP. Accept his commitment and allow Kentucky fans around the state to fall in love with him during his senior season. I think as long as UK eventually offers Allen he ends up in Lexington, but the sooner the better. UK fans love Kentuckians and Allen would be a great fit. UK’s staff does just fine on the recruiting trail but landing Allen this summer would be nothing but a positive.
Matthew Hurt: Be on the lookout for visits planned by Hurt. He may take some this summer, or he may wait until the early fall, but he isn’t going to drag his recruitment out until the spring of 2019. That may not be great news because UK prefers Carey and Wiseman, but we’ll see how UK handles possibly prioritizing Hurt.