Good evening, BBN! Welcome back to the Monday Insider Notes!
This edition of the notes will be a little bit different, as we’ll really only go in-depth on one prospect and touch on some other news going on within the Kentucky basketball program and some guys already signed/committed for next season.
We’ll start with the biggest news of the day…
Shooting Guard | 6-5 | 215 lbs.
Atlanta, GA | Holy Spirit Preparatory School
|ESPN||No. 4 | 1 SG||Top247||No. 1 | 1 SG|
|Rivals||No. 3 | 1 SG||247 Comp.||No. 2 | 1 SG|
On Thursday, Evan Daniels of 247 Sports reported five-star shooting guard Anthony Edwards cut his list to four, with Kentucky, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida State being the final schools in contention. After having an official visit scheduled to Kansas, he cancelled the visit and removed them from consideration entirely.
Today, Daniels broke the news that not only will Edwards be cancelling his visit to North Carolina originally scheduled for today through Wednesday, he’s also dropping them from his list and deciding between Kentucky, Georgia, and Florida State…… next Monday.
— Evan Daniels (@EvanDaniels) February 4, 2019
Concerning the first bit of news, sources tell KSR that the Tar Heels (like the Jayhawks) were not one of the schools Edwards seriously prioritized during the home stretch of his recruitment and the superstar guard prospect has been focused on those final three schools for a few weeks now.
Now let’s break down all three finalists.
Following Edwards’ official visit to Kentucky last week, those within the program felt very confident in their position with the elite guard. There’s no doubt the Kentucky coaching staff realizes how talented he is and believes he has a legitimate shot at becoming the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s NBA Draft, and they feel they are the best school to help him accomplish that feat.
Though he’s close to Tyler Herro, his relationship with Ashton Hagans is especially strong, and the current Kentucky point guard is selling him on following in his footsteps: reclassifying, turning down the ‘hometown hero’ offer from Georgia, and developing into one of the top guard prospects in the nation. I’m told Edwards has been receptive of this pitch and strongly values Hagans’ opinion. They likely wouldn’t play together (we’ll get to that in a minute), but it still means something for the elite guard prospect to have someone from his area go through the process already and find success at a high level.
Those outside of Kentucky, however, feel Georgia has taken over the top spot, followed by Florida State and Kentucky, in that order. Staying home and putting on a scoring display in front of friends and family every night, along with continuing his strong relationship with the Georgia coaching staff, is pulling at his heartstrings. He also has a strong relationship with the Seminole coaching staff, so the decision will come down to going with the relationships established at lower-profile schools or going to the blueblood program with glitz, glamour, and branding opportunity before making the jump to the big leagues.
Edwards will be a top-five pick no matter where he goes, but where can he make the biggest name for himself? Under the national spotlight at Kentucky, with a deep run in the tournament possible? Or by putting up absurd numbers at Georgia or FSU, similar to what we saw from Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons?
He’ll be visiting Florida State this weekend, the school many believed to be the leader from the second he reclassified to the class of 2019, so it’ll be interesting to see the kind of push they make. With it being an official visit and his recruitment coming to an end immediately afterward, the Seminole coaching staff will be rolling out the red carpet to make a push back into the lead. Florida State has technically been on him longer than Georgia, so you better believe that they’ll use that as part of their one final pitch to the No. 1 prospect in the nation. Unfortunately for them, I think the relationships are close enough to where Edwards will value proximity to home more when he makes it official on Monday.
Each school feels confident in their spot, but my gut says Georgia on this one.
NBA Draft scuttlebutt
On my first edition of the notes, I told you that Kentucky felt strongly that PJ Washington and Keldon Johnson would enter the NBA Draft after this year, but beyond those two, everyone else was expected to return at that point.
With a few impressive games under his belt, they knew there was a chance Ashton Hagans would make a midseason jump like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander did last season and ultimately find his way on the draft boards. With Tyler Herro, NBA scouts have always been intrigued by his game, but they’ve been looking for more efficiency before showing draft interest, especially in the first round.
Since then, both Hagans and Herro have upped their games, and their draft stock has reflected that. The goal for both has always been to enter the draft after one year at Kentucky, and now (barring a major and unexpected late-season change), that’s likely to come to fruition.
Now, the expectation is that Washington, Johnson, Hagans, and Herro will all make the jump to the NBA after this season.
With those four likely moving on, that would leave Kentucky with a roster of Immanuel Quickley, Nick Richards, EJ Montgomery, Jemarl Baker, Tyrese Maxey, Kahlil Whitney, and Dontaie Allen. With Matthew Hurt and Jaden McDaniels still on the board for 2019, along with 2020 prospects Isaiah Todd and N’Faly Dante still being seen as reclassification options, the Wildcats still have a lot to work with to close this next class out.
Should the other targets fall through, sources tell KSR that Kentucky will explore the graduate transfer route again, a la Reid Travis last offseason. It’s not the preferred method, and they still feel confident in what’s left on the table elsewhere, but they’re leaving the option open.
Kahlil Whitney and Tyrese Maxey
I had a conversation that I found interesting a few weeks back that I have been waiting to share on the notes, and with things relatively “slow” outside of the big Anthony Edwards news, I feel like now is a good time to share.
According to several people I’ve talked to, both on Kentucky’s side of things and elsewhere in the high school/AAU circles, Kentucky may have secured commitments from the two most underrated players in all of high school basketball… and they’re both consensus top-15 prospects.
With Whitney, I have been told those within the Kentucky basketball program believe he has top-five draft selection and NBA All-Star written all over him. In the past, Whitney has been known as an athletic freak with great slashing ability and high defensive potential, but his shooting ability has always been subpar.
Now, the 6-foot-6 small forward has become a knockdown shooter from both midrange and beyond the arc, really the only major hole he had in his game. The form is there, and finally, the consistency is, too.
With his most recent developments, Whitney is about as well-rounded of a prospect as you can get with a game fit perfectly for college basketball and the NBA. I was told by one individual that former Kentucky target and current Boston Celtic Jaylen Brown is Whitney’s strongest player comparison, and I think that’s pretty fair (and obviously high praise).
He’ll be signing with Kentucky on May 3rd, and it’s a get the UK coaching staff is absolutely giddy over. He was once seen as a fantastic replacement for DJ Jeffries following his decommitment will become one of the best blessings in disguise we’ve witnessed over the course of the Calipari era.
With Maxey, his ability as a pure shooter and scorer is certainly well-documented, with several recruiting analysts saying he would have been a major contributor on this Kentucky team, let alone the 2019-20 year. He’ll be able to put points on the board at an incredible rate next season in Lexington, all while being a pest on the defensive end of the floor.
Keldon Johnson was a player we heard whispers about coming out of high school as an instant impact/underrated guy, but I think the whispers may be even louder with these two. Considering how good Johnson has been for Kentucky, I’m ecstatic to see what we get out of Whitney and Maxey.