Following the commitment of Wake Forest transfer Olivier Sarr, the Kentucky basketball program has flirted with the idea of adding one final piece to its 2020-21 roster.
They began by contacting 2020 four-star center Frank Anselem – seen as a long-term project piece – before picking up momentum with Evansville transfer DeAndre Williams.
When player roles became a concern for both players, Kentucky backed away from the table on each, ultimately deciding to keep the roster as-is barring a can’t-miss opportunity presenting itself down the road.
When the NCAA hit Oklahoma State with a one-year postseason ban and three years of probation, among other sanctions, the basketball world looked to No. 1 overall prospect Cade Cunningham to see if he would back away from his commitment to the Cowboys. And if he did, would he shake up the landscape of college basketball by flipping his commitment to his second choice prior to signing with OSU, Kentucky?
While Cunningham was once Kentucky’s top recruiting target in the class of 2020 and sees him as a transcendent talent, the program is not expecting the five-star prospect to end up at UK, despite the sanctions at Oklahoma State.
In fact, sources tell KSR – as reported late Friday evening – that the current expectation is that the OSU program retains his services, with the overseas and G League routes looming as the second and third options, respectively.
“Oklahoma State, overseas, G League, in that order,” one source close to the UK basketball program told KSR.
Kentucky would obviously welcome the addition of the nation’s No. 1 prospect if the opportunity presented itself, but the current feel around the program is that the 6-foot-7 guard will not explore other college options at this time and will ultimately decide to enroll in Stillwater.
Should he have a change of heart, look for the overseas route – likely Australia – and to a lesser extent, the G League, to earn his commitment.
Was told this evening: “Oklahoma State, overseas, G League, in that order.”
Kentucky would obviously welcome the addition of the nation’s No. 1 prospect if the opportunity presented itself, but the program is not expecting it at this point in time. https://t.co/6eET0ey9UN
— Jack Pilgrim (@JackPilgrimKSR) June 13, 2020
While Cade Cunningham is not perceived to be a legitimate option for Kentucky, 2020 five-star center Makur Maker is a prospect the UK coaching staff is keeping a close eye on.
Maker, who is currently testing the NBA Draft waters, has narrowed his focus to three schools – Kentucky, UCLA, and Howard – and is tentatively set to make a decision in August, his guardian tells KSR.
Should he turn down the professional route, Maker’s guardian, Ed Smith, tells KSR that UK associate head coach Kenny Payne remains in consistent contact with the five-star center and that the school is serious about securing his commitment. While the idea of staying home and playing at UCLA is intriguing for the nation’s No. 17 overall prospect in the 247Sports Composite Rankings, Maker and his camp believe the Kentucky coaching staff can develop him into a lottery talent in Lexington, following in the footsteps of the likes of Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, and DeMarcus Cousins.
Behind the scenes on Kentucky’s end, the program is comfortable with the roster as it stands today with Olivier Sarr and are no longer actively looking to add another piece. Should Maker come knocking on UK’s door, though, the staff would not hesitate to accept his commitment, with or without Sarr’s waiver being approved by the NCAA.
Make no mistake about it, Kentucky is high on Maker’s game, a factor I have admittedly discounted in recent months.
While the two would make a solid pairing, the biggest question right now is whether or not UK will even get that opportunity, as Maker remains serious about the NBA. Maker’s guardian informed KSR on Friday evening that the key factor in the five-star center’s decision will be pre-draft workouts and earning a first round grade.
If in-person workouts occur in the coming weeks and a team makes it clear they will be selecting Maker in the first round, the expectation is that he will keep his name in the draft. With a second round grade, it shifts closer to a 50-50 decision for the near-7-footer, with the odds of going to college raising exponentially with late-second/undrafted grades.
Kentucky will still have to fend off UCLA if it comes down to a college decision, but after speaking with Maker’s guardian, the possibility is greater than I previously gave UK credit for.
This weekend, ESPN’s Dick Vitale spoke to John Calipari, who informed him that the school had officially submitted its waiver request to the NCAA for Olivier Sarr.
While some fans were concerned that this news was recent and the timeline regarding the NCAA’s decision was just getting started, sources tell KSR that the waiver request was submitted several weeks prior back in May.
The next step, though, is completely up in the air.
While the wheels are in motion, one source close to the Kentucky program told KSR going into the weekend that the school still has no current timeline regarding a potential answer, nor do they have a feel on which way the NCAA is leaning. The school is, however, hopeful and feel they have presented a solid case when the time does come for a decision.
Should Sarr be declared ineligible, the school will move forward with the appeal process and continue to fight for the Wake Forest transfer’s eligibility. In this case, though, Kentucky will explore potential replacement options in an effort to avoid a depth disaster in the frontcourt. Makur Maker, along with any other new potential graduate transfer and reclassification options, would move to the top of the priority list.
The turnaround time regarding waiver decisions is typically three weeks, but the specific return date varies on a case-by-case basis. At this point, the news could come out tomorrow, a week from now, or several months from now, the program genuinely doesn’t know.
For now, the wait continues.