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Pilgrim’s Insider Notes: Johnny Juzang and Kerry Blackshear Jr. updates, final thoughts on the NBA Draft

A little over a week ago, it was looking like Kentucky was set to miss out on Matthew Hurt and Jaden McDaniels was trending toward Washington, leaving the UK coaching staff scrambling to find one final piece to close out the frontcourt.

And then on Wednesday morning, Jemarl Baker announced he was entering the transfer portal and leaving the school. Again, Kentucky was left searching for his replacement in the backcourt.

Now, it’s looking like the Wildcats have two legitimate options for next season that we could see join the fold in the coming weeks.

Let’s jump right in.

Johnny Juzang

This afternoon, 2020 five-star small forward Johnny Juzang made headlines after writing on Twitter that he has a “big announcement” ready to make tomorrow evening at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Why is this significant? Because this comes just four days after the Kentucky coaching staff flew out to Studio City, California and offered Juzang a scholarship face-to-face at the conclusion of an in-home visit. To take it a step further, the reclassification rumors we’ve heard with the 6-foot-7 small forward over the last week or so are growing even louder since the weekend, with one report released this afternoon going as far as to say he is “seriously” considering a jump.

Put two and two together, and you’re looking at Juzang being a legitimate option for Kentucky in the class of 2019.

Before we dive into today’s report, let’s break down what happened during John Calipari and Joel Justus’ visit out to California on Friday. From what I understand, Kentucky discussed reclassification options during their visit and offered him a scholarship for both 2019 and 2020, whenever he wanted to find his way to Lexington. While they let it be known that they love his game and would be okay with him playing for Kentucky no matter when he wanted to come, the preference is for him to join UK’s class of 2019.

With Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson, and Jemarl Baker all leaving the program, the Kentucky coaches outlined a very specific role for Juzang to fill at the shooting guard and/or small forward spots. They have a need for shooting next season, and with Juzang considered one of the most talented shooters in the class of 2020, the fit is obviously there. He averaged 23 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game as a junior, also shooting 43.4% from three on the Adidas circuit last summer.

Moving on to today’s report, Evan Daniels of 247 Sports broke two big tidbits of news on Juzang, the first being that the silky-smooth forward was strongly considering a jump to the class of 2019, and the next being that he will be officially visiting Kentucky starting on Monday, April 29. He went on to say that he has been told that while nothing is set in stone, Juzang is “honed in on” reclassifying.

After doing some digging since then, I can confirm that the expectation is that he will announce he is beginning the process of putting everything in order (academic credits, etc.) to make the jump to 2019. It is my understanding that Harvard-Westlake, Juzang’s high school, does not have an early graduation program for students, though his family believes they have a path in place that will allow him to make the jump happen.

As for a timeline on a decision beyond that, while I don’t think Juzang will be committing to a school tomorrow night, I do believe Kentucky feels they can wrap things up and secure a commitment next week when the five-star wing officially visits. There is significant chatter that he will be looking to wrap his recruitment up shortly, which certainly bodes well for the Cats. The mutual interest is there, and I genuinely wouldn’t trade Kentucky’s position with anybody else’s right now.

I’m going to be writing an in-depth feature/analysis of Juzang’s game and what he would bring to the table for Kentucky sometime tomorrow. Be on the lookout for that, as well.

Kerry Blackshear Jr.

While Juzang is emerging as a serious possibility for Kentucky next year, things are getting weird with Virginia Tech graduate transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr.

A week ago today, sources confirmed to KSR that Kentucky was in contact with the 6-foot-10 redshirt junior out of Orlando, FL. The very next day, Blackshear’s father told Kyle Tucker of The Athletic that he hadn’t spoken with anyone from UK.

And then last night, Corey Evans of reported that John Calipari completed an in-home visit with Blackshear Jr.

Once again, Blackshear’s father refuted the report not long after, telling Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog that the meeting did not happen, though he is in the process of setting one up with the Kentucky coaching staff.

While it’s tough to cut through who specifically visited with and/or made contact with those in Blackshear’s camp, KSR can confirm that the Kentucky coaching staff has been in consistent contact as a group and there is mutual interest between both parties. While I believe Zagoria is a reliable reporter and don’t doubt that Blackshear’s father gave him that quote, everything I’ve been told also indicates that the UK coaching staff did, in fact, make the trip down to Florida to make a visit.

Before he dives into the recruiting process, though, he will test the NBA Draft waters over the next few weeks, his main priority right now.

Like Reid Travis did last offseason, Blackshear will go through the draft process to receive feedback, though it is likely teams tell him he needs to return to school for one final season. He’s a tremendous college basketball player, but his stock just isn’t high right now, as he isn’t featured on any major draft boards or mocks. The expectation is that while he is hoping to impress teams enough to take a shot on him in the 2019 draft and that is the preferred scenario, he will come back and transfer to another school after the deadline passes on May 29.

As of today, Texas A&M, Florida, and Kentucky are likely the top three schools on Blackshear’s (very loose) list. For A&M, there are obvious ties with head coach Buzz Williams, who has been with Blackshear throughout his tenure at Virginia Tech. With the Gators, they are the hometown school and he could play one final year close to his friends and family back home. And with Kentucky, he saw what Reid Travis was able to do for the Wildcats, and Blackshear feels he could fit that role perfectly, which is what the UK coaching staff is pitching.

Kentucky has made it clear to Blackshear’s camp that he is likely their top priority and a need to close out their class of 2019. A gifted offensive player with tremendous rebounding skills, Blackshear would be able to step in from day one and provide a similar skillset to both Travis and PJ Washington. While the novelty of playing close to home and playing for the coach he’s extremely familiar with are there, the combination of need and fit for a perennial powerhouse in Lexington is extremely intriguing for the 6-foot-10 forward.

We’re still early in the process here, and there is certainly some strong competition, but I like Kentucky’s chances.

NBA Draft

Both EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards announced this past week that they would be testing the NBA Draft waters, a move that makes complete sense for both individuals. In fact, I think it’s in the best interest of all players to capitalize on the resources available to them while in college to prepare them for when that official jump to the league does happen.

That being said, it’s clear that neither player is remotely close to being ready to play in the NBA, and I think they understand that. There were some rumblings late last week that a transfer may have been possible for one of them, but now, I think that’s not on the table.

Kentucky is operating under the assumption that both players will eventually return to school after receiving feedback from NBA teams over the next few weeks.

Beyond those two, the NBA Draft process is over for the rest of the Wildcats. Washington, Tyler Herro, and Keldon Johnson are keeping their names in the draft, while Ashton Hagans and Immanuel Quickley are both returning to school.

Now, we will wait to hear final decisions from Montgomery and Richards, which are expected to be favorable ones for Kentucky fans.

Closing out the 2019 class

As mentioned above, if I were a betting man, I’d say Kentucky closes out the 2019 class with both Juzang and Blackshear Jr.

From there, though, things get tricky. They technically would have an open scholarship spot, but as for playing time? Not so much.

If you assume both Montgomery and Richards return with both Juzang and Blackshear Jr. joining the fold, you are looking at scholarships from:

Ashton Hagans/Immanuel Quickley

Tyrese Maxey/Johnny Juzang

Kahlil Whitney/Keion Brooks Jr./Dontaie Allen

Kerry Blackshear Jr./Nate Sestina

EJ Montgomery/Nick Richards

That’s as legitimate of a two-deep roster you’ll find in the nation next season.

After Nate Sestina committed to Kentucky, I was told that the UK coaching staff was looking to add two more pieces to close things out, with a third being a tight squeeze, but manageable if the right situation came about.

As for who those candidates might be, we brought up Nevada transfer Jordan Brown last week, and five-star forward Jaden McDaniels is also still on the table. I was told before that Kentucky would be open to accepting commitments from both Blackshear Jr. and Brown, as the latter would be forced to sit out a season due to NCAA transfer rules. He’d fill up an available scholarship – Division I schools are allowed 13 – but wouldn’t take up playing time. He’d simply provide an extra body in practice and work against other talented frontcourt prospects to better his game for the 2020-21 season.

As for McDaniels, I would bet at this point that he ends up committing to Washington. He told me several times, both at the McDonald’s All-American Game and at the Jordan Brand Classic, that there is “nothing like playing close to home,” and there have always been rumblings that he’d prefer to shy away from the spotlight and play a bit off the radar for one of the west coast schools. With the deadline to sign a National Letter of Intent being on May 15, one would think his decision will come in the next three weeks. He could end up just signing scholarship papers and dragging this process out even further, but I believe he’ll head home after the Iverson Classic this week and move toward a decision before the deadline.

Nonetheless, Kentucky is left with two significant options for the 2019-20 season, with that looking even more likely if Juzang announces he is reclassifying, as expected, tomorrow evening.


Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

28 Comments for Pilgrim’s Insider Notes: Johnny Juzang and Kerry Blackshear Jr. updates, final thoughts on the NBA Draft

  1. Smyrna_Cat
    10:43 pm April 23, 2019 Permalink

    I always get a bit dizzy from this “insider news.” It seems most of this insider stuff seems a lot like “stuff reported on KSR dozens of time.” I miss the good old days of insider news with doors, Jai Lucas, and PP. Now THAT was some spot-on insider stuff!

  2. nocode96
    10:45 pm April 23, 2019 Permalink

    Thanks for this, very insightful and well written. Look forward to all your articles on here. I’m an admin on Reddit’s college b-ball site (I know, lame and unimportant), and one of our crazier subscribers is saying something that caught my attention today. This anonymous guy has called some out of the blue recruitments in the past (he called Knox to Kentucky, Zion to Duke, and a few others months before they happened when those schools were all seen as nothing more than a long shot. He’s also called a few things that never even came close to happening, so he likely just makes bold claims and gets lucky 50-60% of the time) and at least dies a good job of pretending he’s somewhat connected. He made a private statement today to all of us that a current big time recruit is very seriously thinking of backing out of his school because he feels he made the wrong choice. He didn’t mention if it was UK, Duke, Memphis, or anyone, just that a recruit was seriously considering pulling out. Have you heard anything remotely close to this about any school? Or, can we chalk this one up to one of his bs, “if I throw enough at the wall, something will stick” type claims?

      11:31 pm April 23, 2019 Permalink

      @nocode96….you insinuating that he is talking about Whitney? I sure hope not but Ive been worried about it for a bit now. Is that what you were asking about us hearing?

    • nocode96
      12:04 am April 24, 2019 Permalink

      No, no, no, no….not at all. Not even in the slightest. This guy just said a top player at a big school. Nothing more than that. KSR are FAR more connected to UK recruiting than any fellow moderator there, though a few are more connected to recruiting nation wide. KSR and specifically Jack haven’t even brought this idea up about Whitney, so I’d take their knowledge over some random Reddit user any way. All I’ve heard in my circles is sunshine as far as Whitney is concerned. People may be worried about him not signing yet or something, but this stuff happens often for the very reason Whitney has said its happening. Also, fwiw, if we land this possible California reclassification, I think that only bolsters Whitney. They’re fairly similar in size, but that’s about it, his commitment would likely free Whitney up more. I don’t really know anything more about Whitney than you, but I’m incredibly confident he’s a Cat 100%. IF I had to guess, I think he’s talking about Edwards at Georgia and remotely possible that it could be Antoine at Villanova. Both big time SG guys, and more big names than just UK is going to be lacking a pure 2 guard type. But again, this is all based on what some dude that’s wrong almost half the time said.

      There is some currently interesting chatter over there, mainly from Va Tech verified fans that Bkacjshear to UK is a done deal unless by some miracle he impresses enough to be promised a lottery spot. But again, consider the source, a bunch of disgruntled Va Tech fans who just lost their coach and are about to lose their stud player.

      The college b-ball sub on Reddit has nearly 1 million users, and I can assure you some of the users and admin/moderators are well connected and known to even most casual b-ball fans. That being said, unless you’re an admin and want some power over the sub, identities are kept anonymous there, for good reason. Andy Katz could be hiding behind a username like kitten69, by that same token, unless we verify you, you can say anything there to try and gain traction. This is why, especially with UK scoops, I rely fully on KSR for bits like Jack does.

      I wouldn’t sweat Whitney at all, and love him or hate him, Cal always has a trick or two up his sleeve. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if next year’s class ends up as our most talented since the platoon year when all the dust finally settles.

    • hitman72
      12:05 am April 24, 2019 Permalink

      Why worry when he’s done nothing to indicate he wasn’t playing for us? He didn’t sign in November because his entire family couldn’t make it. So he decided for the spring and May 3rd was the date he could get to both have his family their and to do it at his elementary school. Cal visited him to reassure everything. Why on God’s green earth would you commit to a school day you’re not singing til the spring, set a date in the spring and be a little over a week away from doing exactly why you said you were going to do.

    • BEnglish017
      4:02 pm April 24, 2019 Permalink

      I don’t know who you are but I’m huge Pearl Jam fan! I dig the user name. Haha.

  3. Nolecat21
    10:45 pm April 23, 2019 Permalink

    Forgetting Dontaie Allen? That would leave us 2 open scholarships.

    • Carcrook
      11:25 pm April 23, 2019 Permalink

      I would think he’ll red-shirt, or won’t play until Jan.

  4. Smyrna_Cat
    10:47 pm April 23, 2019 Permalink

    Kind of remind of of CNN’s “Breaking News.” Everything can’t be breaking news all the time, can it? They even a show called “Breaking News” and it is primarily a repeat of the stuff they have been talking about all day. Very strange.

    Don’t get me wrong. I like much of what Jack writes about, and loved his blurbs from the Jordan classic. Perhaps we just need a blurb on here called, “It is Off-Season So Don’t Expect Much and We Won’t Try to Fake It Till We Make It.”

    • nocode96
      11:08 pm April 23, 2019 Permalink

      I think a bunch of us love things like this, but here’s why. I love, love, love UK, but I e never played football, I don’t watch football, I’m not even 100% on the rules. I’m happy when we win and always cheer for the Cats, but football news is like watching paint dry to me, I don’t think I’m alone. In many areas of Kentucky where lots of us grew up, our schools weren’t big enough to even field an offensive line, let alone a team, but every Kentucky school shoots hoops. That’s why I’m very vocal, and defend basketball to the death on here against trolls, but you’ll never see me argue football stuff because I don’t know enough about it. The only time I open my mouth is when some idiot attacks a player or coach’s character when football is concerned. I know far more about our men’s soccer and baseball, and women’s softball and volleyball than I do about our football. I really enjoy stuff like this, especially from Jack because, and this is just my opinion, I think he leaves important little nuggets hidden between the lines for us to figure out. KSR is kind of a big deal with UK b-ball especially, they are going to know things well before they can even report it, and Jack is the recruiting guy for KSR. I do see how most fans might find it boring, or making a story out of nothing, but I think that might be because y’all really want to hear and talk about things like how good our secondary and special teams will be this year.

  5. UKinIN
    10:55 pm April 23, 2019 Permalink

    If Juzang commits does Whitney still sign?

      11:32 pm April 23, 2019 Permalink

      I sure hope so!

    11:29 pm April 23, 2019 Permalink

    @nocode 96…..

    Are you insinuating that the recruit is Whitney? Ive been worried about this myself. Is that what you are asking if we have heard anything about?

  7. JT55
    11:41 pm April 23, 2019 Permalink

    This would be the best case scenario obviously. Would love to have both but, we def need a quality big for next year.

  8. Bigblueswami
    6:33 am April 24, 2019 Permalink

    J-SILK COME ON DOWN! Looks to fit the Tyler Herro role to me.

    • EastKY-BlueBlood
      4:58 pm April 24, 2019 Permalink

      How’s this for caps…, “YOUR AN IDIOT!!” Obviously you need to give up College Bball, bc you really don’t get it.. HELL if you were alive for all 114 yrs, bless ur heart, that means 106 seasons have been in ur words…, ZZZZZZZZZZ still hanging NO BANNERS!! LOL!! Only 8 successfully completed seasons in UK history, and that’s actually considered a lot!! Means all of College Basketball, every program SUCKS!! LOL

  9. KYCat4EVER
    7:13 am April 24, 2019 Permalink

    Zzzzz… much to do about nothing! Just another pimping of our storied KENTUCKY BASKETBALL PROGRAM …LOL!

    First COACH PROCESS taunts “talent over experience any time”…. and now that he can’t get the “talent level” he once did… the “One and Done” gets supplemented with “I Had a Grad”…. ?

    All of this and we still will spend next year where we have spent the last six…. not hanging a NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP BANNER… and talking “who will get drafted and by whom”???

    SAD DAYS for BBN and OUR CATS!


    • StillBP
      7:25 am April 24, 2019 Permalink

      Meanwhile, most of BBN is enjoying the most fun we’ve had as KY basketball fans in the last 30 years. You must be around 70 years old and longing for Rupp. That’s the only coach who has ever coached UK and won more titles than Cal. Cal has more Final Fours coaching UK than any former coach other than Rupp. But sad days you say? LOL!!!

    • Ez21
      10:30 am April 24, 2019 Permalink

      People forget the end of the Tubby era when we were barely getting top 75-100 players so quickly. People are going to long for the days of Cal after he’s gone.

    • wildcat2012
      7:57 am April 24, 2019 Permalink

      Stupid comment

    • 4everUKblue
      8:05 am April 24, 2019 Permalink

      LMFAO! KYCAPSLOCK4EVER, is ALWAYS good for a LAUGH. He’s a COMPLETE IDIOT, but funny as hell! Like someone else said, Rupp coached when there were like 5 basketball schools on the planet. I liked Rupp but he coached in a completely different environment.

    • Go Deep
      8:06 am April 24, 2019 Permalink

      This guy must be an idiot or a troll.

    • 4everUKblue
      8:08 am April 24, 2019 Permalink

      THERE ARE ONLY a HANDFUL of you JACKASSES who think it’s sad days for UK BB, the REST OF US ARE HAVING A BLAST!

    • ClutchCargo
      9:06 am April 24, 2019 Permalink

      I’m still trying to understand how KYCAPSLOCK4EVER made it through the Tubby and BCG years without jumping off a bridge.

    • 4everUKblue
      9:25 am April 24, 2019 Permalink

      Clutch, I’m just really sorry he did!

    • UKBigBlueForever
      10:26 am April 24, 2019 Permalink

      KYCat4Ever is a troll… lmao ClutchCargo, I’m wondering the same thing!!

  10. UKBigBlueForever
    1:25 pm April 24, 2019 Permalink

    KYCapsLock4Ever, that is the great!!! HAHAHA

    • UKBigBlueForever
      1:27 pm April 24, 2019 Permalink

      I will forever call this guy KYCapsLock4Ever, thank you ClutchCargo! Still laughing