During the 2020 recruiting cycle, the NBA G League swooped in and signed four five-star prospects in Jalen Green, Jonathan Kuminga, Daishen Nix and Isaiah Todd, along with one four-star prospect in Kai Sotto.
At one point or another, Green and Todd were seen as Kentucky leans, Kuminga held an offer and listed UK as a finalist, Nix practically begged for a scholarship, and Sotto took one of the most well-documented unofficial visits to Lexington we’ve seen in recent memory.
When it came time for their respective decisions, Kentucky had officially cut ties with Green and Todd, stopped actively recruiting Kuminga, and failed to ever offer Nix and Sotto.
Is 2021 five-star guard Jaden Hardy the next prospect John Calipari has sniffed out as a future G League signee?
In an appearance on Kentucky Daily with Shawn Smith of Go Big Blue Country and Derek Terry of the Cats Pause, Corey Evans of Rivals.com said Calipari and the UK coaching staff may see the “writing on the wall.”
“I think it’s a matter of Kentucky being proactive, seeing the writing on the wall,” said Evans. “The talk has been all Kentucky for over a year now. We were on commitment watch for Jaden Hardy for Kentucky a year ago. Here we sit entering mid September, and he’s still stuck on ten or 12 schools.”
As the wait continues with Hardy, Evans acknowledged that any program accepting a commitment from the consensus top-ten prospect in the senior class could be left at the altar in the spring.
“He’ll be one of the last to actually commit to a college in the spring. Even if he does, we could see a Daishen Nix, Isaiah Todd situation where he leaves that program at the altar,” said Evans. “I just think John Calipari and Kentucky, they rely heavily on a high-level scoring guards, and I don’t think Cal wants to be left in that spot next year. I think he wants a high-level high school talent, and if I could tell him now, “Hey, take Hickman, take Devin Askew, and Hunter Sallis,” I think he’d be OK with that.”
With things up in the air with Hardy, Evans believes things could work out in Kentucky’s favor, as he sees five-star guard Hunter Sallis as the better fit long-term.
“I’m one of the bigger advocates for Hunter Sallis as a complete package,” said Evans. “I think he might be the best long-term guy just because of where he comes from and the fit. I think Jaden Hardy, not that he’s not a playmaker, but Sallis was a true point guard a year ago. I know he’s more of a two-one now, but he’s someone that fits in Kentucky’s backcourt next to a Hickman, next to an Askew, where all three have the size and length to play the one, two, and three. It’s a bigger lineup than what UK had last year with Maxey, Quickley and Hagans. All three are capable playmakers, facilitators, defenders, and shot-makers.”
When looking at Sallis’ game, the basketball recruiting expert feels the top-ten prospect compares to former Kentucky star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. In fact, Evans believes Sallis has gotten “better, quicker” than Gilgeous-Alexander did at the same stage.
“The most typical [comparison] we hear is Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, which is good news to UK ears,” Evans said. “He’s much quicker, much more athletic than Shai. Shai, you guys know his development, it’s out of this world. If we would have said Shai Gilgeous was one of the top five most promising guards in the NBA three years ago, even as UK diehard fans, you would have thought I was crazy. For as quickly Shai improved, Hunter has gotten better, quicker. Two years ago, he’s a six-foot guard that regional mid-major schools were on. Now, he’s the most prioritized, heavily-recruited guard in America. It just shows you the path and development rate of Hunter Sallis.”
For Evans’ complete interview with Smith and Terry, subscribe and listen to Kentucky Daily here.