While Nolan Hickman’s commitment came as a surprise to the Big Blue Nation last weekend – as planned – most fans know the bulk of Kentucky’s other top targets in the class of 2021.
Top-ten prospect Jaden Hardy is UK’s top target on the board, followed by the likes of five-star guard Hunter Sallis, five-star forward Daimion Collins, and four-star forward Bryce Hopkins. The possibility of a reclassification to the class of 2021 also remains on the table for five-star junior Skyy Clark, who is seen as a heavy lean.
With Hickman now on the table, though, the newest Wildcat commit is already hitting the recruiting trail looking for high-profile prospects to join him in Lexington next year.
Outside of the names already seen as serious options for John Calipari and the UK coaching staff, Hickman told KSR this past week to keep an eye on a few other additional targets he’s working hard to recruit to Kentucky.
One already boasts a Kentucky offer, another had one before committing elsewhere, and the last is a name whose recruitment is a complete mystery at this point, with all three being five-star, top-20 prospects.
“Yeah, I’ve been pushing the tempo with [five-star forward] Patrick Baldwin,” Hickman told KSR on the Sources Say Podcast. “I’ve even tried pushing the tempo with my guy Paolo [Banchero], even with him being committed to Duke, I’ve been trying to talk that BBN in his ear. He picked the wrong shade of blue. I’ve been reaching out to [five-star forward] Moussa [Diabate] at IMG, trying to reach out to him.”
In his eyes, being a point guard, he needs to lead the way as a recruiter to help build an elite roster prior to heading to Lexington next year. After the upcoming 2020-21 team makes a title run this year, Hickman said he’s going to do his part to put together a roster capable of winning the program’s tenth title in 2021-22.
“I’ve been doing anything I can as a point guard, reaching out to everyone I can to help this team flourish and be the best it can be,” said Hickman. “We’ve got to get this tenth [title]. I skipped nine for a reason, this squad is going to go out there and do their thing.”
Regarding the specific players he mentioned by name, Baldwin is the top uncommitted player in the class of 2021, considered the No. 1 overall prospect in the 247Sports Composite Rankings. As of today, Duke is seen as the favorite in his recruitment, followed by Milwaukee, where his dad, Pat Baldwin Sr., is the head coach. From there, Kentucky is seen as a dark horse program in that next tier of potential options.
Hickman’s second target, Paolo Banchero, made a surprise commitment to Duke earlier this month, choosing the Blue Devils over Kentucky, Tennessee, Gonzaga, and Washington, among others. While he chose the “wrong shade of blue,” Hickman – his AAU teammate with the Seattle Rotary and longtime friend – hopes he can continue to pry and push Banchero toward a decommitment and join him in Lexington.
To round out the trio, Moussa Diabate is considered the No. 18 overall prospect in the 247Sports Composite Rankings, but is ranked as high as No. 7 overall over at ESPN. An IMG Academy standout, there are currently no recruiting Crystal Ball or FutureCast predictions for the five-star forward. Once seen as a potential reclassification candidate, the 6-foot-10, 215-pound forward has not publicly confirmed an offer from Kentucky, though the Wildcats were previously seen as an option this winter when a jump to 2020 was on the table.
Can Kentucky pull off the upset for any of the high-profile prospects? It won’t be easy, but Hickman is going to do his best to recruit them all to Lexington.