The NBA dominoes are officially starting to fall. Yesterday, De’Aaron Fox announced his decision to sign with an agent and head to the draft, and today, Malik Monk followed suit.
Kentucky is also expected to lose Bam Adebayo and Isaiah Briscoe to the draft, and there is a chance the Wildcats lose a player or two via transfer. With Dominique Hawkins, Derek Willis, and Mychal Mulder also gone, there are several spots left to fill.
It’s never fun to see our beloved Wildcats go, but there are usually some late Spring signees to ease the pain. This year is certainly no different.
Let’s take a look at the remaining recruits/transfers on Calipari’s short list:
Standing 6’11 with a freakish 7’9 wingspan, Bamba is the next (literally) big thing in college basketball. He possesses Nerlens Noel-esque shot-blocking ability, tremendous athleticism, and touch around the basket. He’s the type of prospect that makes opposing teams terrified to shoot in the paint, similar to the impact Willie Cauley-Stein and Karl-Anthony Towns had in 2015-16.
Pairing Nick Richards, a defensive-minded big man, with Bamba would give the Wildcats a nasty one-two punch down low, and easily the best defensive frontcourt in the nation.
Right now, UK is the rumored favorite in his recruitment. Landing Bamba would easily place Kentucky in the driver’s seat of national title contention next season.
Ah, the prototypical scoring wing Coach Cal has been fighting for since Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in 2011-12. Jaylen Brown, Kelly Oubre, Jayson Tatum, etc., sadly all swings and misses.
Does UK’s streak of missing out on the athletic scoring wings end with now?
Calipari is selling Knox on replacing Malik Monk as the team’s go-to scorer, which should be music to the ears of the 6’8 small forward out of Tampa, FL. With a smooth shooting stroke and ability to attack the rim, Knox has the potential to be a 20+ PPG scorer at UK en route to the program’s ninth title.
Knox is visiting Missouri, but his recruitment seems to be coming down to UK, Florida State, Duke, and UNC.
Does UNC’s championship and the idea of replacing Justin Jackson send him to Raleigh? Did Duke’s extra recruiting time after their early tournament exit help make up some ground? Will Knox follow in his father’s footsteps and stay home to play at FSU? Or will NBA dreams send him to Kentucky?
My gut tells me UNC is the leader, but don’t count out Coach Cal.
The one need for UK next year? Three-point shooting. And this kid’s got it.
The Pittsburgh redshirt sophomore announced he would be transferring after averaging 11.9 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game to go with 42% from behind the arc last season for the Panthers. Calipari has been adamant about his displeasure with graduate transfers across America, but has shown he would take one on if the right opportunity came along a la Julius Mays in 2012-13.
At 6’7, 210 lbs., Johnson has incredible size at the shooting guard position, a trait Calipari absolutely drools over. He can shoot lights out, gives the team a much-needed veteran presence, and has two years of eligibility remaining.
Cameron Johnson and Kentucky seem to be a match made in heaven, and if the Cats miss on Knox, I expect Calipari to push hard for the transfer guard.
Earlier today, it was reported the four-star shooting guard and Califorina de-commit would be deciding between nine schools in the coming weeks, and Kentucky was on that list.
2017 Jemarl Baker Corona Roosevelt Top 9. Kentucky, Duke, Utah, Arizona, Marquette, Maryland, Oregon,ASU, SDSU (In no particular order) #ewe
— Ryan Silver (@RyanSilver1) April 4, 2017
The sharpshooter has been drawing comparisons to Ray Allen, as his jumper is one of the purest in high school basketball right now. Coach Cal and the UK staff visited Baker last week, and there are rumors that the staff could visit again in the near future.
The 6’2, 175 lbs. guard out of Los Angeles, CA is considered the No. 17 shooting guard and 65th best player in the country according to ESPN.
Listed just outside of the 247 Sports top 100 prospects in America, Mark Smith is a late bloomer with interest from most schools in America. He’s fairly new to the game of basketball, but the 6’5, 225 lb guard has shown spurts of unbelievable potential in his senior year at Edwardsville, averaging 21.9 points, 8.4 assists and 8.2 rebounds this season.
Smith is a great outside shooter, but he has the ability to score anywhere on the court.
Calipari will be visiting Smith on Thursday at his high school, and if an offer comes, many expect him to accept it and commit to Kentucky.
Who finishes out the 2017 recruiting class for the Wildcats?