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Trae Young’s father: “There was no way (Trae) was not going to Kentucky”

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Every year, there is an elite recruit that is deemed a “lock” to end up at Kentucky. A lot of times, there are two or three. In fact, all three of UK’s 2018 signees were all Wildcat locks almost immediately after receiving their respective scholarship offers.

For last year’s recruiting class, five-star guard Trae Young was just about as guaranteed to end up at Kentucky as anyone we’ve seen in the Calipari era.

In interviews, he raved about the program and the coaching staff. Most recruiting analysts had him penciled in as UK’s starting point guard for this season without thinking twice. It just made too much sense.

There were rumors Coach Cal was willing to accept his commitment at any time for several months, but Young never pulled the trigger. Eventually, Quade Green earned a scholarship from Kentucky and developed massive interest in the program, and the first to commit got the roster spot.

Several top recruits were outspoken about wanting to play with Green, as he was seen as a leader and a better floor general than anyone in the country. Young, on the other hand, was seen as a ball-dominant volume shooter, and it has since been confirmed that recruits did not want to play with him for that reason. Calipari put the full-court press on Green to commit, and he finally did. Young eventually landed at Oklahoma, where he could be the No. 1 option and put up as many shots a game as he could ever dream of.

In an interview with Matt Norlander of CBS Sports, Ray Young, Trae’s father, confirmed the talented scorer was just about guaranteed to end up at UK, but “things didn’t work out.”

“He was going to Kentucky or Kansas,” Ray Young said. “It wasn’t even that big of a debate for a while. Once he got the offer from Kentucky, it’s like, ‘Dad, Coach (John) Calipari just left our house.’ I would never say it was a done deal because we really liked Coach (Bill) Self a lot, and being around the coaches at Oklahoma and Coach Kruger, but there was no way he was not going to go to Kentucky, for about six or eight months. That’s the thing people don’t understand. He really wanted to go there but things didn’t work out.”

There were recruiting whispers that Young wanted to play with five-star talent Michael Porter Jr., with some saying they were the ever-popular “package deal.” Porter, however, eventually committed to Washington, a school Young had little interest in. From there, Young-to-Kentucky was full speed ahead.

“Michael Porter was never going to Kentucky,” Ray Young said. “For the longest time Trae and Mike wanted to play together. When Michael Porter Sr. got the job at Washington, we strongly considered Kentucky. Things changed, we started watching both teams (Kentucky and Kansas) and looking at things a bit differently.”

Norlander also interviewed Trae Young about his decision, who simply said if UK was the place that made him the most comfortable, he would be a Wildcat.

“When you go to the next level you want to feel comfortable,” Young said. “If going to Kentucky was best for me, I would’ve done that.”

Funny how things change.

Seeing plays like this, I think I’m just fine with Kentucky’s roster situation.

I like my team.


Calipari watching Moses Brown tonight

Calipari watching Moses Brown tonight

John Calipari headed up to New York a little early to do some recruiting. According to Pat Lawless, Calipari and Tony Barbee are at Archbishop Molloy in Jamaica, New York tonight to watch 2018 center Moses Brown and 2019 point guard Cole Anthony.

 Moses Brown ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Center 7-1 | 241 lbs. Briarwood, NY Archbishop Molloy/New Heights
ESPN: 17 | 2 C Top 247: 27 | 3 C Rivals: 13 Scout: 13 | 2 C

Calipari has yet to offer Brown, but Kentucky’s interest in him picked up considerably once the staff figured out Bol Bol was headed to Oregon. With few big man options in the 2018 class and the possibility of Nick Richards going pro after his freshman year, expect Brown to stay on Kentucky’s radar, as evidenced by tonight’s visit. Luckily, his dad told the Herald-Leader Kentucky is his “dream school.”

Watch him square off vs. Bol Bol in the video below:


Nick Richards has been more efficient than Mohamed Bamba to start the year

Last night, former Kentucky target and current Texas Longhorn Mohamed Bamba threw down one of the craziest dunks we’ve seen in this young college basketball season.

With nearly an eight-foot wingspan, we knew we’d see things like this in his first, and likely only, season in college. That still doesn’t take away from how absolutely bonkers it truly was:

Just for comparison’s sake, Bamba’s dunk matched Dwight Howard’s sticker dunk from the 2009 Dunk Contest and several of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s poster dunks from this season:

Bamba making headlines made me think back to his recruitment and just how bad Kentucky fans wanted this kid coming out of high school. UK commitments, Quade Green in particular, relentlessly recruited Bamba right to the end, but his prior relationship with Texas coach Shaka Smart won out in the end.

The end result has been pretty significant for both teams.

The Wildcats have experienced great inconsistency in the frontcourt, with a big question mark at the four-spot even to this day. PJ Washington has had moments, Sacha Killeya-Jones has thrived in limited playing time, and Wenyen Gabriel has been an energizer, but offensive production has been minimal. Nick Richards had a slow start to the year at the five, but he’s picked up major steam in the past several weeks.

Bamba has been one of the lone bright spots of the Longhorns, and has remained at the top of the draft boards throughout the year. That being said, he hasn’t been able to carry the team by himself like some Texas fans thought he could when he signed.

With Bamba thriving at Texas, many people still wonder just how dominant this Kentucky team could be had he signed here back in May. Most UK fans would tell you they were extremely worried about this team when Bamba told Calipari no, and the Richards-Bamba comparisons started almost immediately afterward.

So how do the numbers stack up?

In 28 minutes per game, the Texas big man is averaging 10.7 points, 10.1 rebounds, four blocks, and a steal per contest.

Kentucky big man Nick Richards is averaging 8.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game in just 17.6 minutes.

Though Bamba leads Richards in just about every statistical category, the Kentucky big man has been more efficient in limited playing time. Per 40 minutes, Richards is averaging 19.6 points on 65% shooting, 14.8 rebounds, 3.4 blocks, and just 1.7 turnovers per game. Bamba is averaging 15.3 points, 14.5 rebounds, 5.7 blocks, and 2.7 turnovers per 40.

Both players certainly have immense potential and will only get better as the year progresses, but it’s still interesting to see just how impressive Richards has been on the court, while Bamba has garnered all the media attention. If Richards can manage to work on the foul issues, we could have a serious talent on our hands. Regardless, folks thinking the Kentucky freshman will be around for two or three years are sadly mistaken.

Even still, it’s impossible to deny just how special this frontcourt would be with both Richards and Bamba. We’ve seen a major progression in Richards’ game already, and to think what Kenny Payne could mold a guy of Bamba’s potential into is just scary to think about.


An update on Zion Williamson’s recruitment (sort of)

As always John Calipari is closing in on another top ranked recruiting class – in case you hadn’t heard, Tyler Herro went for 43 points on Tuesday night – but as we all know there are still scholarships to fill, and at least one mega-star left on Kentucky’s big board. That player is of course Zion Williamson.

While there had been initial buzz that Williamson might commit in the early signing period, that buzz came and went, and as things stand Zion remains uncommitted and unsigned. He now cannot sign any official paperwork until April, and it sounds like he may need the five months between now and then.

That’s because 24/7 Sports recruiting czar and FS1 analyst Evan Daniels joined Aaron Torres on KSR’s new podcast, “The Aaron Torres Sports Podcast” on Tuesday and gave an update on Williamson’s recruiting.

The truth of the matter is that the update on Williamson’s recruiting is, there is no real update at all:

“The truth is there’s not a lot to [update],” Daniels said. “He took four official visits. Kansas first, then Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina. Clemson and South Carolina are still certainly involved. I think all six are legitimately involved.

If you asked me to give a favorite right now, I couldn’t pick one. I really couldn’t… I think Clemson and Kentucky get the most buzz, but I don’t know that means they’re leaders or anything like that.

There’s a ways to go. I don’t think that Zion Williamson has an idea of where he wants to go to school. I really don’t. As of today I don’t think he knows that he’s going to a specific school.  I know that’s a roundabout way to tell you that there’s not a lot new. But that’s the deal with Zion Williamson. I think he’ll take some unofficials, but I don’t think he’s close to making a college choice.”

So Clemson and Kentucky are getting the most buzz, huh? Could Zion follow in the footsteps of so many other big-time high school players in recent years like Michael Porter Jr., Mo Bamba or Markelle Fultz and choose a non-traditional school like Clemson over a blue blood like Kentucky?

It wouldn’t surprise Daniels:

“No it wouldn’t [surprise me if he picked Clemson]. It wouldn’t at all. He’s from not too far from there [Clemson]. He’s been there a bunch. He has a relationship [with the coaching staff]. They’ve done a really good job recruiting him.

Now I’m not saying they’re going to get him. But they’ve done a really good job recruiting. He doesn’t strike me as a kid whose afraid of doing something different.”

To listen to Evan Daniels’ full interview with Aaron Torres, click here


Tyler Herro Dropped a Casual 43 Points Last Night

247

Since Tyler Herro committed to Kentucky we’ve learned a lot about the four-star shooting guard, but there’s really only one thing that matters: the kid gets buckets.

Since high school season has started, the nation’s fourth-ranked shooting guard has been on a scoring tear.  Last night he had his best performance yet for Milwaukee’s Whitnall High School.  Herro posted 43 points and 11 assists with ease in a runaway victory.

This is nothing to new Herro.  Last night’s 43-point performance is just one better than the 42-point game he had last week.

In-between his 40-point performances, Herro drained a go-ahead bucket in the final seconds and blocked a potential game-winning three-pointer to secure a one-point victory.  That all overshadowed a subpar scoring performance by Herro’s standards; he finished with only 34 points Saturday night.


Kenny Payne would rather his son go somewhere other than Kentucky

Last week, Josh Moore of the Herald-Leader reported 2018 prospect Zan Payne, son of UK assistant coach Kenny Payne, could end up at Kentucky next season.

“He’s going to play out the season then consider his options, which include prep school or possibly walking on for the hometown Wildcats,” Moore said.

This weekend, SEC Country’s Joe Mussatto caught up with Zan at the Marshall County Hoopfest and talked to him about the idea of playing for his father at Kentucky.

Not only did he say his father wasn’t recruiting him to Kentucky, he said the UK assistant was pushing him to play elsewhere.

“He would rather me play D-I somewhere else, but if not I’d walk-on at Kentucky,” Payne said.

So why would a father not recruit his son to the school he coached at? Because Payne thinks Zan is good enough to earn a scholarship elsewhere.

“He thinks I’m better than walking-on, so that’s why he would rather me go to a different school,” he said.

The addition of Brad Calipari likely kept Coach Cal at Kentucky for another four years, so the idea of keeping Payne here another four years (at minimum) sounds pretty great. That being said, can you blame a guy for wanting his son to earn a scholarship and more playing time at a smaller school?

Zan Payne didn’t completely rule out playing at UK, but it certainly isn’t the lock many people expected.

We’ll see what happens in the next few months.


REPORT: James Wiseman will stay in the class of 2019

(Photo by Bart Young/USAB)

After months of speculation, 2019 No. 1 prospect James Wiseman told reporters he would not be reclassifying to 2018.

“No, that’s not an option,” Wiseman told Al Willman of Rivals.com. “I’m just going to stay in 2019.”

In fact, Wiseman doesn’t even know where the reclassification rumors came from.

“I really don’t know,” Wiseman said. “I have no clue (where they started). I was just looking on Twitter and they were talking about it. It was crazy.”

Though he plans on staying in the class of 2019, Wiseman says Kentucky is near the top of his list and Calipari is recruiting him extremely hard.

“I’ve got Kentucky visiting me a lot,” Wiseman said. “Coach Calipari has been talking to me. Really, it’s just Kentucky reaching out to me the most. He has been texting me almost every day, checking on me to see how I am.”

The top prospect of 2019 says Coach Cal believes he’d be a great fit in his system at Kentucky.

“He just wants me to work hard, because Kentucky does a lot of pick-and-pop plays with bigs, and stuff like that,” Wiseman said. “He thinks I’d be a good fit for that system.

Wiseman visited Kentucky for Big Blue Madness, and he said it’d be great to be part of that someday.

“The atmosphere was crazy,” Wiseman said. “The fans were just going crazy for the players. For me to go there, it’d be great.”

Wiseman’s decision leaves the Wildcats in a tough situation, as they have no scholarships extended to any big men in the class of 2018, and options are limited at this point. Moses Brown is the likely option, but most analysts see him as a long-term project in college. Will they look for someone else to reclassify? Will they find a graduate transfer?

That being said, this leaves Kentucky in fantastic position with several of the top prospects in 2019, and things are set up well for a monster recruiting class then.

To read the entire Rivals article, head here.


2019 5-star DJ Jeffries: “(Kentucky fans) might see me in a couple years”

PHOTO: 247 Sports

On Friday afternoon, the Marshall County Hoopfest tipped off featuring several future Kentucky targets.

One of those talented prospects? 2019 five-star forward DJ Jeffries.

Jeffries is considered a consensus top-20 recruit, and his stock continues to rise. Kentucky offered him a scholarship back in September, and the Cats are seen as the heavy favorite in his recruitment.

He didn’t do much to shut down those rumors in an interview with SEC Country’s Joe Mussatto last night.

“People in Kentucky, they love their basketball team,” Jeffries said after the game. “I feel like that’s something I probably want to be a part of.”

Countless Wildcat fans were in attendance sporting blue and white, doing their part to make the talented prospect feel at home. Jeffries said he certainly noticed the fans and wanted to put on a show for them.

I tried to put on a good show for the fans cause they might see me in a couple years,” Jeffries said.

Also in attendance? Kentucky coach John Calipari, a guy Jeffries has admired for several years. He grew up a Memphis fan with Cal as the head coach, and now, he’s excited to be recruited by him.

“He’s one of the legendary coaches, so it feels good that he came to watch me play,” Jeffries said.

To read the entire article, head on over to SEC Country here.


Tyler Herro drops 34 points, including a game-winner

Don’t get it twisted. Zion Williamson is still the prize of the remaining undeclared 2018 recruiting class. But Coach Cal may have snagged one of the most underrated prospects of the crop in Tyler Herro.

The kid dropped 42 points this past Wednesday, and last night, he followed that up with a 34 point performance, including a go ahead 3-pointer and a game winning block.

Given how inconsistent the Cats may prove to be from beyond the arc this season, seeing Herro waiting in the wings dropping bombs left and right is a welcome sight.

@JayWinkKSR


Coach Cal Hit the Road to the Marshall County Hoop Fest

@EABeckett

John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats defeated Harvard just after 5:30.  He spoke with the media until about 6:15.  Two hours later Coach Cal was walking into the Marshall County Hoop Fest.

Calipari made the quest to Western Kentucky to watch a handful of talented underclassmen and one of his 2018 signees, Keldon Johnson.  This is what Johnson did last night.

The primary reason Calipari rushed across the state is to see the matchup between Zion Harmon and D.J. Jeffries.

Jeffries is a five-star small forward ranked in No. 18 in the junior class.  He has an offer from UK and the Cats lead in his recruitment ahead of a handful of other SEC programs.  Harmon caught the eyes of the Commonwealth when he led Bowling Green to a Sweet 16 Title as an 8th grader.  Now the No. 1 freshman point guard in America, he played with seniors on the EYBL last year and was still one of the better point guards on the circuit.

No matter what Calipari sees, nobody will be happier tonight than this guy.

@bilmurray2001


Keldon Johnson will reach out to Zion Williamson, hopes to “get this done”

The Marshall County Hoopfest is officially underway, and Kentucky signee Keldon Johnson is one of the headlining prospects in the event.

Tonight, the future Kentucky guard helped Oak Hill defeat Hamilton Heights by a final score of 84-63. Johnson finished the game with 16 points on 6-17 shooting, seven rebounds, one assist, and two steals.

After the game, SEC Country’s Joe Mussatto interviewed Johnson on his decision to come to Lexington, recruiting other prospects, and what it was like to play in front of the BBN for the first time as a Wildcat commit.

Though he hasn’t reached out to other Kentucky targets, Johnson says he will reach out to Zion Williamson and Moses Brown soon to seal the deal.

“I know Tyler (Herro’s) been talking to Zion a lot, staying on him, and talking to Moses (Brown),” Johnson said. “Maybe I’ll get in contact sometime soon and see where their head is at and see if we can get this done.”

In his recruitment, it was well known Johnson’s father, Chris, was very hesitant about his son going to Kentucky. His biggest concerns were playing time and having to compete against some of the nation’s best to put up points, a worry many parents of top recruits have. After a long discussion, the 6-6 wing convinced his father Kentucky was the best place for him.

I was more for Maryland and N.C. State because they were local and he would have been the man from day one,” Chris Johnson said in an interview with Chris Fisher of CatsPause.com. “We went back and forth but he was sold on Kentucky. That was where he really, really wanted to go. He just wanted to be part of that tradition.”

Tonight, Johnson went a little further on his father’s thought process with SEC Country and why the Cats ended up being the best fit for him.

“He just knows a lot of good players are gonna come to Kentucky and that no slackers come to Kentucky,” Johnson said. “From day one I gotta fight. I think he was a little hesitant on that, but I know my dad believes in me that I can do it.”

The Marshall County Hoopfest is always packed with Kentucky fans waiting to see the newest Wildcats in action. Johnson said it was great to see the Big Blue Nation out in full force to cheer him on.

“There was a lot of people out there calling my name and things like that,” Johnson said. “It was an awesome environment… I fed off (the crowd) and they fed off me.”

To read the entire SEC Country article, head on over to this link.


Keldon Johnson, James Wiseman at Marshall County Hoop Fest this weekend

Keldon Johnson, James Wiseman at Marshall County Hoop Fest this weekend

The Marshall County Hoop Fest is underway in Benton, and this year’s event features two very familiar names. Kentucky signee Keldon Johnson and 2019 big man James Wiseman are participating in the event, along with a handful of other UK targets:

  • Keldon Johnson, Oak Hill Academy (2018) — SIGNED
  • Zan Payne, Lexington Catholic (2018) — Interest (son of Kenny Payne)
  • James Wiseman, Memphis East (2019) — Offered
  • D.J. Jeffries, Olive Branch (2019) — Offered
  • Jaemyn Brakefield, Huntington Prep (2020) — Interest
  • Zion Harmin, Adair County (2021) — Interest

Not only is this a great chance to welcome Keldon Johnson to the Big Blue Nation, it’s an opportunity to see James Wiseman in action. As we’ve mention, there’s a possibility Wiseman will reclassify to the 2018 class, and, because of his age, he would have to stay at the school of his choice for two years. It’s not clear whether he’ll actually do that, but one thing is for certain: Kentucky is his favorite right now.

The event will also feature Zan Payne, Kenny Payne’s son, who is currently a senior at Lexington Catholic. Add in D.J. Jeffries, Jaemyn Brakefield, and Zion Harmon and it’s a safe bet John Calipari makes his way to Benton this weekend. Oregon signee Bol Bol will also be there with Findlay Prep, coached by PJ Washington’s father, as will top 2019 prospect Charles Bassey.

Here’s when Johnson and UK’s targets play:

FRIDAY

4 p.m.: Oak Hill Academy (Va.) [Keldon Johnson] vs. Hamilton Heights (Tenn.)

8:30 p.m.: Huntington Prep (W.Va.) [Jaemyn Brakefield] vs. St. Benedict’s (N.J.)

SATURDAY

3:45 p.m.: Prolific Prep (Calif.) vs. Huntington Prep (W.Va.) [Jaemyn Brakefield]

5:15 p.m.: Lexington Catholic [Zan Payne] vs. Marshall County

6:45 p.m.: Adair County [Zion Harmon] vs. Olive Branch (Miss.) [D.J. Jeffries]

8:15 p.m.: Tennessee Prep (Tenn.) vs. Oak Hill Academy (Va.) [Keldon Johnson]

SUNDAY

1:30 p.m.: Aspire Academy vs. Memphis East (Tenn.) [James Wiseman]

 

If you’d like to go, tickets are available starting at $10. For more information, check out MCHoopfest.org. Live streams of the games are also available via Tanager Sports.


WATCH: Kevin Durant critiques Keldon Johnson, Zion Williamson

WATCH: Kevin Durant critiques Keldon Johnson, Zion Williamson

Keldon Johnson is one of three signees in Kentucky’s 2018 class, and after watching his tape, Kevin Durant thinks he’s the scorer the Cats need next season. Our friends at The Overtime had the NBA All-Star critique Johnson’s highlights, along with those of Zion Williamson, LaMelo Ball, Cam Reddish and other top prospects, and Durant was impressed.

“If you need a scorer, man, this guy is who you need,” Durant said. “He can score points in bunches.”

Durant got to watch Johnson in person at the Peach Jam this summer.

“I had a chance to watch him at the Peach Jam, so I’ve seen him up close. When you talk about scorer, this guy’s it. He’s athletic, nice with the right hand. It’s hard to stop him going right. He can shoot the J, too. Nice. I think the next step for him is figuring out how to play at each level he can go to, figuring out the team game because he has everything you need one-on-one.”

As you might imagine, Durant was also impressed by Zion Williamson.

“Just a bull in a china shop. Freakish athlete. Like a once-in-a-generation type athlete.”

“In transition, it’s kind of hard to stop this dude. It’s like nearly impossible…He can’t have any space around him. If you give him any space, he’s taking off.”

You can see Johnson play yourself at the Marshall County Hoop Fest this weekend, along with James Wiseman, DJ Jeffries, and 2021 Adair County star Zion Harmon.

Check out more videos of Keldon Johnson and Zion over at ItsOvertime.com.


Get on those tippy-toes, Cal!

Calipari visiting James Wiseman today

Get on those tippy-toes, Cal!

With almost a week between games, John Calipari is going recruiting. The first prospect on his list? James Wiseman, the 2019 big man who could reclassify to the 2018 class. According to Pat Lawless, Calipari will visit Wiseman in Memphis today.

 James Wiseman ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Power Forward 6-11 | 216 lbs. Memphis, TN East High/Team Penny
ESPN: 1 | 1 PF Top 247: 4 | 2 PF Rivals: 2 Scout: 2 | 2 PF

Wiseman is an especially intriguing prospect because if he reclassifies, he’ll be at the program of his choice for two seasons because of his age. He also LOVES Kentucky. Not only is his Twitter page full of tweets and retweets about the Cats, he was the recruit most into Big Blue Madness, interacting with fans and not even bothering to hide his smile on the blue carpet.

Come. On. Down.


Calipari references Trae Young on Jim Harbaugh’s podcast

Calipari references Trae Young on Jim Harbaugh’s podcast

Last December, Jim Harbaugh came on John Calipari’s podcast, and this week, Calipari returned the favor. Cal is a guest on the Michigan head coach’s “Attack Each Day” podcast, and spent about 30 minutes chatting about his team, the recruiting process, and how annoyed Cal was that Harbaugh met the Pope before did.

The conversation includes a lot of Calipari-isms we’ve heard before, but one interesting part came towards the beginning when Cal dropped a reference to Trae Young, the point guard he once coveted most in last year’s class. Young went to Oklahoma and scored 43 points vs. Oregon on Sunday night.

“Tell me what kind of program you want to be in,” Cal said of how he talks to families on in-home visits. “Tell me how you want to play or be coached. And through the questioning, sometimes I look and say, this is not going to work. Now, it doesn’t mean they’re wrong in not coming to Kentucky. There’s a kid that’s father wanted him to shoot every ball and I said, we just don’t do that here. Well, he’s gone to a school and he had 40 last night as a freshman. The most in 20 years. Well, that may have been right for their son.”

Hmm. Calipari also details the grueling process he’s going through with this team right now, including how he recently played a trick on one of his players during a film session. Classic Cal, so listen to the podcast below. He comes on around the 11-minute mark.