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Insider Notes: Scottie Lewis is close to a decision and Oscar Tshiebwe visits this weekend

@Scott_Lewis_23

I hope everyone enjoyed the weekend! Another five-star recruit on campus and another football win. Rinse and repeat. It’s been a busy stretch for UK basketball recruiting and it will be a few more weeks before things slow down slightly. Even after Big Blue Madness the Cats are hoping to get all of their current commitments signed in the fall (it would be surprising if that didn’t happen) and ideally two or three players that aren’t currently committed.

Things will be busy until November but we’ll know about the recruitments of Scottie Lewis and Oscar Tshiebwe before then. Here’s the latest:

Scottie Lewis:

He put on Instagram the above picture with the caption “I think it’s about that time!” and it’s seems obvious that Lewis is nearing a decision. Last week he returned from his official visit from Kentucky and announced he was down to a final two of Kentucky and Florida. The Gators visited Lewis the day after he returned from UK and I have reason to believe that the Cats went up and saw Lewis later in the week.

His AAU coach, Brian Klatsky, told me that a decision will not happen this week, so I’m going to believe that a decision won’t happen this week. Of course plans can change and Lewis could wake up tomorrow and say he wants to get it over with and that would be that, but Klatsky said the plan isn’t for a decision this week so we will likely be talking about Lewis’ recruitment this time next week.

I’m not sure if that’s good or bad news for UK. It probably doesn’t matter. If Lewis decided this time last week I would think the Cats would be the pick because he was riding high from the official visit, but he’s taking everything in and clearly won’t be making an emotional decision. He’s heard the pitches from both schools and I still ultimately think it’s a head/heart decision (similar to Tshiebwe). Florida has been recruiting him for five years (which is a crazy amount of time to recruit someone and is extra wild considering Mike White didn’t get to Florida until the spring of 2015, so I’m not sure how that adds up). UK hasn’t been recruiting him nearly that long but it’s clear that Lewis is impressed by UK’s track record with five-star players.

Here’s a few pros and cons for Lewis’ recruitment:

Pros:

  • Things changed days before he officially visited UK. Florida’s staff was pushing for a commitment and that didn’t happen. That doesn’t mean Lewis is a lock for UK, but he was at least able to tell Florida no once. Surely he can do it again.
  • Did UK suggest to Lewis not to play in exhibition games in Ireland with Aidan Igiehon this summer because of potential eligibility concerns down the road? Klatsky said that’s not the case but if it’s true it would speak highly of Kentucky’s chances since Lewis would be listening to people close to UK before even committing. Again, probably not much here.
  • Lewis’ quotes to Adam Zagoria were awfully positive for the Cats, plus he’s in a group message with other UK commits. You can read those quotes here.
  • UK really hasn’t reached out to any other guards in 2019. The Cats are still holding out hope for Cole Anthony, but that’s it. There’s also a chance there will be several returning guards, so there isn’t as much pressure for more guards in 2019.
  • This picture, which probably isn’t a huge deal but who knows. He at least likes UK enough to wear a Cats jersey to the beach (with socks):

Cons:

  • Florida has been recruiting him longer.
  • The Gators are still the heavy favorites in Lewis’ Crystal Ball. That doesn’t mean everything, but it’s a sign there aren’t many “pro-UK” rumblings at this point.
  • His friend and teammate will play for Florida, Alex Klatsky. That’s the son of his AAU coach, too. The Klatsky’s are fans of Florida and while they are allowing Lewis to make his own decision, I’m sure Lewis knows it would make them happy if he ended up in Gainesville.

My guess is that UK leads but it’s just a guess. I think Lewis knows where he wants to go but hasn’t told anyone or the staffs of a final decision and it appears that won’t happen until next week at the earliest.

Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Tshiebwe visits this weekend:

This is a huge weekend for UK because the Cats will host five-star center Oscar Tshiebwe. Kentucky hasn’t recruited Tshiebwe (shoob-way) as long as James Wiseman or Vernon Carey, but I’m told they think he can be as good of a college player as those two. Those two are better today, and may have a higher-ceiling professionally, but Tshiebwe’s physicality and hustle could make him elite at the college level. Kentucky really, really likes Tshiebwe.

He picked up an offer like we expected last week and Tshiebwe has known he’s been a take for UK long before the official offer. I’m a little surprised that nearly all the national media still has Tshiebwe pegged to WVU because people around UK feel great about where things stand heading into his official visit to Lexington. I think the Cats land Tshiebwe and I feel more confident about Kentucky’s chances with Tshiebwe than I do Lewis.

This visit should go great this weekend and UK’s campus will be bonkers with USC  in town, but it will be the visit to WVU the following week that is the only thing that can derail UK’s momentum. It’s more head/heart for Tshiebwe but supposedly he’s always enjoyed UK basketball since coming to the states, that’s why I think he ends up in Lexington.

UK is in the picture with Stewart:

Kentucky has done enough to get back in the hunt with Isaiah Stewart. Someone that knows his recruitment better than I do told me that Stewart is thinking about his professional career when making a college decision so “of course he’s considering UK because he could come in and start” and I agree with that take. I didn’t know if Stewart would be willing to put UK back on his list after cutting the Cats back in the spring, but whatever Calipari said over the last few weeks worked because Stewart is fully considering Kentucky and I would expect we hear of a visit in the future.

It would be fitting that we’ve talked about Wiseman, Carey and Matthew Hurt for months and months the Cats end up with Stewart, Tshiebwe and Nnaji. I don’t know exactly how UK’s finishes the frontcourt but UK has plenty of options and is in a decent spot in all six of those recruitments. I don’t think UK leads for Stewart but Stewart won’t be announcing until the spring so there is plenty of time for the Cats to jump ahead.

tyresemaxey | Ig

Maxey is going to be a star:

Maxey’s official visit to UK went well (drink) but it is good news for the Cats that he will return for Big Blue Madness. We know that UK will host Carey and Hurt, two major targets in 2019, that weekend, so it will help to have as many UK commitments in their ear all weekend. Dontaie Allen will also be there. There are going to be other underclassmen that will be at Rupp Arena for BBM (R.J. Hampton and Khristian Lander to name a couple) but having Maxey and Allen on campus will help with the 2019 targets.

I was also reminded that UK believes they have the best scoring guard in 2019. Maxey is going to be a star player on the court for UK in 2019-2020, but he also has recruiting responsibilities. The kid already looks like a Wildcat… hey wait a minute….

Jon Lopez/Nike

Igiehon:

Still no UK visit date set for Igiehon, who also put out a message on social media hinting he may commit somewhere soon. I don’t think UK is a realistic option at this point, but I’ve been saying that for weeks/months. Until we hear of a date for a visit I won’t be changing my mind.

I did hear that UofL is the leader for Igiehon. Chris Mack is doing a solid job on the recruiting trail. Four top 100 commits already in 2019. None are in the top 40, but it’s still the start to a solid class but Igiehon would only help UofL’s momentum. Mack’s plan is to recruit like Villanova. Get top 100 players that will be around for three or four years and every so often land a top 10 or 15 guy. UofL is still actively going after Cole Anthony, who I think ends up at UNC.

 


A Recap of Tyrese Maxey’s Interview with KSR’s The Aaron Torres Sports Podcast

It’s been a busy week for the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast. In case you missed it, two-time national champion and the only coach to ever lead three separate programs to the Final Four (yes, I’m being sarcastic) Rick Pitino joined the show on Monday.

And earlier today, I followed it up with an interview with future Kentucky point guard Tyrese Maxey.

Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock the last six months, you know that Maxey was the first player in the class of 2019 to commit to Kentucky and will be taking an official visit to the school this weekend, along with local product Dontaie Allen. And oh boy was it a fun interview, where Maxey lived up to his reputation as one of the biggest personalities in all of high school basketball.  I have little doubt he will grow into a fan favorite once he arrives in Lexington.

Speaking of “arriving in Lexington,” Maxey will be there Friday (even if it’s only for a few days). As he gets set for his visit, here are some highlights of his interview with the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast (you can download the whole show for free, right here).

The reason he is visiting Kentucky this weekend is because he wanted to experience a football game

One of the biggest things I wanted to ask Maxey was why he is visiting Kentucky this weekend. Especially considering that he is coming back in a few weeks for Big Blue Madness. After all, it’s not often that a player who is already committed to a school takes an official visit, then pays for his own trip a few weeks later.

His answer was surprising. He wanted to experience a Kentucky football game in person.

Maxey added that he actually played football when he was a kid (then again, doesn’t everyone in Texas?), saying that his primary position was quarterback. According to Maxey, the position was perfect for him because he is a natural born leader.

He chose Kentucky because of John Calipari’s honesty

When I asked Maxey why he chose Kentucky, his answer was similar to a number of players who I’ve spoken with through the years. He loved Calipari’s honesty.

“I feel like he never lies to me,” Maxey said, describing John Calipari. “He always tells me the truth. He spit straight facts to me, he never spit any fluff. He came in, he told me I need to get better, he told me I’m not where I need to be right now to be an NBA player and that’s my end goal.”

Maxey also added that another thing that drew him to Kentucky was that he would be surrounded by other good players. He admitted to being a competitive kid, and looks forward to competing with great players every day in practice.

tyresemaxey | Ig

Maxey is already tight with Kentucky basketball royalty

It’s no secret that one of the big draws for any high school player to Kentucky is the number of future NBA stars who’ve come through the school under John Calipari’s watch. It stood out to Maxey, who admitted that he knows quite a few of them. He said that De’Aaron Fox texted him the day he committed, and he’s spoken to Jamal Murray, Devin Booker, DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall among others.

Not bad. Not bad at all.

As I told Maxey during the interview: He better not lose his phone. That is a heck of a rolodex for an 18-year-old to have.

Fun fact: Maxey loves Spiderman

When I asked Maxey to share something that not many folks knew about him, he said that he was a big Spiderman fan. He said that he likes Spiderman’s super-powers, his speed, agility and ability to get from Point A to Point B quickly.

Ironically (or maybe not), that also very accurately describes Maxey’s game on the court.

Not to mention that it seems like one fan is especially fired up about this development.

He has never played against fellow Kentucky commit Dontaie Allen, but knows Kahlil Whitney well

This one was shocker to me, but Maxey said that – as best as he knows – he’s never played against fellow Kentucky commit Dontaie Allen, who will also be on campus this weekend. I know that Allen came onto the scene as a big-time recruit a bit later in the process than most kids, but considering that most of the top players know each other from an early age, that was stunning.

On the other hand, Maxey also said that he’s known the third member of this recruiting class, Kahlil Whitney for years. Maxey described his future teammate’s game similar to his. “He’s a dog,” Maxey said. “That’s one of the reasons Coach Cal likes him. He competes defensively. He competes offensively.”

He is actively recruiting other players

Maxey was surprisingly open while discussing the other players he’s recruiting to Kentucky.

It sounds like he has the closest relationship with Scottie Lewis, and admitted that he talks to him “almost every day.” Considering that Lewis is down to just Florida and Kentucky that has to be a great sign for the Wildcats.

Maxey also said that he speaks with James Wiseman, Vernon Carey and Matthew Hurt regularly. He said that Wiseman is “hard to get a feel” for but that Carey has opened up to him more recently.

Maxey was also in the dark about Jaden McDaniels, who John Calipari recently had an in-home visit with.

Other odds and ends:

There are other odds and ends, but the most important one is this: He has Kentucky beating Mississippi State 31-28 on Saturday night at Kroger Field.

To listen to the full interview with Maxey, subscribe to the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.  You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  Don’t forget to follow the show Instagram too.


A brief look at the 2020 class with an asinine prediction

Photo by USA Basketball

It’s unclear how UK’s 2019 class will all shake out but it’s never too early to look ahead. Here’s a brief look at Kentucky’s 2020 targets and where things stand.

Top Targets:

Jalen Green: 6-foot-5, 170-pound guard from Fresno, Calif. Location won’t be UK’s friend for Green, but he’s their dream guard target in 2020. He’s an elite scorer and ranked No. 1 in the Rivals 2020 rankings. UK watched him this summer when he represented team USA in Argentina.

Scottie Barnes (offered): The 6-foot-8, 200-pound wing has one of the most impressive bodies I’ve seen from a high school player. I’m guessing he weighs more than 200 pounds, but he’s as long as a Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and is more attracted to contact in the paint. He’s ranked No. 4 in the Rivals150 and he’s one of two players to receive an offer from the Cats. Interestingly enough, he really wants to play with UK target Jeremy Roach.

R.J. Hampton: The No. 5 player in the Rivals150 will visit Kentucky for Big Blue Madness. He made news earlier this month by announcing he won’t reclassify to 2019. Memphis and Duke are the perceived leaders but don’t count out UK for the 6-foot-4, 180-pound point guard from Little Elm, Texas.

Jalen Johnson: Johnson actually visited UK for Big Blue Madness last season and the Cats would love to have him back on campus soon. UK appears to have struck gold with Wisconsin native Tyler Herro and they hope to do the same with Johnson. The 6-foot-7, 210-pound wing is ranked No. 6 in the Rivals150 and will almost certainly land an offer from the Cats.

N’Faly Dante (offered): If I had to guess a player that would reclassify to 2019 Dante would be my guess, although that seems far from the lock. The Mali native, now living in Kansas, is the second player in the class of 2020 that has an offer from Kentucky. The 6-foot-10, 225-pound center already has an NBA ready body and he will only become stronger and bigger. The Cats really like his game.

Jeremy Roach: Roach has already been on UK’s campus and will be back soon, but the Cats love Roach’s game. The 6-foot, 170-pound guard from Virginia is ranked No. 17 in the class of 2020 is a little smaller than normal Calipari guards, but he can score and dish.

Jalen Suggs: Kentucky is going to have to beat out all your typical college basketball bluebloods for the 6-foot-3, 180-pound guard from Minnesota, but also traditional football powers, too. He’s one of the best quarterbacks in the class of 2020. Will he play football? Basketball? Calipari hopes the latter. He’s ranked No. 18 in the class.

Isaiah Todd: The No. 16 ranked big from North Carolina doesn’t hold an offer from the Cats, but UK did visit the 6-foot-9, 190-pound power forward earlier this week. Kentucky hopes to have him on campus soon but no visit has officially been planned.

Keep an eye on:

Josh Christopher: I don’t know too much about the 6-foot-4, 200-pound shooting guard but it’s another west coast player that may be hard to bring across the country. He’s ranked No. 13 in the class of 2020 and has a body type that Calipari generally likes from his guards.

Hunter Dickinson: I believe UK visited Dickinson earlier this week (although I can’t confirm) and the Cats watched a lot of Dickinson this summer. A 7-foot-1 and 220-pounds Dickinson did more than hold his own against Vernon Carey and James Wiseman and played on the best AAU team on the Nike EYBL circuit. He was a big reason why. He reminds me a little of Stephen Zimmerman.

Cade Cunningham: UK has watched plenty of Cunningham and that won’t change over the next year. Cunningham is from Texas but plays for Montverde in Florida. The 6-foot-7, 215-pound wing will likely become a major UK target at some point.

Jaden Springer: The 6-foot-4, 184-pound shooting guard is from North Carolina but plays for IMG Academy in Florida. Springer has spoken highly about the Cats in the past but we’ll see if he ever becomes a top target for the Cats. He’s ranked No. 11 in the class of 2020.

 

 

Seems Unlikely:

Ace Baldwin: Baldwin is a really fun player and the Cats like his game, but he’s a little undersized and his competition is only gaining on him. He’s dropped in the rankings but it’s not impossible the Cats keep tabs on him. The 6-foot-1, 155-pound Baltimore native is currently ranked outside the top 100.

Jaemyn Brakefield: Brakefield has checked out UK’s campus several times and I think the Cats could land the 6-foot-8, 205-pound wing that plays for Huntington Prep but it appears UK prefers other wings in 2020. It’s strange how picky UK can be but right now Brakefield seems like a backup option.

Walker Kessler: Is Georgia the team to beat for Kessler? Tom Crean has already gone all out for the 7-foot, 220-pound center and he’s a legacy. Three members of his family played for the Bulldogs and it will be hard to get him out of the Peach State. He’s a top 10 player in 2020.

Xavier Foster: I don’t know too much and haven’t seen much of Foster, but I know nearly every Big Ten school is making the 6-foot-10, 210-pound forward a priority. The four-star target lives in Iowa and it seems unlikely he ends up in the SEC, although the Cats are interested.

My outlandish, almost certain to be wrong prediction:

Jalen Johnson

Jeremy Roach

Scottie Barnes

Isaiah Todd

Hutner Dickinson


Aaron Torres Sports Podcast Ep. 80: Future UK Point Guard Tyrese Maxey

After reaching No. 1 on the iTunes charts earlier this week (thanks to an appearance from Rick Pitino) the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast is back with special guest Tyrese Maxey, who joins the show just days before the point guard officially visits Kentucky. But first, Aaron welcomes his buddy Nick Coffey to discuss:
Who Should Be the Next Coach at Kentucky and Duke? On Wednesday, CBS Sports put out a list on who should be the next coach at Kentucky, and Aaron disagreed, so he put out his own list on KSR. Nick and Aaron go through the candidates – why Will Wade could be shaping up as a great hire down the road, and is Fred Hoiberg a better option in the NBA than Billy Donovan or Brad Stevens? Also Duke can’t possibly “keep it in the family” when Coach K retires, can they?
A Week 4 College Football Preview: Next, the guys review the biggest games of the college football weekend – Can Texas A&M keep things close against Alabama and can Mississippi State pull the upset against Kentucky? Also, Aaron and Nick give out their surprise picks of the weekend.
Next up, Aaron welcomes on Kentucky commit Tyrese Maxey to the show. Maxey is headed on his official visit to Kentucky this weekend and discusses the following with Aaron.
What He Is Expecting on His Visit to Lexington: Maxey discusses his plans for the trip down to Lexington this weekend. What does he hope to see, what is his relationship with fellow commits Kahlil Whitney and Dontaie Allen and what is his prediction for the Kentucky-Mississippi State football game?
Who is He Recruiting with Him To Kentucky: Maxey discusses the players he hopes will join him in Lexington. How would he fit in with Scottie Lewis in the backcourt? How he got Vernon Carey to open up recently? And what is his relationship with James Wiseman?
Finally, Maxey discusses his relationship with Kentucky’s NBA players like John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, and how Celtics guard Marcus Smart has helped him train this summer.

Get the podcast delivered directly to your phone by subscribing to the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast feed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.  You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play. Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  Don’t forget to follow the show Instagram too.


Hardly Committed E9: Scottie Lewis, Ben Roberts and Office Olympics

T.J. Walker is back for another exciting edition of Hardly Committed.  This week he’s joined by Ben Roberts from the Herald-Leader to talk about the various recruits that are visiting campus and hosting Kentucky’s coaching staff.  After taking your questions, Nick Roush joins T.J. in The Annex to talk about a classic episode of The Office, Office Olympics.  Highlights:

— Isaiah Todd, not a baseball player.

— The latest developments in Scottie Lewis’ recruitment are good for UK.

— Another Isaiah is in the picture, Isaiah Stewart.

— Will Coach Cal try to steal one from Chris Mack?

— Should Mark Stoops be given credit for an assist in the Scottie Lewis recruitment?

— A weird Google search.

— A new segment in The Annex: “Would this get you fired?”

Subscribe to Hardly Committed on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app to get the podcast delivered directly to your phone.  You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play, and streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.


Change of plans for UK recruiting

Change of plans for UK recruiting

KSR reported yesterday that Kentucky would visit UK commit Dontaie Allen today in Pendleton County, but there was a change of plans. UK was planning to see Isaiah Todd last week, but because of Hurricane Florence that in-home visit was moved to today and sources close to Allen tell KSR that the Cats will likely be by Thursday.

We haven’t heard too much about Todd, the 6-foot-9, 190-pound forward from Raleigh, N.C. He’s ranked as the No. 16 player in the class of 2020 and while he doesn’t yet have an offer from Kentucky, he does hold a plethora of offers including offers from Kansas, Baylor, Miami (Fla.), NC State, UCLA and Villanova.

UK has offered just Scottie Barnes and N’Faly Dante in the class of 2020. Generally John Calipari won’t offer players until the end of their junior seasons and sometimes not until their senior year, of course there are always a few exceptions.

We still have no idea what UK’s frontcourt in 2019-2020 will look like, so it’s impossible to predict the 2020-2021 frontcourt, but Todd seems like he would be a fun piece for the coach that lands him.