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Insider Notes: Keion Brooks visits, UK misses on Oscar Tshiebwe and a Matthew Hurt theory

(Photo: Lopez/Nike)

(Photo: Lopez/Nike)

Happy Monday, folks! I hope you all had a great weekend because today’s Monday Insider Notes may not be the most optimistic we’ve had here at KSR. It’s not overly negative but as crunch time rolls around the Cats are still scratching at options for the frontcourt. Keion Brooks visited over the weekend, so we’ll lead with that, but also info on Oscar Tshiebwe picking West Virginia, James Wiseman visiting Florida State and Vernon Carey checking out Duke.

Let’s get to it.

Brooks shouldn’t rush:

Hoosier native Keion Brooks Jr. checked out Lexington over the weekend and it went… you guessed it! Well! (drink). There was surprisingly some minor momentum for UK with Brooks heading into the visit as ESPN’s Jeff Borzello thought the Cats had the best chances with Brooks. I’ve said for a few weeks I thought Indiana is the leader and sadly nothing I’ve heard initially from the official visit is making me change my mind. I don’t believe the Cats are the team to beat in this recruitment, but supposedly the family was impressed with UK’s plan to get Brooks to the NBA “sooner and more prepared than other schools”.

That’s one advantage UK has in a lot of recruitments that is pretty tough for nearly any other college to top. If a player really, really cares about the NBA, then UK’s pitch resonates and can be a deciding factor for those kids. Every kid cares about the NBA and they’d be lying if they say otherwise, but some don’t allow their NBA dreams to dictate their recruitments. Some do. I’m unsure just how important that pitch is for Brooks and his family, and hopefully we’ll find out more over time, but if Brooks picks UK it will probably be because of the NBA pitch. UK has also done an underrated job building relationships with Brooks and his family. I still think being a “priority” for nearly every other school on his list will win out, especially the Hoosiers, but if I’m a Kentucky fan I’m rooting for this recruitment to go long. He will officially visit UNC (Nov. 2) and Michigan State (Nov. 16) and it’s unclear if he will rush a decision shortly after those visits or if he will wait until the spring.

As of today I’m not picking the Cats to be the landing spot, but if he waits and watches how the rosters shakeout the Cats may have a better chance in a couple months.

Wiseman visits FSU:

James Wiseman finished his official visit to Florida State over the weekend. For a couple weeks I’ve felt that Florida State is third in his recruitment and if he shocked the world and didn’t end up at UK or Memphis it would FSU. Nothing I’ve heard over the weekend is making me change my mind but if I want to listen to one of the my Nike EYBL guys then I should believe that FSU is a very serious contender. I’ve been saying for months and months that it’s between UK and Memphis but there is a serious FSU buzz and it’s been there going back to the in-home visits. I’m stubborn so I’m not backing off my Memphis/UK or bust prediction (sorry EYBL guy). I’ll eat crow if I’m wrong but despite the Seminoles making an impression this weekend I still lean towards UK slightly ahead of Memphis.

We have to remember that Wiseman himself probably doesn’t “know” where he wants to go. I think deep down he probably knows it will be Memphis or UK, but it’s my opinion that he truly believes that every school has a chance and he probably doesn’t like everyone dismissing the other schools on his list. I said in the summer that Wiseman seemed so annoyed with the “he’s going to go to UK or Memphis” narrative that I thought he may purposely try to show other schools more love. I think that’s what he’s been doing on some of his other visits.

He will officially visit Memphis this weekend and that’s it for official visits. The plan is for a November or December decision. Wiseman isn’t planning on signing in the fall, but he wants to get his decision over with sooner than later. The news where he backed off the spring decision definitely favored Memphis, but people I talk with close to UK are still liking their chances so I like the Cats’ chances, too.

And while we may be a month or two away from a decision there will be plenty of drama over the next several weeks.

The Duke buzz is back:

Ugh. For a long time in Vernon Carey’s recruitment the Blue Devils had the most buzz. Everyone knew that a decision was a ways away and other schools would rise and fall depending on the momentum, but Duke is back to having most of the buzz according to AAU folks I talk with. The visit went really, really well (drink) and while as of today I’m still leaning towards UK, I don’t feel nearly as confident as I did. The reason I’m not backing off UK right now is because I know how high emotions can run after official visits, but I’m officially nervous about Duke again after things were quiet with the Blue Devils for a few weeks. UK fans are freaking out about the Cats’ 2019 class, but Duke fans are really panicking. Kentucky is running out of options and Duke doesn’t have too many options left on the table, too.

I do think this will be another Duke vs. UK battle, but he also has officials to Miami this weekend and North Carolina the following week. Another area where I’m a little concerned is supposedly Carey is set on a fall decision and this was made clear to me last night while he was fresh off the Duke visit. Connecting the dots can be concerning in that situation, but at least Carey has said even before the Duke visit that he will look at a fall decision.

Supposedly Miami and Michigan State still feel like they have a good chance to land Carey. Carey has said he wants to play with another elite big and mentioned James Wiseman and Isaiah Stewart. If it were Wiseman it’d be UK. If it were Stewart it’d be MSU. It will be wild seeing how all of this plays out, but UK is pitching both Wiseman and Carey playing together. I think Carey is slightly more open to the idea, but Wiseman supposedly isn’t against it.

As for Stewart, I hinted at it last week but it wasn’t a good fit for UK and both parties have moved on. Maybe there’s a change of thought and things pick back up, but I highly doubt it.

Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

UK finished 2nd:

Not that it matters, but UK was the runner-up in Tshiebwe’s recruitment. I know there were some Illinois insiders that said it was between West Virginia and Illinois, but that wasn’t the case. It was truly between UK and WVU and I still believe Tshiebwe himself slightly preferred UK while nearly everyone else around him were strongly pushing the Mountaineers. But, I know that Tshiebwe really liked WVU, so to say he maybe slightly leaned UK doesn’t really mean too much. It was no secret that his host parents were strongly pushing WVU and maybe that’s what won out, but WVU had been recruiting Tshiebwe for years and in a head vs. heart decision, the heart won.

UK did a good job in this recruitment but just weren’t recruiting him long enough to win out. And before we get into a “Cal should offer guys earlier” debate, Tshiebwe blew-up over the summer and UK moved quickly once he showcased himself as a great big.

I think besides the host family, Tshiebwe had some minor concerns about not being the guy on UK’s frontline. There were folks telling him he would come off the bench and maybe not play as much as he would at WVU and I think that mattered to him. I remember someone I spoke with that knew his recruitment better than I do and right after his official visit to UK I asked how things went and he said “Really, really good (drink), but they seem to be in a really good spot with (other centers).” That was a negative for Tshiebwe in my opinion.

Scott Jacobson / Post Bulletin

Is something going on here:

I have no current or new inside information on Matthew Hurt’s recruitment, but I’ve been covering recruiting in some capacity since 2011 and have witnessed pretty much every type of recruitment. There are some recruitments where it’s clear UK leads the entire time, there’s some where UK swoops in late and lands a kid, but there have been a few rare commitments where there’s not a lot of UK buzz but the Cats win out in the end. It seems like in those recruitments the kid says “I’ve always loved UK” or some quote that would lead us to believe that UK was the team to beat throughout the recruitment and everyone just missed.

I’m starting to wonder if that is what’s going on here with Hurt. UK is running out of big options and Calipari is no dummy. Does Calipari know something about Hurt’s recruitment that we don’t know? Someone close to UK did tell me they’ve been recruiting Hurt as hard as anyone else in the class. UK is still looking at Jaden McDaniels and Brooks as wing options, but it’s really Hurt, Carey and Wiseman left on the frontline. With Bill Self and Kansas dealing with potential major NCAA violations I’m not so sure the Jayhawks are the leader anymore. Hurt seems like a smart kid and I respect the way they’re running their recruitment, there’s just no way you can look at UK’s frontcourt situation and not see the potential to shine.

No inside info, but something seems fishy in that recruitment and I think it may be good news for UK.

Quick Hitters:

  • Look for UK to get involved with 2020 five-star guard Kyree Walker, who recently backed off his Arizona State pledge.
  • I’m told if UK needs to add another grad-transfer for 2019-2020 they will, but Calipari doesn’t want to take a grad-transfer from a mid-major (reading between the lines I think he would if he had to).
  • Zion Harmon is still ineligible to play KHSAA and I don’t think that’s going to change, sadly.
  • I still think we have a reclassifcation from the 2020 class. I don’t have any specific names (Dante was mentioned earlier this summer but haven’t heard his name in a bit), but I’m also curious if a guard could potentially jump classes, too. I’ve always just assumed bigs for UK. It could be a guard, or it could be both.


Article written by TJ Walker

2 Comments for Insider Notes: Keion Brooks visits, UK misses on Oscar Tshiebwe and a Matthew Hurt theory

    2:11 pm October 22, 2018 Permalink

    Why is this under “Football” ?? (???)

    • UK-Basketball-Freak
      4:51 pm October 22, 2018 Permalink

      Just sharing here and I am by no means an insider for anything…. I live in South Florida and my neighbor works with Carey’s father. We were hanging out at our club pool Sunday with our kids. He said didn’t you go to UK? I said yes, my wife and I both did. He said have you heard of Vernon Carey? I said of course.

      He went on to tell me he works with his dad and he had no idea that he was the number one BB recruit in 2019. He said he has meet him a few times and that he is HUGE. His dad has been telling him that his son is being recruited by all of these big schools: Duke, Michigan State, Miami and Kentucky are the ones he mentioned.

      He said that his dad really wants him to go to Duke but that Vernon wants to go to Kentucky. He seemed to believe based off the many conversations hes had with him that its up to Vernon and that he had already made up his mind where he wants to go. He did also say that Vernon wanted to see where all the other top players ended up before making his final decision.

      My neighbor went to Florida State and this conversation was very casual. Obviously anything can happen, but he would have zero reason to make something like that up, let alone bring it up.

      I guess we will see!