As we dive into the summer recruiting season, it’s time to brush up on Kentucky’s 2016 prospects. The Cats have handed out 17 offers in the 2016 class and three of those players have committed elsewhere: Omari Spellman to Villanova, LaGerald Vick to Kansas, and Tyus Battle to Michigan. Tai Wynyard is currently the lone commit in Kentucky’s 2016 class, but I have a feeling he’ll be joined by a few others by the end of the summer.
We’re hearing Kentucky has a handful of players they’re really after this summer. Here are those five players, with some insight from 247 Sports Director of Basketball Scouting Jerry Meyer.
(Note: I did not include Jamal Murray on this list because recent reports suggest he will definitely reclassify to 2015. If you don’t know all about Murray by now, please turn in your free KSR membership card.)
The 5 Kentucky REALLY wants
6’5″, 177 lbs.
Alpharetta, Ga. (Saint Francis High School)
247Sports Composite: No. 8 overall, No. 1 CG
247Sports: No. 16 overall, No. 3 CG
Rivals: No. 12 overall
ESPN: No. 5 overall, No. 2 PG
Leaders: Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, Syracuse, Missouri, Ohio State
Last month, Derryck Thornton reclassified to 2015 and committed to Duke, making Kobi Simmons the new priority for Kentucky at point guard. Simmons got an offer from UK in mid-April and was so excited he had to call Calipari back to make sure it was real. He plans to make a decision towards the end of the summer.
Jerry Meyer on UK’s chances with Simmons: “I’d say Kentucky is in the best position with Kobi Simmons. It has always been the buzz that he coveted a Kentucky offer and he has that now. Coach Calipari and crew, though, will have plenty of competition from UNC, Ohio State and others for his services.”
6’6″, 200 lbs.
Madison, AL (Madison Academy)
247Sports Composite: No. 14 overall, No. 3 CG
247Sports: No. 14 overall, No. 2 CG
Rivals: No. 17 overall
ESPN: No. 13 overall, No. 3 SG
Leaders: Michigan, Michigan State, Arizona, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Auburn, Arizona, Florida and others
Langford also got an offer from Kentucky in mid-April after a visit from John Calipari. He took an unofficial visit to Lexington in early March. He’s a big, strong wing who finishes well at the basket and is considered one of the most complete scorers in the class. He shares the backcourt with Kobi Simmons on the Atlantic Celtics AAU team.
Jerry Meyer on UK’s chances with Langford: “Josh Langford is also a possibility for Kentucky. I just don’t expect he and Simmons to play together in college, but that is just my feeling. The Michigan schools are strong with Langford and Arizona is coming on as well.”
6’10”, 230 lbs.
Winston-Salem, N.C. (Wesleyan Christian Academy)
247Sports Composite: No. 1 overall, No. 1 PF
247Sports: No. 2 overall, No. 1 PF
Rivals: No. 2 overall
ESPN: No. 2 overall, No. 1 PF
Leaders: Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky, Ohio State, Syracuse, UNLV, Wake Forest
Prying Giles from his home state of North Carolina will be tough, but Kentucky’s trying. Duke and North Carolina are considered his leaders, but Calipari has done his best to make a good impression. Giles was the second member of the 2016 class to get an offer from Kentucky and one of the first to get an in-home visit from Calipari in the spring recruiting period. Giles played in last month’s EYBL event in Lexington and Calipari didn’t miss any of his games.
Jerry Meyer on UK’s chances with Giles: “Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles are generally considered Duke’s to lose and I’m of that opinion as well. I’d be surprised if the Wildcats pull either of these two to Lexington.”
6’8″, 190 lbs.
St. Louis, Mo. (Chaminade College Prep)
247Sports Composite: No. 3 overall, No. 1 SF
247Sports: No. 8 overall, No. 2 SF
Rivals: No. 3 overall
ESPN: No. 1 overall, No. 1 SF
Final list: Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina and Saint Louis
Tatum was the first member of the 2016 class to get an offer from Kentucky, and the Cats are in his final four. Duke is considered his leader, but there’s been a lot of buzz he’ll stay home and play for St. Louis, something his father, a SLU alum, encouraged in a recent article in Sports Illustrated:
“Be a trendsetter,” Justin says. “You don’t have to go on this road because it was made for Shane Battier or Grant Hill. You can do what they did–at home.”
All of that being said, UK’s track record of sending players to the NBA appeals to Tatum, and seven more Cats heading to the Draft next month can’t hurt.
Jerry Meyer on UK’s chances with Tatum: “Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles are generally considered Duke’s to lose and I’m of that opinion as well. I’d be surprised if the Wildcats pull either of these two to Lexington.”
6’3″, 170 lbs.
Bentonville, Ark. (Bentonville High School)
247Sports Composite: No. 5 overall, No. 2 SG
247Sports: No. 3 overall, No. 2 SG
Rivals: No. 7 overall
ESPN: No. 6 overall, No. 1 SG
Leaders: Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina
Monk made a big jump in the latest recruiting rankings after strong performances in the recent EYBL events, including the one at KBA last month. Monk scored 39 points in front of John Calipari, backing up talk that he may be the best scorer in the class.
Kentucky and Arkansas are considered his leaders. His brother Marcus played both football and basketball for the Razorbacks, but if anyone can get Monk out of his home state, it’s John Calipari.
Jerry Meyer on UK’s chances with Monk: “Malik Monk looks to be a battle between Kentucky and in-state school Arkansas, where his brother Marcus Monk starred. Kansas is also a factor in this recruitment.”
3 more to keep an eye on…
6’10”, 280 lbs.
Jacksonville, Fla. (Potter’s House Christian)
247Sports Composite: No. 13 overall, No. 1 C
247Sports: No. 9 overall, No. 1 C
Rivals: No. 13 overall
ESPN: No. 10 overall, No. 1 C
Leaders: Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Florida, Florida State, Georgetown, Maryland, Wake Forest
Calipari, the UK staff, and some of the returning players watched Azubuike play at the EYBL event at KBA last month. With great size, length, athletic ability, mobility and coordination, Azubuike has drawn comparisons to a young Shaquille O’Neal.
6’7″, 179 lbs.
Fairfax, Va. (Paul VI High School)
247Sports Composite: No. 15 overall, No. 2 SF
247Sports: No. 19 overall, No. 3 SF
Rivals: No. 11 overall
ESPN: No. 18 overall, No. 4 SF
Leaders: Louisville, Kentucky, UConn, Virginia, Arizona
The Dirty Birds are the favorite for King, who took an official visit to Louisville last week. King is close with UofL assistant coach Kenny Johnson, formerly of the staff at King’s Paul VI High School in Virginia. He’s visiting UConn this weekend and plans to take more visits in the future, hopefully to Kentucky.
Shooting Guard/Small Forward
6’6″, 184 lbs.
Napa, Ca. (Prolific Prep)
247Sports Composite: No. 2 overall, No. 1 SG
247Sports: No. 1 overall, No. 1 SG
Rivals: No. 1 overall
ESPN: No. 3 overall, No. 2 SF
Leaders: Michigan State, Duke, North Carolina, N.C. State, Louisville, Kansas, Kentucky, UCLA, Arizona, Auburn
Jackson still doesn’t have a (reported) offer from Kentucky, but it’s only a matter of time. The California shooting guard is now considered the best player in the 2016 class by 247 Sports and Rivals after an impressive spring circuit, which included a 41-point performance in the UAA II in Louisville. He’s a neat kid–a chess whiz whose mother, Apples Jones (for real), was a basketball star in the military. That alone makes me want Cal to give him an offer right now.