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Insider Notes: Is it time to panic?

Good afternoon, folks. This post has been edited a couple times today with the news this morning. If you missed it, James Wiseman will announce his college decision on Tuesday at noon on ESPN and Vernon Carey Jr., will cut his list to three at some point this week. It’s going to be a busy week, so let’s get to the notes.


I posted what I’ve heard on Wiseman in another post and weighed the pros and cons of Kentucky’s chances. You can read that HERE. I have no current update from that post and what I was going to post today before the news is how strangely quiet UK has been over the last week, and really the last few weeks. A quiet confidence? Probably wishful thinking as I’m not sure Wiseman’s family has broken any news to UK (positive or negative). Someone did bring up another hypothetical that I didn’t put in the post above, maybe Wiseman is committing to UK tomorrow to give Penny plenty of time to look for other targets, but that seems unlikely. Wiseman plays former UK commit DJ Jeffries later Tuesday evening. If that were the case Memphis’ staff wouldn’t have been pumping their chest for the last month. I had one 2019 recruit tell me Wiseman is going to Memphis, but he said it’s “an educated guess.”

I’ll be watching tomorrow but I’m not expecting any surprises.

Photo by FIBA


The best I have on Carey’s final three is that someone close to UK told me “anyone’s guess” which isn’t the bode of confidence UK fans were looking for in the recruiting world. I feel confident that Carey Jr. ends up at Michigan State or Duke (like most analysts). UK, UNC or Miami will get the last spot on that list, but folks on the AAU scene seem to believe that it would take something surprising for any of those three schools to overtake Carey’s top two.

I’m not ready to give up on UK’s chances of making the final three, but I haven’t heard anything to indicate it’s a lock. I’ll be anxiously awaiting like everyone else and it also seems like UK’s staff will be in the dark.

So, what’s next:

If Wiseman picks Memphis and Carey eliminates the Cats it’s going to be a blow and there’s no denying momentum is low for UK. However, no inside information, but Calipari will figure something out. Here are some options: UK still has other forward targets in 2019, we’ve been told that a grad-transfer is possible, keep an eye out on someone possibly reclassifying and I would almost guarantee that new names will emerge in 2019 and someone will decommit at some point in the next six months. A coach will get fired or something will happen.

But even though I believe UK will have viable bodies for next season this has still be a shocking development with bigs in 2019. Landing Wiseman, Carey or Stewart seemed like a must and there’s very little reason to believe any of the three will end up at UK. I would have never guessed that a couple months ago and always thought it was more likely that UK would end up with two of those players instead of none. I still think UK is the team to beat with Hurt, but as we’ve learn with the players above, being in the lead or near the lead months before a commitment doesn’t mean much (or anything). Hurt still hasn’t taken an official visit.

The troubling part is that UK wasn’t outworked in the Wiseman/Carey recruitments, especially Wiseman. Some schools have been recruiting Carey longer, but once UK started they’ve been recruiting him as hard as anyone. And while the Carey recruitment isn’t over it appears those two just weren’t buying what UK was selling. I’m guessing folks close to UK are as confused as you are as to what went wrong.

But UK will get bodies for next season. I’m not completely sold on E.J. Montgomery and Nick Richards leaving after this season. My guess as of today is that Montgomery will go, but he currently doesn’t have NBA teams salivating in what will be a loaded draft.

Photo via Endless Motor


He officially visited UCLA over the weekend and that was his last official. He’s checked out his final five: Washington, UK, Texas, San Diego State and UCLA. How quiet the family has kept this recruitment has been pretty amazing. For nearly every official visit the media didn’t find out about the visit until a few days before. So, I have no idea when he plans on making a final decision or if he maybe will surprise everyone and sign in the next few days.

My guess is he won’t, but I’m not sure.

The only new piece of info/scuttlebutt I heard (from the AAU side of things) is that the dad likes UK/Washington, but others close to McDaniels would like to see him go to San Diego State where his brother currently stars. His brother is likely heading to the NBA Draft after this season, so it’s unlikely you’d see the two play together, but there seems to be a sense of keeping the McDaniels pipeline alive at SDSU. That same person also didn’t seem to love UK’s chances because McDaniels is a quiet kid and the lights may be too bright at Kentucky. I can confirm that McDaniels is a quiet kid but that’s the first I’ve heard that it could hurt UK’s chances.

We did report the near fight between McDaniels and UK commit Kahlil Whitney over the summer. I have zero inside info (as a matter of fact someone close to Whitney said there’s no truth to it) but I did wonder if Whitney refused to sign because UK is heavy with McDaniels. I doubt that to be the case, but if you’re looking for conspiracies there you go. I’d be completely shocked if Whitney didn’t end up at UK regardless of who Kentucky brings in at the wing or forward position.

And sadly that’s all I have for this week. I wish there was more but people have been mostly quiet during the signing period and I’m guessing UK’s taking a wait-and-see approach with how things shake out this week, but if the worst case scenario happens I’d be a little surprised if they didn’t try and reach out to some new names. If the Cats could land Hurt and another wing/forward, they would be fine for 2019-2020. You would still need a bruising center (grad-transfer) or Nick Richards to return, but a frontcourt like that would be serviceable enough to make a Final Four and compete for title. But the margin for error is razor thin.




Article written by TJ Walker

60 Comments for Insider Notes: Is it time to panic?

  1. Bigblue7982
    2:07 pm November 19, 2018 Permalink

    Ummm no no it’s not.

    • Booby Petrino
      2:19 pm November 19, 2018 Permalink

      Definitely not panic time. Funny, the ones who are complaining about not getting the ‘best of the best’ are the ones who are sick of the one and dones. Can’t have it both ways, either we miss on the best of the best and have some carryovers on the next years, or we get top recruits who are gone after one season.

    • sp
      3:22 pm November 19, 2018 Permalink

      Problem is Cal has been regulated to getting the second tier players who think they are one and done but aren’t. There’s not a single legit pro ready player on this team but we will lose at least six guys to the draft.

    • BPatte
      8:50 am November 20, 2018 Permalink

      You nailed it!

    • Wade
      8:54 am November 20, 2018 Permalink

      No we won’t

    • Kernel Sanders
      2:43 pm November 19, 2018 Permalink

      I’m not in panic mode, but I think the issue is that Cal is missing on the “best of the best”, but the recruits he is signing still leave after one year. So we are missing the one and done talent needed to compete for an NCAA banner, but they still leave early and we start from scratch again the next year.

    • trumpetguy
      2:23 am November 20, 2018 Permalink

      Might do well to use Bubba Parham’s mothers comments on Twitter as a recruiting tool. She was very complimentary of UK fans and thoroughly enjoyed her visit to Rupp Arena. See it here on KSR Twitter section

  2. UKantstopus
    2:13 pm November 19, 2018 Permalink

    I would not say I’m panicking but I do feel there may need to be a hire with recruiting as the focus… beyond Coach O I’m not sure who would be a good fit but would like to hear of some options

  3. Headhurts
    2:19 pm November 19, 2018 Permalink

    Hope there are a couple good grad transfers out there, or maybe a 3-4 yr guy, either way we need someone else to help recruit.

  4. comeonblue
    2:20 pm November 19, 2018 Permalink

    With the changing landscape in college basketball, this can be viewed as a good thing. It’s time to see if Cal can actually coach. Players with one and done talent that can get wins are few and far between, and may be obsolete after FBI investigations are over. Since we seem to be struggling to get top recruits for whatever reason, let’s focus on players Cal can develop.

    • mashburnfan1
      4:40 pm November 19, 2018 Permalink

      Already know Cal can’t coach. Is another reason we are losing the top guys. And why are we asking if Richards comes back. What has he shown to be ready for the NBA other than he is tall.

  5. lexcatfan2367
    2:26 pm November 19, 2018 Permalink

    No, but it must be time for clickbait.

    • 4everUKblue
      3:48 pm November 19, 2018 Permalink

      TJ’s is 99% click bait, very rarely anything worth reading.

  6. davis2319
    2:42 pm November 19, 2018 Permalink

    I don’t honestly care about us being a one and done school. However, if we are going to do it that way, we better get one and done talent. Right now, we aren’t getting it. That’s why we are stockpiling a bunch of solid players, but no star.

  7. davis2319
    2:43 pm November 19, 2018 Permalink

    Considering we aren’t getting any of the names you mentioned in this piece, might be time to at least become aware of the situation but not full fledge panic mode.

  8. Han
    3:02 pm November 19, 2018 Permalink

    I will point out that when people were panicking about not getting Williamson and Barrett, some people around here said it was ok because we were all in on Wiseman and we were definitely getting him. Not good if we keep missing on the very top recruits even after Duke lost their bag man.

    It’s not the end of the world to miss on the top guys, but we haven’t had a top of the draft guy since Towns, and Cal’s system’s reliance on freshmen leadership means we really do need those top, alpha-type recruits.

  9. Wade
    3:15 pm November 19, 2018 Permalink

    I seem to think cals coaching and stubbornness may be the problem! It’s not everyday you find a zion or RJ Barrett and they seem to all like playing with each other. Wish we could have pulled zion or reddish away! but we will see if cal has any magic or he’s just a recruiter and rolls out the ball and relys just on athleticism!

  10. Jiminy Crickets
    3:23 pm November 19, 2018 Permalink

    I said it last year when we lost the top 3 recruits we went after (all to duke) that the U19 Team USA experience MURDERED Calipari on the recruiting trail. Perceived leaders for several top 10 kids, after that loss (first in 12 years) Romeo Langford, BolBol, Cam Reddish, all quickly moved past UK, and the “lock” talk around Zion changed. The “UK will get you to league” is losing its appeal, and the Calipari can’t win with top talent is the new way of recruiting against UK.

    • BigBlue4Three
      3:52 pm November 19, 2018 Permalink

      ^^^^ This ^^^^

      Cal DEFINITELY can’t win without top talent. And much like his excuse after crapping the bed against Duke, I think his ego is turning top kids away from UK. The “UK isn’t for everyone” schtick is getting old. Maybe UK should be for everyone and quit trying to pretend it is THE elite program.

    • mashburnfan1
      4:48 pm November 19, 2018 Permalink

      Elite programs win titles, not focus on how many they put in the NBA ready or not. We have not been elite for a while. And I agree with Crickets, Cal was exposed {although I said it when he was hired} that he is not a good coach. Great recruiter but average coach.

    • Wade
      9:04 am November 20, 2018 Permalink

      We’re 2nd most in titles and cal will win one more it’s just time for us to move past one and don’ts and build a team that consistently has seniors and juniors with a couple one and done talents each year. I think he is going to be forced into that anyway so it seems! It’s not easy to do bc shais happen that work their way out and you can’t pass on super talents I mean cal is a recruiter and not a developer but it’s time to change that!we have great coaches maybe we need to change that up a bit also idk! people just want to go whether nba or collect a check but uk needs to stop the new faces each year and have some kids that want to be rockstars for Kentucky! Like some Kentucky kids.! All those bench players that we’ve had should have been ky kids with a chance to be here 4 4 years and get a chance! We have talent in the state! We let a lot go that are playing well elsewhere! Those guys are sometimes the soul of the team you don’t always see it but you feel it! Go cats!

    • notFromhere
      5:35 pm November 19, 2018 Permalink

      Agree- with Both of you

    • notFromhere
      5:36 pm November 19, 2018 Permalink

      Jiminy and BB43

  11. Jiminy Crickets
    3:30 pm November 19, 2018 Permalink

    Believe what you want, but UK $hitting the bed against Duke hurt us more in recruiting than most want to admit. The knock on the recruiting trail is he can’t win with OADs, going out there and getting blasted followed up by 3 straight sub-par games has a lot of kids (and fans) questioning Cals ability to actually coach.

    • 4everUKblue
      3:49 pm November 19, 2018 Permalink

      K pays we don’t.

    • Jiminy Crickets
      10:28 am November 20, 2018 Permalink

      Ahh every school in America cheats the system, don’t be fooled by your fandom. WWW left Cal and went to K. Now “K pays” but when he was here we didn’t?? Come on.

    • Jiminy Crickets
      10:30 am November 20, 2018 Permalink

      I guess Penny is paying now too. Is Whitney going to sign, or is it coincidence we’re still recruiting Brooks?

    • BigolBlue
      11:29 am November 20, 2018 Permalink

      4 ever tells himself this. Cal as coach is old

  12. binarysolo
    3:41 pm November 19, 2018 Permalink

    I don’t think it’s so much Cal losing his touch, but that UK is no longer the hot name in town for one-and-dones. The Duke brand is very sexy, and you got guys like Markelle Fultz and Trae Young going to non-powers and still getting drafted high.

    The question is, will Cal adapt his “I prefer talent over experience” mantra moving forward now that he’s not getting the top-tier talent? When you hang your hat on overwhelming the opponent with youthful talent, and you are no longer getting said talent, you gotta change your approach … right?

    • notFromhere
      4:42 pm November 19, 2018 Permalink

      When Cal abandoned the platoon system after riding it to much success with a STACKED roster, and lost in the tourney with that roster, the veil was pulled back a bit. He blew it and recruiting has shown the results.

      For as much as he says it’s about the players, it’s about Cal just as much. He won’t change style of play to suit the talent available, if he even IS able to, so it’s not really about them.

      If it was about them, he’d coach and play different individuals and teams differently. If it was about UK and players “wanting to be here,” he’d be recruiting some good to great kids that have always been UK fans. How many times do we hear about such kids that were huge fans of UK and never had contact from the staff?

  13. StuckinLville
    3:43 pm November 19, 2018 Permalink

    I’m sorry but Cal keeps missing out on the majority of his top targets. What’s the deal? Is it the staff? Or does Cal need to be more involved, involved early, and change his pitch? For a coach with his track record with bigs, it’s astonishing to me he’s going to miss out again.

    • RAGE
      6:18 pm November 19, 2018 Permalink

      I agree with you StuckinLville… I ain’t in panic mode per se but I am very concerned… Why are we missing on so many of our top targets… I understand losing some here and there but things have changed in the last couple of years and now I feel like we are struggling closing out recruits….

  14. 4everUKblue
    3:51 pm November 19, 2018 Permalink

    Cal is too honest, has too much integrity to stoop to the levels of K, Self, Penny, etc.

    • BigolBlue
      11:30 am November 20, 2018 Permalink

      Yep. So when he was getting all the guys was he paying?? By your theories he was

  15. Shagaris Sock Puppet
    3:53 pm November 19, 2018 Permalink

    Panic no.. lower expectations? Should have known this! We do this almost every year. Last year we thought the same thing and took a ton of losses early we shouldn’t have. It’s what we do when we don’t have an Anthony Davis, Karl towns or a John Wall. Even with fox and monk who were amazing, we lost to UCLA at home and should have beat them. Well we did when it counted and we found out we got better as the year went on.

  16. notFromhere
    4:24 pm November 19, 2018 Permalink

    Some vocal UK fans are always in panic or pride mode. It would be a great thing for them to be optimistic and level-headed

  17. notFromhere
    4:32 pm November 19, 2018 Permalink

    Players want their coaching to be well-rounded. They want to fit in with the coach and team. They want the opportunity to come back even if their draft stock is high. They want to be given the chance to start based on how good they are and not whether or not they are a star freshman or compete against one on the same team.

    Cal wants to basically start from scratch every year at at least 2-3 positions. He pours the freshmen into playing time that they dont have to earn, so that time doesnt go to developing a team that includes 2nd or 3rd year players until much later in the season.

    If you know you’re leaving in one year, you’ll like some of that last bit. More and more are not sold on that every year now. UK will get talent, but how much will be all over the place. Nothing has changed

  18. mothandras
    4:35 pm November 19, 2018 Permalink

    Folks get ready for 2-4 years of Tubby Ball. We will get 1-2 4/5 recruits a season, win 20+ games, and make it to the sweet sixteen/elite eight. Cal is off his recruiting game, losing players to Memphis is going to be the straw that broke the camels back.

  19. Matt10
    5:07 pm November 19, 2018 Permalink

    It’s not a feeling based on facts but the first time I saw Vernon Carey I thought, man, he looks just like the type of kid to play at Michigan State.

    • notFromhere
      5:42 pm November 19, 2018 Permalink

      You are not alone in that. There is something to be said about that. I was surprised we landed certain kids that we did here and there, because they seemed so different than those on the team and the ones in their class. Dodson was one and there were others.

  20. Brad
    5:14 pm November 19, 2018 Permalink

    Yall are nuts! Yes Duke has been out recruiting us the last 2 years… other than that we have been ahead or right there in rankings. Problem is since fox and monk we havent gotten the guy. The AD, nerlens, cousins, wall etc. With that being said maxey and Whitney will be studs. Was counting on wiseman that stings a bit. But that’s the business. We need rim protector. I think ej Montgomery become that for us this season.

    5:29 pm November 19, 2018 Permalink

    Something is wrong and needs fixed we are missing the guys that should be ours. It is time to fix it for 2020 now. We are going to be thin next year as well. The dreams if catching UCKA in titles is slipping Everytime we loose out on a top recruit. I am in panic mode cause who is even out there worth a flip now we are not Landing Wiseman,Carey, Stewart, plus Whittney not sign is cause for concern as well. We are loosing more recruits then getting any.

  22. kybirdieman
    6:34 pm November 19, 2018 Permalink

    Cal hasn’t got the elites since Orlando left. We are getting second choice players now and it shows.

  23. ziplock
    6:54 pm November 19, 2018 Permalink

    We’ve already offered Zeke Nnaji and Kofi Cockburn would be good too. We don’t need to pay

  24. VirginiaCat
    8:35 pm November 19, 2018 Permalink

    It may be time to face facts. Cal is no longer getting the alpha-type players, the ones that can dominate and change the course of a game. That has been abundantly clear in recent years. We still get “good” players, but Cal doesn’t know how to develop them and help them reach their potential as a team. Kentucky basketball under Cal is perpetually a work in progress. The only one who can change the dynamic is Cal, but he doesn’t seem to know how. He often looks to be as lost as his teams. Yes, this is a harsh assessment, but I believe a fair one. I like Cal and appreciate what he was able to accomplish during his prime, but the bloom is off the rose. Time to contemplate a new direction for the program.

  25. Leander Wapshot
    10:15 pm November 19, 2018 Permalink

    Well, at least I guess we can say Ky doesn’t cheat.

  26. DelrayCat
    2:14 am November 20, 2018 Permalink

    This year will be different (I hope). We believe we will have nearly all these guys come back next year, and I think UK begins to function like a normal college program. If Cal can sprinkle in 1-2 one-year-wonders each year…that should be sufficient. But this constant churn of 5-6 new guys every year is clearly taking its toll…not only in winning, but in fan patience and loyalty to the team. All this whining and complaining isn’t doing the program any good. Cal is one of the all time greatest…even with his flaws. Enjoy it…it could be a lot worse.

    • WatchutalkinboutWillis
      5:52 am November 20, 2018 Permalink

      I agree with you totally. Im still very optimistic about this year. But if we flame out in the tourney this year it may in fact be time to panic (as much as one should over something that has no real bearing on their lives).

  27. BluKudzu
    4:50 am November 20, 2018 Permalink

    It was fun while it lasted though.

  28. WatchutalkinboutWillis
    5:48 am November 20, 2018 Permalink

    Don’t count on Richards to stay. Only one five star recruit for Cal has stayed past two years and that was Poythress. Panic? No. Come to a realization that unless we win it all again we aren’t getting the top five talent anymore? Yes. Losing to Wisconsin killed us. We would have creamed Duke and the one and done recruiting momentum would have stayed with us.

  29. CoolStoryBro
    6:58 am November 20, 2018 Permalink

    In terms of talent we’re Memphis pre-Derrick Rose. Cal had gaudy records playing soft schedules but was usually done in the NCAAs by the 2nd weekend.

    We’re not going to do much with 4 year guys only staying 1-2 years. Last year was a whole lot of meh and this year will be the same. Not much to look forward to for next season either judging by our results on the recruiting front.

  30. dbake
    8:40 am November 20, 2018 Permalink

    Its frustrating. I like coach Cal. He is doing what he has always done. That’s where it’s tricky why aren’t we getting the Walls, Cousins, Davis, Randles, Towns, anymore. We’re getting the 2nd and 3rd best one and done players. Now if we are truly running a one and done program. You can’t get those players and win a ton of games. Never will it happen. Now why aren’t we getting them anymore? My opinion no recruiters. Joel Justice….i mean really what’s his pitch? Hey guys I played at Elon…I coached a couple high school teams???? Nothing like Rod Strickland had…nothing like Coach O had….what ever the reason we gotta get it figured out….either go TRUE one and done….or find 3 and 4 year players…because with what we have we will be 2nd to 3rd round every year

  31. ScratchtheMascot
    8:40 am November 20, 2018 Permalink

    Cal needs to learn 3 words if he wants elite talent to stay: “You’re not ready.” It seems like he’s lost a lot of players that were truly undecided because he didn’t say those words. It’s ok to tell them that they have things they need to work on. They will still make it out and make millions the next year.

  32. BPatte
    8:49 am November 20, 2018 Permalink

    Not panic time but personally I am very worried about our recruiting. Seems we are unable to get the top talent the last couple years! Something is very wrong?????

  33. StuckinLville
    9:08 am November 20, 2018 Permalink

    The fact Whitney isnt signing in this period gives you an idea. There’s a reason for it. Maybe it has something to do with Cal constantly being out coached and having done nothing in the tournament for a few years now.

  34. bigblue2284
    9:11 am November 20, 2018 Permalink

    Duke is playing a fun attractive style of basketball, UK isn’t. As much as I hate to say it I’m bored stiff watching UK and enjoy watching the style of play Duke enacts. Recruits notice this as well and I will say the team in the Bahamas played closer to that style, Cal has as he always does clamped down and broken the chemistry of the offense. Seems to me Cal is getting guys who are hoping to be one and done vs getting sure fire one and done players, thats the difference in the talent level I’m seeing.

  35. michaelb
    9:28 am November 20, 2018 Permalink

    It seems like our recruits fear the proverbial “log jam” issue , but seems like no other team has this issue . I don’t really like the state of our recruiting front. Doesn’t feel good .

  36. michaelb
    9:39 am November 20, 2018 Permalink

    This silly title of this entry . Jesus , click bait comment & poaching much ? Lol

  37. Kat4Life
    9:45 am November 20, 2018 Permalink

    Hey… is something to brighten your day….based on what I see we will enjoy the services of Junior Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery next year.