While the football Cats look to move to 5-0 on the season in another huge game at Kroger Field, Kentucky’s basketball team will be hosting two of the best bigs in the class of 2019 and a star 2020 player.
Official visitors Isaiah Stewart and Oscar Tshiebwe will be on UK’s campus this week, with Stewart arriving today and Tshiebwe tomorrow evening. The Cats will also entertain 2020 point guard Sharife Cooper.
Stewart: No. 5 in 2019, 6-foot-9, 245-pound center from La Lumiere (Indiana)
Things have moved quickly for UK in Stewart’s recruitment. A month ago he didn’t appear to be a Kentucky target because he actually eliminated UK back in the spring. The Cats weren’t included in his list of 10 then, and they certainly didn’t make his list of six near the end of summer. Despite two lists without the Cats, John Calipari visited Stewart earlier this month and was able to make a big enough impression for Stewart to spend an official visit in Lexington.
Folks, that’s huge.
Stewart is usually considered the third best big in the class behind James Wiseman and Vernon Carey Jr., but Stewart has held his own against both players and out played Wiseman at Peach Jam. One assistant coach in the Big Ten told me that Stewart’s game may end up being the best at the college level because of the impact he will make on defense.
Stewart is UK, Duke, Michigan State, Villanova, Indiana and Washington and Syracuse. A native of Rochester, N.Y., some speculated early on in his recruitment he may end up at Syracuse but Michigan State and Villanova seem to be the biggest competition for Stewart. Duke was also thought to be the leader but the Blue Devils seem to be way behind.
Don’t sleep on UK’s chances here. KSR has been told that Stewart will take a “professional approach” to his recruitment. He’s not worried about which schools recruited him the longest or about bells and whistles on campus. Those two things could help, but he wants to go to a school that will get him to the NBA soon and, this is big, he wants to go to a place that will allow him to compete in the NBA when he enters the league.
Things have moved so quickly for UK that it’s easy to see why the people like Kentucky’s chances. A timetable for Stewart is unclear but if he decides soon it will seem positive because of UK’s recent momentum. If he waits until the spring it will allow the Cats to have more time to build a stronger relationship.
After all the debates about Wiseman, Carey or Matthew Hurt, what a surprise it would be if Stewart leads Kentucky’s frontcourt next season.
Tshiebwe: No. 22 in 2019, 6-foot-9, 250-pound center from Kennedy Catholic (Pennsylvania)
First, it’s pronounced “shoob-way”. The Mali native plays for Kennedy Catholic not too far away from Pittsburgh in Hermitage, Pa.
Tshiebwe’s recruitment hasn’t been microwave fast quite like Stewart, but it’s still moved quickly for Kentucky. The Cats have been recruiting Wiseman, Carey and Hurt for over a year and Kentucky only reached out to Tshiebwe over a month ago.
But, UK was able to do enough to make Tshiebwe’s final four without a scholarship offer. He planned his official visit to Lexington before receiving an offer. The offer came last week, but Tshiebwe seemed interest in UK before the offer arrived.
Sources told KSR that since arriving in the United States Tshiebwe has always been interested in UK and the Cats moved near the top, or to the top of his list once Kentucky started recruiting him.
West Virginia has been the longtime leader in Tshiebwe’s recruitment, but that may no longer be the case. Tshiebwe’s official visit is a huge opportunity for the Cats but it’s worth mentioning that he will take his last official visit to West Virginia next weekend.
Don’t expect Tshiebwe to wait long to make a final decision after his WVU visit.
Cooper: No. 22 in 2020, 6-foot, 160-pound point guard from McEachern (Georgia)
I don’t know too much about Sharife Cooper’s game, but it’s a good opportunity for UK to build an early relationship with Cooper and show him their facilities, the campus, a couple practices and how John Calipari coaches.
He’s been offered by Auburn, Tennessee, Florida and UCLA. I don’t expect an offer from Kentucky anytime soon, but the Cats will certainly be keeping tabs on Cooper moving forward. He averaged 28.2 points per game at Peach Jam.