Over the course of the last two weeks, we’ve seen former Kentucky players PJ Washington, Tyler Herro, and Keldon Johnson keep their names in the NBA Draft, EJ Montgomery putting his name in to receive feedback, and Jemarl Baker enter the transfer portal. In terms of recent recruiting decisions, we also saw 2019 five-star forward and Kentucky target commit to Duke on Friday.
On the flip side, Ashton Hagans and Immanuel Quickley each decided to return to school for their sophomore seasons, while Virginia Tech’s Kerry Blackshear Jr. emerged as a graduate transfer candidate.
With so many moving parts remaining, I asked future Wildcats Tyrese Maxey and Keion Brooks Jr. about their thoughts on the current roster and how they hope to see it close in the coming months.
“First off, shoutout to PJ (Washington), Keldon (Johnson), Tyler (Herro), and EJ (Montgomery) as well,” Maxey said of the recent NBA decisions. “Whatever EJ’s decision is, I’ll respect it and I’m proud of him. As far as the other people that are coming back, Ashton (Hagans) and (Immanuel) Quickley, and then Keion (Brooks), me, Kahlil, and our grad transfer, Nate (Sestina), it’s time to get to work. I feel like it’s going to be a lot of fun this year.”
When asked about any holes in the roster he felt Kentucky had and how he’d like to fill them going into the season, Maxey said he has complete faith in head coach John Calipari to put together a competitive team. If Coach Cal wants to add more pieces, his future guard trusts him. If not, Maxey is ready to roll with what they have now.
“I feel like Coach Cal is going to figure it out, I have no doubt in my mind that he’s going to figure it out,” he said. “He’s always a step ahead, you know? Always ahead of the game. As soon as we get on campus, he’s going to get us gelling and playing together. We’re trying to go make a run for that title.”
That’s not to say Maxey doesn’t have favorites, though. As mentioned on the site a bit earlier, he said he would “love” to see 2020 combo guard RJ Hampton reclassify to the class of 2019 and join him in Lexington.
“I talk to RJ (Hampton) dang-near every week,” he said. “We live in the same area. Like I tell him all the time, he is absolutely welcome to join us. I would love to play with RJ.”
Back at the McDonald’s All-American Game, Maxey also told KSR that he was recruiting both Hurt and five-star power forward Jaden McDaniels to Kentucky.
With Hurt now headed to Duke, that leaves just McDaniels as the final big-name 2019 high school recruit left on UK’s board. With the 6-foot-11 prospect out of Federal Way, Washington known as an incredibly reserved individual who really doesn’t like bringing up his recruitment, Maxey said that he’s trying to give him space, but continue to let him know he’s wanted in Lexington.
“I know when someone has been annoying to me, so that’s why I only hit him up every now and then,” Maxey said. “Like if there’s a tweet that comes out or something that I see, when I see him in person I’ll just tap him and say “Big Blue Nation.” I try not to be overly annoying because I wouldn’t like that.”
As for Kentucky’s most recent signee, Keion Brooks Jr., he says that while he’s content with the way the roster is currently laid out, he’d “love” to see another addition or two for the Wildcats going into next season.
“I think that we have all we need right now, but of course we’d love to have someone else join us that can help,” he said.
What does he like so much about the current roster? They’re all tall, athletic, and extremely versatile.
“I think what we have right now is a good, tall, lengthy, athletic team,” Brooks told KSR. “We can get out in transition. With Ashton coming back, we have a really good on-ball defender, really good point guard who knows how to run a team. Kahlil, Tyrese, and myself, we can all really score the ball. I feel like the team we have right now is really, really good.”
And if someone decides they want to make that “really, really good” team a great one? The 6-foot-8 forward out of Fort Wayne, IN said he’d be all for it.
“If there is anyone else out there that wants to join,” he added, “I would absolutely welcome them with open arms.”