Three weeks ago D.J. Jeffries decommitted. Two weeks ago it was Dontaie Allen joining the Cats and last week Kahlil Whitney followed his lead. It’s been a busier three weeks than we anticipated but everything played out great for the Wildcats. No disrespect to Jeffries, but having Whitney and Allen on board is better than just having Jeffries at the wing. People close to UK weren’t expecting such an action packed three weeks, but are happy with the results. Now the Cats can focus on their 2019 big targets. How the Cats do with Vernon Carey Jr., James Wiseman and Matthew Hurt will determine if this is an elite class for John Calipari in 2019.
Let’s get to it.
Kahlil Whitney: He commits last week and the Cats saw it coming, but before he officially visited they weren’t aware that he was so close to making a final decision. When UK offered Whitney it’s my opinion UK’s staff knew they were the leaders, but were unsure of his timeline and how quickly things may move. Whitney grew up a Kentucky fan. Once he started keying in on watching college basketball he preferred watching John Calipari and UK. It was a no brainer for Whitney. I know this is cliche but I do think there is something to landing guys that want to be at UK. Some people pick the Cats because it’s the smart business decision, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but others pick UK because they want to be a Kentucky basketball player. Allen and Whitney didn’t take any official visits to other schools and picked UK shortly after being offered/being on campus.
I think UK fans are going to love Whitney and he’s somewhat trending at a Keldon Johnson pace. Johnson wasn’t a “must-have” recruit (for UK standards) but was always highly regarded. He continued to get better and it seemed like every time he played in a big game he looked like he had improved. He played hard and with tenacity and all those similarities are there for Whitney. Johnson ended up top 10 for ESPN and top 20 for Rivals and 247. I’m guessing Whitney is a top 10 player when it’s all said and done. UK fans will love him and he will be a nightmare matchup problem for opposing teams.
A Change in Strategy?: Allow me to pull away from the “insider” part of these notes to make a point strictly based on my opinion. I can’t get any sources to confirm this (which may mean I’m grasping here) but it seems like John Calipari (or his staff) may be pushing kids to commit? Again, Allen and Whitney both wanted to be at Kentucky but Calipari in the past has told recruits to check out other places. Go home and think about it. It was part of his “I care about you, so I want you to make the best decision for you and your family” recruiting pitch. It was a unique and bold strategy, but the majority of recruits appreciated the approach and it showcased Calipari actually cared and wasn’t pushy. But it may have cost UK a time or two.
Shortly after D.J. Jeffries received attention from UK he committed. His dad said the Cats somewhat pushed for a commitment, so that may support my theory. Allen committed seconds after being offered and Whitney committed after returning home from his official visit. If UK isn’t pushing for commitments, they’re definitely not pushing kids to take their time and weigh all their options.
I think coaches that pressure and try and force commitments cross a line, but if UK is being more aggressive in recruitments I’m all for it. It’s just another small change in Calipari’s ever-changing recruiting strategy. Calipari has also extended more offers, he’s offering guys earlier and while Big Blue Madness will always be UK’s premier recruiting event Kentucky’s staff is more open to staggering official visits so top talent get enough attention. Calipari is far from stubborn in his ways, if something isn’t working he will gladly switch up his style.
Vernon Carey Jr.: Folks, I think UK leads. There’s a quiet confidence from folks close to UK about Carey and I’m starting to hear whispers from AAU folks that think the Cats have moved to the front of his recruitment. There’s not much of an obvious relationship between Carey and Whitney, but during basketball camps over the weekend the two spent a good chunk of their free time together. Whitney has already started recruiting on UK’s behalf, and while that’s generally overblown it doesn’t hurt.
People continue to sleep on UK’s chances with Carey Jr., and that’s fine for UK. I’ve actually heard that Kentucky’s biggest competition will be Miami (Fla.). So many assume that Duke is the clear leader and that doesn’t appear to be the case.
He’s my favorite big in 2019 and could put up nutty numbers for UK in 2019-2020.
Oscar Tshiebwe: Get to know Oscar because I think there’s a solid chance he ends up in UK’s 2019 class. Kentucky has kept tabs on Tshiebwe for months but the Cats are in a tough spot. They like Tshiebwe and would love to add him, but they wouldn’t want him to hurt their chances with Carey, Wiseman or Hurt. In a perfect world UK would land those three, but Kentucky’s staff even knows that’s highly unlikely. So, what people close to UK are trying to figure out is this:
- Who’s likely to stay/leave off the current team?
- Where do we stand with Carey/Wiseman/Hurt?
- Would Tshiebwe hurt us with any of those three?
- Can Tshiebwe play at this level?
I’m told the answer to four is yes. UK believes Tshiebwe can make an impact at a high level and if he’s not a one-and-done player he would certainly bolt for the NBA after year two. But that was the easy question to answer. The Cats are still surveying the first three questions and my guess is he ends up with an offer. West Virginia is the biggest competition for Tshibwe but if the Cats offer and get him on campus I think Kentucky can jump to the front.
James Wiseman: There is still a great deal of Memphis buzz. That’s not going to stop anytime soon. Remember when Wiseman said he planned a visit to Kentucky in August? I haven’t heard one way or the other if that visit will take place. My guess is UK is trying to keep things quiet but I would expect the visit to happen. Only 18 days left in the month so we’ll know soon, but if he visits soon that should calm down the Memphis buzz momentarily. If the visit doesn’t happen that won’t help the Memphis buzz but I’d be shocked if a visit didn’t happen in September or October. I wish I could confirm the August visit but I can’t at this point.
Cole Anthony: College coaches are salivating over the chances of coaching Anthony. One assistant that’s still in play for Anthony told me that they think Anthony could take an average team to the Final Four. I’ve said he’s the smartest basketball player I’ve ever watched at the high school level and believe if he were to end up at Kentucky he could be Calipari’s best point guard he’s ever coached. He’s that good. No decisions will happen until the spring but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear of a few fall visits.
Matthew Hurt: Like Carey, I think UK is in a better spot than national analyst believe. Hurt really loves UK’s style of play. He’ll visit this fall.
Jaden McDaniels: UK is still in contact with McDaniels but I don’t see this recruitment going much further. A visit isn’t out of the question but McDaniels is more of a wing than a PF and the Cats have two great wing players already.
Bahamas Trip: I’m told this trip was good for recruiting. The Cats were on SEC Network, not ESPN +, and I’ve already been told some recruits took time to watch. I don’t think it will matter that much for the 2019 class but it’s always good to plant seeds for 2020, 2021 or 2022. I think the Cats accomplished that this week.