It is no secret that the Kentucky basketball coaching staff has colossal dreams for its 2020 recruiting class, but how they go about making that happen? And most importantly, who do they see as the best fit in making that dream come to fruition?
In this week’s edition of Pilgrim’s Insider Notes, we’ll be breaking down the most recent buzz in the world of recruiting – most notably Terrence Clarke’s upcoming decision – and what it means for the Wildcats moving forward.
Let’s dive right in.
We’ve talked on my insider notes posts over the last month or two that Kentucky has seen Josh Christopher and Jalen Green as the “pie in the sky” scenario to pair with BJ Boston in the 2020-21 backcourt, giving UK three top-ten prospects at the guard position alone.
At the time, those around Terrence Clarke believed that despite his strong desire to reclassify to 2020, it would prove to be too difficult to make happen at the end of the day. Kentucky was aware of the situation and that it might become a possibility down the road, but felt it would be better to address that down the road when Clarke had a bit more clarity on his end. Until then, they would continue their efforts with their top priorities in Christopher and Green, factoring in Clarke as a potential addition to what they hope ends up being a historic class later on, not serve as a replacement.
Over the last two weeks, though, Clarke has grown more and more optimistic that he can make a reclassification to 2020 happen, and I am told that he made the schools courting him for 2021 aware of this. Behind the scenes, Kentucky separated themselves as the leader in Clarke’s inner circle, with rumors soon spreading that a silent commitment – though I cannot confirm this – may have taken place. Nonetheless, barring a major change of heart and swing of events in the next nine days, the Wildcats are expected to land a public commitment from the nation’s No. 3 prospect in 2021 with a reclassification to 2020 seen as the likely scenario.
So what does that mean for Kentucky’s aforementioned dream class?
This afternoon, Evan Daniels of 247Sports wrote in a weekly mailbag piece that Clarke’s expected commitment to Kentucky on September 14 and eventual reclassification would “effectively end” UK’s recruitments of both Jalen Green and Josh Christopher, with Green likely canceling his official visit to Lexington from October 16-19 not long after.
“If Terrence Clarke lands at Kentucky, and I think they are the leader, and if he reclassifies, which is likely, then I think it would effectively end the Wildcats recruitments of Josh Christopher and Jalen Green. I know Green just scheduled an official visit date to Kentucky, but my guess is that would be canceled and the parties would go their separate ways.”
After reading this update, I reached out to Green’s father, Marcus Green, this afternoon about his family’s side of things and whether or not Kentucky would be out of the running with the No. 3 prospect in the class of 2020 if Clarke opts for the Cats next week.
In short, Green’s camp will pay close attention to Clarke’s situation and get in contact with the Kentucky coaching staff after the dust settles, but the Cats are in no way out of the running.
“[Clarke’s commitment] is something we will definitely be looking at,” he said. “It’ll be up to Coach Cal how we move forward with things.”
In short, if Green’s camp feels the five-star guard is still a top priority for the staff and they have a plan in place for both Clarke and Green to coexist in the Kentucky backcourt, they will keep the Cats in strong consideration. And as of now, even if Clarke makes it official by picking UK next week, the plan is to still follow through with their official visit to Lexington and see Calipari’s pitch through.
“We will be taking all five of the visits Jalen announced last week,” Green said.
To address the rumors that Green is strongly considering the overseas route and signing with a professional team next year, the five-star prospect’s father wanted the world to know that his son will be on a college campus next fall.
“Jalen will 100% be going to college,” he said. “I can promise you that.”
Outside of this Kentucky’s standing with the elite guard prospect, I continue to hear that the buzz surrounding Memphis and the fact that they are seen by national analysts as a lock isn’t true in the slightest. In fact, I was told this afternoon that Oregon may now be the school to beat, with Kentucky and Memphis following close behind in that order.
Last week, I was also told that UCLA was picking up a lot of buzz with both Green and Josh Christopher, specifically following Daishen Nix’s surprise commitment. Today, I confirmed that the mutual interest with UCLA is legitimate and that the Bruins are actually planning on traveling up to see Green at his school as early as next week. Sources tell KSR that both Green and Christopher to a lesser extent prefer to play with a true point guard at the next level, and Nix fits that mold perfectly. Contact is relatively new between both parties, but watch out for the Bruins in the coming weeks. UCLA was not included in Green’s initial list of official visits, but I’m told that they are on his radar and may receive a visit down the road. I would not be surprised if they managed to jump up Green’s list before it’s all said and done.
In summary, sources tell KSR that Green’s recruitment is wide open and their camp could see themselves signing with any of the schools he is visiting in the coming months.
So how does Christopher fit into all of this, specifically with Kentucky?
Sources tell KSR that if the scenario with Green and Clarke ending up in Lexington were to unfold, Christopher would likely be the one to look elsewhere, and that if his recruitment were to end today, he would likely end up at Arizona State. I am told that while Christopher and Green have been discussing different scenarios where they do end up playing at the same school and would love for it to come to fruition, the idea that they are being seen nationally as a package deal are a bit overstated and that they are very much okay with splitting up at the college level. As I mentioned on the Sources Say Podcast this week, the dynamic guard duo is not actively selling themselves as a package duo to schools, which is why the Kentucky coaching staff preferred to split their visit dates up and give them each their individual attention.
In Daniels’ post, he also mentioned No. 2 prospect Cade Cunningham as a possible option for Kentucky if Green and Christopher head elsewhere, as buzz is growing that he is not as much of a lock to Oklahoma State as people make him out to be. He added that he has heard that Cunningham is telling schools that he is wide open, despite his brother serving as an assistant on the Cowboys coaching staff.
Sources tell KSR that those in Cunningham’s hometown of Arlington, TX and the surrounding DFW area are getting the sense that while OSU remains as the top threat to land him, the nation’s No. 2 prospect will take these five official visits with an open mind and very well could end up elsewhere. In short, Cunningham has told reporters that he remains wide open, and those around him are starting to believe he could end up at any of the five schools on his list. And yes, Kentucky would be right in the thick of things if this holds true.
I was told in early August that Cunningham’s situation with Oklahoma State would be “monitored closely” for the coaching staff and that he was really the only other guard Kentucky saw (again, this was before Clarke’s situation fell in UK’s lap) as a legitimate option outside of Green and Christopher. With Cunningham seen as the consensus top guard in the class and now that the door seems to be opening for him just a bit, it’s certainly something Kentucky has to factor in.
Today, Corey Evans of Rivals.com also submitted a FutureCast pick in favor of Kentucky for 2021 five-star point guard Devin Askew, who has been a rumored reclassification candidate, as well. The Wildcats see him as one of their top point guard options for 2021, but he would be a tremendous fit alongside Clarke and BJ Boston if they push him to ultimately make the jump.
Could Kentucky wind up losing both Green and Christopher, but adding Clarke and Cunningham? Or maybe add Clarke and Green, rather than Christopher? Could Askew serve as a fantastic backup plan if the other options fall through?
Kentucky will be in contact with all four (five if you include Askew) of the guard prospects listed above in the coming weeks, and as of today, I would expect the Cats to land two of them.