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Pilgrim’s Insider Notes (Part 2): Moving on to the class of 2020

Yesterday afternoon, I updated you guys on some of the final remaining targets for the class of 2019 in part one of Pilgrim’s Insider Notes. (If you missed that, you can read it here)

In part two tonight, I’m going to move on to the class of 2020 and break down where Kentucky stands with some of the top juniors in the nation after spending the weekend in Atlanta at session one of Nike EYBL.

Let’s get right to it.

Jalen Johnson

This past weekend, consensus top-three prospect Jalen Johnson made headlines by telling reporters that Kentucky was his “dream school.”

“I really like Kentucky a lot, that’s been my dream school growing up,” Johnson said. “I liked watching John Wall when he was there, and that’s kind of when it started. I just had more interest from there throughout the years.”

With most recruiting insiders and analysts listing Duke as the favorite for several months now, his comments certainly came as a surprise to those in attendance.

In the past, the phrase “dream school” has held true with prospects such as Tyrese Maxey, Kahlil Whitney, PJ Washington, Tyler Ulis, James Young, and several others. At one point or another in each of their recruitments, they referred to Kentucky as their favorite program growing up and ended up making that dream come true by committing.

For some top prospects such as James Wiseman, Moses Brown, Malik Newman, and Cliff Alexander, among others, that “dream” was temporary, as they ended up going elsewhere for college.

With Johnson, I do believe it is neck-and-neck with Kentucky and Duke, and if the UK coaching staff can continue to build their relationship and chemistry with him, the Wildcats have a serious shot. The five-star small forward also said that he was hoping to visit Lexington for Big Blue Madness for a third consecutive season, which is a good sign considering he said he could decide as soon as Peach Jam (mid-July) and wants to be through with the process by the time his senior year begins.

Kentucky fans have been hoping for John Calipari to get back in the groove with can’t-miss/superstar talents, and he’s certainly in a good spot for one in 2020.

Isaiah Todd

I came away from EYBL thinking that 2020 five-star forward Isaiah Todd was one of the most impressive players in the class, and luckily for us, Kentucky has a serious shot at landing him for next season.

Todd, a 6-foot-11 prospect out of Richmond, VA, told KSR that while he loves John Calipari and Kentucky, all schools on his list are on an even playing field and he has no favorites.

While that’s what he tells the media right now, I have been told on multiple occasions that Kentucky is the heavy favorite in his recruitment and the expectation is that he ends up making it official before his senior season begins. The UK coaching staff is extremely confident in landing the No. 8 prospect in the class, as well.

Watching him in person, it’s incredible how comfortable Todd is playing with the ball in his hands on the perimeter. He’s a phenomenal shooter from mid range and deep, runs the floor well, can bring the ball up the floor, soft touch inside, rebounds well, great timing on blocked shots, etc. It’s really tough to find any holes in his game at this point.

His high school coach told me that he feels he can end up being the No. 1 player in the class, and while I think that might be pushing it, I can understand the confidence in his game and think a jump in ratings is bound to happen.

As of today, not only do I strongly believe that Todd ends up in Lexington, but I also feel that he does it as a top-five prospect in the class when it’s all said and done.

Scottie Barnes

As confident as I am in Todd, I feel the exact opposite about his AAU teammate, consensus top-five forward Scottie Barnes.

When it comes to his game, I simply didn’t come away feeling that he’s worthy of his elite ranking. He’s athletic, plays solid defense, and is probably the most college-ready player I saw in Atlanta from a pure physical standpoint, but not once did I watch his game and feel that Kentucky just can’t miss on him.

He isn’t a strong shooter, he’s raw offensively on the inside, gets careless with the ball, sulks a bit when he makes mistakes, etc. The potential is there, but I need to see more from him as the AAU season progresses.

In terms of his recruitment, he told reporters this weekend that he is wide open with his final eight schools and hasn’t thought much about it beyond that loose list. That being said, when it does come time for a decision in the distant future, I’ve been told the Kentucky likely won’t be the final destination.

“He’s not gonna be at UK,” one source told KSR. “I don’t think he’s even that serious about them.”

Barnes said he won’t make his decision until late, so there’s obviously time to make up some ground. I just don’t believe he’ll end up in Lexington.

Cade Cunningham

Like Todd, five-star small forward Cade Cunningham was one of the most impressive prospects in Atlanta this weekend.

With the ability to play three positions, the 6-foot-6, 215-pound forward out of Montverde, FL did just about everything for his Texas Titans team. He was physical, defended well, outmuscled defenders when driving to the basket, finished over longer defenders, etc.

He’s definitely one of my favorite players in the class and believe he would be a great fit at Kentucky.

In terms of his recruitment, he was quick to say the rumors of Kentucky being the runaway favorite were not true, saying that it was actually a surprise to him that people connected him so much with the Cats. That being said, he loves John Calipari and the UK program and said they were one of the schools recruiting him the hardest right now. I definitely feel that they will be in the thick of things through the finish line.

He said he’ll dive into the thick of things after his AAU season is over, so we should know more then.

Sharife Cooper

Like just about all of the other top prospects in the nation, 2020 five-star point guard Sharife Cooper told reporters this weekend that he’s still open in the process, though just about everyone feels his decision will come down to either Auburn or Kentucky.

There have also been rumblings that he reclassifies to the class of 2019 (likely to play at Auburn), though he strongly denied those rumors this weekend, as well.

With Auburn being his first offer back in 2016, the general consensus among recruiting circles is that Bruce Pearl ends up landing the shifty guard out of Georgia.

While the momentum seems to be with the Tigers, one individual with AOT (Cooper’s AAU team) told me with confidence this weekend, “He’s definitely going to Kentucky.”

This quote came in casual conversation, and I don’t even believe this individual knew I worked for a Kentucky media outlet, so I don’t believe he was just hyping up the Cats for my benefit.

This is just one individual and I’m not sure if I’m ready to go against the overwhelming consensus, but it’s still interesting nonetheless.

BONUS: Jaden McDaniels

Yesterday, I said in the insider notes that after several months of little-to-no movement, 2019 five-star forward Jaden McDaniels was ready to focus on his recruitment and move toward a decision. While I said I felt it would likely come down to Washington, Kentucky, and San Diego State, I added that I felt he would end up committing to his hometown Huskies out of pure comfort in staying close to friends and family and out of the spotlight.

Today, however, there have been some fairly significant rumblings about the 6-foot-11 forward out of Federal Way, WA, and it’s been nothing but good news for Kentucky.

For starters, Trevor Trout, a football player at USC and an (oddly) connected individual when it comes to West coast high school basketball recruiting, said on Twitter that “Kentucky got that kid.”

And then, another individual connected with recruiting on the West coast that 2019 five-star wing Johnny Juzang also “wants in.”

He also flat-out predicted McDaniels and Juzang to Kentucky.

Outside of just a few tweets, there seems to be growing confidence on Kentucky’s side of things that they have done enough to pull this off. He has always liked UK, even calling the program his “dream school” at one point, but his tendency to shy away from the spotlight have made most recruiting analysts feel that he would ultimately stay out west.

While I still think Washington is a strong contender and certainly shouldn’t be counted out, this is the first time in several weeks that I have felt Kentucky might actually win out in the end.

With the deadline to sign a National Letter of Intent being May 15, we should hear a decision within the next two weeks regardless. I would be shocked if his decision is anything other than Kentucky or Washington.

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Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

27 Comments for Pilgrim’s Insider Notes (Part 2): Moving on to the class of 2020



  1. kentuckyfan101
    10:21 pm May 2, 2019 Permalink

    Hey jack with the update on Mcdaniels does this change your opinion on Kerry Blackshear coming to Kentucky?



    • Jack Pilgrim
      10:26 pm May 2, 2019 Permalink

      Just depends on what Richards and Montgomery do. If EJ leaves, think they go after both hard. If not, think they’re happy with just one.



    • kentuckyfan101
      10:31 pm May 2, 2019 Permalink

      Does this apply to if Richards leaves too?



  2. mashman 93
    10:25 pm May 2, 2019 Permalink

    McDaniels or Blackshear? Any way we could land both? GO BIG BLUE!!!!!!



  3. addyjaxlarkin
    10:29 pm May 2, 2019 Permalink

    Wow!! Lots of positive news for the cats in this post. Definitely exciting to read.



  4. BobbyBlue
    10:58 pm May 2, 2019 Permalink

    I will be as shocked as I was with Knox if McDaniels comes to Lexington.
    If precious and RJ go with the Gayhawks, I suppose they think Self is going to skate
    past the FBI sting, but so do I.Of course that is easy to say with such a corrupt organization as the NCAA.



  5. Smyrna_Cat
    11:14 pm May 2, 2019 Permalink

    “Kentucky fans have been begging for John Calipari to start landing can’t-miss/superstar talents.”

    Not sure how to respond to this …



    • JT919
      1:02 am May 3, 2019 Permalink

      Going off recent negative fans posting here, Jack isn’t wrong.



    • Smyrna_Cat
      11:23 am May 3, 2019 Permalink

      I am sure that is true … but isn’t it also true of all programs? And I thought Cal was getting pretty close to that with all of the 5-starts.



  6. JT
    11:39 pm May 2, 2019 Permalink

    Love your stuff, Jack. Great news. Regardless of the outcome, I love this shhhh!



  7. usmcdrew0311
    1:45 am May 3, 2019 Permalink

    I’d take McDaniels over RJ and or Blackshear all day. McDaniels length and versatility is what every NBA team wants. If your 6’9 with handles and and can shoot from deep then your just more unstoppable and valuable to your team. This kid copies KD’s style of play. I’ll take that over anyone.



    • UKLugo
      8:43 am May 3, 2019 Permalink

      No way. Not me.



    • UKLugo
      8:45 am May 3, 2019 Permalink

      A lot of kids copy KDs style of play. Very few successfully. JM has great potential. He’s not there yet and probably wont be close in his one yr at UK. Just my opinion.
      Give me Blackshear. And Hampton?? Forget about it. No brainer. He’d be the cherry on top.



    • ClutchCargo
      9:00 am May 3, 2019 Permalink

      Assuming McDaniels would be a one and done player, I would take Blackshear’s one year over any HS recruit out there.



    • runningunnin.454
      9:33 am May 3, 2019 Permalink

      Give me Blackshear as well, experience, and…he can bring his A Game right now.



  8. Kat4Life
    7:41 am May 3, 2019 Permalink

    Why would EJ even consider leaving ? He is not even remotely ready.



    • Luether
      2:28 pm May 3, 2019 Permalink

      And neither was Archie Goodwin, Daniel Orton, Marquis Teague, Doran Lamb, James Young, etc., etc., etc…



  9. jmilburn
    8:47 am May 3, 2019 Permalink

    EJ AND NICK BOTH COULD COME BACK AND HELP THEIR STOCK FOR NEXT YEARS WEAK DRAFT CLASS! IM STILL CONFUSED ON TYLER HERRO DECLARING HE COULD OF CAME BACK AND BEEN A TOP 10 PICK NEXT YEAR!! I WOULD RATHER HAVE BLACKSHEAR OR MCDANIELS ANY DAY!! BLACKSHEAR HAS 4 YEARS EXPERIENCE AND IS DEVELOPED MCDANIELS IS A PROJECT KIND OF LIKE SKI LABISSERI! SORRY IF THE SPELLING IS WRONG LOL!! ID LOVE TO HAVE HIM BUT WOULD MUCH RATHER GET BLACKSHEAR UNLESS MCDANIELS IS A 2-3 YEAR PLAYER WHICH HE IS NOT BUT HONESTLY MIGHT NEED 2 YEARS IN COLLEGE TO GET PREPARED FOR THE NBA!! I REALLY THINK THE SMART MOVE WOULD BE TO GET EJ AND NICK BACK GO AFTER BLACKSHEAR HARD SIGN THAT KIDS FROM CALIFORNIA AND WE WILL BE GOOD TO GO!! WE NEED AT LEAST 3 MORE PIECES I AM INCLUDING NICK AND EJ IN THOSE 2-3 MORE PIECES TO BE A TOP 3 TEAM NEXT YEAR!!



    • jmilburn
      8:51 am May 3, 2019 Permalink

      WHO EVER SAID THEY WOULD TAKE MCDANIELS OVER BLACKSHEAR AND HAMPTON IS A COMPLETE FOOL AND DOESN’T UNDERSTAND BASKETBALL!! MCDANIELS IS A 2-3 YEAR PROJECT BEFORE HE EVEN IS REMOTELY CONSIDERED A STUD HE WILL BE A HIGH DRAFT PICK OF POTENTIAL!! BLACKSHEAR HAS 4 YEARS EXPERIENCES AND IS MUCH MORE DEVELOPED THEN HIM!! HAMPTON IS A FREAK AND WILL DOMINATE IN NCAA NEXT YEAR FACTS!! MCDANIELS IS A PROJECT BEING GRADED OFF POTENTIAL HE WILL NOT BE A BIG PART OF THE TEAM NEXT YEAR I TRULY DONT THINK HE WILL! I WANT MCDANIELS BUT WOULD MUCH RATHER HAVE BLACKSHEAR AND HAMPTON!! THEY ARE BOTH READY MCDANIELS IS NOT!!



    • addyjaxlarkin
      8:57 am May 3, 2019 Permalink

      Try not to yell so much.



    • UKBigBlueForever
      9:04 am May 3, 2019 Permalink

      WHY IN THE HELL DO YOU HAVE EVERYTHING IN CAPS? I mean, seriously…you can see it’s in CAPS while typing. geeeeeezus.



    • 4everUKblue
      9:36 am May 3, 2019 Permalink

      Must be KYCAPSLOCK4EVER’s new burner account. Did you shake the hand of Rupp many times jimi?



    • henderblue
      9:57 am May 3, 2019 Permalink

      Is that you KYCaps4EVER??



    • CATandMONKEY
      10:58 am May 3, 2019 Permalink

      He didn’t say “GO CATS” so this may just be someone’s great grandfather, let loose on the Lenovo.



  10. NUM1UKFANFROMTHEVILLE
    11:39 am May 3, 2019 Permalink

    Lol @ JMILBURN. He’s just passionate with what he’s saying. My educated guess as to what happens the next couple weeks leading to 5/15:

    •EJ Montgomery leaves for NBA ala Vanderbilt
    •Nick comes back
    •We get Blackshear
    •McDaniels stays home in Washington
    •RJ goes to Texas Tech or Kansas (likely Kansas)

    •Johnny Juzang commits to BBN

    Hopefully EJ comes back or somehow we get McDaniels. Just don’t think their is room for RJ here for his style of play, which is similar to D’Angelo Russell with a little more slasher to his game. Cal can break the shyness of McDaniels, but Washington actually being good next yr and this last yr makes it easier for him to stay home. But I never count out Cal. Our team will be better than the last 2 yrs and maybe better than Fox, Monk, Bam team. 2020 can be our most scariest team ever since the 2015 team. Seem like we’re in on the top 1-12 and I’m very good position. Also could be our biggest team. So much length. Also want to know where we stand with Jeremy Roach from that class. Want him over the cooper kid, though I love his game Roach is a 6’5 big PG and a better pro prospect overall. Let’s get Cal I love the position we’re in going into the next decade!!! Go Cats!



  11. UKCatAttack
    1:35 pm May 3, 2019 Permalink

    Thanks for the update Jack! I like where we stand with a lot of these recruits!