Good afternoon and welcome to a special Saturday edition of Pilgrim’s Insider Notes.
Earlier this week, I released the debut of the Sources Say Podcast with Jake Weingarten of Stockrisers.com and Travis Graf of Cats Illustrated (If you missed it, you can find it here), where we talked about Daishen Nix’s recruitment and eventual commitment to UCLA, along with what the UK coaching staff will do next in the backcourt.
With this post, I hope to add context to those plans, touching on where Kentucky stands with Jalen Green and Josh Christopher, along with some recent reclassification buzz from Paolo Banchero and Terrence Clarke.
Let’s dive right in.
Jalen Green/Josh Christopher
When 2020 five-star point guard Daishen Nix made his shocking commitment to UCLA on Tuesday afternoon, it sparked a sense of uneasiness and urgency among Kentucky fans. With UK and Sharife Cooper seemingly having a mutual breakup, along with Cade Cunningham heavily leaning toward Oklahoma State in his recruitment, Nix was seen as the one individual who could earn a scholarship offer in the near future and give the Wildcats at least one true point guard option next season.
With the 6-foot-5 point guard out of Las Vegas now headed to Los Angeles for college, it now leaves Kentucky with just two legitimate guard targets – as of today- for the class of 2020 moving forward: Jalen Green and Josh Christopher.
And as I mentioned in Pilgrim’s Insider Notes a few weeks back, the UK coaching staff is completely fine with that. Those are their top guard options for 2020 to join BJ Boston in the backcourt, and confidence remains high that they land both.
While they aren’t officially a package deal, the whispers continue to build that the two are strongly considering teaming up at the next level. And sources tell KSR that as of today, Kentucky is the leader (albeit on varying levels) for both prospects.
With Green, there were rumors that the 6-foot-5 combo guard was strongly considering a move overseas for his final year of high school, where he would almost certainly stay for an additional season prior to putting his name in the 2021 NBA Draft. Sources close to both Green and Prolific Prep confirmed almost immediately that these rumblings were bogus and that the plan was to return to Prolific Prep for a final year.
In terms of his recruitment, Kentucky and Memphis are seen as the strong leaders in his recruitment, followed by the overseas option (after one more season of high school, not now) seen as a distant third option. While Memphis seems to be the go-to pick for national analysts right now, sources tell KSR that these rumblings come from an overly optimistic Tiger coaching staff feeling they have had the elite prospect locked up for over a year now. While Memphis remains in solid position and will be right in the thick of things until his December 25 announcement, I continue to hear that Kentucky has a slight edge and if a decision were to be made today, it would be UK.
As for Green’s visit plans, sources tell KSR that his camp is currently in the process of scheduling an official visit to Kentucky, with a trip for Big Blue Madness being the likely scenario as of today. I have been told that Green and his camp have several dates open for this fall, and they will communicate with the Kentucky coaching staff to see what they feel is the best fit for them to come, but they are currently leaning toward the weekend of October 11-13.
Source: 2020 five-star guard Jalen Green is currently looking into potential dates for his upcoming official visit to Kentucky. Big Blue Madness looking like the likely scenario.
— Jack Pilgrim (@JackPilgrimKSR) August 21, 2019
When it comes to Christopher’s official visit to Lexington, sources tell KSR that this date has not been determined, but there are still internal discussions about making the trip the same weekend as Green. As I mentioned on the Sources Say Podcast this past week and in a KSR post recently, the Kentucky coaching staff is open to this idea, but want to make sure each prospect gets the attention they deserve. While they’d certainly love to bring them on as a package deal, UK feels it is important to recruit them both as individuals and give them their personal pitches on how they’d fit into John Calipari’s system in Lexington. The conversations and film review would include the idea of those two teaming up and fitting together with BJ Boston, but the pitches would be individualized and highlight how each of their strengths would be maximized, if that makes sense. In short, Boston and his family got their own weekend to be wined-and-dined, and they’re going to make sure that option is on the table for both Christopher and Green, as well.
Over the course of this past week, a bit of Arizona State buzz has come into the picture and I do think they have separated themselves from the pack as the No. 2 school on his list. The family ties are there with his brother, Caleb, on the roster and Christopher’s family has a great deal of respect for the Sun Devil coaching staff.
At the end of the day, though, Christopher is very big on personal branding and the feel within his camp is that he will be able to do that best at Kentucky. The five-star guard will explore his options and take his time with his visits, but I’d put his longtime “dream school” out in front when it comes time for a decision, likely this fall.
Simply put, Kentucky isn’t going to miss on both of their top guard targets, especially considering they are putting all of their eggs in one basket with them.
For the first time since bursting onto the recruiting scene as a consensus top-five prospect, I think there is a decent chance the 2021 five-star forward lands somewhere other than his home school, Washington.
At Peach Jam in mid-July, a rival coach aware of Banchero’s recruitment told KSR that despite the newfound interest and offers from blueblood programs, the general feel remained that Banchero, ESPN’s No. 3 overall prospect, would end up staying home and playing for Mike Hopkins at Washington. And after talking to other recruiting analysts close to his recruitment out on the West coast in the weeks following, the buzz backed that up.
Now, however, I heard one strong piece of information this week that made me feel that – unlike some other kids out West in recent memory – he will give other schools an equal opportunity to recruit him to their respective programs and he is 100% open to signing with a program out of state. And if that were to happen, it would almost certainly be with a high-profile school with big-name prospects joining him.
Back at Peach Jam, Banchero told KSR that earning an offer from John Calipari and the Kentucky basketball program was “surreal” and that he would be using one of his official visits on a trip to Lexington. And then on Tuesday, the five-star forward confirmed that news when he announced he would be officially visiting Kentucky for Big Blue Madness and will stay in Lexington from October 11-13.
Outside of Kentucky, the other schools receiving official visits are North Carolina, Duke, Gonzaga, and Tennessee, with one or two unofficial trips to Washington also on the table in the coming months.
Official Visit Dates
North Carolina?: September 27-29
Kentucky???: October 11-13
Duke??: October 17-20
Tennessee?: October 25-27
Gonzaga???: January 18-19
— Paolo (Paul-Oh) (@Pp_doesit) August 20, 2019
While the Huskies remain as a contender for Banchero’s services and Hopkins has done a tremendous job building a relationship with him, the idea of teaming up with other elite prospects and competing for a national title at the next level is highly intriguing and slowly becoming a legitimate option for him moving forward. Duke and Kentucky would likely be the top options in this case.
As for when he will play basketball at the next level, despite telling Sources Say Podcast cohost Jake Weingarten that he will be sticking with his original class of 2021, I still feel there is a decent chance he winds up in 2020. Banchero is one of the most impressive athletes in the the nation, regardless of class, and recently outplayed top-five 2020 prospects Jalen Johnson and Makur Maker at the NBPA Top 100 Camp by a fairly significant margin. That dominance continued at Peach Jam in July.
If he can get his academics in order by next summer, and I’m told that remains a possibility, I think he’ll end up making the jump based on pure physical ability alone. Similar to what we saw recently with N’Faly Dante, with how good he is now compared to the rest of his peers, there really isn’t a strong basketball benefit to playing two more years at the high school level.
With Isaiah Todd apparently flirting with the idea of going overseas for college, it wouldn’t shock me if Banchero becomes an option before it’s all said and done.
Back at the NBPA Top 100 Camp, 2021 five-star guard Terrence Clarke told KSR that he was strongly considering a move to the class of 2020, and he continued to tell reporters in the following weeks that he was going to explore this option.
Almost immediately after Clarke broke this news at the NBPA Top 100 Camp, a source close to Brewster Academy, the top-five prospect’s high school, told KSR that it would be extremely difficult for a reclassification to come to fruition due to time and age alone. With Clarke being a true junior, the source said he simply didn’t feel there would be enough time to fit in two full years of academic coursework in just one year, and thus, he didn’t think a jump would be possible.
Since this news, though, I’m told that Clarke continues to actively pursuing a reclassification and genuinely feels he can make it happen. And if he can get everything in order in time, sources tell KSR that he will ultimately make the jump to 2020.
So yes, depending on how things shake out in the coming months, this potentially gives Kentucky at least one more guard option for next year.
In terms of those involved in Clarke’s recruitment, the three schools with the strongest buzz right now are Kentucky, Memphis, and Duke. As of today, I believe the 6-foot-7 guard will end up at one of those three schools when it comes time to make a decision.
One thing to think about with this is Jalen Green’s situation and how that unfolds in the coming months. If, for whatever reason, momentum shifts elsewhere, Clarke would fit in seamlessly with what Kentucky is trying to do in 2020. As a dynamic scoring guard with NBA size and skill, he would thrive alongside Christopher and Boston in Lexington. One note I will add is that Boston, a player-favorite in his class, told KSR at Peach Jam that he had talked about playing in college together in 2020. If things fall through with Green, that would certainly make for one heck of a consolation prize for John Calipari and company.
Other quick notes
- Greg Brown and Lance Ware have yet to schedule official visits to Lexington, but I’m told those are still in the works. Texas is still seen as the favorite for Brown, while I believe Kentucky is the solid favorite for Ware.
- I continue to hear 2020 five-star guard Jalen Suggs would not entertain any late interest or offer from Kentucky.
- 2020 five-star center Makur Maker remains a massive question mark, with the latest buzz being that he will likely be headed overseas sooner rather than later. I don’t expect Kentucky to extend an offer at this time.
- An offer for 2020 five-star forward Dawson Garcia could be on the horizon if he continues to impress with Kentucky coaches watching when the high school season begins. Communication is ongoing.
- Barring a few huge misses in the frontcourt, I don’t believe newly-reclassified 2020 prospect JT Thor will end up at UK. I expect UCLA to be a strong contender now that Nix has joined the fold.
Sources Say Podcast
Speaking of the podcast, we are still looking to add one or two sponsors to join us on our weekly show moving forward. We’ve also added a package deal to the mix, where you now have the option to be the lead sponsor on both the Sources Say Podcast and my weekly Pilgrim’s Insider Notes post.
I’ll be back next week with more.