Kentucky has all the momentum in the world when it comes to E.J. Montgomery’s recruitment and that’s something that has changed over the last few weeks.
So, what happened?
Before we get to Montgomery’s recruitment let’s do a refresher. Montgomery is a five-star forward from Marietta, Ga. He played for Wheeler High School (where former UK target Jaylen Brown played) and it’s just outside of Atlanta. He’s 6-foot-10, 215-pounds and a forward that does a little bit of everything. He’s not a bruiser on the block but he has a nice touch around the rim. He wouldn’t be an elite stretch four, but he can knockdown open shots from outside. He’s not an elite defender but he can block shots and he isn’t easily pushed around. Montgomery is good at everything but not elite at one specific thing.
Montgomery was initially committed to Auburn but decommitted when the FBI mess happened. Since backing away from the Tigers other schools popped up as major players. Many consider it a three-team race between UK, Duke and North Carolina, but Vanderbilt is also in the hunt.
Lately it seems like UK has been surging for Montgomery after it initially appeared Duke would be the team to beat. Things have changed.
Sources tell Kentucky Sports Radio that Duke is weighing other options while keeping an eye on Montgomery. Basically the way I read the conversation was that Duke still may lock in on Montgomery, but the Blue Devils are exploring grad-transfer options. “Eh, we like you but do we like someone better?”
Has UK jumped in the lead because Duke potentially prefers other players? There’s a chance. And if UK ends up with Montgomery then that would be an amazing pull this late in the recruiting season. The Cats seemingly lead for Ashton Hagans and Montgomery and the Calipari could end up with another class of four five-star players and Tyler Herro, who is fringe five-star shooter.
That would easily be the second best class in the country and more to Calipari’s high standards. No one expected the Cats to sign a star-studded class two months ago.
There’s still much to be determined and there’s no guarantee that UK lands either Hagans or Montgomery, but things are moving in the right direction. But after UK was shocked by Duke’s recruiting class, should the Cats be looking at grad-transfers, too?
Below are two names to keep an eye on moving forward. As of today there are NO indications that either player will leave their current schools, but both players have been mentioned as possible grad-transfer and could change the landscape of college basketball if they go elsewhere.
Mike Daum (South Dakota State): 23.9 points and 10.3 rebounds per game.
The Dauminator took the nation by storm and because of his scoring ability South Dakota State became a trendy pick to make a serious March run. The Jackrabbits had their chances against Ohio State and were tied at the half, but fell by eight.
It’s unclear what Daum will do next. He will have a chance at the NBA and probably should go through the process without an agent, but he will have two weeks to make that decision. Another option is to be the missing piece on a Final Four contender and while his numbers would likely go down he would be competing on a big stage nightly.
It’s worth mentioning that his teammate Matt Mooney has already announce his plans to leave South Dakota State. It’s probably not overly realistic he will be able to lead South Dakota State to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament by himself.
Keep an eye on what Daum decides to do.
Reid Travis (Stanford): 19.5 points and 8.7 rebounds per game.
Travis has actually already played four seasons at Stanford but was granted a medical hardship last May, which will allow him to play one more season of college basketball if that’s what he wants to do.
Again, like with Daum, there’s no current indication that Travis plans on leaving Stanford and there’s certainly no indication that he would prefer a grad-transfer over just going to the NBA Draft. As a 6-foot-8, 245-pound forward he would be slightly undersized in the NBA and relies on bullying opponents in college basketball. Something that isn’t guaranteed to work at the next level.
But he’s damn good at doing it in the PAC-12. Duke and Minnesota desperately wanted Travis but he stuck with Stanford the first go around. He could return home to Minnesota for one final season or he could decide to go to a blueblood which would make things interesting.
I’d be shocked to see Travis end up in Lexington, but if Washington were to surprise folks and stay in the draft he would be the perfect replacement.
Duke has reached out to Albany grad transfer Joe Cremo, he told ESPN. 6-4 guard averaged 17.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists and shot 46 percent from 3 this past season.
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) April 5, 2018
It would be surprising to see UK reach out to a grad-transfer guard, but that’s not stopping other powers from trying to fill holes on their rosters. UK likely will add Ashton Hagans and not another guard from another school.
Another thing to remember is that UK hasn’t given up on James Wiseman joining the Cats for the 2018-2019 season. That’s what makes this so tricky for Calipari and his staff. Obviously UK would like to add Montgomery. And that may very well happen, but Montgomery wouldn’t scare away Wiseman.
But would a grad-transfer that only had one year to play and the expectation would be for him to get plenty of run? That could be a different story for Wiseman. That’s what UK’s having to figure out and that’s why ultimately I believe UK will still go hard after Montgomery with hopes of adding Wiseman later this summer.
However, if the Cats decide a grad-transfer would be a better option watch those two names. My guess is UK adds Montgomery and will actively try and land Wiseman for next season.