This has been a very good ten days for UK Basketball recruiting. In fact, when all is said and done the last ten days will probably be the most important of the year in creating the 2014 UK Basketball Recruiting Class. A great deal of the credit (no shock) goes to Calipari who made two very important decisions that have made UK’s stock go up immensely for players in the 2014 class:
1. He made the UK Alumni Game a Crucial Recruiting Event
2. He apparently crushed it on his in-home visits.
Through these two steps, UK’s class, which at one time looked to be heading in a good but not necessarily great direction, now looks much more optimistic. The folks I have spoken with feel good about where UK is situated and things are much more rosy in Lexington. Here is where the team stands right now:
Point Guard: Obviously the big news of the week was getting the commitment from Tyler Ulis. This is a somewhat weak Point Guard class and making sure that UK gets one of the four top guys (Mudiay, Jones, Lyle and Ulis) was crucial. When the Cats struck out on Mudiay, they went all in on Ulis and stole him from Michigan State, where most were sure he would land. This occurred primarily at the Alumni Game, where Ulis and the other visitors (more on them later) were apparently “blown away” by the experience. The Alumni Game may be slowly replacing Big Blue Madness as the recruiting weekend and many of the 2015 and 2016 players that Kentucky will be targeting the strongest next year, were in town for the festivities. Kentucky is still focusing hard on Tyus Jones and pursuing him as an other option at the point. Ulis has said he is fine playing with Jones, but most everyone, including the UK coaches consider it somewhat of a long shot.
Shooting Guards/Wings: I combine these positions mainly because in Calipari’s system, the difference between them isn’t that great. Kentucky right now looks good for five players and may have the ability to get three or four of the group. I believe Devin Booker is at this point a strong UK lean. There have been some rumors of a commitment, and I don’t think that has happened, but I do believe UK feels good about their position and that he will make his decision some time in October. I also think that Trey Lyles ends up a Cat as well. Kentucky has been the leader for some time and whenever an announcement is made, I think Kentucky is the likely choice over Louisville. The change in recent weeks has been the improvement of Kentucky’s chances with the duo of Stanley Johnson and Kelly Oubre. The Cats were a solid second with both players, second to Arizona for Johnson and second to Kansas for Oubre, for the past couple of months, but the last two weeks have seen advancements with both players. After Calipari visited both, folks tell KSR that now the decision has flipped, with Johnson 50/50 and Oubre potentially leaning towards the Cats. If Kentucky were to get both of these players, all of a sudden another #1 recruiting class would look likely and Calipari does his magic again. Johnson hinted that both could play together, and they both have star power and seem perfectly suited for Calipari’s style. Finally James Blackmon Jr was visited by Calipari yesterday. I think if the Cats were to push him, they would get a commitment from the son of the former Wildcat. I get the feeling that hasn’t happened yet as they wait to see how the other wings end up spreading out. Blackmon probably ends up at Kentucky if one or two of the players listed above do not.
Big Man: Kentucky obviously has a commitment from Karl Towns and in a perfect world, would like another player. Cliff Alexander is unlikely at this point as Kansas/Michigan State/Illinois still fight for him. Kentucky has gotten involved with Myles Turner but I have heard little to think that as of today he is a strong option (although this could change as Calipari does like him). The best option for Kentucky would be the #1 player in America Jahlil Okafor. He loved his visit to Kentucky and as I have said for a few weeks, I think Kentucky is doing much better with him than people realize. If the leaders for Okafor are Kansas/Duke, then I would put Kentucky just behind them and still in the game. Calipari will continue to press him and while it is still a bit of a long shot for him to end up in Blue, I wouldn’t dismiss it. The key at this position is to either get Okafor or have Johnson/Lee return. Do that and the 2014-2015 team will be fine with the bigs.
So that is where UK currently stands. If I were a betting man (and I am), then I would suggest that as of today, the most likely scenario for a UK class is:
One more (Johnson or Blackmon Jr)
But for the first time in a while in this recruiting cycle, we now see Kentucky as a leader for enough players to make up a very good class. Times are good right now once again in Lexington.