John Calipari lost half of his 2019 recruiting class this afternoon when four-star small forward DJ Jeffries decommitted from Kentucky.
“After careful consideration prayer and countless hours of consulting with my family, I decided to reopen recruitment,” Jeffries said in a tweet. “It was a hard decision but I am confident that taking my time to choose the right school for me to better myself educationally and athletically is the right choice.”
With Jeffries now a free agent, what does this news mean for Kentucky next season and going forward?
Calipari’s first decommitment
Kentucky has had players transfer out of the program and enter the NBA too early. We’ve also seen recruits deemed locks to end up in Lexington head elsewhere for various reasons.
But never has a player back out from his Kentucky pledge until today.
Calipari is very stingy with his offers and who he accepts commitments from, usually waiting until he’s absolutely certain of a prospect’s potential interest before pulling the trigger. With Jeffries, he saw a bully-ball small forward with great potential as a two-way star. He’s versatile and could fit in with anybody, anywhere. The staff saw him as the perfect plug-and-play guy.
Even when his high school coach, Penny Hardaway, signed on the dotted line with Memphis, Jeffries doubled-down on his commitment.
“It’s not going to sway me,” he said at the time. “I’m going to stay at Kentucky.”
He was sold on the Cats.
Now that Hardaway has gained some steam on the recruiting trail, however, Jeffries is having second thoughts and Memphis is now seen as the runaway favorite.
Penny Hardaway is a threat
When former NBA superstar Penny Hardaway jumped from the AAU coaching ranks to the Division-One level, many questioned whether his coaching style would translate.
Now, the Memphis head coach helped reel in the No. 28 recruiting class in the class of 2018 and already has a four-star recruit committed for 2019. He still hasn’t coached a game, but he absolutely has some momentum right now.
— Penny Hardaway (@Iam1Cent) July 22, 2018
After watching him on the recruiting trail at various events, KSR’s Aaron Torres said he wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if Hardaway becomes a major recruiting competitor in the very near future.
I was blown away by Hardaway’s presence on the recruiting trail these past few weeks. And I truly believe that he could end up as a thorn in the side of the Calipari’s and Coach K’s of the world, if not an outright, equal competitor.
Read Torres’ entire post below:
On that note…
James Wiseman may be favoring Memphis
Kentucky’s biggest recruiting target in the class of 2019 may be trending a different direction.
With Jeffries likely headed to Memphis, it wouldn’t be a shock to see his former teammate James Wiseman join him.
“It would be really tough (for him to turn down Memphis) because him and Penny are so close,” Jeffries said of Wiseman back in the spring. “It probably would be tough, but in life you got to make hard decisions sometimes.”
Wiseman trimmed his list to eight last week, where both Memphis and Kentucky made the final cut. Most believe others trying their shot at the No. 1 prospect in the class of 2019 are just wasting their time.
— James Wiseman (@BigTicket_JW) July 28, 2018
KSR’s TJ Walker said this morning that Wiseman goes back-and-forth with the Cats and Tigers, but Kentucky still feels good about their chances.
The consensus seems to be that Wiseman himself goes back-and-forth between UK and Memphis, but is genuinely trying to keep an open mind about the other schools, too. Everyone I’ve spoken with has said that it’s going to be between Memphis and UK and that UK is still is a comfortable spot.
Now that his friend and former teammate is likely headed for Memphis, does that push him the wrong direction?
Kahlil Whitney and Dontaie Allen are near-locks
Arguably the biggest news that came from this has to do with two other Wildcat prospects.
Kahlil Whitney and Dontaie Allen, the former being a five-star, top-25 small forward and the latter being a four-star forward out of Pendleton County, are rumored to be favoring Kentucky.
They are both visiting Lexington next week, and there are whispers Calipari could seal the deal with them both before it’s all said and done. Now there is nothing holding them back from joining the recruiting class. Jeffries’ decommitment stings, but if the Cats can replace him with two elite prospects at the same position in less than a week? I think the BBN would be more than happy.
Could Calipari favor these two over Jeffries, and knowing commitments are on the way, talked about a mutual breakup with the (now former) Wildcat commit? Or did Coach Cal see this news coming and pushed for commitments as damage control? Who knows.
For more on Whitney, Allen, their upcoming decisions, and their potential roles at Kentucky, check out my post from yesterday below:
Kentucky will be fine.
Jeffries was a solid prospect, but if we know anything about John Calipari, he knows how to roll with the punches. He has a loaded roster this year with several players expected to return next year. The coaching staff is in solid position with elite prospects, and as mentioned above, we could be nearing commitments from two of them.
Kentucky always eats first.