One week ago, the University of Kentucky basketball Men’s program held a press conference, one that included seven players announcing to forgo their remaining years of college to play at the next level.
The notables remaining on roster after the announcement was made were junior Alex Poythress, sophomore Marcus Lee, and freshman Tyler Ulis. Of course, with the Wildcat’s head coach being John Calipari, BBN shouldn’t have to worry about the boys in blue reloading right? While that is normally the case, this year might just be the outlier.
While Coach Cal has inked three ESPN 100 recruits so far, #3 overall Center Skal Labissiere, #13 point guard Isaiah Briscoe, and #42 shooting guard Charles Matthews. No doubt, these recruits can immediately come in and make an impact, especially Labissiere who some people are comparing to Anthony Davis with his shot blocking ability. However, despite an already number one overall recruiting class, the number of departures the Wildcats have suffered leaves Coach Cal and company with yet more work to do.
Five recruits remained unsigned out of the top 12 ranks according to ESPN, all of which have received offers from UK, with the addition of one more unlisted recruit in Thon Maker (who has a rank of 5 according to Rivals 150).
The reality of the current situation for John Calipari, is each of these recruits aren’t dead set on Kentucky, with each having multiple schools they could opt to go to. Where in years past, we knew more of a direction each player was leaning.
The highest listed recruit left on ESPN is Jaylen Brown, a small forward out of Alpharetta, Georgia, who has been really high on UK. The touted prospect had nothing but praises for Kentucky prior to the McDonald’s All American game.
"Kentucky is the best basketball program in the country. Just the professionalism that they carry their selves with is ridiculous. How they handle things at Kentucky, the facilities, it’s like a pro atmosphere, and I didn’t feel that way at any other school."
After those comments, you would think that Brown would be a shoe in for Coach Cal, however, among those statements, he left one more for the media.
"If you’re a pro, you can pretty much go anywhere, and they’ll find you. So it’s not about going to a certain school to be a pro. If I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, I think I can get to the NBA with my abilities."
Leaving the notion that he was referring to top tier programs, including UK, that they weren’t a shoe in to receive his commitment. Quotes courtesy of the Courier Journal.
Next up on the recruiting trail is who could be the best scorer in this year’s class, and another guy who has been extremely high on Kentucky. In fact, analysts think that this recruit is the one the Wildcat’s most likely to land, shooting guard Malik Newman. However, here of late, that confidence has been waning in the recent weeks.
Newman comes out of Jackson, Mississippi, and still has a ten school list, including other notables schools like Kansas, Louisiana State, NC State, and Ohio State.
The main rumors surrounding the possibility of Kentucky missing out on Newman are if he entertains the idea signing a contract abroad, spending one year overseas, improving his play while also making money. Last year, Southern Methodist University and Larry Brown missed out on a huge recruit of their own, Emmanuel Mudiay, when opted to spend what would have been his freshman across the blue waters, earning $1.2 Million per Red Cup Rebellion.
The next three guys, listed as 10-12 on ESPN’s ranks, beginning with Stephen Zimmerman, a 7 foot center from Las Vegas has apparently been leaning towards UNLV as of late. Cheick Diallo, number 11, a 6-9 power forward out of New York visited the Wildcats in June. However, latest reports give St. Johns the upper hand, while also adding a fan poll giving SJU a 38% chance to win Diallo, and UK only at 15% per 247sports.com.
The last guy in the top 12 for ESPN is the man who could be the back up plan if Jaylen Brown opts elsewhere, that being 6-8 small forward Brandon Ingram out of North Carolina. With that being said, the only downside, he is from North Carolina, and the odds of him escaping his home state’s borders with Duke, UNC, and NC State all left on his big board leaves the hint that he isn’t a solid lock for the Wildcats.
The final man on the Wildcat’s recruiting big board is Thon Maker, who arguably could be listed at the number two spot on ESPN due to his grade of 97, placing him one digit higher than #2 Jaylen Brown. However, Maker’s big board is still…big. He still has eleven schools with offers extended to the seven footer from Toronto. Per 247sports.com, they still show Maker headed to Kentucky, with Kansas following closely behind in the polls.
The sum of this entire final stretch of recruiting comes down to this, Kentucky is going to be really really good, or the Wildcats could have another year similar to year four of the Calipari era. The coming weeks, possibly days, could prove to be vital for Coach Cal and Kentucky basketball for next year’s campaign.