UK recruiting: Handicapping the race for three national prospects

broberts@herald-leader.comMarch 3, 2013 

The high school basketball season is drawing to a close, and three of the best seniors in the country still haven't made a college decision.

Not surprisingly, Kentucky is in the mix for all three: Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon.

The Herald-Leader polled several national recruiting writers over the weekend on where they thought each prospect would end up.

Here are the results, followed by the Herald-Leader's own analysis:

Jerry Meyer, 24/7 Sports

Andrew Wiggins (Florida State): "Wiggins just visited Kentucky, and Kansas and North Carolina visits are upcoming, but I think Florida State holds on in the end. I don't think he craves the Kentucky spotlight, family ties are strong at Florida State and one of his best friends, Xavier Rathan-Mayes, is headed there."

Julius Randle (Kentucky): "Randle's recruitment isn't an easy one to get a handle on. Texas is down, Kansas runs a tight system, N.C. State probably doesn't quite have the allure and Billy Donovan isn't quite enough to get him to Florida. The style of play and successful pipeline to the NBA probably wins out for Kentucky."

Aaron Gordon (Arizona): "Washington was considered the leader and they might still get Gordon. But the fact that he still hasn't committed to the Huskies makes me feel Arizona will win out. I've never thought he would leave the west coast."

Brian Snow, Scout.com

Wiggins (Florida State): "Honestly this is as much a guess as anything, but until I hear otherwise I am guessing the Seminoles. Obviously he took a visit to UK with his parents and that is big with trips to Kansas and North Carolina coming up, though those two don't have any real shot in my opinion. At this point, it seems to be basically Florida State and Kentucky at the top, and I give the slightest edge to the Seminoles."

Randle (Texas): "I just tend to think Randle stays close to home. Also, regardless of what they may say publicly, I just can't imagine a situation where the Harrison twins and Randle go to the same school. Basically I think Randle really likes Texas, and being close to his mom is something that works in their favor. The talk has been the Longhorns have led for a while, so I am sticking with them."

Gordon (Arizona): "This one is a complete toss up, but I would say no one should sleep on Oregon here. Oregon has been making up a lot of ground recently, and could become a factor. Washington's struggles this season I think have dropped them down a peg as Gordon has made it clear he wants to win a national title. That means UK and Arizona are the two most likely, but and I get the impression he would rather stay on the West Coast."

Jason Hickman, MaxPreps.com

Wiggins (Florida State): "He went off the board a bit with his high school pick in Huntington Prep when he could have gone to more established programs, and I think he will do the same in a sense with his college choice. Family ties to Tallahassee are definitely a factor here, and he has a brother playing four hours away in Lakeland."

Gordon (Washington): "From a roster composition and playing time standpoint, Arizona and Kentucky don't make a ton of sense. I can't imagine him following another player from the Bay Area (Marcus Lee) that he would ultimately compete for playing time with to Lexington, and Arizona is loaded with quality young forwards who look likely to return next year. Washington is having a sub-par season but the addition of Gordon and high school national player of the year candidate Nigel Williams-Goss could turn them around in a hurry."

Randle (Kansas): "Again, Kentucky just doesn't make a lot of sense to me with the talent it already has on board. Kansas is gaining ground in this one and Bill Self has his own history of closing on top recruits. But never count out John Calipari. And, of course, Randle isn't going to take a backseat at the four spot to anybody in terms of playing time or impact."

Jeff Borzello, CBS Sports

Wiggins (Florida State): "Along with Kentucky, Florida State has been one of the leaders throughout Wiggins' recruitment. Both of his parents went there, and the Seminoles have been on him longer than nearly everyone. In the end, I'm not sure he enjoys the spotlight he would get in Lexington, and he has a chance to carry Florida State on his back. Moreover, his parents could play a factor in his decision."

Randle (Kansas): "Randle has played things very close to the vest, with multiple schools feeling confident. He is very close to his mother, and Texas has the home-state pull, while Kansas impressed him with its consistent success. Kentucky is squarely in the mix, and he loved his trip to N.C. State. When it comes down to a decision, I think the opportunity to win a title with the Jayhawks wins out."

Gordon (Arizona): "Gordon's recruitment has taken a few twists and turns over the past couple of years, with Kentucky making up ground on Arizona and Washington, and Oregon also making a late re-entry into the race. I think 'Zona and Washington have the edge, but the chance to be an impact player with tons of surrounding talent at Arizona outweighs his relationship with Lorenzo Romar."

Adam Zagoria, Zagsblog.com and SNY.tv

Wiggins (Florida State): "Although Kentucky will get serious consideration (and possibly North Carolina, too), look for Wiggins' family and other connections to win out in the end. Both of his parents played there, and his close friend and teammate, Xavier Rathan-Mayes, will be a Seminole. Wherever Wiggins goes, it will only be a one-year pit stop before he's taken No. 1 overall in the 2014 NBA Draft."

Randle (Kansas): "This seems to be coming down to Kansas, Kentucky and possibly N.C. State, but in the end I expect Kansas to win out. Multiple sources close to the recruitment believe Randle will land at Kansas, where he had a terrific official visit and could follow in the footsteps of Thomas Robinson and other great KU frontcourt players. Again, expect him to spend one year on campus before turning pro."

Gordon (Washington): "This should come down to Washington and Arizona, but Gordon's father is an old childhood friend of Washington Coach Lorenzo Romar, who has worked long and hard recruiting the 6-8 Blake Griffin clone. Gordon does have ties to Arizona through his AAU program, the Oakland Soldiers, so it wouldn't be a shock if he landed there, either."

Ben Roberts, Lexington Herald-Leader

Gordon (Arizona): He wants to win a national title as a freshman and you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who thinks Gordon will leave the west coast. Arizona seems like the right fit, but Washington was long thought to be the favorite and the Huskies could still get him in the end.

Randle (Kentucky): Randle will probably be the first of this trio to make a decision, and UK has a lot going for it. He has a special relationship with John Calipari and should thrive in his system alongside a point guard like Andrew Harrison. Kansas looks to be the main competition, but the folks in Kentucky like their chances. If he doesn't end up in Lexington, look for him in Lawrence.

Wiggins (Kentucky): It's impossible to know what Wiggins is thinking, but here's a guess that he'll do the unthinkable and join UK's already-loaded class (and Randle) in Lexington. The narrative that his parents are insisting on FSU is somewhat overblown, as is the one about his supposed aversion to the spotlight. No outcome — UK, FSU, UNC or KU — would be a surprise here, but the Cats were the favorite at the beginning and not much has changed since then.

Ben Roberts: (859) 231-3216. Twitter: @NextCats. Blog: ukrecruiting.bloginky.com

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