Next Cats Summer Recruiting Guide: Class of 2014

Ben Roberts

June 16, 2013 

Early commitment

Karl Towns

Position: Forward/center

Height, weight: 7-0, 225 pounds

Hometown: Metuchen, N.J.

Rivals ranking: 11

Scout ranking: 8

ESPN ranking: 5

24/7 Sports ranking: 4

■ Towns is UK's lone commitment from the Class of 2014, and there have been few prospects like him in recent years. He's a 7-footer who can play away from the basket, put the ball on the floor and shoot from long range (he set a school record for three-pointers as a freshman). The New Jersey native's mother is from the Dominican Republic, and he became familiar with Calipari and UK while playing for the Dominican national team over the past two summers.

Future in Blue? Towns committed to Kentucky and reclassified from 2015 to 2014 last December. He's already well-acquainted with Kentucky after working out for several days at UK's facilities as part of the Dominican team, which was coached by Calipari and assistant coach Orlando Antigua. In an interview with the Herald-Leader on the day of his commitment, Towns talked about his first impressions of Calipari: "I thought he was going to be really loud and really crazy and I was right on both," he said with a laugh.

The competition: The Cats beat out Duke, Florida and Michigan State for Towns' commitment, with the Blue Devils coming in "second place."

UK's Top targets

Cliff Alexander

Position: Forward/center

Height, weight: 6-9, 240 pounds

Hometown: Chicago

Rivals ranking: 5

Scout ranking: 5

ESPN ranking: 8

24/7 Sports ranking: 10

■ Alexander is a powerful forward who excels around the basket and has long been one of John Calipari's top targets in the class of 2014. Though he's sometimes listed as a center, the Chicago native has said that he would like to play the "4" position at the next level.

Future in Blue? UK has consistently been considered one of the top two or three schools that could land a commitment from Alexander. Calipari recently was in Chicago for an in-home visit with the big man and his family. "My parents love Coach Cal," he said in April. Alexander plans to take some official visits in the fall, and he's already been to UK for an unofficial — last year's Big Blue Madness.

The competition: Michigan State is most often mentioned as UK's main competition. Spartans Coach Tom Izzo has forged a great relationship with Alexander and has been a constant presence at his games. Illinois is also gaining ground and could be a dark-house candidate to keep the Chicago big man in his home state.

Devin Booker

Position: Shooting guard

Height, weight: 6-4, 180 pounds

Hometown: Moss Point, Miss.

Rivals ranking: 23

Scout ranking: 23

ESPN ranking: 19

24/7 Sports ranking: 38

■ The most recent 2014 prospect to earn a UK scholarship offer, Booker is a phenomenal shooter known for his hard work on the court. "He's arguably the best shooter in the 2014 class," Scout.com's Evan Daniels recently told the Herald-Leader. Booker is also the son of former Missouri standout Melvin Booker, who played briefly in the NBA.

Future in Blue? Calipari clearly made an impression on Booker by personally coming to his Mississippi high school to extend a scholarship offer earlier this spring. The UK coach has also been a regular at Booker's games during the Nike summer circuit. Calipari warned Booker of the attention he would get from fans at UK. The player didn't balk. "That's the kind of pressure I like," Booker said.

The competition: Several schools are in the running to land Booker, and he's been careful not to list any favorites. Others that have offered include Duke, North Carolina, Florida, Michigan, Michigan State, Missouri and Mississippi State. Booker grew up in Michigan and has established relationships with the Wolverines and Spartans, but his recruitment should be considered wide open at this stage.

Stanley Johnson

Position: Small forward

Height, weight: 6-6, 220 pounds

Hometown: Fullerton, Calif.

Rivals ranking: 12

Scout ranking: 17

ESPN ranking: 15

24/7 Sports ranking: 6

■ Johnson has an impressive résumé of winning basketball on the West Coast. He teamed up with former UK target Aaron Gordon to win the Nike Peach Jam title last summer and then turned around and defeated Gordon for a third consecutive California high school state title earlier this year. The versatile forward was named MVP of the star-filled Pangos All-American Camp earlier this month.

Future in Blue? UK coaches have arguably spent as much time watching Johnson as any other prospect so far this spring. The attention hasn't been overlooked. "He's really excited about me and he really wants me to be there," Johnson said of Calipari. "I feel that (from him) more than a lot of other coaches." Johnson has also called UK the "biggest" school on his list, which includes several stellar programs. He's already said he'll use one of five official visits to see Lexington.

The competition: Johnson is also considering Duke, Florida, Arizona, Oregon, Kansas, UCLA and Southern Cal. Most analysts consider Arizona and UK to be the favorites, though Johnson hasn't specifically said that. He is planning to visit all of the schools on his list and likely won't make a decision until the fall.

Tyus Jones

Position: Point guard

Height, weight: 6-0, 170 pounds

Hometown: Apple Valley, Minn.

Rivals ranking: 3

Scout ranking: 2

ESPN ranking: 2

24/7 Sports ranking: 1

■ Jones is one of the top two point guards in the class and has already been compared to NBA stars Chris Paul and Tony Parker. A pass-first guard who can score when he needs to, Jones displays maturity and leadership skills that make him one of the most coveted prospects in 2014.

Future in Blue? Calipari's first trip following UK's season-ending loss to Robert Morris was to see Jones play in his state tournament in Minnesota. The point guard has often praised UK's coach for his past work with players at his position and visited Lexington for a game last season. It's worth noting that Calipari is the only coach recruiting Jones who did not stop by for an in-home visit prior to the end of the most recent open period.

The competition: Six others are in the hunt for Jones: Duke, Michigan State, Ohio State, Baylor, Kansas and Minnesota. Of those, Duke and Michigan State are considered the favorites. Mike Krzyzewski and Tom Izzo watch Jones play seemingly every chance they get, and few would be surprised if those are the two coaches battling it out at the end.

Trey Lyles

Position: Power forward

Height, weight: 6-9, 215 pounds

Hometown: Indianapolis

Rivals ranking: 4

Scout ranking: 4

ESPN ranking: 4

24/7 Sports ranking: 9

■ Lyles committed to the home-state Indiana Hoosiers early in his high school career and ruffled some local feathers when he backed out of that pledge last summer. He's probably the most skilled offensive player at his position in the entire class and should have an immediate impact as a college freshman.

Future in Blue? When Lyles decommitted from Indiana, the prevailing wisdom said Kentucky would be his eventual landing spot. The Indianapolis native has made several trips to Lexington over the last few months, including last season's Big Blue Madness.

The competition: Florida, Louisville, Duke, UCLA and Butler are also in the running for Lyles, who cut ties completely with Indiana shortly after his decommitment. Of those schools, Louisville might have the best shot. The last time Calipari and Rick Pitino faced off for an Indianapolis prospect, Marquis Teague sided with the Wildcats.

Emmanuel Mudiay

Position: Point guard

Height, weight: 6-4, 190 pounds

Hometown: Arlington, Texas

Rivals ranking: 2

Scout ranking: 3

ESPN ranking: 3

24/7 Sports ranking: 3

■ Mudiay — considered one of the top two point guards in the country along with Tyus Jones — is a bigger, more physical player who's also more similar to past Calipari point guards. The Texas native is a terrific scorer and playmaker who has the tools to be an elite defender at the next level.

Future in Blue? UK is thought to be in such a good position that Mudiay has had to remind people that there are other schools still recruiting him. Though Mudiay has made it clear he's not a "done deal" to Kentucky, he has been consistent in his praise for the UK coach. "He's really tough on his point guards," Mudiay told the Herald-Leader earlier this year. "And I love when a coach can push me. He brings the dog out of you, man."

The competition: Some of the other schools still in the mix include Baylor, Arizona, Kansas, SMU, Oklahoma State and St. John's. Nearby Baylor is a program that seemingly gets mentioned more often than others in Mudiay's recruitment, and the Bears might end up as UK's primary competition. Mudiay is planning to be there when the two schools play each other early next season.

Jahlil Okafor

Position: Center

Height, weight: 6-10, 270 pounds

Hometown: Chicago

Rivals ranking: 1

Scout ranking: 1

ESPN ranking: 1

24/7 Sports ranking: 2

■ Okafor is the consensus pick for No. 1 prospect in the entire class, and for good reason. He's a true center who can score in a variety of ways, crash the boards on both ends and play stellar defense. ESPN analyst Dave Telep told the Herald-Leader in January that Okafor's game is similar to Jared Sullinger, who was among the best players in college basketball during two seasons at Ohio State.

Future in Blue? UK is one of eight schools on Okafor's list, and the big man has had nothing but good things to say about Calipari. In an interview with the Herald-Leader earlier this year, Okafor pointed to UK's recent record of putting players in the pros. "Kentucky speaks for itself with all of the NBA players that they've produced," he said. "That's my dream. That's a school that could help me out with that. ... It's definitely an attraction for me."

The competition: Several schools have Okafor at No. 1 on their board, which should be expected for a No. 1 overall recruit. His other suitors are Duke, Michigan State, Kansas, Ohio State, Illinois, Baylor and Arizona. He's made it clear he wants to play college ball with good friend and elite point guard Tyus Jones. If that happens, Duke and Michigan State should probably be considered favorites.

Rashad Vaughn

Position: Shooting guard

Height, weight: 6-5, 190 pounds

Hometown: Robbinsdale, Minn.

Rivals ranking: 6

Scout ranking: 13

ESPN ranking: 9

24/7 Sports ranking: 11

■ Vaughn is widely regarded to be the No. 1 shooting guard in the country, and UK would have an opening at that position if Aaron Harrison is the one-and-done player he's expected to be. Scout.com analyst Evan Daniels recently told the Herald-Leader that Vaughn is "one of the premier scorers in this class." He's still contemplating a move to Huntington Prep (W.Va.) for his senior season.

Future in Blue? Vaughn said last month that he is "wide open" in his recruitment, but the Cats are thought to be at or near the top of his list. He's a big, physical guard with a knack for scoring, traits that would fit well in Calipari's system. "I just like their style of play and how they get up and down," Vaughn said of UK last month. "And Coach Cal's track record for getting players to the league."

The competition: There were rumors that Vaughn nearly committed to North Carolina earlier this spring, but he's since said that's not quite true. The Tar Heels remain a player in his recruitment, as does home-state Minnesota. New Gophers coach Richard Pitino has made Vaughn a top priority and the recruit said a possible move out of state for his senior year of high school will not negatively affect his interest in Minnesota. U of L, Baylor and Kansas are among others in the mix.

Others to watch

Zylan Cheatham

Position: Small forward

Height, weight: 6-8, 200 pounds

Hometown: Phoenix

Rivals ranking: 68

Scout ranking: 74

ESPN ranking: 3-star

24/7 Sports ranking: 59

■ The active, versatile forward got a visit from UK assistant Orlando Antigua last season and has seen his profile rise ever since.

Jalen Lindsey

Position: Small forward

Height, weight: 6-6, 190 pounds

Hometown: Nashville

Rivals ranking: 30

Scout ranking: 25

ESPN ranking: 17

24/7 Sports ranking: 50

■ The MVP of last year's King of the Bluegrass tournament will play his senior season at Huntington Prep. U of L has already offered.

Goodluck Okonoboh

Position: Center

Height, weight: 6-9, 215 pounds

Hometown: Boston

Rivals ranking: 34

Scout ranking: 37

ESPN ranking: 20

24/7 Sports ranking: 22

■ He might be the best shot blocker in high school basketball and is a good friend and former teammate of Nerlens Noel. Okonoboh visited UK late last season.

Josh Perkins

Position: Point guard

Height, weight: 6-3, 185 pounds

Hometown: Aurora, Colo.

Rivals ranking: 42

Scout ranking: 26

ESPN ranking: 41

24/7 Sports ranking: 19

■ 24/7 Sports analyst Jerry Meyer recently called Perkins "one of the best passers I've scouted in the past 10 years." He'll play at Huntington Prep next season.

Ryan Skovranko

Position: Guard/forward

Height, weight: 6-7, 200 pounds

Hometown: Pittsburgh

Rivals ranking: Not rated

Scout ranking: Not rated

ESPN ranking: Not rated

24/7 Sports ranking: Not rated

■ This under-the-radar recruit grew up near Calipari's old hometown and the UK coach has already seen him play multiple times.

Craig Victor

Position: Power forward

Height, weight: 6-8, 220 pounds

Hometown: New Orleans

Rivals ranking: 24

Scout ranking: 19

ESPN ranking: 44

24/7 Sports ranking: 41

■ UK got in late on Victor, who already has offers from Kansas, Arizona, LSU and several others. He's a talented forward known for his hard work.

Isaiah Whitehead

Position: Shooting guard

Height, weight: 6-4, 195 pounds

Hometown: Brooklyn

Rivals ranking: 19

Scout ranking: 43

ESPN ranking: 46

24/7 Sports ranking: 29

■ UK has shown some interest in New York City's latest big-time prospect, but Syracuse and Louisville are coming after him the hardest at this point.

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