NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. — The Kentucky basketball program's ties to the Dominican Republic certainly didn't hurt in the recruitment of Karl Towns.
John Calipari and Orlando Antigua coached Towns for two summers with the Dominican national team. That relationship helped them land the 7-footer, who remains UK's only commitment in the class of 2014.
Now another 2014 prospect with Dominican ties is emerging as an elite player in the class, and Kentucky's coaching staff is in a prime position.
Angel Delgado — a Dominican native — came to the United States last year and has been steadily climbing the recruiting rankings. The 6-foot-9 power forward played last season for a high school in Troy, N.Y., but his AAU coach said Delgado will be transferring to a new school for his senior season.
That coach is Dana Dingle, who played alongside Antigua at St. Raymond High School in the Bronx before playing for Calipari at the University of Massachusetts.
Dingle said the UK coaches have been in contact with him about Delgado, who already has offers from Louisville, Florida, Florida State, Miami, Virginia, St. John's and several others.
There's no UK offer yet, partly because the Cats' staff hadn't seen much of Delgado before this week's Peach Jam.
"They haven't seen him enough against these (elite) guys," Dingle said. "He might have played well at the LeBron (camp) or NBA Camp. They might have heard from you reporters, but they haven't seen him with their own eyes.
"Once they see him, I mean, what's not to like?"
There's plenty to like, say those who have watched him play.
Delgado has been praised in recent weeks as one of the hardest workers and best rebounders in the class.
"I love the energy that he brings to the table when he's on the floor," Scout.com analyst Evan Daniels told the Herald-Leader. "He really hits the backboard, he gets up and down and he has a little more offense than people give him credit for."
Delgado is still working on his English, but Dingle called him a "bright kid" who is learning the language quickly. The player told reporters Thursday that he doesn't know much about his recruitment, which has been delegated to Dingle.
The former UMass player said he still has great relationships with Calipari and Antigua. Dingle speaks with the UK head coach "all the time" and has fond memories of his college career, which ended with the Minutemen's loss to eventual national champion Kentucky in the 1996 Final Four.
Dingle said Delgado has developed a good relationship with Antigua, who was also born in the Dominican Republic. He also knows Towns well from working out with the national team.
"That doesn't necessarily say he's going to go there," Dingle said. "But obviously he's a kid like any other kid. If Kentucky's recruiting him, I don't have to say anything. It's Kentucky. ... I don't have to sell him on that."
Delgado will travel to Argentina at the end of the month to play with his fellow Dominicans in the Basketball Without Borders program. While he's gone, Dingle will huddle with Delgado's coaches and family members to map out his recruitment.
Dingle understands that UK has been recruiting other power forwards in the class of 2014 longer and said Calipari might see where he is with guys like Cliff Alexander and Trey Lyles before offering Delgado a scholarship.
"They love his motor. They know he can play," he said. "But Kentucky, they want to make sure they go after the No. 1 guy at the position.
"Yes, Cal is a friend and coach of mine. But I don't want him to take a kid just because of our relationship or our past. Take a kid because he's going to help you win."
With his outstanding play at the NBPA Top 100 Camp and LeBron James Skills Academy in recent weeks, there's little doubt among recruiting observers that Delgado will be an impact player at the college level.
Daniels said he still needs to work on his offensive game, maybe add a mid-range jumper. But every team could use a player who rebounds like Delgado.
"His calling card is going to be his energy and his ability to rebound," Daniels said. "He has an elite skill and rebounding is something that obviously translates to the next level. I think that makes him an extremely valuable recruit."
Ben Roberts: (859) 231-3216. Twitter: @NextCats. Blog: ukrecruiting.bloginky.com.