Kentucky basketball going to Plan B at point guard in Class of 2014

broberts@herald-leader.comAugust 25, 2013 

Apple Valley's Tyus Jones (21) would be Kentucky's best-case scenario for a point guard in the Class of 2014, but Duke is said to be leader for five-star prospect.

Emmanuel Mudiay's commitment to Southern Methodist on Saturday night muddled a once-clear picture of John Calipari's recruiting Class of 2014.

The trend with UK and top-flight point guards in recent years was plain: If Cal wanted 'em, Cal got 'em.

Now the Kentucky coach will have to look to Plan B in his search for his likely starting point guard for the 2014-15 season.

This will be Jarrod Polson's last season in Lexington, and incoming freshman Andrew Harrison is projected to be a one-and-done player. That would make fellow freshman Dominique Hawkins the only returning player with point guard skills.

UK's best-case scenario at the position would be to land five-star prospect Tyus Jones, the 6-foot recruit from Minnesota who will be in town next month for his official visit. Jones is seen as the only point guard in the class on Mudiay's talent level, but he's also considered by most recruiting observers to favor Duke.

Jones will be on the Durham campus for an official visit in October. He also has scheduled official trips to Kansas and Baylor.

The only other point guard besides Jones in the 2014 class with a scholarship offer from Kentucky is Tyler Ulis, a 5-8 prospect from the Chicago area who visited UK earlier this month and will be back in Lexington for an official visit Sept. 9.

247Sports analyst Jerry Meyer ranks Ulis as the No. 52 overall prospect in the class.

"He's not the type of point guard (Calipari) typically recruits or prefers," Meyer said. "He likes bigger point guards. Emmanuel Mudiay is kind of the prototypical point guard he'd want. But Ulis is good."

In the eyes of the analysts, he's not as good as Josh Perkins, who is ranked higher than Ulis by 247Sports, Scout, ESPN and Rivals.

Perkins — a Colorado native who will play his senior season at nearby Huntington Prep — committed to Gonzaga on Saturday. The 6-2 prospect was contacted by UK earlier this summer, and he and his father spoke several times of their admiration for Calipari.

Meyer said Perkins probably would have been a Wildcat if UK had offered.

"Basically, they decided to pass on Josh Perkins," he said. "He wasn't at 100 percent when Coach Cal watched him. And I'm not saying it was all because of the injury. I just don't think Coach Cal was that enamored with his game and chose to look elsewhere. They probably could have gotten Perkins if they wanted him.

"They better make sure they get Ulis."

Perkins was nursing a sore back when he played in front of Calipari last month in Philadelphia.

Meyer also was in the gym for that game.

"He wasn't beating his man. He wasn't breaking down the defense. Simple as that," he said. "He wasn't getting into the lane, and that's the No. 1 thing (with Calipari).

"I think the most important thing for Calipari with a point guard is he wants a guy that can attack and get into the lane and put pressure on the defense. And even though Ulis is small, he does a really good job of that. I think, at the end of the day, they felt like Ulis gave them that more than Perkins did."

The only other realistic option at point guard in the class of 2014 who could come to UK and start right away is Ballard star Quentin Snider, who recently decommitted from Louisville.

Snider has heard from a host of schools in the past couple of weeks, and he received offers from UCLA, UConn, Oklahoma State, Memphis and several others immediately after decommitting from U of L.

Scott Snider, the player's father, told the Herald-Leader on Saturday night that UK has not been in contact.

"I'd definitely listen to him," the elder Snider said. "They play an up-and-down style, which is the type of style we're looking for for Quentin."

Michigan State started calling more frequently in the last week or so, and Scott Snider followed up Sunday night to say that the Spartans had just called with a scholarship offer.

Michigan State was viewed as the favorite for Ulis before he picked up the offer from UK.

So in a matter of a couple of weeks, the buzz out of Texas grows that Mudiay will shun UK for SMU, the Cats quickly make an offer to Ulis, whose perceived favorite then picks up its recruitment of another star point guard.

Anybody see a pattern?

"I think everyone considers (Ulis) a very strong Kentucky lean, so I think that's your answer right there," Scout.com's Evan Daniels told the Herald-Leader on Friday. "I think they're the prime leader."

With a recent past of John Wall, Brandon Knight, Marquis Teague and Andrew Harrison, some UK fans might balk at the idea of bringing in a non-five-star player as the top guy.

Meyer doesn't have him ranked as high as Calipari's previous point guards, but he said Ulis is capable of being the starter on a team with Final Four aspirations.

"It depends on who he has around him. But, yeah, he's good enough," he said. "He's not good enough to do it himself. He's not good enough to be the main guy. Ulis needs — as Perkins would need — he's going to need people around him.

"Ulis has a great feel for getting people the basketball. He can shoot the ball well, and he can penetrate. He's a very good point guard. The main knock on him is the size. But if you put the right pieces around him, sure, he's a good enough point guard to get you where you need to be."

There's no reason to think those pieces won't fall into place over the next few months. UK has several top-10 prospects lined up for official visits between now and Big Blue Madness.

Even without Mudiay, the Cats will be contenders for another No. 1-ranked recruiting class.

"They're not dummies," Meyer said. "They'll figure it out."

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

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