Calipari using UK's Alumni Charity Game as a recruiting tool

broberts@herald-leader.comSeptember 8, 2013 

Jahlil Okafor of Whitney Young High School in Chicago. Basketball prospect for Class of 2014 (Photo by USA Basketball)

  • UK Alumni Charity Game

    When: 7 p.m. Monday

    Where: Rupp Arena

    Also: Fantasy Experience All-Star game, featuring several ex-Cats starts at 5:15 p.m.

The past and future of Kentucky basketball will collide in Rupp Arena on Monday night.

At least, that's the hope of Coach John Calipari.

Several of UK's biggest recruits are scheduled to be in attendance for the school's alumni game, which features many of the program's most recent stars now playing in the NBA.

Calipari's biggest guest will be Chicago center Jahlil Okafor, who most recruiting services consider the No. 1 overall prospect in high school basketball. Okafor will be joined by fellow Class of 2014 recruits Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis. All three players have UK scholarship offers.

Okafor, a 6-foot-10 center, was expected to arrive in Lexington on Sunday for the second of his five official visits. He traveled to Baylor last week and has plans to check out Arizona, Duke and Kansas later this fall. national analyst Evan Daniels is one of those who has Okafor ranked as the No. 1 player in the Class of 2014.

"He's got a combination of size, skill and ability to score around the basket," Daniels told the Herald-Leader. "He is one of the best post scorers I've seen in high school basketball. He's got great hands, great touch, a number of moves. He can step out and hit the mid-range jump shot. And he does it all at 6-10 and 260 pounds. That's a big dude who can really maneuver around the paint."

UK's only commitment so far from the 2014 class — New Jersey's Karl Towns — is also a post player. Still, Towns has been actively recruiting Okafor to UK, and Daniels said the two could play together at the next level.

"They can certainly co-exist. And they are different," he said. "Karl likes to step out a little more and shoot those mid-range to long-range jump shots. I do think that they're both centers, so I don't know if they'd necessarily be playing next to each other. But any college team could take both of those guys and find a way to make it work."

Okafor is still planning to attend the same school as five-star point guard Tyus Jones, who will use one of his official visits on a trip to Lexington later this month.

Calipari has offered both Jones and Ulis, who is making his second trip to Kentucky in the past four weeks.

Ulis is only 5-8, but he's impressed coaches and recruiting analysts with his toughness. He caught Calipari's eye after a 22-point, 17-assist performance against Jones at the Nike Peach Jam event in July.

Scout ranks Ulis as the No. 29 overall player in the Class of 2014 and the sixth-best senior point guard.

"Tyler is a tough guard," Daniels said. "His game is built around his toughness. He's got good speed, he can get in the lane, he's a very good creator. He can score a little too, and he defends the ball very well. I thought he had a great summer and has really made drastic improvements to his game over the past year."

Ulis has also taken official visits to Iowa and Michigan State — his other two finalists — in recent days. The Chicago-area prospect is expected to announce his college decision within a week or two of his final visit to Kentucky.

The Wildcats look to be in pretty good shape.

"This will be his second visit in less than a month. And when Cal zeroes in on a guy, he doesn't miss very often," Daniels said. "I think they need Tyler Ulis in this class. And I would say they're probably the favorites at this point."

Booker — one of the top shooting guards in the senior class — landed in Lexington on Sunday for his official visit. It's also his first trip to UK.

The 6-5 prospect is also considering Michigan, Michigan State, Missouri and Florida. He grew up in Michigan and has visited the two schools in that state several times. He now lives in Mississippi with his father, who was a star player for Missouri in the early 1990s.

Booker is also good friends with Ulis, and the two have talked about playing together in college.

"Devin has seen all those other schools multiple times, and this is kind of UK's first crack at him," Daniels said. "It's a big trip. I'm sure he wants to see what the Kentucky atmosphere is like, and he'll get to see that."

Daniels called Booker "one of the best shooters in the class." Scout ranks him as the No. 30 overall prospect in 2014.

Class of 2015 prospects Charles Matthews, Derrick Jones and Luke Kennard also planned trips to Lexington in conjunction with the Alumni Game festivities. All three of those players have scholarship offers from UK.


UK Alumni Charity Game

When: 7 p.m.

Where: Rupp Arena

Also: Fantasy Experience All-Star game, featuring several ex-Cats starts at 5:15 p.m.

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

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