Kentucky's class of 2014 coming into focus

broberts@herald-leader.comSeptember 24, 2013 

Two high school basketball prospects who once seemed likely candidates to end up at Kentucky are no longer considering the Wildcats.

Another top recruit has narrowed his list to UK and Louisville, which is sure to inflame that already bitter rivalry.

Those developments mixed with some behind-the-scenes chatter and John Calipari's recent travels have created a clearer picture of what UK's recruiting class of 2014 might look like by the start of the November signing period.

Cliff Alexander and Rashad Vaughn will not be a part of that class.

Alexander — the five-star power forward from Chicago — told reporters over the weekend that UK stopped communicating with him. He was one of the first players in the class of 2014 to get a scholarship offer from the Cats.

On Monday, Alexander released a list of his top six schools: Kansas, Illinois, Arizona, Memphis, Michigan State and DePaul.

Vaughn is considered one of the top shooting guards in the senior class, but he's no longer considering UK.

His mentor and assistant coach, Pete Kaffey, told the Herald-Leader on Tuesday that Vaughn has cut his list to Arizona, Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Minnesota, North Carolina and UNLV.

Vaughn is from Minnesota but will play his senior season at Findlay Prep in Nevada. Calipari was there this month and had an in-home visit with Vaughn's teammate and fellow 2014 recruit Kelly Oubre, but the UK coach did not meet with Vaughn.

A day before Vaughn cut his list, Indianapolis power forward Trey Lyles announced that UK and Louisville are his two finalists. Lyles also had listed Florida and Butler, but most recruiting observers had said for months that it would come down to the Cats and the Cards.

Lyles and the small forward Oubre — who will both take official visits to UK for Big Blue Madness on Oct. 18 — are now two of nine uncommitted high school players from the class of 2014 whom UK is still pursuing.

Also on that list are point guard Tyus Jones, shooting guards Devin Booker and James Blackmon Jr., small forwards Stanley Johnson and Justise Winslow, and centers Jahlil Okafor and Myles Turner.

Jones is expected to be in Lexington for an official visit this weekend. Blackmon and Johnson will use their official visits for Big Blue Madness. Okafor was in town for his visit this month, and Turner is still scheduling his trip to UK.

Of the nine players on that list, Winslow is the only one who has neither scheduled a trip to UK nor received an in-home visit from Calipari.

The recruiting of some of the others is starting to clear up.

Kentucky has achieved near-universal front-runner status for Booker and Blackmon, and a commitment from one or both of those players later next month would not be a surprise.

Oubre and his family are on the record saying UK and Kansas are the two clear favorites in his recruitment, and a couple of CBS national analysts said last week that UK might now be the team to beat for the top-10 prospect.

Kentucky has been the favorite for Lyles ever since he decommitted from Indiana last summer.

Arizona and UK remain the two favorites in Johnson's recruitment. The 6-foot-7 forward from the Los Angeles area visited Southern Cal over the weekend and is also considering Florida and Oregon. He's not expected to announce a decision any time soon.

The two big men on UK's radar — Okafor and Turner — haven't shed much light on their recruiting.

Duke is the popular prediction for Okafor, and Kansas is the hot pick for Turner, but both have several visits ahead and seem open to other schools.

The general consensus on Jones is that he will commit to Duke, but Calipari visited this month and said he would continue to recruit him even after landing a commitment from Chicago point guard Tyler Ulis.

Ulis and New Jersey center Karl Towns are UK's only two commitments for what is expected to be another large recruiting class in 2014.

They'll probably have some company a few weeks from now.

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

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