A day before his team plays its first exhibition game of a much-anticipated season, Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari received some welcome news from the recruiting trail.
Highly touted shooting guard Devin Booker announced his commitment to UK on Thursday during a ceremony at his high school in Moss Point, Miss. Booker chose the Wildcats over Michigan, Michigan State and Missouri, where his father was a star player in the early 1990s.
Calipari first expressed interest in the 6-foot-5 prospect in April and personally traveled to Booker's school on the Mississippi coast to extend a scholarship offer. UK's coaching staff continued to follow Booker throughout the summer, and he took an official visit to Lexington for last month's Alumni Charity Game.
Scout.com ranks Booker as the No. 31 overall prospect in the class of 2014, and he's ranked as high as No. 18 overall by ESPN.
Scout national analyst Evan Daniels called him one of the best shooters in the country, but he's much more than that.
"He's a really hard worker," Daniels said. "He likes to compete, and he's a guy who spends a lot of time in the gym. And he's a guy who's going to get better. The guys who love the game and love spending time in the gym are the guys who get better."
Booker grew up with his mother in Michigan before moving to Mississippi a couple of years ago to live and train with his father, Melvin Booker, who played briefly in the NBA before a successful career overseas.
Devin Booker's game improved dramatically under the tutelage of his father. When Calipari first started recruiting him, the UK coach warned Booker of the pressure that comes with playing at Kentucky.
The high school senior wasn't fazed.
"That's the kind of pressure I like," he told the Herald-Leader earlier this year.
UK fans can get a closer look at their newest commitment Dec. 7 at the Marshall County Hoop Fest in Benton, Ky. Booker's high school squad is scheduled to play Ballard, which is likely to be the pre-season No. 1 team in Kentucky.
Booker is UK's third commitment for the Class of 2014, joining New Jersey center Karl Towns Jr. and Chicago-area point guard Tyler Ulis. Booker and Ulis have become close friends during their time on the camp circuit, and Ulis recently said he actively recruited Booker to join him in Lexington.
Indiana shooting guard James Blackmon Jr. is scheduled to announce his decision at 9 p.m. Thursday. UK is considered the favorite in his recruitment.
Ben Roberts: (859) 231-3216 Twitter: @NextCats Blog: UKrecruiting.bloginky.com