Summer vacation for college basketball coaches — if there is such a thing — ends Friday morning, when John Calipari and his peers hit the road for the opening of the fall recruiting period.
Calipari, who has had either the No. 1- or No. 2-ranked recruiting class nationally since arriving at Kentucky in 2009, has ambitious plans for this weekend and the next few days to follow.
“I’ll be gone for at least five straight days,” he said recently, previewing this recruiting period. “Probably in five straight days hit 12 different states, get done what I gotta get done, because if I’m not in the first week, what do you think these other schools are saying? ‘Well, if you were important to him, he’d have been here already.’
“So I gotta go and just hit three states in one day. We’re not recruiting that many kids. I think it’s eight or nine kids. But I gotta hit ’em all within the first four or five days.”
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UK is expected to have one of its biggest recruiting classes yet — in terms of sheer numbers — in 2017, and 13 uncommitted players from that group have been reported to have scholarship offers from the Wildcats at one time or another.
As Calipari said, he has zeroed in on “eight or nine” guys for next year’s class, but those players come from the cream of the rankings crop and a few will almost certainly end up elsewhere. That means UK likely will have to look at others to fill out its 2017 class, and Calipari and his assistant coaches could visit some slightly-off-the-radar recruits during his “12-state” tour over the next few days.
Here’s a closer look (in alphabetical order) at 11 prospects who have reported offers from Kentucky and could be on Calipari’s visit list, where those visits would take place, and some additional details on others who might pop up on the Cats’ recruiting radar sooner rather than later:
Mohamed Bamba (Pennsylvania)
Scout.com ranking: No. 2
Background: The 7-footer from Harlem, N.Y., has a 7-9 wingspan, 9-6 standing reach and the kind of potential that has already led Calipari to compare him to former UK star Anthony Davis. He’s just now getting serious about his recruitment, and the Cats have a better shot than most people think.
Top competition?: Duke — The Blue Devils have long been considered the favorite for Bamba, but they still have lots of work to do in his recruitment.
Hamidou Diallo (Connecticut)
Scout.com ranking: No. 10
Background: Diallo might be the most explosive player in the class of 2017 — search his name on YouTube if you don’t know why — and he’s a top priority for UK. The Queens, N.Y., native has already graduated from high school and will play as a post-grad this season, but there’s no real indication he’d skip college and jump straight to the pros.
Top competition?: UConn — Kevin Ollie and his coaching staff have been all over Diallo since he emerged as a top recruit, but the buzz before he landed his UK offer was that he’d be a Wildcat if Calipari made a major push, which he has.
Quade Green (Pennsylvania)
Scout.com ranking: No. 25
Background: The Philadelphia native emerged over the summer as UK’s point guard option “1A” behind/alongside Trae Young. Green was the assists and steals leader on the Nike circuit, played alongside Mohamed Bamba in that league and would be a perfect fit as a facilitating point guard on a team full of stars.
Top competition?: Syracuse — For most of the summer, Duke had prioritized and was considered the leader for Green, but the Orange have momentum going into the fall recruiting period. UK doesn’t seem likely at this time.
Kevin Knox (Florida)
Scout.com ranking: No. 7
Background: Knox was named the junior of the year by MaxPreps.com last season and looked great on the Nike circuit (and with the Team USA U17s) this summer. Calipari made his games a regular stop during the summer evaluation periods, and the 6-9 forward isn’t planning to make a decision until the spring (which could be good for UK).
Top competition?: Duke — The Blue Devils are seen by some as a sure thing for Knox, but he and his family have made it clear that they’re wide open in the process. His father played football at Florida State, and the Seminoles remain an option.
John Petty (Alabama)
Scout.com ranking: No. 44
Background: Petty was the first player from the class of 2017 to earn a UK scholarship offer, and Calipari has traveled to Alabama several times to meet with him. The 6-5 wing has a do-it-all style that would fit well on a UK squad that is expected to have several five-star players.
Top competition?: Alabama — It looks like a battle between the in-home school and UK, which Petty rooted for as a kid. Folks in Alabama are spreading word that the Cats are prioritizing other players, but an early visit from Calipari should disprove that.
Nick Richards (New Jersey)
Scout.com ranking: No. 17
Background: Richards — a 6-10 center from Queens, N.Y. — is one of the best rebounders and post defenders in the class. Many analysts have UK as the favorite, but the Cats might not take many post players in 2017, and others could be bigger priorities at the moment.
Top competition?: Syracuse — The Orange have already hosted Richards for a visit, and the program has had great success with New York City-area recruits. Arizona, Indiana and UConn are also on his list of favorites.
Jarred Vanderbilt (Texas)
Scout.com ranking: No. 15
Background: One of the first players from the 2017 class to land a UK offer, Vanderbilt hasn’t talked as much about the Cats in the past few months as he did last winter. It will be interesting to see if and when Calipari pays a visit to the versatile 6-9 forward this fall.
Top competition?: Texas Christian — Yes, there’s reason to believe in the recent Vanderbilt-to-TCU buzz. The Horned Frogs hired his first cousin, Corey Barker, as an assistant coach earlier this year, and they might just be the favorites going into the fall.
Lonnie Walker (Pennsylvania)
Scout.com ranking: No. 23
Background: A fairly recent recipient of a UK offer, the 6-4 shooting guard started to hear more from the Wildcats as the summer progressed. Walker was a 40-percent shooter from three-point range on the Nike circuit, and he is easily one of the best shooters among the top-tier players in the 2017 class.
Top competition?: Syracuse — Walker’s recruitment isn’t the easiest to read (and local contender Villanova could also be put in this spot) but the Orange seem to have some momentum. UK, Arizona and Miami are his other three finalists.
P.J. Washington (Nevada)
Scout.com ranking: No. 14
Background: Washington — a smart, versatile 6-8 forward — emerged over the summer as one of UK’s top recruiting priorities, and Calipari is expected to visit him Sunday. Washington was born in Louisville, raised in Texas, and he and his family have a great relationship with the UK coaching staff.
Top competition?: UNLV — Washington’s father is the new head coach at Findlay Prep, which has strong, recent ties to the Rebels’ program. Still, UK seems to be in great shape in his recruitment. Arizona, North Carolina and Texas are also in the mix.
Tremont Waters (Connecticut)
Scout.com ranking: No. 36
Background: Waters — a 5-11 point guard — received offers from UK and Duke during the summer but appears to be a backup plan for those schools. Whether or not Calipari visits Waters over the next few days will be telling.
Top competition?: Indiana — The Hoosiers have claimed front-runner status over the past few weeks.
Trae Young (Oklahoma)
Scout.com ranking: No. 22
Background: Possibly UK’s most important class of 2017 recruit, Young had a phenomenal finish to the summer season, leading his team to the Nike Peach Jam title. He’s a flashy point guard who can shoot from long range, score from all over the court and finished second in the Nike league in assists. He’ll be at UK for his official visit next month.
Top competition?: Oklahoma — It’s looking like either the Cats or Sooners for Young, a Norman native who is getting the full-court recruiting press from Lon Kruger and his coaching staff.
▪ If John Calipari visited all 11 players on the list above, that would put him eight states toward his “12-state” goal: Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Nevada, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Texas.
▪ Five-star prospects Wendell Carter and Gary Trent Jr. received early scholarship offers from the Cats, but UK’s coaches made it clear toward the end of the summer that they are no longer recruiting the duo. Carter is seen by many recruiting analysts as a likely Duke commitment, and Trent could very well join him in Durham. At this point, it would be a surprise if Calipari visited either player this fall.
▪ DeAndre Ayton — the No. 1 recruit in the 2017 class — committed to Arizona on Tuesday.
▪ In an interesting development on the point guard front, UK assistant coach Kenny Payne reached out to five-star prospect Nick Weatherspoon last week. Weatherspoon, a Mississippi native, already has in-home visits planned with Kansas and North Carolina, and both of those schools have extended scholarship offers. A visit from Calipari this month would signal that UK is serious about pursuing him, and word out of Mississippi is that Weatherspoon would be very interested in UK if Calipari truly wants him. Scout.com ranks Weatherspoon — a 6-2 guard — as the No. 26 player in the class.
▪ Calipari could look inside the state of Kentucky to fill out his 2017 class, and though there are no indications that he’s visiting anyone from the Bluegrass over the next few days, it wouldn’t be a shocker. One possible candidate: Lexington’s own Taveion Hollingsworth, a 6-2 guard who led Paul Laurence Dunbar to the state title and won Sweet Sixteen MVP honors last season. Hollingsworth told the Herald-Leader last year that UK would be a “dream offer” for him. He has offers from Eastern Kentucky, Morehead State, Murray State, Saint Louis and several others. Louisville has also expressed interest.
▪ In-school visits with a handful of prospects from the class of 2018 will surely be on Calipari’s list of stops over the next few days. Three highly rated players in the class — Marvin Bagley (California), Romeo Langford (Indiana) and Cameron Reddish (Pennsylvania) — already have UK scholarship offers and are prime candidates to meet with UK’s coach soon. (Reddish is also a high school teammate of UK target Mohamed Bamba). Other 2018 recruits who could see Calipari at their school: Zion Williamson (South Carolina), Immanuel Quickley (Maryland), Javonte Smart (Louisiana), Naz Reid (New Jersey) and Jaedon LeDee (Texas).