For the first time since John Calipari became the head coach at Kentucky, the Wildcats will go into Big Blue Madness weekend with zero commitments for the next year’s recruiting class.
That doesn’t mean UK’s recruiting success is slowing down. Calipari is expected to again challenge for the No. 1-ranked class in the country, and he’ll have plenty of talented guests on campus for Madness this weekend.
The Cats’ list of visitors for Friday night’s season-opening spectacle includes five of Calipari’s top targets in the class of 2017, three of his top 2018 targets, and two players from the class of 2019 who will be getting an early look at UK’s program.
With the early signing period less than a month away, it’s not likely Calipari’s commitment count for next year will stay at zero much longer.
Here’s a closer look at each of the class of 2017 prospects who will be in Rupp Arena on Friday night (with additional comments provided to the Herald-Leader by Scout.com national analyst Evan Daniels, who breaks down UK’s chances with each player):
Position: Point guard
Ht: 6-1 Wt: 172
Scout.com ranking: 25th
The assists and steals leader on the highly competitive Nike circuit this summer, Green picked up a scholarship offer from UK during an unofficial visit to Lexington in June. He’s a bulldog of a point guard — a tenacious defender and a talented playmaker on offense who can score when he needs to but excels at getting his teammates in the right spots. (One of his AAU teammates this summer was top UK target Mohamed Bamba). Green has visited Syracuse several times in recent weeks, and many consider the Orange the favorite in his recruitment. He’s also expected to visit Duke this month. Green will be in town this weekend for his official visit to UK.
Daniels on Green: “He’s going to take this official visit, and then things will progress from there. The word is that Syracuse could be the leader, but I think Kentucky is still heavily involved. And an official visit certainly factors in and can weigh heavily. Outside looking in, I would say those two schools are probably at the top.”
Position: Small forward
Hometown: Tampa, Fla.
Ht: 6-9 Wt: 203
Scout.com ranking: 7th
MaxPreps.com named Knox the top junior in all of high school basketball last season, after he averaged 29.6 points, 10.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. He’s an athletic, versatile forward who can play away from the basket or be effective in the post. Knox has been adamant that he will wait until the spring to make a college decision, and he’s scheduled to return to Lexington for his official visit on Jan. 28, the date of the Cats’ home game against Kansas. His other three finalists are Duke, North Carolina and Florida State (where his father was a standout football player under Coach Bobby Bowden in the 1990s).
Daniels on Knox: “I really don’t know where he’s going. I don’t have any kind of inclination. He’s got this thing narrowed down to four schools, and it wouldn’t shock me to see him at any of those four. I don’t think that there’s a leader.”
Hometown: Queens, N.Y.
Ht: 6-11 Wt: 230
Scout.com ranking: 17th
Richards didn’t shed much light on his recruitment over the summer — and he repeatedly said he planned to wait until the spring to make a college decision — but things have picked up since then. Kentucky will be hosting him for the second time in less than a month, and the Cats seem to have all the momentum in his recruitment. Arizona and Syracuse also appear to have a chance, and Richards says he plans to visit those two schools before making a decision. One of the best rebounders and post defenders in the country, Richards also plays for The Patrick School (N.J.), alma mater of former UK great Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Daniels on Richards: “I think Kentucky is likely the leader for Nick Richards. They’ve done a really good job recruiting him, and he seems to be really interested in them. I know Arizona is still involved, and they would like to get a visit. But if I was handicapping things, I’d like Kentucky’s chances right now.”
Position: Power forward
Hometown: Frisco, Texas
Ht: 6-8 Wt: 232
Scout.com ranking: 14th
A joy to watch on the court, Washington always seems to be in the right spot at the right time and is capable of doing many things well. He’s at his best in the post, using his long frame — a 7-foot-2.5 wingspan — to rebound with the best of the class and effectively defend taller opponents. He’s continuing to develop his perimeter skills on offense, and his versatility makes him one of Calipari’s top 2017 targets. Arizona and North Carolina appear to be UK’s top competition for Washington, who is entering his third and final season at Findlay Prep (Nev.). He took his official visit to UK last month but has long wanted to attend Big Blue Madness.
Daniels on Washington: “I’ve always thought that Kentucky was in good shape there. He’ll continue to go through this deal, and I don’t know if there’s a leader, per se. I think Kentucky is in good shape. I like their position. But there’s still some other good schools involved.”
Position: Point guard
Hometown: Norman, Okla.
Ht: 6-2 Wt: 171
Scout.com ranking: 22nd
Calipari extended a scholarship offer to Young more than a year ago, making him the first point guard from the class of 2017 to get one from Kentucky. Since then, Calipari and the UK coaching staff have treated Young like their No. 1 priority at the position, and he’s returning to Lexington this weekend for his official visit and his second straight Big Blue Madness. Young is one of the best offensive players in the country and helped lead his team to the Peach Jam title this summer, going off for 28 points (6-of-10 threes), 11 assists and three steals in the nationally televised championship game. Hometown Oklahoma is UK’s top competition for Young, who has said he does not plan to sign in the November period.
Daniels on Young: “I think (UK is) right there at the top with Oklahoma and Kansas. He’s told me that he’s not going to sign early, so I think there’s probably a ways to go with him. There are some good schools involved, and he’s trying to figure all of that out. … I do not think that there’s a standout leader for Trae Young right now. And I would not be surprised at all to see him at Oklahoma.”
Romeo Langford, Immanuel Quickley and Cameron Reddish — three of the only 2018 recruits with UK scholarship offers — are all expected to be at Big Blue Madness on Friday night.
Langford is ranked by Scout.com as the No. 3 junior in the country, and MaxPreps named him the nation’s top sophomore after he led New Albany (Ind.) to a state title last season. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard also has scholarship offers from Duke, Louisville (his rooting interest as a child) and home-state Indiana, and his recruitment is expected to be one of the most hotly contested in 2018.
There’s a lot of excitement around the Kentucky fans and the team at this time. Any time you can get a kid on campus it’s a big deal, but when you can get them to campus when you have a celebration like this going on, it’s even better.
Evan Daniels, Scout.com national recruiting analyst
Quickley — a 6-3 point guard from Maryland — is ranked by Scout.com as the No. 10 overall player in the class, and he’s the first point guard in that group to earn an offer from UK. John Calipari visited Quickley at his high school last week, and UK assistant coach Joel Justus has watched him several times since the spring. He also has offers from Kansas, Louisville, Maryland, UConn and several other top schools.
Reddish — a 6-7 small forward from Norristown, Pa. — is ranked by Scout.com as the nation’s No. 4 junior, and he received a scholarship offer from Calipari in the spring. Reddish — a high school teammate of UK target Mohamed Bamba — also has offers from Duke, Kansas, UConn, Syracuse and several others.
Worth noting: Karl-Anthony Towns, Trey Lyles, Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist all attended Madness as high school juniors and later committed to Kentucky.
“There’s a lot of excitement around the Kentucky fans and the team at this time,” Daniels said. “Any time you can get a kid on campus it’s a big deal, but when you can get them to campus when you have a celebration like this going on, it’s even better. And that’s probably why Kentucky invited them.”
Getting a (very) early look at UK this weekend will be class of 2019 prospects Christian Brown and Austin Hagans.
Podcast: The Herald-Leader’s John Clay and Ben Roberts talk about UK’s big recruiting weekend and where the Cats stand with the top 2017 prospects.
Brown — a 6-7 forward from Hopkins, S.C. — is ranked No. 14 overall in the class of 2019 by 247Sports.com. Kansas, Oklahoma State and Wake Forest are among the schools that have already extended scholarship offers.
Hagans — a 6-3 point guard from Covington, Ga. — is ranked by 247Sports as the nation’s No. 46 sophomore. Half the schools in the Southeastern Conference, including Florida, have already offered.
Brown and Hagans were teammates on the Nike circuit this past summer.
Who’s not here?
Five of John Calipari’s top recruiting targets for the class of 2017 will not be in Lexington on Friday night.
Highly touted shooting guard Lonnie Walker is scheduled to take an official visit to Arizona this weekend, but he plans to be in town on Oct. 21 for his official visit to UK.
John Petty — the first recruit in the class of 2017 to receive a scholarship offer from Kentucky — attended last year’s Big Blue Madness event and will be back in Lexington for his official visit on Oct. 28.
Top-10 recruits Mohamed Bamba and Hamidou Diallo have not yet scheduled their official visits to Kentucky, but both are expected to make trips to Lexington and neither is planning to announce a college decision any time soon.
Four-star point guard Tremont Waters took his official visit to UK last month and is still considering the Cats, along with Georgetown, Indiana and Kansas.
UK’s commitments going into Big Blue Madness (by class)
Note: UK does not have any commitments for the class of 2017.
Big Blue Madness
When: 7 p.m. (doors open at 5:30)
Where: Rupp Arena
TV: SEC Network
Tickets: Sold out