Two weeks ago, John Calipari had zero commitments for his recruiting class of 2017.
Now, he has four signees for next year and the No. 1 recruiting class in the country.
The UK coach might also have some built-in continuity to his rosters of the future.
Not counting this season’s freshman class, Calipari has signed 32 high school recruits who were ranked in the top 50 nationally since 2009, and only 13 of those players have returned to UK for a second season.
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DraftExpress.com analyst Jonathan Givony has evaluated UK’s four early signees in several different settings over the past couple of years, and — while he doesn’t have any of them listed in his early mock draft for 2018 — he’s high on their prospects of making an impact right away at the college level.
Quade Green is the most recent and, arguably, most important addition — he’s the likely starting point guard, after all — to UK’s class.
“Love him,” Givony told the Herald-Leader. “I think he’s going to be a great college player. He’s a pure point guard. He wants to make everybody better. He’s great on the pick and roll. He likes getting other guys easy baskets. Kentucky kind of had that with Tyler Ulis, and — I don’t want to compare him to Tyler Ulis — but he’s a pure point guard like they don’t have on this year’s roster. I think Cal likes guys like that.”
In a recent evaluation, Givony called Green a “college coach’s dream.” To expound on that, the NBA analyst once again invoked the name of Ulis and noted the many times Calipari referred to the former UK point guard as his “coach on the floor.”
“Quade can be something like that,” Givony said. “He knows every play. He knows how to execute. He has a great feel for the game. And part of the reason why he’s a college coach’s dream is he’s 6 feet tall. He doesn’t have a great body. He’s not a tremendous athlete. So he projects as a guy who’s going to be staying for multiple years. And maybe in his mind, ‘No.’ Obviously, when these guys go to Kentucky, they’re not thinking, ‘I’m going for four years.’ But he’s not what the NBA scouts dream of, right now.
“That’s not to say that he can’t develop into being an NBA player. He can, but he has things he needs to prove first at the college level.”
One thing Green can do to win over NBA scouts, Givony said, is simply win basketball games. Someone like De’Aaron Fox will be drafted, based on sheer talent alone, no matter how UK’s season goes, but Green, who lacks the size, length and speed of a player like Fox, will need to show he can run a basketball team.
“He’s not going to get there with his potential,” Givony said. “He’s going to get there with his production.”
DraftExpress.com: Mohamed Bamba, Kevin Knox among projected one-and-dones in 2018 draft
Givony was also complimentary of Alexander, UK’s other backcourt signee. When it was noted the 6-5 guard is not ranked as highly as Calipari’s other signees — the major recruiting services have him ranked between 43rd and 53rd nationally — Givony said, “I think he’s better than that.
“He’s probably a better prospect right now than he is a player. He has a lot of tools. He has great size and length. He’s very smooth, athletically. He checks a lot of boxes that you look for in a point guard prospect, but he’s still really raw. He’s still putting it all together as a basketball player.
“And that makes sense — even a year ago, he was very much under the radar. So he’s on a little bit of a different trajectory than some of these other guys.”
Givony said UK would be a great fit for Alexander, who should benefit by playing alongside Green in a typical Calipari lineup that features multiple guards who can handle the ball and push the offense.
Alexander is still progressing with his shooting, ball handling and understanding of how to run a team.
“He’s in an early stage with all of those,” Givony said. “And he’s going to be in a really good place to develop those things at Kentucky.”
UK’s other two signees — five-star frontcourt players Nick Richards and PJ Washington — are also not among the eight high school seniors Givony has listed as one-and-done players in his 2018 mock draft. Neither of those players is ranked among the top 10 prospects in the 2017 class by any of the major recruiting services, but both should be major contributors for the Wildcats next season.
Richards is one of the best post defenders and rebounders in the country. Washington, too, is among the top rebounders in high school basketball and is also an efficient and versatile offensive player.
Givony is looking forward to seeing more of both players over the next 18 months.
“It’s really early to say right now,” he said of their possible one-and-done status. “I don’t want to close the door on PJ Washington or Nick Richards, because they both have some very intriguing things from an NBA standpoint.
“There’s still a lot for us to learn about these guys.”
High school seniors in DraftExpress mock draft for 2018
- 1. DeAndre Ayton (Arizona)
- 2. Mohamed Bamba (Uncommitted)
- 4. Wendell Carter (Uncommitted)
- 5. Michael Porter Jr. (Washington)
- 6. Trevon Duval (Uncommitted)
- 10. Kevin Knox (Uncommitted)
- 11. Lonnie Walker (Miami)
- 12. Troy Brown (Oregon)