With three days between home games this week, UK Coach John Calipari made the trip to Nashville on Wednesday night to watch one his signees from the class of 2017.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander — a 6-foot-5 point guard from Hamilton Heights (Tenn.) — is the only member of the Wildcats’ recruiting class who is not considered a five-star prospect, but he’s likely to play a major role on next season’s team with the expected departures of Isaiah Briscoe, De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk to the NBA Draft.
Scout.com national analyst Evan Daniels was also in Nashville to see Gilgeous-Alexander play Wednesday.
“Shai’s a really good prospect,” Daniels told the Herald-Leader. “I like his size, his length, his frame. His body’s starting to fill out. He’s a guy who can play both on and off the ball, and he’s going to continue to do that at the next level. Especially with Quade (Green), it’s going to give Kentucky a couple of different looks.”
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Green — a five-star point guard — is UK’s only other backcourt signee for next season, though the Cats are expected to add a commitment from five-star shooting guard Hamidou Diallo on Saturday. Still, Gilgeous-Alexander is likely to play major minutes as a freshman.
Daniels said the UK signee didn’t have his best game Wednesday — scoring 13 points and making two three-pointers in a 56-52 victory — but he’ll be capable of helping the Wildcats immediately.
“He plays at a good pace and changes speeds well,” Daniels said. “He’s a bigger guard, and I think he’s going to be more physical when he gets into a college weight room, because he has an incredible frame.
“He’s a guy who can help Kentucky, and he’ll be able to do so next season.”
Scout.com ranks Gilgeous-Alexander as the No. 45 overall prospect and No. 12 point guard in the senior class.
Speaking of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the future Wildcat told the Herald-Leader last month that he prefers being referred to by his full name — some simply call him “Shai Alexander” — and confirmed the correct pronunciation of the first part of his hyphenated last name.
It’s pronounced, “Gill-juss.” His first name has the same pronunciation as the word “shay.”
Latest on Knox
Five-star small forward Kevin Knox is one of UK’s few remaining targets in the class of 2017, and he’ll take the second official visit of his recruitment this weekend, to Florida State. He also took an official visit to Duke in October.
Some recruiting observers all but ruled UK out as a realistic destination for Knox following the commitment last month of Jarred Vanderbilt, another five-star small forward. UK also signed versatile five-star forward PJ Washington in the fall, and freshman forward Wenyen Gabriel could return for a sophomore season.
So, does the most recent addition of Vanderbilt have any affect on Knox?
“I don’t know how it doesn’t,” Scout.com’s Evan Daniels told the Herald-Leader on Thursday. “I mean, I know Kentucky still wants Kevin Knox, but they basically have two combo forwards already committed in their class. And Kevin is similar. His strengths are different, but I don’t see how it doesn’t impact him.”
John Calipari isn’t giving up. The UK coach attended one of Knox’s games last week, and the Tampa, Fla., standout has told Calipari that he’s still considering the Cats despite all the talent that’s already there at his position.
Knox is also still on for his official visit to UK later this month, the same weekend as the Cats’ home game against Kansas. Knox will also take an official visit to North Carolina, his other finalist, in early February.
There’s no clear favorite in his recruitment, which is expected to drag into the spring.
“I think it’s too early to tell,” Daniels said. “He’s only taken one official visit. He’s just now starting to get into that process. And he’s not in any kind of hurry to make a college choice. He’s waiting this out, and I think we’ll start to see his recruitment come together in the next two, two-and-a-half months.”
Five-star shooting guard Hamidou Diallo will announce his college decision Saturday at 5 p.m., and Kentucky is the favorite going into the weekend.
If Diallo does indeed pick the Wildcats, John Calipari will have a five-star commitment at every position for 2017: Quade Green (point guard), Diallo (shooting guard), Jarred Vanderbilt (small forward), PJ Washington (power forward) and Nick Richards (center).
According to the 247Sports composite rankings and position designations, that’s only happened one other time at Kentucky — with the 2013 recruiting class.