Still in search of at least one more guard to fill out his backcourt for next season, UK Coach John Calipari all of a sudden has plenty of options.
In the past few days, UK has extended scholarship offers to class of 2017 shooting guards Jemarl Baker and Mark Smith, as well as Pittsburgh Panthers sophomore Cameron Johnson, who is on track to graduate this year and would be eligible to play for a new school right away next season.
Baker landed his UK offer during a visit with Calipari on Friday.
The 6-foot-4 prospect from the Los Angeles area made 94 three-pointers as a senior this past season and led the Under Armour circuit in three-point field goals last summer. He committed to California midway through his junior year but asked for and was granted a release from his letter of intent after Cuonzo Martin left the program to become head coach at Missouri.
Baker is also considering Duke, Utah, Arizona, Marquette, Maryland, Oregon, Arizona State and San Diego State.
Smith won Illinois Mr. Basketball honors this past season after averaging 21.9 points, 8.2 rebounds, 8.4 assists and 2.1 steals per game and leading Edwardsville High School to a 30-2 record.
The 6-5 guard landed his UK scholarship offer during a meeting with Wildcats’ coaches Thursday night, and he also has offers from Michigan State, Ohio State, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Butler and several other schools.
Smith is expected to visit Michigan State this weekend.
Johnson — a 6-8 guard from Moon Township, Pa., which is Calipari’s hometown — averaged 11.9 points per game and shot 41.5 percent from three-point range this past season, leading the Panthers in three-point shooting.
Just a sophomore, Johnson is on track to graduate from college this year — he was forced to sit out a redshirt season at the beginning of his college career due to a shoulder injury — and will have two seasons of eligibility at his new school.
Johnson also has scholarship offers from Florida, Ohio State, Texas, Michigan, Arizona Iowa State, South Carolina, Baylor, Ole Miss, Marquette and Texas Christian, according to Rivals.com’s Corey Evans.
Calipari criticized graduate transfers twice during the NCAA Tournament, though his comments at the time were geared more toward “bigger” schools raiding the talent of “mid-major” programs and catching those coaches off guard heading into their next season.
Johnson was recruited to Pitt, which plays in the Atlantic Coast Conference, by Jamie Dixon, who is now the head coach at TCU. Former Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings just wrapped his first season at Pittsburgh.
UK is losing all five of its scholarship guards from this past season’s team: seniors Dominique Hawkins and Mychal Mulder, and underclassmen Isaiah Briscoe, De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk, who have all entered their names in the NBA Draft and announced intentions to sign with an agent.
The Cats are bringing in five-star point guard Quade Green and four-star combo guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to go with five-star shooting guard Hamidou Diallo, who enrolled at UK in January and practiced with the Wildcats during the spring semester.
The Herald-Leader has been told that UK would like to add “at least” one more backcourt player to that group, and there’s a good chance the Cats could ultimately end up with two of the three guards they have recently offered.