The first major weekend on the grassroots basketball circuits wrapped up Sunday afternoon, capping three days of games in New York, Texas and Virginia that had college coaches flocking to see the game’s next wave of recruits.
UK Coach John Calipari started the weekend on the Nike circuit in Hampton, Va., before flying to Texas on Saturday to check out the Adidas tour, a league that features many of the Wildcats’ top recruiting targets in the class of 2018.
Calipari’s assistant coaches were spread across all three circuits all weekend.
Here’s a look at who the Cats have been watching, and how those players performed this weekend.
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Calipari has recruited a majority of his players at Kentucky from the Nike league — Hamidou Diallo, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Quade Green, Nick Richards, Jarred Vanderbilt and PJ Washington all played EYBL ball last year — but the Cats’ 2018 targets are a bit more spread out across the major circuits.
Still, the Nike EYBL has attracted many of the most talented players in the country, and several of those are on UK’s radar.
One of Calipari’s first stops Friday night was to see Cameron Reddish and Louis King play for Team Final (Pa.).
Reddish — a 6-foot-8 wing from Pennsylvania — was one of the first players from the 2018 class to earn a UK scholarship offer, and he visited Lexington for Big Blue Madness last fall. He averaged 23.2 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists over four games this weekend. (Reddish is also a high school teammate of UK target Mohamed Bamba).
King — a 6-8 forward from New Hampshire — averaged 15.0 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. He does not yet have a UK offer, but Rivals.com analyst Corey Evans predicted recently that the Cats would be favorites if they do offer King, the No. 32 player nationally for 2018.
Marvin Bagley — a 6-11 forward from Arizona — continued his stellar play over the weekend, living up to his reputation as the No. 1 player in the class of 2018.
Bagley averaged a league-high 25.2 points and 13.8 rebounds, to go along with 2.8 blocks per game for Nike Phamily, which went 0-4 on the weekend. Bagley has narrowed his list to UK, Duke, Arizona, Kansas, UCLA and Southern Cal, and head coaches from those schools kept a close eye on him throughout the weekend.
Calipari also got another look at class of 2018 point guard Javonte Smart, who the UK coach visited in his hometown of Baton Rouge, La., earlier in the week.
Smart — the No. 1 point guard in the Scout.com rankings — averaged 12.0 points, 5.5 assists and 2.2 steals per game, while making 35 percent of his three-point shots (7-for-20) and leading Houston Hoops to a 3-1 record. He’s in his first year with that squad, which has featured De’Aaron Fox and Jarred Vanderbilt in recent summers.
UK has not yet offered Smart, who has already visited Lexington.
Kentucky assistant coach Joel Justus was in Virginia all weekend for the Nike games. Among the other players that he and Calipari watched were the Nike Team Florida trio of Vernon Carey Jr., Balsa Koprivica and Trendon Watford, all five-star players in the 2019 class. Carey — the No. 2 player in the 2019 class — led that trio with 16.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.
‘Change of shoes’
After catching some more Nike games Saturday morning, Calipari hopped on a plane and headed for the Adidas circuit in Dallas, but he brought a little Nike flavor with him to that event.
The UK coach tweeted that he would be changing into Drake’s custom-designed “Calipari Pack” of Air Jordans, including in that tweet a picture of himself with both the black and white versions of the shoe, asking fans which they thought he should wear.
(Calipari was spotted in Texas wearing the white version Saturday, for the record).
Back to basketball … the UK coach has already extended scholarship offers to four rising seniors on the Adidas circuit — Zion Williamson, Romeo Langford, Immanuel Quickley and Quentin Grimes — and they were all in action this past weekend.
The event opened Friday night, with Williamson and Langford, the No. 2 and 3 recruits in the 2018 class, respectively, going head to head on the court.
Langford — a 6-5 shooting guard from New Albany, Ind. — had 28 points, four rebounds and four assists to lead Twenty Two Vision — a new program based in Louisville — to a 66-62 victory over South Carolina Supreme, which got 26 points and seven rebounds out of Williamson.
Williamson, who hosted Joel Justus for a visit a few days ago, averaged 21.0 points and 6.5 rebounds for the weekend. Langford, who hosted Calipari for a visit earlier in the week, averaged 24.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game, going 4-for-20 from three-point range and making 24 of 27 free throws (88.9 percent).
Quickley — the first point guard in the 2018 class to land a UK offer — averaged 16.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists for the weekend, making 14 of 29 threes (48.3 percent). Calipari visited him in Maryland last week.
Grimes — the most recent recipient of a UK offer among 2018 recruits — averaged 11.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. He was 1-for-6 on threes. The 6-5 point guard from Texas also has offers from Kansas — the possible favorite in his recruitment — Arizona, Louisville, Texas and several others.
UK assistant coach Kenny Payne was in Texas all weekend. He and Calipari also watched Oak Hill (Va.) center David McCormack, a 2018 recruit who visited Lexington last weekend, as well as 2019 recruits Charles Bassey, Christian Brown, Ashton Hagans and Josh Nickelberry, who scored 30 points in front of Calipari and UNC’s Roy Williams on Saturday night.
Meanwhile, in New York
Calipari didn’t make it to New York for the first weekend of play on the Under Armour circuit, but UK assistant coach Tony Barbee was there to get a look at a handful of Wildcats’ targets.
Class of 2018 post players Moses Brown and Naz Reid both got visits from Calipari last week, and the Cats could become major players for both recruits down the road.
Brown — a 7-footer from Jamaica, N.Y. — is regarded as the No. 1 center in the 2018 class. He averaged 24.0 points, 11.0 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and shot 68 percent from the field over the weekend.
Reid — a 6-9 power forward from New Jersey — attends the same high school that produced Isaiah Briscoe and has been on UK’s radar for a while. Reid averaged 13.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and was 5-for-12 from three-point range this weekend.
Barbee also watched class of 2019 teammates Bryan Antoine and Scottie Lewis — both of New Jersey — who have emerged as top UK targets early in the recruiting process.
▪ Huntington Prep (W.Va.) wing Keldon Johnson tied Marvin Bagley for top scoring honors over the weekend, going for 25.2 points and 9.2 rebounds over four games on the Nike circuit. Johnson, a Virginia native, visited UK during the season and could be a Wildcats target moving forward. The 6-6 recruit is No. 24 overall in the class of 2018, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.
▪ Canadian shooting guard RJ Barrett did not play this weekend. He’ll be on the Nike circuit later this spring and is currently ranked as the No. 1 overall player in the class of 2019, though college coaches that are recruiting him expect him to reclassify to 2018 later this year. UK is among the potential favorites in his recruitment.
▪ Nike EYBL alums Quade Green and PJ Washington — who squared off in last summer’s Peach Jam semifinals — showed up at this weekend’s games to support their former teams. The UK signees were in town for the first Allen Iverson Roundball Classic, which was played Friday night. Washington won MVP honors at that event.
▪ Trinity guard David Johnson, who is playing with Louisville Magic on the Adidas circuit, picked up scholarship offers from, U of L, Cincinnati and Xavier over the weekend. The class of 2019 recruit visited UK during the season.
▪ Next weekend will also be a live recruiting period, meaning college coaches will be back on the road to watch their top targets. The Nike and Under Armour circuits will both be in the Indianapolis area. The Adidas circuit moves to Atlanta.