Five-star basketball recruit Kevin Knox announced his college decision Saturday, and Kentucky was the surprise pick.
Knox — a 6-foot-9 small forward from Tampa, Fla. — chose the Wildcats over fellow finalists Duke, Florida State, Missouri and North Carolina.
He was one of the top remaining recruits in the class of 2017, and Kentucky has been pursuing him for more than a year, though it appeared in recent weeks that the Wildcats were unlikely to be his choice.
Duke, North Carolina and Florida State, where Knox’s father was a football standout, were all mentioned as possible favorites in the final days of his recruitment.
Instead, he chose the Cats.
Knox announced his commitment on Twitter and provided exclusive comments about his college decision to rmfmag.com.
“As tough as it has been, I am confident and comfortable with the decision I have made,” Knox said. “I’ve decided to do what’s best for me, and I’m happy. Because in the end, that is all that matters.
“The hard part is over now. I’m looking forward to making this about basketball again; getting in the gym, getting better, and working toward the goal of bringing a national championship to the city of Lexington. See you soon, Big Blue Nation.”
Scout.com ranks Knox as the No. 9 prospect in the class. He averaged 28 points and 11 rebounds per game for Tampa Catholic last season.
Knox’s announcement, which came less than an hour after the Kentucky Derby, was a stunner in the recruiting world.
“I’m rarely shocked by a college commitment,” said Evan Daniels, Scout.com’s director of basketball recruiting, on Twitter. “I’m very surprised by Kevin Knox’s.”
UK is also recruiting 6-8 shooting guard Cameron Johnson, a graduate transfer from Pittsburgh who took an official visit to Lexington last month. He averaged 11.9 points and shot 41.5 percent from three-point range last season and will have two seasons of immediate eligibility at his next school. UK is battling Arizona, Ohio State, Oregon, Texas Christian and UCLA for his commitment.
The only other player still remaining on John Calipari’s recruiting radar for next season is five-star 7-footer Mohamed Bamba, who has narrowed his list to UK, Duke, Michigan and Texas but has not set a specific timetable for his college announcement.
Scout.com ranks Bamba as the No. 2 overall recruit in the 2017 rankings.
Even before adding Knox, Kentucky had the No. 1 ranked recruiting class, according to Scout.com.
Knox joins six other previously signed recruits for 2017-18: 6-10 center Nick Richards, 6-8 forward PJ Washington, 6-7 forward Jarred Vanderbilt, 6-5 guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, 6-3 guard Jemarl Baker and 6-foot guard Quade Green.
Hamidou Diallo, who joined the UK team at midseason in 2016-17 but did not appear in any games, could also be part of next season’s roster. Diallo has declared for the NBA Draft but has not hired an agent. He will attend this week’s NBA Combine in Chicago and has until May 24 to withdraw from the draft if he wants to retain his collegiate eligibility.
Returning scholarship players expected to join the newcomers are 6-9 forward Wenyen Gabriel, 6-10 forward Sacha Killeya-Jones and 6-10 forward Tai Wynyard.
Knox could play a number of different roles for Kentucky, Daniels said.
“He’s a versatile forward that can play the ‘3’ and the ‘4’. He’s a very good athlete. I think — with the way college basketball and the NBA are going — he can be really effective in a small-ball ‘4’ role. He sees himself as a straight perimeter player. He can definitely do that. He’s really improved as a shooter. He’s a terrific rebounder. He can push the break. This is a kid that can affect the game in a variety of ways.”