There is still much to be settled regarding John Calipari’s roster for next season, and the Herald-Leader caught up with Scout.com national recruiting analyst Evan Daniels on Monday for the latest on UK’s outlook for the 2017-18 campaign:
All eyes on Bamba
Other than Hamidou Diallo — more on him later — the most-asked about player related to the Wildcats’ possible lineup for next season is Mohamed Bamba, who remains uncommitted and has not yet announced a timetable for his college decision.
“I have nothing new. I wish I did,” Daniels said. “Mohamed is certainly taking his time, and he’s going through this process a little differently. … We’ll see how it plays out.”
Bamba — a 7-footer from Harlem, N.Y. — is ranked by Scout.com as the No. 2 overall prospect in the class of 2017, and he’ll be an instant-impact player for whichever college program lands him. He’s also already projected as a top-five pick in next year’s NBA Draft.
While Daniels said there hasn’t been much new information on Bamba’s recruitment in recent weeks, he did offer a bit more insight into the player’s list of schools.
Officially, Bamba has narrowed his focus to UK, Duke, Michigan and Texas.
In reality, Daniels said it’s a two-horse race.
“I think it’s Kentucky or Texas,” he said. “I don’t think anybody else is a factor right now.”
Bamba is friends with several of UK’s incoming freshmen — most notably, former AAU teammate Quade Green — and he formed an early bond with Wildcats Coach John Calipari.
A major part of the Longhorns’ appeal is the presence of Shaka Smart, who coached Bamba with the FIBA gold-medal winning Team USA U18 squad last summer.
Coincidentally, it was another UK and Texas target — Jarrett Allen — who had the most drawn-out recruitment of the 2016 cycle. Allen didn’t commit to the Longhorns until June 3 of last year, and Daniels didn’t rule out the possibility of Bamba going uncommitted even longer than that.
Or, he could commit this week. It’s really anybody’s guess.
“You just don’t know with Mo,” Daniels said. “He’s not doing interviews. He’s not talking. So it’s hard to know his process. He won’t even say publicly that he’s at two schools, but I think that’s where things are.
“It’s just hard to predict, because we don’t know his thought process.”
While Bamba has no real deadline for making his college choice — the signing period ends Wednesday, but players can sign scholarship papers with a school beyond that date — UK freshman Hamidou Diallo is getting close to decision time.
Diallo attended the NBA Combine last week in Chicago, but he didn’t play in the actual games, instead opting to only go through athletic testing, where he showed off a 44.5-inch vertical among other athletic talents.
If Diallo wants to return to UK and play college basketball next season, he’ll have to withdraw his name from the NBA Draft by May 24.
“I personally believe that it’s 50/50,” Daniels said. “I can’t make a guess on which way he would go. I think it could go either way. Obviously, from a physical standpoint, he tested out in a ridiculous manner. But that’s also what I thought was going to happen. He’s a tremendous athlete, and anybody that’s seen him much over the last two years knows about that. I think what the NBA guys don’t know is how good of a player he is, and I think that a lot of them are scrambling at this point to find information on him. He didn’t play, so there’s still some mystery.
“He’s got a tough decision to make.”
Diallo is scheduled for some individual workouts with a handful of NBA teams over the next few days, and those could give a clearer picture of his stock in next month’s draft.
DraftExpress.com updated its 2017 mock draft after last week’s Combine, and that website now has Diallo as the No. 35 overall pick — five spots outside of the first round.
Daniels, who has been tracking the 2017 draft for FoxSports.com, said he would expect a team to take a chance on Diallo earlier than that, should he stay in this year’s draft.
“I just don’t see a scenario where the draft gets to 25, and he’s not off the board. That’s my personal opinion.”
Wait and see
The surprise commitment of Kevin Knox earlier this month took some of the focus off of Cameron Johnson, the talented graduate transfer from Pittsburgh who UK has been recruiting as a wing player for next season.
Johnson, who also hasn’t been doing many interviews during his transfer process, did speak to Daniels shortly after his official visit to UK last month, and before more recent visits to Arizona, Oregon and UCLA — the other three schools in the mix.
“He mentioned that there were recruits that could impact him and where he wants to go,” Daniels said. “Without Kevin Knox, I think there was probably more of a need for Cam Johnson at Kentucky. Now, I’m not sure.”
Even if Diallo leaves UK for the NBA — hypothetically opening up the starting shooting guard spot — Daniels said he sees the 6-8 Johnson as “more of a ‘3’ than he is a ‘2’,” which is even more true of the 6-9 Knox.
“I think Kevin’s skill set and abilities — which I think are terrific — make him most effective playing a combo-forward role,” Daniels said. “He’s a very good athlete and a guy who is skilled for his size. And he’s an improving shooter. If you look at some of the more dynamic wings last year — Josh Jackson, Miles Bridges, Jayson Tatum — those guys were all wings or forwards coming out of high school. And they were utilized as face-up ‘4’ men. And the way college basketball — and really, the whole game — is going, is guys in that mold playing a lot of face-up ‘4’.”
A lineup of a starting point guard — likely Quade Green — sharing the perimeter with two players the size of Knox and Johnson (or Knox and Jarred Vanderbilt; or Knox and Wenyen Gabriel), while two other “bigs” play closer to the basket, looks nice on paper, but it might not be the most sensible for the Wildcats next season.
Either way, expect Johnson to wait on the NBA decisions of players like Diallo and Arizona’s Rawle Alkins before choosing his own transfer destination.
▪ Five-star point guard Trevon Duval committed to Duke on Monday, giving the Blue Devils the No. 2 recruiting class — behind UK — in the Scout.com rankings for 2017. Daniels said there was no plausible scenario for UK to lose that No. 1 ranking.
▪ Top 50 recruit Jeremiah Tilmon signed with Missouri on Monday, moving the Tigers to the No. 6 spot in the Scout.com class rankings. Daniels said Mizzou could move as high as No. 4 nationally if, as expected, four-star forward Jontay Porter decides to reclassify to 2017 and join his brother, No. 1 overall recruit Michael Porter Jr., in the Tigers’ class.