The summer travel season for the nation’s top high school basketball prospects is over, and the next stage in the recruiting cycle begins.
This is the time of year when rising seniors — in this case, players from the class of 2018 — start to pare down their recruiting lists, schedule official visits to their top schools, and ultimately make a decision on their college destination.
UK Coach John Calipari — always in the hunt for the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class — still has zero commitments for next year, but the Cats have sent out several scholarship offers and appear to be among the top choices for a few five-star talents.
So, who will sign with Kentucky in this 2018 cycle?
We took that question to the experts.
The Herald-Leader reached out this week to five of the nation’s top recruiting analysts — Jerry Meyer and Andrew Slater of 247Sports, Evan Daniels of Scout.com, Jeff Borzello of ESPN, and Corey Evans of Rivals.com — provided them with a list of UK’s top 10 targets in the class of 2018, and asked them to rank, in order, the five players from that list most likely to ultimately choose the Cats.
The 10 recruits on the list were Marvin Bagley, R.J. Barrett, Bol Bol, Darius Garland, Quentin Grimes, Romeo Langford, Immanuel Quickley, Cameron Reddish, Simi Shittu and Zion Williamson. All are five-star recruits in the 2018 class (though Bagley is still attempting to reclassify to 2017).
We took the experts’ lists, tallied up the results, and made a composite of the five most likely players to commit to Kentucky. Here are the final results:
5. R.J. Barrett
Analysts acknowledged a fogginess surrounding Barrett’s recruitment at this stage, and he was left off of two of the five lists altogether. The 6-7 wing from Canada just recently reclassified from 2019, and he’ll remain in the conversation for the No. 1 ranking in the 2018 class throughout this cycle.
Barrett’s father, former St. John’s star Rowan Barrett, has had nice things to say about UK and John Calipari, but the family has not yet released a list of top schools, and several other programs — Duke, Kansas, Texas and Arizona, to name a few — have been mentioned prominently in Barrett’s recruitment.
UK is expected to remain in the conversation as one of Barrett’s top choices, and he’s not planning to make a college decision any time soon.
4. Cameron Reddish
No recruit on this list elicited a greater disparity of opinion than Reddish, a 6-7 wing from Pennsylvania who has narrowed his choices to UK, Duke, UCLA, UConn and Villanova. One recruiting analyst ranked Reddish as the second-most likely of the 10 choices to ultimately commit to Kentucky. Another analyst left Reddish off of his list completely.
Though he’s officially down to five schools, the general consensus has been that Reddish will ultimately decide between Kentucky and Duke, the Blue Devils being perceived as the favorite for the past few months.
Reddish’s time with Calipari’s USA Basketball U19 team this summer likely helped UK’s cause, but will that be enough? He’s expected to take his five official visits this fall and could have a decision in time for the early signing period.
Every recruiting service ranks Reddish as a top-5 prospect nationally.
3. Simi Shittu
Of the 10 options given to our panel of recruiting analysts, Shittu is the only one who does not yet have a confirmed scholarship offer from Kentucky. He was included on the original list because that offer could be coming soon.
Calipari made a special trip to Canada last month to see Shittu at a camp in his home country, and UK is hoping that the versatile, 6-8 forward will visit Lexington in the near future. If Shittu does make that trip, a scholarship offer from the Wildcats is expected to materialize, and most of the analysts on our panel clearly think UK would be in a good position.
Shittu, who has current offers from North Carolina, Oregon, Arizona and others, is the No. 8 recruit nationally, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.
2. Zion Williamson
Behind-the-scenes moves by Kansas in recent days seemed to throw a wrench in Williamson’s recruitment, which by the middle of July was trending heavily toward Kentucky.
First, the 6-6 small forward from South Carolina teamed up at an Adidas event with highly touted point guard Devon Dotson, who is expected to commit to Kansas sometime this fall. Then, the Jayhawks offered a scholarship to Dontarius James, a friend and AAU teammate of Williamson’s on the Adidas circuit. (It’s also worth noting that KU is an Adidas-affiliated school.)
Our panel of recruiting analysts had all of that information before making their picks, and Williamson still showed up relatively high on every list. He could be ready to make a decision by the early signing period in November, and UK remains a serious threat to land his commitment.
1. Immanuel Quickley
This one shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has followed UK’s recruiting efforts this summer. Quickley, who was the first point guard from the 2018 class to earn a scholarship offer from the Wildcats and played for Calipari’s USA Basketball U19 team this summer, has said numerous times that Kentucky is the favorite in his recruitment. He was the clear No. 1 choice among our panelists.
Quickley — a 6-3 prospect from the Baltimore area — is also considering Kansas, Maryland and Miami, and he’s taking visits to all of his schools next month. A final decision — almost certainly in favor of UK — is expected no later than early October.
The one-week early signing period for the 2018 class starts Nov. 8.