The fall recruiting period for college basketball coaches began over the weekend, and, as always when it comes to recruiting, John Calipari is a busy man.
The UK coach started in an unlikely spot Saturday: Las Vegas-area Findlay Prep, one of the nation’s perennial powers at the high school level and the alma mater of PJ Washington, one of Kentucky’s five-star signees from the 2017 class.
Calipari is not known to be recruiting any Findlay Prep players in the 2018 cycle, though the team’s coach, Paul Washington (father of PJ), told the Herald-Leader that UK’s coach did inquire about his younger son: 2018’s Spencer Washington, a 6-foot-7 perimeter player who is not in the national rankings. The elder Washington said Missouri and Texas Tech have been recruiting Spencer.
Calipari spoke to USA Today while checking out the Nevada team and said that some visits during the fall recruiting period are about maintaining relationships.
“We may be somewhere where we’re not really doing a whole lot of recruiting,” Calipari said. “It’s about relationships with coaches and schools.”
Paul Washington told the Herald-Leader that UK assistant Kenny Payne, who was instrumental in the Cats’ recruitment of PJ, also came to see his team go through its pro-style skills combine Saturday.
The UK coaches also met with five-star guard Quentin Grimes while in the area. Grimes, who attends high school in the north Houston suburbs, is one of the top backcourt players in the class of 2018 and landed a UK scholarship offer over the summer. He’s expected to take an official visit to Lexington this fall.
It’ll be a busy week ahead for Calipari, who was scheduled to meet with South Carolina native Zion Williamson — the No. 1 recruit in the 247Sports rankings for 2018 — on Monday, but that trip had to be postponed due to Hurricane Irma.
The UK coach will meet with five-star shooting guard Keldon Johnson, who landed a Kentucky offer last month, Monday in Virginia.
Calipari is expected to see five-star power forward Simi Shittu during an open gym at his Vermont high school on Tuesday morning.
Calipari will welcome five-star point guard Immanuel Quickley to Lexington on Friday for his official visit to UK. The Cats are seen as the heavy favorites in the Maryland native’s recruitment. Quickley took an official visit to Kansas earlier this month and was supposed to be in Miami over the weekend for an official visit, but that trip was called off due to Hurricane Irma.
The Herald-Leader was told Sunday night that Miami is trying hard to reschedule Quickley’s official visit, but there has been no final decision yet on that trip. Quickley is expected to make a college decision no later than early October.
Hurricane Irma has also made it cumbersome for any coaches hoping to have an in-school meeting with No. 1 recruit R.J. Barrett, a Canada native who attends Montverde Academy in central Florida. Barrett took his first official visit to UK two weekends ago and is scheduled for his next such trip, to Duke, this weekend.
Ajok Kuag, the mother of top-five recruit Bol Bol, told the Herald-Leader that Calipari is planning to meet with her son this weekend in California. Quickley’s visit to UK ends Sunday morning, and that would give Calipari plenty of time to fly to the west coast later in the day for a meeting with Bol, the No. 2 overall player in the Scout.com rankings for the class of 2018.
Tim Langford, the father of No. 1 shooting guard Romeo Langford, told the Herald-Leader on Sunday night that Calipari had not yet scheduled an in-home visit with his son. Langford — a New Albany, Ind., native — recently cut his list to seven schools: UK, Louisville, Indiana, North Carolina, Kansas, Vanderbilt and UCLA, though the Wildcats are thought to be long shots in his recruitment.
There’s been no word yet on when (or if) Calipari plans to visit Nashville-area point guard Darius Garland, the only other class of 2018 player with a UK scholarship offer.
While UK’s head coach concentrates on the 2018 recruits, his other assistants have started looking at players beyond that class.
Joel Justus started the fall recruiting period in Memphis on Saturday, meeting with James Wiseman, a 6-11 power forward and the No. 1 prospect nationally in the ESPN rankings for the 2019 class. Wiseman spoke to the Herald-Leader and others at the Nike Peach Jam Finals in July and was glowing in his remarks about Kentucky.
UK assistant coach Tony Barbee was in New Jersey on Saturday to see top-10 recruits Bryan Antoine and Scottie Lewis, teammates in high school and on the Under Armour travel circuit. Antoine and Lewis visited Lexington in May.