Two weeks after hosting No. 1-ranked recruit R.J. Barrett for his first official visit, UK will welcome two more highly touted basketball prospects to town this weekend.
Point guard Immanuel Quickley and shooting guard Keldon Johnson — both five-star players in the class of 2018 — are expected to arrive on campus Friday for the beginning of their 48-hour official visits.
In one case, John Calipari and his coaching staff will be looking to seal the deal on one of their most coveted recruiting targets. In the other, they might have some ground to make up as they work toward a commitment.
Quickley — a 6-foot-3 prospect from the Baltimore area — was the first point guard in the class of 2018 to earn a scholarship offer from Calipari, and he’s been viewed for months as the most likely player in the entire 2018 class to ultimately end up a Wildcat.
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Kansas hosted Quickley for an official visit two weeks ago. Miami was supposed to have him on campus this past weekend, but that trip was postponed due to Hurricane Irma and has not been rescheduled. UK is the only other school on his list, and it’s possible that Quickley could be ready to announce a college decision shortly after completing his trip to Lexington.
Scout.com’s Evan Daniels told the Herald-Leader this week that he still fully expects Quickley to commit to Kentucky in the near future.
If that happens, the Cats will be getting the No. 8 overall player in the Scout.com rankings, and Calipari will have another talented point guard to add to a long list of them.
Calipari coached Quickley with the Team USA U19 squad that traveled to Egypt over the summer. The five-star point guard also excelled on the Adidas circuit and was a standout at several camps and events around the country over the past few months.
“I think Quickley — especially at the end of the summer — looked tremendous,” Daniels said. “And this is a kid that had a long, drawn-out summer. I was really impressed with his maturity as a player. I think he’s a tremendous passer. I think he’s really good in pick-and-roll situations. I think he’s got a lot of potential as a defender. This is a pass-first guard, but he’s also really improved as a shot maker from distance, especially off the catch.
“I think Immanuel Quickley did everything he needed to do in the spring and summer and has continued to progress.”
Johnson — a 6-6 prospect from South Hill, Va., now playing at Oak Hill Academy — is also considering Florida State, Maryland, North Carolina State and Texas as his recruitment winds down. Those other schools have been recruiting him hard for a long time — Longhorns Coach Shaka Smart started pursuing him in middle school — while UK extended a scholarship offer just last month.
Kentucky has been staying in touch with Johnson for a while, however, and he expressed a clear interest in the program long before that offer came.
Johnson averaged 20.7 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists on the Nike circuit over the summer.
“The thing about Keldon Johnson is he’s such a good scorer,” Daniels said. “This is a guy that can slash to the rim. He’s a good athlete. He’s got good size. Really good finisher around the basket. I think he could become a better shooter from long range — that’s the next step in his development. But he can really put the ball in the basket, and he put up huge numbers on the Nike EYBL circuit.”
Johnson has already taken visits to Texas and N.C. State, and he’s expected to see Maryland next weekend. Coaches from all of those schools have been by Oak Hill to visit him this week, with Calipari and Joel Justus stopping by Monday.
Texas is viewed by some analysts as the current favorite in Johnson’s recruitment, though Kentucky still appears to have a good shot at his commitment.
“If I was handicapping it, (Texas) might be in the best position right now,” Daniels said this week. “That would be my guess. But there’s still a ways to go.”