John Calipari spent this past weekend in Brooklyn, the site of the Jordan Brand Classic that featured four University of Kentucky signees for next season, but the Wildcats’ coach wasn’t there to see his next group of five-star recruits.
Calipari was there to look even further into UK’s future.
NCAA rules prevent college coaches from attending games like the Jordan Classic, and Friday marked the first live recruiting period of the spring AAU circuit.
Calipari started the weekend Friday night at an Under Armour event that featured class of 2017 standouts Paul Scruggs and Kris Wilkes — two highly touted prospects from Indianapolis who have both visited UK multiple times and are still hoping for scholarship offers from Calipari.
On Saturday morning, the first games of the Nike travel season were played, and the UK coach was courtside bright and early to see the Wildcats’ top recruiting targets for next year.
Calipari began Saturday by watching teammates Michael Porter Jr. and Trae Young of Mokan Elite, which was the same Nike team that Willie Cauley-Stein played for in high school.
Porter, a 6-foot-9 small forward from Columbia, Mo., and Young, a 6-1 point guard from Norman, Okla., have often talked about playing together in college, and UK is one of a handful of schools that has extended scholarship offers to both players.
Young is the only point guard in the class of 2017 with a UK offer. He had a stellar weekend, averaging 24.7 points, 5.3 assists and 2.7 steals over three games, all victories. He shot 47.4 percent from three-point range. Porter averaged 21.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game.
Calipari also watched several other recruits with UK scholarship offers for the class of 2017, including DeAndre Ayton, Mohamed Bamba, John Petty and Nick Richards.
The No. 1 overall player in the class of 2018 — Arizona native Marvin Bagley — was also scouted by Calipari multiple times over the weekend. Bagley already has a UK scholarship offer.
No rest for Cal
Calipari will stay on the recruiting trail Monday, when he’s scheduled to have an in-home visit with five-star small forward Kevin Knox of Tampa, Fla. Scout.com ranks Knox as the No. 6 overall prospect in the class of 2017.
The 6-8 recruit already has scholarship offers from Duke and North Carolina, and those two schools are considered possible favorites along with Florida State, where Knox’s father played football in the 1990s.
Calipari watched Knox play on the Nike circuit this weekend, and he could land a UK scholarship offer soon. Last week, MaxPreps.com honored him as the national junior of the year.
Others on the radar
A few other class of 2017 prospects who are candidates to received UK scholarship offers in the near future are Brian Bowen, Hamidou Diallo and Kris Wilkes. Calipari watched all three of those players in New York over the weekend.
Bowen — a 6-7 small forward at La Lumiere (Ind.) — is originally from Michigan and has already taken a recruiting visit to UK. Calipari was at his school last month for a visit, and Bowen has mentioned Kentucky as one of the schools currently recruiting him the hardest. He is now playing for the Chicago-based MeanStreets program that has produced Anthony Davis, Tyler Ulis and Charles Matthews.
Scout.com ranks Bowen as the No. 14 player in 2017.
Calipari watched Diallo — a 6-5 shooting guard from Queens, N.Y. — multiple times over the weekend and saw him play during the high school season. Scout ranks Diallo as the No. 9 player in the class, and national analyst Evan Daniels said that he’s “in the conversation” for the status of No. 1 guard in the class after watching him play on the Nike circuit in Brooklyn.
The word out of New York indicates UK could be the favorite if Diallo does land a scholarship offer from the Wildcats.
There’s also been speculation that Wilkes — a 6-8 small forward — could earn a UK offer soon. Calipari and his assistant coaches have now seen him play several times over the past year, and Wilkes visited Lexington for Big Blue Madness last October.
Scout.com ranks Wilkes as the No. 13 player in the class.
Meanwhile, in Texas …
UK assistant coach John Robic spent the weekend in Dallas for an Adidas event, which did not have nearly as many UK targets as the Nike or Under Armour showcases.
Robic did get to see Indiana phenom Romeo Langford, who just completed his sophomore season of high school but has already drawn comparisons to Hoosier State legend Damon Bailey.
Langford — a 6-4 shooting guard from New Albany — led his team to a state title last month. Calipari and UK assistant coach Tony Barbee attended that game. Scout.com last week ranked Langford as the No. 4 overall recruit in the class of 2018.
The recruitment of five-star center Marques Bolden will go beyond his self-imposed deadline for a college announcement.
Bolden had been saying for weeks that he would announce his college choice by his 18th birthday on April 17, which was Sunday. Bolden’s father said earlier in the weekend that his son was not ready to announce. Marques Bolden, who played in the Jordan Brand Classic on Friday night, stuck around in Brooklyn and was spotted at the Nike event Sunday, spending his birthday by watching his former travel team, Pro Skills Elite.
Bolden is now expected to announce his college decision sometime this week at his high school in Texas. UK and Duke are considered the co-favorites in his recruitment, though he is still listing Texas Christian as a possibility.
▪ Five-star post player Jarrett Allen, the only other high school senior with a UK scholarship offer, also has not yet set a date for his college announcement. Home-state schools Texas and Houston are considered the favorites.
The next live recruiting period begins Friday, and Calipari is likely to spend most of the weekend in the Indianapolis area, which will host both the Nike and Under Armour circuits. The Adidas event will be in Atlanta.
The Nike event will be played Friday-Sunday at Jonathan Byrd’s Fieldhouse in Westfield, Ind., and games are open to the public. This is the closest a Nike showcase will get to Lexington this year. Nike held one of its four regular-season events in Lexington last April but will not return this year.
All of the class of 2017 recruits with UK scholarship offers are playing on the Nike circuit this spring.