In the world of high school basketball recruiting, the “package deal” has become a common phrase.
Three summers ago, five-star prospects Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor were adamant that they would play together in college. They did, joining forces to win a national championship at Duke.
The next year, it was Malik Newman and Diamond Stone who talked openly about forming a formidable duo at the next level. Newman ended up at Mississippi State, and Stone went to Maryland.
Some of these plans pan out. Some don’t.
If the latest one comes to fruition, it could be a big deal for the Kentucky Wildcats.
Michael Porter Jr. and Trae Young — teammates with the Nike-affiliated Mokan Elite squad — have been talking about playing together at the next level for more than a year.
The two obviously have chemistry on the court. Young is one of the nation’s top point guards and, until recently, the only class of 2017 recruit at the position with a UK scholarship offer. Porter — a versatile, 6-foot-8 wing — is considered one of the top-five players in the class and also earned an offer from UK early in the process.
Both players still have several schools on their lists. Both are serious about UK. And both are still talking about the package deal.
“We benefit from each other,” Young said. “I make him look good, and he makes me look really good. He’s a really good player. With him on the wing and me at the lead guard, I feel like we can do big things at the next level, too.”
John Calipari started the first April evaluation period in Brooklyn last weekend by watching Porter and Young. The UK coach was back on the baseline for a front-row view of the two recruits again Friday night during the first session of the Nike event in Indiana.
“It’s a big thing,” Young said. “I know he does really good with point guards. He’s had a lot of great point guards come through his program. With me being one of the only two point guards that he’s offered, that definitely shows that he’s prioritizing me.
“And he wants me to know that, too. He tells me that.”
Young — a 6-2 player from Norman, Okla. — earned his offer from UK nearly a year ago, and he was the only point guard in the class to land one until Connecticut prospect Tremont Waters got his Wednesday night.
Still, Young will remain the Cats’ top target at the position. He said Calipari sees him as a mixture of Tyler Ulis and Brandon Knight, two players who had tremendous success in Lexington.
“What you like about Trae Young is his craftiness and his ability to score as a primary guard,” said Scout.com’s Evan Daniels. “He can really shoot the basketball, has deep range. He’s not going to wow you with athleticism or overly quick speed, but he will with his change of pace, craftiness, and his ability to make shots and really score the basketball.”
Porter is a tall, smooth player on the wing who said he developed a connection with Young on the AAU circuit and likes the idea of playing alongside a point guard he knows he can trust once he gets to the next level.
He also likes the idea of Calipari helping him get to the level after that, pointing out the success the UK coach has had with getting players to the NBA quickly.
“It’s ridiculous,” Porter said. “And for my goals and what I want to do — I want to go to the league, and Coach Cal can do that for me.”
Porter — from Columbia, Mo. — said he plans to narrow his choices down to six or seven schools sometime soon. He hasn’t made that list public yet, but he did make one assurance Friday night. “Kentucky will be on that list,” he said.
Scout.com ranks him as the No. 5 player in the class of 2017.
“Michael has great size for the position at 6-foot-8. He is a high-level athlete, and he can really shoot the basketball,” Daniels said. “When you have those three things, you’re going to project as a big-time, long-term prospect.
“He continues to improve, and that’s why he’s a top-five player in the class.”
As for that package deal, Young and Porter both said there’s about an 85 percent chance that it actually happens. UK, Duke, Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri are among the schools that have offered both players.
They plan to take some of their official visits together, but they also left a little wiggle room in case they come up with different conclusions at the end of the process.
“I really have to do what’s best for me. I want to go with Trae, but at the end of the day it might not be what’s best for me,” Porter said.
“You have to do what’s best for you,” Young added, “but we really, really want to play together at the next level.”