With the likelihood that he will have to fill a higher-than-usual number of open scholarship spots after the 2016-17 season, UK Coach John Calipari is casting a wide net with recruits from the rising senior class.
At least a dozen players from that class already have scholarship offers from the Wildcats, and a handful of others continue to be recruited by Calipari and his coaching staff, with more offers likely to come as the recruiting cycle goes on.
247Sports national analyst Jerry Meyer has UK in good position to land several of the players at the top of its 2017 wish list.
Going into this weekend, Meyer’s “Crystal Ball” page on the 247Sports website included pro-UK predictions for nine highly touted prospects from the 2017 class: Hamidou Diallo, John Petty, Michael Porter Jr., Trae Young, Nick Richards, Jarred Vanderbilt, Kris Wilkes, P.J. Washington and Ikey Obiagu.
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All nine of those players are ranked among the top 30 recruits nationally, according to Meyer.
I sort of admire what I think is a unique approach (Calipari) takes, where he challenges recruits. He and Kentucky are in a position where the last thing they’re doing is begging guys to come there.
Jerry Meyer, 247Sports national recruiting analyst
While the “Crystal Ball” can shift at any moment — and some of Meyer’s picks will certainly change on a few of these players as their recruitments evolve — the perception that UK is in good shape with so many highly touted players can only be seen as a positive this early in the process.
“It’s a good thing,” Meyer told the Herald-Leader. “I don’t think it’s unusual. Kentucky is Kentucky. A lot of kids want to go there, and they’re excited when they do get offered.
“I think it’s more that Kentucky is going to have to decide who they really want out of a lot of these guys. It’ll be interesting to see how many spots they have available. I think Kentucky has a really good chance at landing any of these guys if they make them a priority.”
UK could easily have eight or nine open scholarships following next season, so landing several quality players in the 2017 class will be a must for a program with perennial Final Four aspirations.
When asked if he was especially confident in any of his pro-UK predictions, Meyer mentioned two players who have often discussed being a “package deal” at the college level: AAU teammates Porter and Young.
“I think Kentucky is in a great position with Trae Young, and I think that puts them in a really good position with Porter,” Meyer said. “I’m not convinced they’re necessarily going to play together, but I think there would be a high chance they would play together at Kentucky.”
Meyer also specifically mentioned Diallo, a 6-5 shooting guard who received his offer from Kentucky during a visit with Calipari on Wednesday night.
“I think he’s really intrigued with Kentucky and feels favorable about them,” he said. “I think it’ll probably come down to them or Connecticut.”
Vanderbilt — a versatile, 6-8 forward from Texas — is another player that Meyer mentioned as having particularly strong pro-UK feelings at this point in the recruiting cycle.
Porter, Diallo and Vanderbilt are all ranked in the top 11 nationally, according to Meyer, who has Young as the No. 26 overall player.
One challenge Calipari will face while building a recruiting class with more than five players is the need to go two-deep at some positions. The caliber of player that UK will be looking for likely would have the opportunity to start right away for some top programs, while that same player might not even be the highest rated at his position if he joined UK’s class.
Meyer acknowledged the challenge, but said Calipari is in a unique situation to make it work.
“It is tough to sell that, but Kentucky is probably the best spot to do it,” Meyer said. “Just because of how things went with that team where they were platooning guys and all of those guys getting drafted high. It just depends on the kid. I sort of admire what I think is a unique approach (Calipari) takes, where he challenges recruits. He and Kentucky are in a position where the last thing they’re doing is begging guys to come there.”
“Calipari’s not promising anyone anything. He’s not begging them. He’s telling them they’re going to have to work their ass off and they’re going to have to compete every single day. And that’s a great formula for getting better. So the players that you’d really want to coach, you would expect that message to resonate with them.”