John Petty was the first high school basketball prospect from the class of 2017 to land a scholarship offer from Kentucky, and his recruitment is shaping up as a two-team race between the Wildcats and his home-state school.
UK Coach John Calipari and Alabama Coach Avery Johnson both had in-home visits with Petty last week in Huntsville. Both coaches watched him play multiple times over the past couple of days at the Nike event in Indiana.
Both Calipari and Johnson have made the 6-foot-6 wing a major priority, and seemingly every other school has conceded that one of those coaches will land his commitment.
“I haven’t really talked to anyone (else) lately,” Petty said. “Those are really my two standouts right now.”
Kentucky represents the out-of-state powerhouse that Petty has been a fan of since he was 9 years old (that’s when Calipari became the Cats’ head coach). He spoke of watching John Wall and Anthony Davis and said he’s discussed playing for UK with former Cats and fellow Alabamans Eric Bledsoe and DeMarcus Cousins.
“They tell me it’s a great school,” Petty said. “They tell me how Coach Cal is as a coach and as a man, period.
“It’s basically just a program I could really play in. The history of the background of what I want to do and where I want to go — the next level — he has a great history of placing people where they belong. So that’s one thing that stands out for me.”
Johnson, meanwhile, is the former NBA player and coach who is trying to point the Crimson Tide’s program in the right direction. That starts with keeping talented players like Petty in the state.
“He’s really just trying to turn it around,” he said. “So all the great Alabama players, we have to stay home. He’s just trying to prove to us he can turn the school around and keep Alabama a good school.”
While UK and Alabama have emerged as the clear favorites, Petty said he’s still open to other schools and is in no hurry to end the recruiting process with a commitment. He wants to take some more campus visits, and a trip to UK for Big Blue Madness is in the plans for the fall.
“I really just want to win,” he said. “I want to go to a great program, a great coach, a great family, a brotherhood, a great school.”
Five-star forward Jarred Vanderbilt has been one of UK’s top recruiting targets for a few months. He also has a tie to the Wildcats’ point guard for next season.
Vanderbilt and De’Aaron Fox were teammates with the Nike-affiliated Houston Hoops program last summer, when Fox led the league in assists and Vanderbilt was second only to Duke signee Harry Giles in rebounding.
Vanderbilt said Calipari is getting another great point guard.
“He’s a leader on the court,” he said. “He’s a great facilitator, and he can also finish. He balances it out well, his scoring and getting his teammates better. And he’s a vicious defender.
“He just knows how to pace a team and stay poised.”
Vanderbilt — a 6-foot-8 prospect from Houston — also has seen plenty of Malik Monk, the dynamic guard who will be a freshman at UK next season and played the last two summers on the Nike circuit with the Arkansas Wings.
“It’s a one-two punch,” Vanderbilt said. “Fox is — I wouldn’t say he’s a pass-first point guard, because he does both — and Malik is just a good scorer. It’s going to be hard to guard both of them. You’re going to have to give up something.”
Vanderbilt still has a ways to go in his own recruitment. UK, Kansas, Texas, Arizona and Oklahoma are just a few of the schools he named over the weekend, and he doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to choose a college.
UK is certainly in the mix for the No. 11 player in the country.
“I really like their style of play,” Vanderbilt said. “They’re a transition team, and they have a lot of athletes like myself. And Coach Cal is just a great coach. He knows how to develop and get you to that next level.”
Assist to Gabriel
Calipari will be getting a little help in the recruitment of No. 1 shooting guard Hamidou Diallo, who received a scholarship offer from the Wildcats on Wednesday.
Diallo said he’s known UK signee Wenyen Gabriel for years through various basketball camps, and the future Wildcat didn’t waste any time reaching out to Diallo after his newest offer.
“Yeah, he’s basically telling me, ‘What am I waiting for?’ … He’s just been telling me to join and stuff like that,” Diallo said.
The 6-foot-5 prospect from Queens, N.Y., also picked up a Duke scholarship offer last week. He said he’s in no hurry to make a decision, though many recruiting analysts see the Wildcats as the most likely choice.
John the Jet
Class of 2018 shooting guard Romeo Langford will clearly be a major UK recruiting target going forward. Langford — a 6-foot-4 prospect from New Albany, Ind. — earned a scholarship offer from the Wildcats on Wednesday.
On Saturday, John Calipari started the day at the Nike event in Indianapolis, jumped on a plane around lunchtime, flew to Atlanta just to see Langford play one game on the Adidas circuit, and was back in Indy about four hours later.
Nothing like a round-trip flight in the middle of one of the biggest recruiting days of the year to show a player he’s wanted.
Duke, Indiana and Louisville will be the Cats’ top competition for Langford, who Scout.com ranks as the No. 4 prospect in the class of 2018.