A trio of highly touted basketball recruits — Wendell Carter, Kevin Knox and Gary Trent Jr. — helped form the core of the Team USA U17 squad that won a FIBA gold medal in Spain earlier this month, and the three prospects have often been mentioned as a possibility to team up again in college.
Carter and Trent — from Atlanta and Minnesota, respectively — aren’t shy about publicly discussing their desire to be teammates at the next level.
Knox — a 6-9 forward from Tampa, Fla. — usually stays away from such talk.
“I don’t really do package deals like that,” Knox said. “But a lot of the players say they really want to play with me, so I’ll see what their list is, see what my list is, and we’ll go from there. I’m pretty sure, wherever I go, there’s going to be a kid on that team that I’ve played with before.”
Knox plans to cut his recruiting list down to 10 possibilities in the next few days, and — while he said no schools were locks to make the next cut — he mentioned UK, Duke, North Carolina and Florida State (his father’s alma mater) prominently.
Ranked by Scout.com as the No. 6 overall prospect in the 2017 class, Knox said he doesn’t intend on making a college decision until next year, which will give college coaches plenty of opportunities to watch him play during his high school season and make the trip to Florida for in-home visits.
On the outs?
Top-five recruit Wendell Carter told reporters at the Peach Jam that he hasn’t heard from Kentucky’s coaches in “months,” and it seems that the Wildcats are now looking at other post players to fill out their 2017 recruiting class.
Carter’s closest friend in the class — five-star shooting guard Gary Trent Jr. — also has a UK scholarship offer, but the Cats’ staff didn’t spend any time watching him at Peach Jam over the past few days. That’s usually a sign that others have become bigger priorities.
“It’s been here and there,” Trent said of his contact with UK. “It’s not every day, in a sense, like some schools. It’s still pretty consistent, but it’s not as strong as every day.”
Trent plans to cut his list to 5-7 schools sometime soon. Duke, UCLA, Michigan State, Arizona and Ohio State are some of the programs that have been prominently mentioned in his recruitment.
Despite Kevin Knox’s insistence that he will make the best individual decision when it comes to picking a college, there’s still a legitimate chance he ends up at Duke along with Wendell Carter and Gary Trent Jr.
Some of the buzz from Duke contacts at Peach Jam indicated that the Blue Devils are also in good shape with top-five recruit Mohamed Bamba and five-star point guard Quade Green, two more class of 2017 prospects with UK scholarship offers.
That would be a mega class for Duke, which — if it happened — would have a five-star player at every position and four of the top 10 prospects in the country according to the 247Sports composite rankings. The only player in that group outside the top 10 is Green, who is a fast-rising No. 26 in those rankings, led the Nike circuit in assists and steals this spring and is arguably the best floor leader in the class.
As UK seemingly cools on Gary Trent Jr., the program is picking up the pressure on fellow five-star shooting guard Lonnie Walker, a 6-4 prospect from Reading, Pa., who shot better than 40 percent from three-point range during the Nike regular season.
“I think they are beginning to call a lot more and text a lot more towards my father,” Walker said of UK. “It’s a lot different. At first, it was a little slow. But now they’re calling almost every other day.”
He mentioned local option Villanova, Syracuse, Virginia, Miami and Arizona as some of the other major programs that are making him a priority. Nova — the defending national champions — have long been considered the favorites to land Walker, though that was before he received scholarship offers from UK and some other top schools.
Villanova’s campus is about an hour drive from Walker’s high school, but he said that doesn’t really matter in his recruitment.
“Location isn’t a factor,” Walker said. “My father wants me to go far. My mom wants me to stay close. I’m not a homesick type of kid. I can go days without seeing my parents.
“(My father) just wants me to get out. That’s his thing. He loves Villanova, he loves Syracuse. He loves East Coast schools — those are definitely his top contenders. But he feels as though people are going to be distractions. We’ll see how it goes. We have our moments when we disagree on schools. That’s how it is.”
UK targets on TV
ESPNU will televise Sunday’s Peach Jam championship game live at 2 p.m., and the matchup is guaranteed to feature three top UK recruiting targets.
The semifinals, which were set for late Saturday night, pitted Mokan Elite (Trae Young) against California Supreme (DeAndre Ayton) in one game, and Team Penny (John Petty and P.J. Washington) against PSA Cardinals (Mohamed Bamba and Quade Green) in the other.