All 14 of the highly touted basketball recruits in the class of 2017 with scholarship offers from Kentucky were in North Augusta, S.C., for the Nike Peach Jam finals last week.
Here’s a look at where UK stands with each of those players, based on discussions with the recruits and others in the recruiting community.
Questions over his intentions to actually play college basketball (and his eligibility, if he does) will continue to dog Ayton throughout his recruiting process, but there’s no questioning the talent of the No. 1-ranked prospect. The 7-footer from the Bahamas says UK, Arizona and Kansas are the three schools at the top of his list. Kansas seems to be in the best shape, but it’s still early in Ayton’s recruitment, and — if he does indeed play college ball — UK will have a legitimate shot to land his commitment. For now, the Wildcats will continue to monitor his status while looking at other post players.
Scout.com ranking: No. 1 overall
A contender for the No. 1 overall ranking, Bamba returned at Peach Jam after missing several weeks with a sprained ankle and averaged 13.3 points, 11.1 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game, leading his team to a runner-up finish. John Calipari started off the recruiting period by watching Bamba, who said the UK coach has compared him to former Wildcats star Anthony Davis. Duke continues to be the popular prediction for the 7-footer from Harlem, but UK should not be counted out. Someone close to the Blue Devils told the Herald-Leader last week that Duke looks to be in good shape with five-star recruits Wendell Carter, Quade Green, Kevin Knox and Gary Trent Jr., but still has “some work to do” with Bamba. That’s good news for the Wildcats, who figure to be among his top choices. Bamba will cut his list to 10 schools next month.
Scout.com ranking: No. 2 overall
The 6-9 post player from Atlanta — ranked No. 3 in the Scout.com rankings — said last week that it’s been “months” since he’s heard from UK’s coaches, who did not watch him at Peach Jam. It appears that the Cats have conceded his recruitment (likely to Duke).
Scout.com ranking: No. 3 overall
Many top stars in this class have been hesitant to divulge too much about their recruitments, and Diallo has been among the most silent. He hasn’t scheduled any visits, hasn’t cut his list and hasn’t given any timetable for a winnowing of options, let alone a college decision. Behind-the-scenes buzz still seems to indicate that the Queens, N.Y., native’s recruitment could come down to UK and UConn (he plays his high school ball in Connecticut). Diallo has had a phenomenal spring and summer and continues to work on his outside jump shot. Right now, he looks to be among the most likely top-10 players in this class to pick the Cats.
Scout.com ranking: No. 9 overall
The hottest point guard of the spring/summer circuit (at least, until Trae Young’s Peach Jam explosion) is looking like he’ll either end up at UK or Duke, though Syracuse and Villanova are among many others in the mix. Green — a 6-1 prospect from Philadelphia — recognizes that there’s a very small pool of point guards being recruited by the Cats and Blue Devils and acknowledged that whoever “commits first” likely will get those spots. Duke is the popular choice as his destination, though UK watched him plenty at Peach Jam and can’t be counted out, especially if Young commits elsewhere early in the process. UK fans shouldn’t get their hopes up over a potential pairing of Green and Young in the Cats’ backcourt. Green’s response to a question about whether he’d consider joining another elite 2017 point guard implied that he’d rather go it alone.
Scout.com ranking: No. 20 overall
Knox — a 6-9 forward from Tampa — is often discussed as part of the potential package deal with Wendell Carter and Gary Trent Jr., though he and his father made it clear at Peach Jam that they’ll make the best individual decision, no matter where other top recruits go. Still, Duke is considered by many to be the current favorite for Knox, who won’t make a decision until the spring. Florida State, his parents’ alma mater, is a dark-horse contender. UK and North Carolina are also in the mix. One note on the narrative that Duke leads: Knox is a thoughtful kid who doesn’t seem like the type to waste others’ time. So, if he says he’s waiting until the spring, that’s one indication that he truly does remain open. And anything can happen in recruitments that go the distance. John Calipari has watched him play quite a bit this spring and summer.
Scout.com ranking: No. 6 overall
The first player from the class of 2017 to earn a UK scholarship offer, Petty remains a major target and is in regular contact with the Wildcats’ coaching staff. Though he says he wants to take all five official visits and welcomes other schools to join his recruitment, Petty will almost certainly end up at either UK or home-state Alabama. Coaches from both schools — including John Calipari and Avery Johnson — were regulars at his Peach Jam games, as has been the case all spring and summer. Petty grew up as a UK fan living in Huntsville, Ala., and his comments last week indicated that the Crimson Tide still have some ground to make up in his recruitment.
Scout.com ranking: No. 28 overall
Richards — a 6-11 center — has been just about as silent as fellow Queens native Hamidou Diallo when it comes to his recruitment. He did offer a list of the five schools recruiting him the hardest — UK, Arizona, Indiana, Syracuse and UConn — but also said he’d “most likely” wait until the spring on a decision. The Cats will be stocking up on 2017 recruits, but they should actually be in pretty good shape in the frontcourt. Current post players Isaac Humphries and Tai Wynyard will likely be back for the 2017-18 season, McDonald’s All-American power forward Sacha Killeya-Jones is projected to return for a sophomore season, and 6-10 wing forward Wenyen Gabriel could very well join them. If Richards waits too late — after a decision from someone like Mohamed Bamba, for instance — there might be more opportunities for playing time elsewhere. Until Richards shows more interest in his recruitment, he’s a tough one to predict.
Scout.com ranking: No. 31 overall
Gary Trent Jr.
Trent seems to be in the same boat as friend and fellow top-10 recruit Wendell Carter, who is no longer a UK priority. The Wildcats’ coaching staff didn’t go out of their way to watch Trent play at Peach Jam, and they appear to be honing in on other five-star players at the shooting guard position. Trent said he’s still hearing a little from UK but acknowledged that the contact level is far less than other schools on his list.
Scout.com ranking: No. 13 overall
Vanderbilt — a 6-8 forward from Texas — has been careful not to publicly proclaim any favorites in his recruitment, but UK is thought to be one of the top contenders. He played several games in the state with his high school team last season, visited Rupp Arena (his first college game as a recruit), and he and his family are fans of John Calipari’s program. While it’s unclear if Vanderbilt has a clear-cut favorite, it looks like UK is in the top tier and should stick around throughout his recruitment. Vanderbilt plans to cut his list to 10 schools soon and take some visits over the next few months. He left the door open for a fall decision, if all five of his official visits are completed in time for the early signing period in November.
Scout.com ranking: No. 15 overall
Villanova has long been considered the favorite for Walker, a standout shooting guard from nearby Reading, Pa., but he said at Peach Jam that location would not be a factor in his recruitment and his father might actually prefer it if he left the region for college. UK extended a scholarship offer in the spring, and Walker has expressed an admiration for the Wildcats’ program. With no visits set up, no timetable for a decision and no clear indication from Walker as to any favorites, it’s a little too early to handicap his recruitment. He did say that Kentucky has indicated to him recently that he’s becoming one of their priority recruits in the 2017 class.
Scout.com ranking: No. 24 overall
Washington — a Louisville native playing his high school ball at Findlay Prep in Nevada — will visit UK at least twice over the next few months, including one trip for Big Blue Madness. The strong, savvy 6-7 power forward has had a terrific spring and summer, quickly emerging as one of the Wildcats’ top targets in the class. His father has developed a close bond with UK assistant Kenny Payne — and has had nothing but good things to say about John Calipari — during the past few months of the recruitment. Arizona, North Carolina and Texas are the main competition for UK, which looks to be in great shape with Washington.
Scout.com ranking: No. 14 overall
Waters — a 5-11 prospect from Connecticut — earned scholarship offers from UK and Duke earlier this spring, but he appears to be a backup plan for both schools at this point. UK is prioritizing Trae Young and Quade Green, while Duke is prioritizing Green as its No. 1 target. If Young and Green do pick UK and Duke, respectively, then Waters is almost certain to end up somewhere else (UConn has emerged in recent days as a possibility). If the Cats and/or Blue Devils strike out with their top targets, Waters could again become a prime option. He indicated at Peach Jam that he’s in no hurry to make a college decision.
Scout.com ranking: No. 41 overall
UK’s top point guard target for months, Young ended the Nike travel season with a bang Sunday, going for 28 points, 11 assists and making six three-pointers in the nationally televised Peach Jam championship game. (He averaged 27.0 points per game and shot 47 percent from three-point range for the tournament). He’ll cut his list to five or six schools in the coming days — and there will continue to be talk of a possible “package deal” with AAU teammate Michael Porter Jr. at Washington — but this recruitment seems destined to come down to UK and hometown Oklahoma. Some folks from Big 12 country covering last week’s Peach Jam said they consider the Sooners to be favorites in his recruitment. ESPN analyst Adam Finkelstein predicted on air at halftime of the Peach Jam title game that Young would pick Oklahoma. Others see UK as the frontrunner, and Young has one-and-done aspirations, no fear of the spotlight and an admiration of John Calipari and his success with point guards. When the UK coach prioritizes a point guard the way he has prioritized Young, it’s often foolish to bet against him.
Scout.com ranking: No. 26 overall