The summer basketball recruiting season is finished, and college coaches will start jetting across the country soon for in-home visits with their top targets.
The University of Kentucky has offered more than a dozen scholarships for the class of 2016 — a group that has been billed by recruiting analysts as one of the most talented in years.
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Scout.com updated its Top 100 rankings for the class of 2016 on Wednesday morning. The list includes a familiar name (and future Big Blue Madness visitor) in the No. 1 spot and a major rankings boost for UK's newest commitment.
After the rankings were posted, Scout.com director of recruiting Evan Daniels spoke to the Herald-Leader about several topics related to UK recruiting for the class of 2016.
Still No. 1
North Carolina native Harry Giles remains the No. 1 overall player in the Scout.com rankings. He missed his entire sophomore season with a torn ACL but bounced back as a junior and took another step forward this summer.
"There's so much to like about Harry," Daniels said. "At 6-10, he's a versatile power forward. He's mobile, he's athletic, he's a great rebounder. Offensively, he can score by facing the rim, attacking and also with his back to it.
"He's fully healthy now. And when he's engaged, he's a load to handle."
Giles, who will play his senior season at Oak Hill Academy (Va.), recently narrowed his college list to UK, Duke, Kansas, North Carolina and Wake Forest. He'll take official visits to all five — the UK trip is scheduled for Big Blue Madness weekend in October — and plans to make a decision this calendar year.
"If Harry's recruitment ended today and you asked me for a prediction, I would say Duke," Daniels said. "Do I think it's a done deal to Duke? No, I don't. I think they're in great shape, but I think Kentucky certainly still has a shot. They're going to get him on campus for an official visit, and we'll see how this plays out."
Movin' on up
UK's newest commitment — 6-10 power forward Sacha Killeya-Jones — is now ranked No. 29 overall by Scout.com, which bumped him up 19 spots after a solid showing on the summer circuit.
Killeya-Jones, who can sign with the Wildcats in November, said Wednesday that he would take his official visit to UK for Big Blue Madness.
The next Cats?
When asked with whom UK seems to be in the best shape among uncommitted recruits in the class of 2016, Daniels mentioned two players: Miles Bridges and Malik Monk.
Though Daniels pointed out that several schools still are pursuing both, he characterized those two recruitments as seemingly two-team battles: UK vs. Michigan State for Bridges, UK vs. Arkansas for Monk.
"Those are the two that I point to and say they're doing really well with," Daniels said.
Monk and Bridges are ranked Nos. 6 and 11, respectively, in the new Scout 100.
A third player Daniels mentioned as a legitimate possibility to land at Kentucky was De'Aaron Fox, who moved up 12 spots to No. 4 overall. Fox — a 6-4 prospect from Katy, Texas — is now the No. 1-ranked point guard in the class. He has narrowed his list to seven schools: UK, Arizona, Kansas, Louisville, Louisiana State, North Carolina and North Carolina State.
"Kentucky would certainly have to be considered one of the strong favorites for him," Daniels said.
Wait and see
While Daniels likes UK's standing with Monk, the analyst is not expecting a decision any time soon from the Arkansas native.
Monk was supposed to announce his whittled-down list of schools this month.
"I think Malik Monk's process is going to go deep into the spring," Daniels said. "I don't think he's in any kind of hurry to make a college choice. He's going to play this whole deal out."
Daniels also mentioned point guard Dennis Smith Jr. (No. 8), power forward Edrice Adebayo (No. 15) and shooting guard Rawle Alkins (No. 20) as UK targets who might end up waiting a while before announcing their college destinations.
Wenyen Gabriel benefited from the biggest jump in the new Scout.com rankings. The 6-9 hybrid forward from Manchester, N.H., went from unranked to the No. 10 spot overall.
"We've seen tremendous growth from him over the past year," Daniels said. "Guys like him are what make this whole deal fun. He shows up in July and is just so improved, and he earns these high-major scholarship offers.
"The rapid improvement is fun to see."
Gabriel recently narrowed his list to UK, Duke, Maryland, Providence and UConn.
Many recruiting observers see Duke as the favorite, but Daniels isn't one of them.
"I think it's still pretty open among those five at this point," he said. "There's a lot to play out here. I don't think I could classify anyone as the favorite."
Don't bet on it
California power forward T.J. Leaf recently backed out of his commitment to Arizona, and UK was among the programs to give him a call. In turn, Leaf included the Cats on his new recruiting list alongside California, Gonzaga, Indiana, Kansas, San Diego State, Texas and UCLA.
Daniels doesn't see UK as a major player for Scout.com's No. 22-ranked recruit.
"I don't think it's a realistic destination," he said. "I think UCLA would have to be classified as the heavy favorite."
UK commitment Tai Wynyard technically is considered a member of the recruiting class of 2016, though he's planning to join the Wildcats for the second half of the 2015-16 season after he graduates from high school in New Zealand in December.
Wynyard — a 6-10 power forward — is not eligible for the Scout.com rankings because he plays overseas.
"If he was eligible for the rankings, he would be a top-100 player," Daniels said. "He's strong, physical, tough. He has some nice tools."
The other players with UK scholarship offers in the new Scout.com rankings are Josh Jackson (No. 2), Thon Maker (No. 5), Marques Bolden (No. 12), Jarrett Allen (No. 16), Kobi Simmons (No. 18), Udoka Azubuike (No. 36) and M.J. Cage (No. 61).
Of those, only Bolden, Simmons and Allen have confirmed recent contact with the UK coaching staff.