SUWANEE, Ga. — John Calipari spent the first night of the second week of the July recruiting period out in Los Angeles on Wednesday, mingling with the stars at the annual ESPY Awards.
While Calipari was on the West Coast, assistant coach John Robic sat in a cramped gym in Georgia watching Jaylen Brown, one of the Cats' top targets in the class of 2015.
By Thursday morning, Calipari was right there beside him, sitting on the baseline for Brown's second game of the Under Armour showcase. The UK coach made sure the 6-foot-7 wing was the first recruit he saw this week.
"Coach Cal — great coach, great guy," Brown said. "He always has a lot of things to say when he watches me play; stuff I need to do to get better. He talks about what it's like up there at Kentucky. It's just a great basketball environment."
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Not everyone in Brown's life holds such a high opinion of the Wildcats program.
He said Wednesday night that he often hears negative talk about UK, much more so than the other programs that are recruiting him.
"Some people just don't like Kentucky," he said. "Family members come up to me and say, 'You can go anywhere, just don't go to Kentucky.' And I ask them why. They're like, 'I just don't like it. I don't like the environment. They're shady.' They have no reasoning behind it. That's just how they feel."
Brown says he's told by others that UK players don't go to class and that "all they care about" in Kentucky is basketball.
"And that's not true," he said. "That's not true. Everybody there does their work just like everybody else in college. ... There's a lot of misconceptions about Kentucky."
Brown — ranked by Scout.com as the No. 4 player in the class — plans to get a firsthand look at the program in the near future.
The Georgia native will take an unofficial visit to UCLA during an Adidas camp in Los Angeles next month. Then, he plans to take official visits to UK and Kansas in either August or September. He also mentioned Georgia, Georgia Tech, Ohio State, Florida and Arizona as programs that are recruiting him.
Brown reiterated Wednesday that the recruiting process is wearing on him, so he hopes to cut his list of schools to a more manageable size by the end of the summer. From there, he'd like to narrow his choices to three before the start of his senior season and possibly make his final decision in time for the early signing period in November.
Brown scored 26 points — and knocked down four three-pointers — in Thursday morning's contest, while Calipari, Kansas Coach Bill Self, UCLA Coach Steve Alford and several other top names looked on. He's having as good of a summer as any high school player in the country.
And he's well aware of it.
"I feel like I have a lot of stuff to work on, but in my eyes, there's no one better," Brown said. "There's a lot of good guys that I give a lot of respect to. But I still don't feel like they can do what I can do on the floor."
Arkansas shooting guard Malik Monk has a scholarship offer from Kentucky, his brother Marcus confirmed to the Herald-Leader on Thursday.
Monk — a 6-4 prospect in the class of 2016 — is regarded as one of the best perimeter scorers in the country, regardless of class. In a Nike EYBL game this spring, he scored 59 points and made 10 of 16 three-point attempts. Scout.com ranks him as the No. 5 overall prospect in the class.
He told the Herald-Leader last month that he is a big fan of Calipari, has known former UK guard Archie Goodwin since seventh grade and pays close attention to the Wildcats program. "I watch every Kentucky game," he said.
Monk is the eighth player from the class of 2016 to receive a UK scholarship offer.
The name game
Diamond Stone gets plenty of attention for his game, but the first thing everyone seems to notice is his name.
The 6-10 center from Milwaukee certainly has a unique one.
Bob Stone — the player's father — said his mother wanted to name him Trey, but dad wanted Diamond. And he won out.
"It just sounded good, man," he said. "It had a nice ring to it. Some people say it's the best name in sports.
"A lot of people say that's a feminine name. And I would just tell them that the diamond is the hardest rock on the planet. You know what I'm saying? You cut up other rocks with diamonds."
Calipari and Robic watched Stone go for 26 points and 18 rebounds in the game that immediately followed Jaylen Brown's contest Thursday.
Self and UConn Coach Kevin Ollie were also among the spectators for that one.
As expected, Memphis hired former high school coach Keelon Lawson as an assistant coach Wednesday in a move that is almost sure to pay immediate dividends on the recruiting trail.
Lawson's son Dedric is one of the top 10 players in the class of 2016 and told the Herald-Leader last month that he had narrowed his choices to Memphis and UK. On the same day Memphis hired the elder Lawson, it was reported that Dedric would announce his college decision Sunday.
Dedric's older brother K.J. is already committed to the Tigers for the class of 2015.