WHEELING, W.Va. — Kentucky's recruiting loss Friday was a major gain for one of the Cats' foes in the Southeastern Conference.
Five-star shooting guard Antonio Blakeney announced his commitment to Louisiana State over fellow finalists UK and Missouri during a nationally televised broadcast. The 6-foot-4 prospect from Orlando, Fla., is widely considered one of the top 15 recruits in the class of 2015.
Blakeney joins former AAU teammate Ben Simmons as the second member of LSU's recruiting class. Simmons — a 6-9 forward from Australia — is ranked by most recruiting services as the No. 1 overall player in the senior class.
247Sports national analyst Jerry Meyer told the Herald-Leader that the Blakeney's commitment is "an enormous get" for the Tigers.
"It's huge," Meyer said. "They've been recruiting strong here lately, but these are two marquee players. You have the best player in the country, in my opinion, in Simmons. And then you bring in Blakeney, who is one of the best shooting guards in the class."
Meyer ranks Blakeney as the No. 15 overall prospect for 2015.
He originally committed to Louisville in September but backed out of that pledge 11 days later. The Cardinals did not stay involved in his recruitment, but several schools immediately expressed interest. UK Coach John Calipari had an in-home visit with Blakeney and his family later that month.
Mississippi standout Malik Newman is now the only guard in the class of 2015 with a scholarship offer from the Wildcats.
Five-star point guard Isaiah Briscoe and four-star shooting guard Charles Matthews have already committed to the Wildcats for 2015. Current UK guards Devin Booker, Dominique Hawkins and Tyler Ulis are also expected to return next season, and it's possible Aaron and Andrew Harrison could be back too.
Who returns to LSU could also have a major impact on the national landscape for 2015-16.
Sophomore forward Jarell Martin leads the SEC with 17.5 points per game and is third in the league with 9.0 rebounds per game. Fellow sophomore Jordan Mickey leads the conference in blocked shots and is second in rebounding with 9.9 rebounds per game.
Both are considered long-term NBA prospects, but they could stay for another season and be part of a talented group in Baton Rouge.
"If some of those guys for LSU don't declare for the draft and decide to stick around for another year," Meyer said, "they're a Final Four-caliber team."
No weekends off
With no UK game this weekend, Coach John Calipari made the trip to Wheeling to see two of his top recruiting targets Friday.
Calipari arrived just in time to watch class of 2015 forward Carlton Bragg go for 16 points and four rebounds as Villa Angela-St. Joseph (Ohio) defeated Arlington Country Day (Fla.) 69-67. Bragg has narrowed his list to UK, Kansas, Illinois and UCLA and visited Lexington for Big Blue Madness.
Calipari stuck around to see St. Louis forward Jayson Tatum put on a show in the next game.
Tatum — the first player from the class of 2016 to earn a UK scholarship offer — had 39 points and 14 rebounds to lead Chaminade (Mo.) to an 88-81 victory over Stevenson Lincolnshire (Ill.).
UK recruits Stephen Zimmerman, Thomas Bryant, V.J. King and Miles Bridges all play Saturday, and it's possible that Calipari will return for one or more of those games.
Battle on the mend
Five-star shooting guard Tyus Battle was not with Gill St. Bernard's (N.J.) for Friday's 72-47 victory over local squad Wheeling Central Catholic.
GSB Coach Mergin Sina told the Herald-Leader that Battle was back home getting treatment for an injury. "He'll be fine," Sina said. Battle has missed his entire junior season so far with an ankle problem.
UK assistant coach Barry "Slice" Rohrssen watched all of Battle's games at the Nike Peach Jam event last July, and he chatted with Sina following Friday's contest.
Battle visited Lexington for Big Blue Madness in October and is one of only three guards in the class of 2016 with a scholarship offer from the Wildcats.
Antonio Blakeney's commitment to LSU on Friday left Mississippi standout Malik Newman as the only guard from the class of 2015 with a scholarship offer from UK.
Newman wrote in his USA Today blog Friday that he has scheduled a visit to Ohio State for later this month. So far, a trip to Lexington for Big Blue Madness in October has been his only true recruiting visit.
He did take trips to Ole Miss and Mississippi State in the fall, but both of those were to watch football games.
Newman also said Friday that he is planning a return trip to UK, along with visits to Kansas and N.C. State. He does not have any "leaders" in his recruitment and is not planning to make a decision until after the college season.