Three high school basketball recruits will officially become Kentucky Wildcats over the next few days, and one other highly touted prospect is widely expected to join their ranks.
The early signing period for college basketball begins Wednesday and runs through Nov. 18. During that time, UK will sign Wenyen Gabriel, Sacha Killeya-Jones and Tai Wynyard, all players who have already committed to the Wildcats.
Coach John Calipari is also likely to land five-star point guard De'Aaron Fox, his top remaining target for the class of 2016.
Gabriel — a 6-foot-10 small forward from Manchester, N.H. — will be the first to sign with the Cats. He's planning to make his commitment official during a ceremony at his Massachusetts high school at 1 p.m. Wednesday.
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Scout.com ranks Gabriel as the No. 10 overall prospect in the class of 2016, a meteoric rise for a player who wasn't even in the top 100 going into this year's AAU season. He chose UK over Duke and a few other schools early last month.
"Wenyen Gabriel has a tremendous amount of upside," Scout.com's Evan Daniels said. "He's clearly a late-bloomer. He's a guy that really emerged this summer. He grew physically, but his talent and his skill has also really developed. He's capable of taking rebounds and starting the break. He's a good passer with a very good feel for the game. He's also a really good athlete.
"There's a lot to like about the progression that Wenyen Gabriel has made over the past year."
Killeya-Jones — a 6-10 power forward from Chapel Hill, N.C. — committed to Kentucky over the summer and is planning to sign with the Cats on Saturday afternoon at a basketball showcase in his home state.
Another late-bloomer in the 2016 class, Killeya-Jones has earned a reputation as one of the best offensive big men in the country. He's also more of a finesse player than future frontcourt teammates Wynyard and Isaac Humphries, who will be a sophomore at UK next season.
"He brings such good skill," Daniels said of Killeya-Jones. "He's a guy that can impact the game offensively. He has really good hands, good touch. He can face up and make jump shots from short and mid-range, and he can score with his back to the basket.
"He's mobile. He's active. He plays hard. He brings something different. They have some strong, physical, tough dudes. This guy brings a different look."
Wynyard — a 6-10 power forward from New Zealand — is expected to arrive on UK's campus next month and join the Wildcats for the second half of the current season. He hasn't decided whether he'll actually play in 2015-16 or redshirt for the half-season and use it as a transitional period to American basketball.
Though Wynyard will be signing sometime in the next week, Scout.com has decided to list him as a class of 2015 recruit, since he will be joining UK's team later this season. He won't count toward the Cats' team recruiting rankings for 2016, but that's when fans will likely see his first meaningful contributions.
"What we know about Tai is he's a strong post player," Daniels said. "He's a guy that likes physical play. He's a below-the-rim guy, but he's a guy who doesn't mind to get dirty in the paint. He can score right around the basket.
"I think, next year, he's certainly a guy who's going to get some quality minutes."
Fox — a 6-4 prospect from Katy, Texas — is considered the No. 1 point guard in the class of 2016, and every major recruiting analyst in the country is predicting that he will commit to the Wildcats during ESPNU's signing period special Thursday evening.
Daniels said an initial group of Fox, Gabriel and Killeya-Jones would give UK no worse than the No. 3 recruiting class in the country, behind only Duke and Michigan State.
Calipari will also continue to target such five-star players as Malik Monk, Jarrett Allen, Marques Bolden and Edrice "Bam" Adebayo as the 2016 recruiting cycle continues.
"It's a great group," Daniels said of UK's expected early signees. "If Kentucky walks out of the signing period with those three guys on board, which I think they will, they're in great shape to further improve that class once the spring hits. Because they're going to be in the mix for some guys like they always are.
"This is just the start of what will be another great class for Calipari."