NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. — The University of Kentucky might not be considered the favorite for No. 1 basketball recruit Harry Giles, but the Wildcats still have reason for hope.
Giles — a 6-foot-10 power forward from Winston-Salem, N.C. — is ranked as the No. 1 player in the class of 2016 by both Scout.com and ESPN. He's also long been considered a likely candidate to stay in state for his college career, and Duke, North Carolina and Wake Forest are all on his list.
There's no guarantee he ends up at one of those three schools.
"They've been saying that since my freshman year," Giles said. "Before I even had any offers, they said I was going to stay in state. That's something I just have to get past. It's not true. I'm open to everything."
UK is one of five out-of-state schools still in the running for Giles, who has led Team CP3 to this week's Nike Elite Youth Basketball League finals at the Peach Jam. Kansas, Ohio State, Syracuse and UNLV are the others in that category.
Duke has emerged as the perceived favorite for Giles, as well as his good friend and fellow five-star recruit Jayson Tatum, who plans to announce his college choice sometime this month.
Giles will take more time with his own decision, telling the Herald-Leader that he hopes to narrow his list to five schools shortly after the summer basketball schedule wraps up later this month.
His goal is to announce a college decision before his senior season, though he added that he doesn't mind waiting a little longer if he's not sure where he wants to go by then.
UK is expected to make Giles' next cut, and Coach John Calipari is doing everything he can to ensure that happens.
Giles returned home Monday after competing in the FIBA U19 world championships in Greece, where he helped lead Team USA to a gold medal. He said Thursday night that he has been in contact with UK's coaches every day since his return to the United States, and Calipari watched him shortly after arriving at the Peach Jam on Friday morning.
The Nike showcase will be one more chance for Giles to show he deserves the No. 1 spot. "That's my goal — just try to go out there and be the best," he said. "I go out there and play hard with a killer mindset, try to dominate every game. I don't really worry about (recruiting rankings) too much — I just try to play my best.
"And when I'm at my best, I guess I'm the best."
Many who follow recruiting consider UK and Michigan State to be the frontrunners in the chase for Miles Bridges, a five-star small forward in the class of 2016.
Though Bridges declined to name any favorites among his list of eight schools, he did tell the Herald-Leader that UK and Michigan State would be the destinations for his first two official visits.
The 6-foot-6 prospect from Flint, Mich., will take his first official visit to Michigan State on the weekend of Sept. 12, the date that the Spartans host Oregon in football.
Bridges plans to travel to Lexington in October for Big Blue Madness, making him the first confirmed visitor for what is typically UK's biggest recruiting weekend of the year. He has already taken multiple unofficial visits to Lexington, which is a two-hour drive from Huntington (W.Va.) Prep, where he has played his high school ball since 2013.
Bridges is also considering Indiana, Iowa State, Louisville, Michigan, North Carolina and North Carolina State, and he said he plans to narrow his list to five schools by the end of the summer.
ESPN ranks Bridges as the No. 7 overall prospect in the class of 2016.
Five-star shooting guard Markelle Fultz picked up a scholarship offer from UK late Thursday night, a few hours after Calipari watched him at the Under Armour All-America Camp.
The 6-4 prospect from Hyattsville, Md., visited Lexington earlier this year and has long coveted an offer from the Wildcats.
So, how good are UK's chances with the class of 2016 standout?
After word of the new offer got out, 247Sports national analyst Jerry Meyer immediately changed his Crystal Ball prediction for Fultz to UK.