Kentucky Sports

Trey Lyles' commitment pushes Kentucky's 2014 class to No. 1

Trey Lyles
Trey Lyles

Trey Lyles, one of the biggest recruits for Kentucky's two biggest basketball programs, sat in his high school gym Tuesday and looked directly into an ESPNU television camera.

He was ready to announce his college destination, and everybody knew there were only two options.

Kentucky or Louisville? John Calipari or Rick Pitino?

"Next year, I will be playing for the University of ..."

Lyles then paused, looked down to his feet and unzipped a bag underneath the table. He rummaged around clumsily for a few seconds before looking back up at the camera while fitting a blue and white hat to his head.

"... Kentucky," he said.

And he smiled.

If there was relief in that smile, it was justified.

A recruitment that ended more than three years ago, started up again last summer and ultimately came down to two of the most bitter rivals in the sport had finally come to another end.

Lyles — the No. 1 power forward in the Class of 2014 — is a Kentucky Wildcat.

Before announcing for UK, he reflected on a recruitment that was separated into two acts.

The first was his commitment to Indiana as a high school freshman. Nearly two years after making that decision, he questioned whether it was the correct one and backed out of his pledge to the Hoosiers.

UK was immediately viewed as the front-runner, a development that further angered Indiana fans. Lyles visited Lexington several times in the past 15 months, and it seemed he could commit to Kentucky at any moment.

But Lyles didn't want to repeat past mistakes. He wanted to make sure he got it right this time.

"I learned that you need to take your time with things like that," Lyles said. "I was only about 14 when I committed to Indiana, so I really didn't have the knowledge I needed at the time. So really, for me, the decommitment was just to go out and see other schools.

"At times it was hard, going through the decommitment," he continued. "Fans and stuff like that coming at me from different angles. Just staying humble and working hard has got me through it."

Lyles joins Karl Towns, Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker in what is now a four-man recruiting class for Kentucky. With the commitment from Lyles, ranks that group as the No. 1 class in the country.

Scout pegs Lyles — a 6-foot-9 prospect — as the No. 8 overall prospect in the senior class.

He and Towns — a 7-foot center ranked No. 11 overall — should be a formidable duo in the paint next season.

"I think they'll play really well together," said national analyst Evan Daniels. "They both have some similar strengths. Karl likes to step out and shoot and that's something Trey can do really well, too. That's two pretty skilled post players playing next to each other."

Lyles is an accomplished scorer — some call him the best offensive big man in the class — and Daniels described him as a capable player on the defensive end. already has Lyles as the No. 4 overall pick in its mock draft for 2015. He mentioned his goal of getting to the NBA multiple times Tuesday when talking about his reasons for committing to Kentucky.

"Just because Coach Cal's record with guys like me and what he's been able to do with guys such as myself," Lyles said. "And just really getting us to the stage that we want to be at, which is, for me, the NBA. I want to be an all-star, and he's had a lot of guys that have been able to step up to that stage.

"His overall pitch to me was just perfect, and I think it's going to be the best situation for myself."

The addition of Lyles should ensure that UK has another big, talented group of frontcourt players next season.

Current freshmen Marcus Lee and Derek Willis (both 6-9 forwards) are expected to return for their sophomore years, and teammates Dakari Johnson (7-0) and Alex Poythress (6-9) have also been mentioned as possible returnees.

Whoever comes back to UK from that group will team up with Towns and Lyles, giving Calipari plenty of options next season.

"I don't think he's necessarily the guy in the class that they had to get," Daniels said. "They're already going to be pretty deep in the post. This is just icing on the cake."

Player Pos Ht Wt Rivals Scout ESPN 247Sports Hometown

Devin Booker SG 6-5 180 30 31 18 31 Moss Point, Miss.

Trey Lyles PF 6-9 225 8 8 7 17 Indianapolis

Karl Towns Jr. C 7-0 250 11 11 6 10 Metuchen, N.J.

Tyler Ulis PG 5-9 150 33 29 33 52 Chicago

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader