A couple of weeks from now, the makeup of UK’s basketball recruiting class of 2017 will be a whole lot more clear.
Heading into the early signing period, which starts Wednesday, that class remains empty.
This is the deepest into a recruiting cycle that John Calipari has gone without a commitment during his eight seasons as Kentucky’s head coach. The Cats appear to be strong favorites for at least a couple of five-star players on the verge of college announcements, but until those commitments are made public, no one knows for sure.
Five of the 11 players from the 2017 recruiting class with scholarship offers from UK are expected to announce their college decisions in time to sign this month — the early period ends Nov. 16 — and a couple of others could join them with college decisions in the near future.
Likely to announce early
Nick Richards: The 6-foot-11 center from Queens, N.Y., plans to announce his college decision Thursday at 2 p.m. at his high school — The Patrick School in New Jersey. Richards — one of the best rebounders and post defenders in the country — is all but certain to pick UK over fellow finalists Arizona and Syracuse. The only official visit of his recruitment was to Lexington in September. He returned to UK last month — paying his own way on an unofficial visit — so he could attend Big Blue Madness. He has yet to visit Arizona or Syracuse. (Also, The Patrick School is the alma mater of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who has been in Richards’ ear with some pro-UK talk).
Scout.com ranking: No. 17 overall
PJ Washington: The 6-foot-8 forward from Findlay Prep (Nev.) is booked to announce his college choice during ESPNU’s signing day special Thursday night (the show starts at 6 p.m.). Washington — arguably the nation’s best rebounder and inarguably a gifted post scorer — is expected to choose UK over fellow finalists UNLV and North Carolina. Like Richards, Washington took an official visit to Lexington in September and returned to Big Blue Madness a month later on his own dime. Unlike Richards, he did actually take official visits to his other finalists. Fun fact: Washington was born in Louisville and spent the first couple of years of his life living there.
Scout.com ranking: No. 14 overall
John Petty: The first player from the class of 2017 to earn a UK scholarship offer, Petty has remained a priority for the Wildcats throughout this recruiting cycle. The 6-5 wing from Huntsville, Ala., will announce his college decision at halftime of his high school opener Thursday night, and UK and Alabama are the two finalists. Petty took an official visit to Bama in August and postponed his official visit to UK right around the time he said he was ready to make a college decision (though he has been here for a couple of unofficial visits, both more than a year ago). The Tide appear to have the momentum going into Thursday’s announcement, but they’re no lock to land his commitment. On this recruitment, everyone will just have to wait and see.
Scout.com ranking: No. 44 overall
Shai Alexander: The most recent recipient of a UK scholarship offer — he just got it last week — Alexander has not yet named a date for his college announcement, but he’s widely expected to do it sometime during the early signing period. If that happens, expect Kentucky to be the choice. The 6-4 Canadian combo guard out of Hamilton Heights (Tenn.) was in Lexington this past weekend for an official visit and has not taken any other recruiting trips since decommitting from Florida last month. Texas is recruiting him hard, too, but the Cats have all the momentum for Alexander, who would be an important addition to Kentucky’s backcourt of the future.
Scout.com ranking: No. 46 overall
Quade Green: The 6-1 point guard from Philadelphia is planning to announce his college decision at his high school’s “Hoops Madness” event on Nov. 19. That’s three days after the early signing period ends, but national letter of intent rules allow some leeway for schools to report new signees within two weeks of the end of the signing period, so Green could still technically sign early. The assists and steals leader on the Nike circuit this past summer, Green is expected to choose either UK or Syracuse. The Orange have been considered the leader for the past few months, but don’t count out UK in this one. He visited for Big Blue Madness, and his team-first style would be a perfect fit to lead what is sure to be another large group of Calipari-recruited, five-star players in Lexington next year.
Scout.com ranking: No. 25 overall
Could announce early
Lonnie Walker: UK hosted Walker for an official visit this past weekend, and he made that trip despite suffering from strep throat and a fever. The 6-4 shooting guard from Reading, Pa., is scheduled for an official visit to Syracuse this weekend, and he’s already taken trips to Miami, Arizona and Villanova. He has not yet set a date for his college announcement, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him reveal that decision in time to sign early. Scout.com’s Evan Daniels predicted Walker would pick UK in an article on that website Monday morning. He told the Herald-Leader later in the day that he thinks it’ll either be Kentucky or Arizona that lands Walker.
Scout.com ranking: No. 23 overall
Trae Young: The 6-2 point guard from Norman, Okla., was the first player at his position to earn a UK scholarship offer for 2017, and he’s consistently been the Wildcats’ top point guard target over the past year. He and his father have repeatedly said that a college decision likely won’t come until December, but they’ve also both left the door open for a possible announcement in the early signing period. Young has already taken all of his official visits — to UK, Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. The Wildcats and hometown Sooners are widely considered the co-favorites, and no one seems to have a great handle on which one is most likely to land Young’s commitment.
Scout.com ranking: No. 22 overall
Likely to wait
Mohamed Bamba: UK hosted the 7-footer from Harlem, N.Y., for an unofficial visit during Big Blue Madness weekend, but his recruitment is expected to stretch well into the spring with no clear leader having yet emerged. He’s taken official visits to Michigan and Texas. Duke and Harvard are among the other contenders.
Scout.com ranking: No. 2 overall
Hamidou Diallo: UK and UConn have been the schools most consistently mentioned as possible favorites for Diallo, a 6-5 shooting guard from Queens, N.Y., who has actually already graduated from high school and is playing this season as a post-grad. He’ll be eligible for the NBA Draft in 2017, and that remains an option, too. Don’t expect an announcement on his future plans any time soon.
Scout.com ranking: No. 10 overall
Kevin Knox: The 6-9 forward from Tampa, Fla., came to Big Blue Madness on an unofficial visit and will return to UK for an official visit in January. His other finalists are Duke, North Carolina and Florida State, his parents’ alma mater. He’s been steadfast in declaring that he will not announce a college decision until the spring.
Scout.com ranking: No. 7 overall
Jarred Vanderbilt: The 6-9 forward from Texas has already been to UK and North Carolina on official visits, though some consider Texas Christian — which recently hired his first cousin as an assistant coach — to be the favorite. Vanderbilt has mentioned January as a possibility for a college decision, but it’s unclear when exactly he plans to make his announcement.
Scout.com ranking: No. 15 overall