John Calipari’s already-No. 1-ranked recruiting class of 2017 added its most highly touted member yet with Saturday’s commitment of Hamidou Diallo, the No. 10 player in the Scout.com rankings and another important piece to next season’s roster.
Assuming Diallo sticks around for the 2017-18 campaign (he’s eligible for this year’s NBA Draft), the 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Queens, N.Y., will give the Wildcats a dynamic weapon in the backcourt, which is likely to be decimated by departures after this season.
Here’s a look at how Kentucky’s roster for next season is shaping up, beginning with a recap of the 2017 recruits:
Hamidou Diallo: No. 1 ranked shooting guard in the country, highly athletic player who excels at getting to the basket and has potential to be a lockdown perimeter defender. Diallo’s outside shot needs a lot of work, but his plan to enroll early at UK and practice with the Wildcats this season should help him improve in that area and others. (Note: Scout.com will keep Diallo in the 2017 class rankings unless he plays this season. If he does play, Diallo will be categorized as an unranked five-star recruit. “I don’t foresee that happening at all,” Scout’s Evan Daniels told the Herald-Leader of the possibility that Diallo plays this season).
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: No. 45 overall player in the class, according to Scout.com, and a 6-5 guard who is capable of playing on or off the ball. He’ll be able to help the Cats right away as a freshman with his versatile offensive game (though he’s not a great outside shooter), and he has outstanding potential and length on the defensive end.
Quade Green: No. 25 player in the Scout.com rankings and arguably the best floor leader in the country. Green, a 6-1 prospect who led the Nike circuit in assists and steals last summer, is likely to be UK’s starting point guard next season. As of now, he’s also likely to be the best outside shooter on the Wildcats’ 2017-18 squad.
Nick Richards: No. 17 player in the Scout.com rankings and one of the best rebounders and post defenders in the class. The 7-footer from Queens, N.Y., is still a bit raw offensively, but he should be an instant-impact player in UK’s frontcourt.
Jarred Vanderbilt: No. 15 player in the Scout.com rankings and a versatile, 6-9 forward capable of playing on the wing. He was one of only eight players to averaged double digits in points (13.5) and rebounds (10.9) on the Nike circuit last summer, and he’s also an excellent passer.
PJ Washington: No. 14 player in the Scout.com rankings and another versatile forward who could start right away. He also averaged a double-double on the Nike circuit and might be the best rebounding forward in the class. The 6-8 prospect is an efficient scorer who can play away from the basket, and he’s a high-IQ defender.
“It’s a really good class — the No. 1 class in the country,” said Daniels. “I don’t think it’s Calipari’s best class, by any means, but part of that is just because the 2017 group isn’t as good as some of the others that we’ve seen.
“There’s a lot of depth and a lot of athleticism. They need to add another wing shooter, but, other than that, it’s got a little of everything.”
Who’s likely to return?
As of now, UK definitely will lose seniors Dominique Hawkins, Mychal Mulder and Derek Willis after this season. Freshmen Bam Adebayo, De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk are all but locks to enter and stay in the NBA Draft, and sophomore Isaiah Briscoe is expected to join them.
Freshman forward Wenyen Gabriel is a possibility for the NBA Draft, but he’s not currently projected among the top 60 picks this year and it appears more likely that he will be back in Lexington next season. Sophomore center Isaac Humphries and freshmen post players Sacha Killeya-Jones and Tai Wynyard are also expected to return.
If those projections are correct, UK would have the following scholarship players for next season: Quade Green, Hamidou Diallo and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander at the guard spots, Wenyen Gabriel, Sacha Killeya-Jones, PJ Washington and Jarred Vanderbilt at forward, and Isaac Humphries, Tai Wynyard and Nick Richards at center. (Walk-on guards Brad Calipari, Jonny David and Dillon Pulliam are also expected back.)
That would leave UK with three open scholarships.
Who’s left in 2017?
Calipari has offered scholarships to three uncommitted prospects in the 2017 class: center Mohamed Bamba, small forward Kevin Knox and point guard Trae Young. All three of those players are five-star recruits and none of them are expected to announce their college decisions anytime soon.
Recruiting analysts who have talked to the Herald-Leader recently have said that UK is unlikely to add Knox or Young. Bamba — the No. 2 recruit in the class — is also considering Duke, Michigan, Texas and a few others.
What the Cats really need is another outside threat. Daniels noted that Green is a good three-point shooter, but he’s the only one on the projected 2017-18 roster.
“I think that is going to have to be something that they address,” Daniels said.
Calipari could look to a graduate transfer or junior-college player to fill this role, or it’s possible that a solid shooter from the class of 2018 could reclassify, or a currently committed 2017 prospect might back out due to a coaching change or other circumstance late in the recruiting cycle.
“There’s always somebody available,” Daniels said.
UK basketball commitments in the 2017 recruiting rankings