UK Men's Basketball

ESPN says Calipari will coach USA junior team, a possible recruiting advantage

John Calipari has previously coached the Dominican Republican national team.
John Calipari has previously coached the Dominican Republican national team. cbertram@herald-leader.com

John Calipari will be named the head coach of the Team USA under-19 team this summer, according to a report from ESPN on Thursday morning.

This year’s FIBA U19 world championships will be played July 1-9 in Cairo, Egypt.

Calipari’s appointment to Team USA could give the Kentucky coach another advantage on the recruiting trail. It’s possible that this year’s U19 squad could include prospective recruits from the 2018 class.

All of the players invited to last year’s Team USA U18 training camp were either rising college freshmen or rising high school seniors at the time, so none of those players will still be recruitable prospects this summer.

Last year’s U17 team, however, consisted of three players that will likely still be uncommitted recruits this summer: point guards Immanuel Quickley and Javonte Smart, and power forward Jordan Brown. Quickley has a scholarship offer from Kentucky, and Smart has been recruited by the Wildcats.

Major UK targets Romeo Langford and Cameron Reddish were among the players who went through training camp with the U17s last summer, and Reddish would have made the team if not for an injury sustained late in the tryouts. UK targets Jaedon LeDee, Darius Garland and Naz Reid also participated in U17 training camp last summer.

The final 12-man team for the U19s likely will consist of mostly current and rising college players, but younger players have made the squad in the past.

The U19 roster in 2015 — the last time that age group competed in a FIBA event — featured five-star prospects Harry Giles, Josh Jackson, Jayson Tatum and Terrance Ferguson, and all of those players were uncommitted at the time. That team was coached by Arizona’s Sean Miller, and Ferguson committed to Arizona before ultimately skipping college to play overseas.

Giles and Tatum ultimately signed with Duke (the Team USA program was overseen by Blue Devils Coach Mike Krzyzewski at the time).

The only two uncommitted high school players on the U19 team in 2013 were Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow, both top-10 recruits who also ultimately signed with Duke. San Antonio Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich has since taken over Krzyzewski’s role as the USA Basketball national team coach.

The U19 team is usually loaded with young college players, however, and this year’s squad could be a preview of next season’s Kentucky Wildcats.

UK freshman Hamidou Diallo and class of 2017 signees Quade Green and PJ Washington all played for the gold-medal-winning Team USA U18 squad coached by Shaka Smart last summer. Uncommitted UK recruiting target Mohamed Bamba was also on that team, and UK commitment Jarred Vanderbilt has played in the Team USA system in the past.

Another UK recruiting target from the 2017 class, Kevin Knox, played on the U17 squad last summer.

Bamba — the No. 2 overall recruit in the 2017 class — has narrowed his choices to UK, Duke, Michigan and Texas, but some recruiting observers are predicting that UK and Texas are the co-favorites at this stage. The Longhorns landed on the list primarily because of Bamba’s familiarity with Smart from last summer’s Team USA activities.

Bamba and Knox are both expected to announce their college decisions this spring.

Calipari was the head coach of the Dominican Republic national team in 2011 and 2012, and he coached Karl-Anthony Towns while the five-star recruit was still in high school. Towns committed to UK after being coached by Calipari.

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