A few hours after Mohamed Bamba announced his commitment to Texas on Thursday, the University of Kentucky basketball program officially announced its new signees for the recruiting class of 2017.
Bamba was the final UK recruiting target for the 2017 class, but the Cats had already signed five-star forwards Kevin Knox and Jarred Vanderbilt, as well as four-star guard Jemarl Baker, in the regular signing period that started last month.
Those three players joined early signees Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Quade Green, Nick Richards, Jarred Vanderbilt and PJ Washington, who are all ranked by at least one major recruiting service as five-star prospects.
“To go along with who we have coming back, this group of young people — I’m ecstatic,” Calipari said. “I’m telling you, it’s going to be hard. We will be the youngest team and most inexperienced team in the country. This may be my youngest team ever, but you know what, I love the challenge of it because we have kids that will share, that are going to give it up for each other and that are comfortable in their own skin.
“They come from great homes. They understand they’re on a mission. They want to get better. Those are the kinds of kids that we want here at Kentucky.”
John Calipari, who has yet another No. 1 ranked recruiting class, commented publicly for the first time on Baker, Knox and Vanderbilt on Thursday.
Baker — a 6-foot-4 shooting guard from the Los Angeles area — is a consensus Top 100 recruit, ranked by ESPN as the No. 63 player in the class.
“We looked at this group and we said we need to have someone who is a knockdown shooter, which is what he is, but he’s also a guy who can create his own shot,” Calipari said. “I think he’s a player who can be a terrific defender because of his length and because of his athleticism. We need to come in and we need him to knock down shots.”
Knox — a 6-9 wing from Tampa, Fla. — is the No. 9 overall prospect nationally, according to the Scout.com rankings.
“Kevin Knox is going to be the youngest player in college basketball,” Calipari said. “Similar to a Devin Booker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, he comes in really, really young – but talented. He’s a long, skilled player who, again, has a will to get better. I’m anxious to see his growth because I think it will be off the chain. Great kid, character kid who comes from a great family.”
Vanderbilt, who committed to UK in December but was not able to sign with the Wildcats until last month, is a versatile, 6-9 forward from Texas. 247Sports ranks him as the No. 8 overall player in the 2017 class.
“I love guys that they have to put on the other board and say, ‘Alright, how are we guarding this kid? What do we do?’ ” Calipari said. “You’re talking a long athlete, a playmaking player who can get to that rim. He can really pass it and handle it in transition. He can rebound and go. He’s another one I’m anxious to see the growth as a player, as a shooter and as a perimeter scorer, because he can do both (play inside and outside).”
The only other player remaining on UK’s radar for the 2017-18 season is Pittsburgh graduate transfer Cameron Johnson, a 6-8 wing who has visited Kentucky, Arizona, Oregon and UCLA in recent weeks and is expected to make a transfer decision sometime in the next few days.
The Wildcats are also waiting to see if freshman guard Hamidou Diallo, a five-star recruit, will return to Lexington for his first season of college basketball. He has until Wednesday to remove his name from this year’s NBA Draft and retain his college eligibility.