John Calipari has spent the past couple of weeks getting better acquainted with a few of his top recruiting targets, but his stint with USA Basketball’s U19 team ends Sunday, and it’ll be back to the recruiting trail for the Kentucky coach.
Three straight weeks of “evaluation periods” — the climax of summer recruiting — begin July 12 with major events on the Nike, Adidas and Under Armour circuits. These periods will be the final opportunities for Calipari and his coaching colleagues to see their top class of 2018 recruiting targets on the court until the fall.
Kentucky has yet to land a commitment from that 2018 class, but that’s not uncommon for this stage of the recruiting process.
Here’s a list of five important questions regarding UK’s recruiting efforts that will be answered in the coming months:
Who will be the first class of 2018 prospect to commit to Kentucky?
Five-star point guard Immanuel Quickley certainly appears to be the most likely option to fill this role.
Quickley — a 6-foot-3 prospect from the Baltimore area — was the first point guard in the 2018 class to earn a scholarship offer from UK, and the Wildcats’ coaches have been in steady contact with him for more than a year. He was also the only high school point guard to earn an invitation to Calipari’s USA Basketball training camp last month, and he was one of four high school players to make the U19 team.
A few weeks ago, Quickley narrowed his recruitment to four schools: UK, Kansas, Maryland and Miami. Scout.com’s Evan Daniels recently told the Herald-Leader that UK is “definitely the team to beat” for Quickley, and he didn’t see a clear second choice from among the other three schools on the player’s list.
Quickley told the Herald-Leader at Team USA camp that he wants to make a fall decision. When asked if a return trip to Big Blue Madness — set for Oct. 13 — was a possibility, Quickley said: “If I can get it done before Big Blue Madness, that would be better,” indicating he might be targeting a decision well ahead of the early signing period, which begins Nov. 8.
Scout.com ranks Quickley as the No. 10 overall player in the 2018 class.
Where does UK stand with its other top targets in the class of 2018?
The Cats look to be in good shape to challenge for the No. 1 national recruiting ranking once again. Quickley is one of six players in the 2018 class that have attracted considerable attention from Calipari. The other five: shooting guard Romeo Langford, wing players Cameron Reddish and Zion Williamson, and power forwards Marvin Bagley and Bol Bol.
The No. 2 overall player in Scout.com’s rankings, Bol is the most recent recipient of a UK offer, and Daniels told the Herald-Leader recently that Kentucky and Arizona are the two schools with the most buzz in his recruitment. Others have told the Herald-Leader that the UK offer vaulted Calipari’s Wildcats to the top of his list. However, Bol said at Team USA camp that he might be the last person in the class to make a college decision. “There’s no reason to rush,” he said.
Langford and Reddish were widely thought to be leaning elsewhere — Louisville and Duke, respectively — before Calipari’s Team USA camp, but both players have had great things to say about their time with the UK coach so far. Reddish told the Herald-Leader that he’d like to make a college decision in 2017, though he didn’t commit to signing in the November period. Langford said there’s no exact timetable for his commitment.
Bagley and Williamson — the No. 1 and 2 players in the 247Sports composite rankings — are still mysteries on the recruiting trail. Bagley has cut his list to UK, Arizona, Duke, Kansas, Southern Cal and UCLA but hasn’t divulged much beyond that. Williamson is still being pursued by UK, Duke, North Carolina and a host of others, and he has said that he would likely wait until the spring before deciding.
Texas point guard Quentin Grimes also has a confirmed scholarship offer from UK, but he has been mentioning other schools more prominently in recent interviews.
How many spots will be available for 2018?
This one won’t be answered until next spring. The Cats have 11 scholarship players for the 2017-18 season — leaving two spots open — and all of those players are either freshmen or sophomores, meaning any additional open scholarships would have to come from early entrants to the NBA Draft.
Hamidou Diallo seems to be the most likely candidate to leave for the pros after this season. Kevin Knox, PJ Washington, Jarred Vanderbilt and Nick Richards have also been mentioned as potential one-and-done candidates. Others — like Wenyen Gabriel, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Sacha Killeya-Jones — could join the list of potential draft picks with strong play this season.
Keeping in mind that Calipari will probably want to leave one or two scholarships open going into the 2019 cycle, UK’s 2018 class seems likely to end up with about 4-6 players.
Who else will get UK scholarship offers in 2018?
Jordan Brown, Moses Brown, Keldon Johnson, Louis King and Naz Reid are all five-star players with some level of interest — but no offer yet — from the Wildcats.
King, a 6-6 small forward from New Jersey and the only high school prospect without a UK offer on Calipari’s Team USA squad, is up to No. 12 overall in the Scout.com rankings and is a summer teammate of Cameron Reddish.
Jordan Brown — a 6-11 power forward from California — was invited to Calipari’s training camp and impressed the UK coach there. Moses Brown — a 7-footer from New York — is widely considered the No. 1 center in the class and met with Calipari during the spring.
Johnson — a Virginia native — plays for nearby Huntington Prep (W.Va.) and has had an outstanding summer. Reid — a big man from New Jersey — has been on UK’s recruiting radar for years.
Will R.J. Barrett join the class of 2018?
Barrett — a 6-7 shooting guard from Canada, now playing for Montverde Academy (Fla.) — is the No. 1 player in the recruiting class of 2019, but he’s flirting with the idea of jumping up to the 2018 class and moving closer to his college (and pro) career.
Usually, when a player is so open about the possibility of reclassifying at this point in the calendar, it becomes a reality. Expect Barrett to make that move to 2018, with a decision on the matter likely coming next month. If that happens, he would be one of the top five players in the class, maybe as high as No. 2 overall.
Barrett and his father have both said positive things about UK in interviews with the Herald-Leader this year, and Calipari has been keeping a close eye on him during the Nike season. He’d be a major UK recruiting target if he reclassifies.