Back in the United States with a few days to think over their time with John Calipari at the FIBA U19 World Cup, the four high school players who made that trip to Egypt have all come to pretty much the same conclusion.
These past few weeks under the tutelage of Calipari gave them all a better understanding of the UK coach. And that appears to be a good thing for the Cats.
Five-star seniors-to-be Louis King, Romeo Langford, Immanuel Quickley and Cameron Reddish were part of the 12-player team chosen to represent the United States at the World Cup in Cairo this month. Before making that journey, the quartet took part in a USA Basketball training camp in Colorado Springs, Colo., an event that was also managed by Calipari, who was head coach of the U19 squad.
All told, the four recruits spent 23 days with Calipari.
“I think you definitely get closer to somebody that you spend almost a month with, especially going overseas,” Quickley said. “So I got to know him quite well.
“I definitely think it helped (UK’s) cause, me getting to spend time with him. I didn’t get to spend time with the other coaches. So, I mean, it can really only help you to get to know somebody.”
Quickley — a 6-foot-3 point guard from the Baltimore area — is also considering Kansas, Maryland and Miami, but he named UK the leader in his recruitment before his Team USA time with Calipari, and the Cats appear to be in even better shape now.
Ranked by Scout.com as the No. 10 overall recruit in the 2018 class, Quickley started all seven games for Calipari, averaging 6.7 points and shooting 42 percent from three-point range. He plans to take college visits in September — the trip to Lexington is set for Sept. 16 — and then make a decision by the end of the month.
“Just the hands-on experiences were really cool,” he said of his time with Calipari. “I got to see how he coaches his point guards one on one. Just to see how he does that and be able to be a part of that is really cool.”
Quickley’s roommate in Egypt was Reddish, a 6-7 wing from Pennsylvania and the No. 4 overall player in the Scout.com rankings.
Reddish was the most productive of the high school players that made the trip. He started all seven games, averaging 10.7 points while leading the team in steals, dishing out the second-most assists and making 13 of 24 threes (54 percent).
Quickley and fellow top-10 recruit Zion Williamson have spent the past few days talking about their wish to play college ball together. Asked if there was anyone else in the class Quickley would like to pair up with, the point guard didn’t hesitate.
“Definitely Cam,” he said. “We definitely talked about (UK). He likes it a lot.”
Duke was viewed as the favorite for Reddish before his time with Calipari — and the Blue Devils might still be the team to beat — but the Wildcats are in better shape now than they were a month ago.
“He and I obviously got a lot closer,” Reddish said of Calipari. “We got to talk a lot more about me specifically. So I guess it helped him a little bit. I’m not going to say it put him over the edge.”
Reddish is likely to take an official visit to Lexington later this fall.
He was disappointed that Team USA didn’t win gold — the Americans were defeated by Canada in the semifinals and had to settle for a bronze medal — but the time around Calipari was well spent.
“I liked his style,” Reddish said. “He’s a ‘go guy.’ He wants everybody to go and push. He wants everybody to play hard every single time. I like that about him. He was pushing me to get better every day.
“He was on me a lot. He wouldn’t let me take any plays off. Not even in practice. Not even layups.”
Of the three Team USA high school players with UK scholarship offers, Langford — a 6-5 shooting guard from New Albany, Ind. — was viewed in recruiting circles as the least likely to ultimately choose the Wildcats.
The No. 5 player in the 2018 class, Langford experienced back spasms in Egypt that limited him to just 29 minutes of play, but he did describe the trip as a “good experience,” saying it didn’t affect UK’s chances one way or the other.
“They’re still the same as before,” Langford said. “I just got a better feel for how Coach Cal likes to coach.”
King — a 6-7 wing from Jersey City, N.J. — went into last month’s training camp still looking for a UK scholarship offer, and he made a pretty good case throughout that camp and the World Cup games that followed.
Playing 17.9 minutes off the bench, the versatile King averaged 6.1 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists. Calipari praised King’s play during the tournament, and the 2018 recruit told SEC Country that he impressed the UK coach.
“He said I was one of the best recruits in the 2018 class and that he wanted to start off the 2018 class with me as a Kentucky commit,” King said.
Calipari hasn’t extended that offer yet but, if he does, the Cats will definitely become the favorite in King’s recruitment.
Reddish, a close friend who plays on the same Nike team as King, is expecting it.
“I think he’ll get it,” Reddish said. “I think it’s just a matter of time.”