UK Men's Basketball

UK basketball recruiting notes: Calipari’s travels, possibility of new offers and more

Simi Shittu was one of the top players on the Nike basketball circuit this summer.
Simi Shittu was one of the top players on the Nike basketball circuit this summer. Nike

The third July evaluation period for college basketball coaches wrapped up Sunday, bringing a close to the summer recruiting period.

A few UK-related notes about this past week’s happenings, and what they might mean for the Wildcats’ future recruiting efforts:

Cal goes to Canada

John Calipari spent much of his week in Las Vegas, where most of the top players from the Nike, Adidas and Under Armour circuits were gathered for a series of highly attended exhibitions.

On Saturday, the UK coach flew to Canada to check out Simi Shittu, an athletic, versatile, 6-9 power forward who made an impression on him earlier this month. UK has been evaluating Shittu for months now, but Calipari personally showed a larger interest in his recruitment last week, and his getaway from Vegas — where most of the weekend recruiting action was centered — shows that Kentucky is serious about pursuing him further.

Shittu, who averaged 20.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and 3.0 assists on the Nike circuit this summer, is the No. 9 overall prospect in the class of 2018, according to the 247Sports composite rankings. His scholarship offers so far include Arizona, Louisville, Syracuse and UCLA.

Calipari has obviously had several recent success stories while recruiting in Canada, the home country of Trey Lyles, Jamal Murray, Mychal Mulder and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

Offer coming soon?

There might not have been another team in Vegas that drew Calipari’s attention more this past week than Team Final, the Nike-affiliated squad that features class of 2018 five-stars Cameron Reddish and Louis King, two of the high school prospects who played for Calipari’s USA Basketball U19 team earlier this month.

Calipari extended a scholarship offer to Reddish long ago, and the 6-7 wing remains one of UK’s top recruiting targets in the 2018 class.

King — a 6-7 small forward from New Jersey — is still waiting for his UK offer.

Calipari praised King’s play at times during his USA Basketball stint, and King scored 41 points in a game that Calipari attended Wednesday night.

King said at this month’s Nike Peach Jam event that he’s still being patient about a possible UK scholarship offer, and he hasn’t been shy about his admiration for Calipari and the Wildcats’ program, acknowledging that he could be the team’s first commitment for 2018 if the Cats offer soon.

If UK doesn’t offer in a timely manner, however, it could lessen their chances with King down the road. Calipari has now spent more than three weeks as his coach and watched him more than 10 times on the AAU circuit this summer, so there’s not much more he can glean from King’s game over the rest of the 2018 cycle.

Kansas, Indiana, Louisville and Maryland are among the many schools that have offered King, who is the No. 13 player nationally in the 247Sports composite rankings.

Quickley cut short

Immanuel Quickley, the first point guard in the 2018 class to earn a UK scholarship offer, was on his way to one of the best performances of the summer when the travel circuit’s biggest circus got in the way Saturday.

Quickley’s Team BBC was beating Big Baller Brand, 53-43, with 2:22 left in the first half Friday when LaVar Ball — coach of the Big Baller Brand squad and father of the now-famous Ball brothers — was ejected with his second technical foul.

The elder Ball took his team off the floor with him, and the game ended in a forfeit.

At that point, with more than a half left to go, Quickley had 23 points and six rebounds. He was 6-for-10 from the floor and had already made 10 of 13 free throws. The UK target also scored 42 points (going 13-for-25 from the floor) in his summer-league finale later in the weekend.

“It was an absolutely dominant close to the AAU season for Immanuel Quickley,” Scout.com’s analysts wrote Sunday in their wrap-up of top performers.

Five-star point guard Immanuel Quickley discusses his Team USA experience and wanting to team up in college with Cameron Reddish.

Cats still interested

Five-star guard Quentin Grimes is one of eight players from the 2018 class with a scholarship offer from UK, but the Cats are rarely mentioned as a serious threat in his recruitment.

Grimes — a 6-5 prospect from Texas — does still have Calipari’s attention. The UK coach was watched him play several times this month, and assistant coach Kenny Payne is staying in regular contact. Grimes is often listed as a point guard, though his size and ability allow him to play off the ball, too.

Despite UK’s continued interest, Grimes told the Arizona Daily Star this weekend that Kansas and Arizona are the two schools that are certain to get an official visit from him. Those are also the two schools that have been mentioned most in connection with his recruitment in recent weeks.

Latest on Bagley

UK target Marvin Bagley, the No. 1 player in the 2018 recruiting class, wrapped up an official visit to Southern Cal at the end of the week and is scheduled for official visits to Arizona later this week and UCLA the following week.

He visited Duke earlier this month.

Bagley — a 6-11 power forward now living in the Los Angeles area — also lists UK and Kansas, though visits to those two schools have not yet been planned, and neither program has generated much buzz in his recruitment recently.

The star player also remains serious about a possible move to the 2017 class. Scout.com’s Evan Daniels reported Friday that Bagley’s family has filed paperwork with the NCAA to review his academic credentials to see if reclassification is possible.

There is no timetable for that decision, or for Bagley’s college announcement.

Top basketball recruit Marvin Bagley talks about Duke, his upcoming visits and the recruiting process in general.

Other notes

▪  As of Sunday evening, there wasn’t anything new to report on five-star recruit Mitchell Robinson, who left Western Kentucky’s campus last week after less than a month with the team. It’s still not clear where Robinson will play college basketball this season, if he plays anywhere at all.

▪  The recent partnership between 247Sports and Scout.com means that recruiting analysts from the latter website will be making Crystal Ball predictions on the former. Scout.com’s national analyst, Evan Daniels, has logged his first pro-UK pick, predicting the Cats will land five-star point guard Immanuel Quickley.

▪  247Sports updated its 2018 recruiting rankings this week, but there was very little movement among UK’s top targets in the class. Zion Williamson remains the No. 1 player on 247Sports’ list. Kentucky also remains the favorite in his recruitment, according to that website’s Crystal Ball page.

▪  No coach in the country recruits better than John Calipari, and he provided more optics on the trail this past weekend. Calipari and Kenny Payne were photographed with former UK star Anthony Davis at an event in Las Vegas on Thursday. Calipari and former player Jamal Murray both tweeted out selfies with the other this weekend.

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