UK Men's Basketball

UK basketball recruiting notes: Barrett’s move to 2018; Thoughts on Williamson, Reddish

R.J. Barrett will play his final season with Montverde Academy (Fla.) this year and graduate from high school next spring. He recently reclassified to 2018.
R.J. Barrett will play his final season with Montverde Academy (Fla.) this year and graduate from high school next spring. He recently reclassified to 2018. AP

Earlier this week, R.J. Barrett — the No. 1 basketball prospect in the class of 2019 — announced his decision to reclassify to 2018, a move that had been expected in recruiting circles for months.

The logical first question — and often the biggest hurdle — when a high school player wants to reclassify is whether or not that player can qualify academically to move up a class and start college early.

Barrett and his family have been considering this move for a while now, and they’ve taken the proper steps along the way to ensure that R.J. will be able to move to the class of 2018 without any problems. Rowan Barrett, the player’s father and a senior official for Team Canada basketball, told the Herald-Leader this week that R.J. has already passed his SAT and praised his high school, Montverde Academy in Florida, for their assistance in getting him closer to college.

“Montverde knows exactly what they’re doing,” Barrett said. “They’ve helped us right from the beginning, guiding us through this process. Based on his academic standing now, he’s totally in line without any difficulty.”

Montverde has experience with this process. Former UK center Dakari Johnson also attended the school and decided before his final season of high school to move up a class. Johnson needed only one extra class at that time, and he completed the reclassification process with no difficulty. Barrett is in a similar situation.

Barrett, who turned 17 years old in June, lists Arizona, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Oregon, Texas and UCLA as the colleges recruiting him the hardest, with several others showing considerable interest.

It’s very difficult to fully know unless you’re inside the walls of that school.

Rowan Barrett, father of top recruit R.J. Barrett

Rowan Barrett told the Herald-Leader that a college decision is not expected soon, but the family will make an effort to cut R.J.’s list down to a manageable number in a timely fashion.

“We’re going to deliberate and not rush this. It’s a huge decision,” he said. “At the same time, we don’t want to waste anyone’s time. That’s important as well. You have to take your time, but you also have to be respectful of all the schools and the work and resources that they’re putting in.”

Barrett had kind words for several schools and coaches recruiting his son — including Kentucky and John Calipari — but hinted that R.J.’s official visits would be important in the final decision.

“It’s very difficult to fully know unless you’re inside the walls of that school,” he said.

Rivals.com and Scout.com immediately moved Barrett to the No. 2 ranking in the 2018 class this week. Those two websites rank him behind Marvin Bagley, who is trying to reclassify to 2017, a move that would make Barrett the No. 1 player in 2018. ESPN and 247Sports rank Barrett at No. 3 in the class, with Bagley and Zion Williamson ahead of him.

R.J. Barrett is the No. 1 player in the 2019 class, but he might be moving to 2018 soon.

Final five

As promised, five-star small forward Cameron Reddish narrowed his recruitment to five schools this week. The teams still in contention are Kentucky, Duke, UCLA, UConn and Villanova (the local contender for the Norristown, Pa., native).

Though he now has a list of five and is planning to take official visits to all of those schools, the buzz this summer has been that Reddish’s recruitment would ultimately come down to Kentucky and Duke, setting the stage for another head-to-head battle between John Calipari and Mike Krzyzewski, the two undisputed kings of recruiting in recent years.

Reddish — a 6-7 prospect ranked No. 5 in the class of 2018 by Scout.com — has not released any dates for his official visits, but he told the Herald-Leader recently that he hoped to make a college decision during the 2017 calendar year, leaving the door open for the possibility of signing early. The early signing period is set for Nov. 8-15.

Five-star basketball recruit Cam Reddish talks about recruiting from John Calipari's USA Basketball training camp in Colorado Springs.

Dynamic duo

Highly touted point guard Devon Dotson and five-star small forward Zion Williamson teamed up on the Adidas circuit last weekend in Las Vegas — the last of three July evaluation periods — and both were praised for their performances.

A couple of keen recruiting observers noted to the Herald-Leader last week that the arrangement might help out Kansas in the long run. Dotson — one of the stars of the summer circuit — is seen by many as a Kansas lean at this point in his recruitment. (UK is not recruiting him).

The Jayhawks are also seriously pursuing Williamson, who is ranked by 247Sports as the No. 1 overall player in the 2018 class.

Getting the two players together — they both enjoyed teaming up, by all accounts — can’t hurt the Jayhawks with Williamson if they can get an early commitment from Dotson. It’s also worth noting that Rivals.com national analyst Eric Bossi wrote in his Tuesday column this week that he spoke to sources in Vegas last week who said Kansas is in “better shape” than it’s given credit for in Williamson’s recruitment.

Williamson, of course, wasn’t shy about his wish to play college ball with another star point guard, Immanuel Quickley, two weeks earlier at the Adidas stop in South Carolina. UK remains the overwhelming favorite for Quickley, who is expected to announce his college decision next month. The Cats also lead on Williamson’s 247Sports Crystal Ball page.

Top basketball recruit Zion Williamson discusses the colleges on his list, the evolution of his playing style and more.

UK recruits on TV

The first-ever SC30 Select Showcase — hosted by NBA star Stephen Curry and Under Armour — will be televised live from San Francisco at 9 p.m. Tuesday on ESPN, and the game is scheduled to include several of UK’s top recruiting targets.

One team — coached by Curry himself — features Moses Brown, Keldon Johnson and Naz Reid, three five-star players from the 2018 class who don’t yet have UK scholarship offers but have been watched closely by the Cats’ coaches this summer. That squad will also include Scottie Lewis, who likely will be one of UK’s top recruiting targets in the 2019 class.

The other team — coached by Seth Curry — features Bol Bol, Darius Garland and Cameron Reddish, three players with UK offers for the 2018 class. That team also includes Bryan Antoine, another elite prospect from the 2019 class expected to emerge as a major UK target.

Antoine and Lewis are high school and AAU teammates, and the two players visited UK together earlier this summer. Their travel team director recently told 247Sports that there’s an “80 percent likelihood” the two players will play college ball together.

Other notes

▪  247Sports recruiting insider Andrew Slater logged a prediction in favor of UK on the Crystal Ball page of five-star power forward Simi Shittu this week. John Calipari traveled to Canada over the weekend to watch Shittu, a 6-9 prospect from Ontario. He hasn’t received a UK offer yet, but one could be coming soon. Shittu is the No. 8 player in the 2018 class, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.

▪  No. 1 recruit Marvin Bagley did not make his official visit to Arizona this week, as first reported by ZagsBlog on Wednesday. Arizona currently has no open scholarships for the 2017-18 season, and Bagley is still looking to move to the 2017 class and play college basketball this season. He’s expected to visit UCLA on Monday and has already taken visits to Duke and Southern Cal. Still no word on when (or if) he will visit his other two finalists, Kentucky and Kansas.

▪  Western Kentucky announced late Tuesday night that the school has released five-star recruit Mitchell Robinson from his national letter of intent. Robinson — a 7-foot McDonald’s All-American — would still likely need an NCAA waiver to play elsewhere this season, since he participated in team activities at WKU this summer. Do not expect UK to get involved in his recruitment.

▪  Shooting guard B.J. Boston and power forward Walker Kessler — two of the top prospects in the 2020 class and both Georgia natives — took unofficial visits to UK on Tuesday and met with John Calipari. (Boston plays for Norcross High, the alma mater of Jodie Meeks). As 2020 recruits, they will be sophomores in high school this season.

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