UK Men's Basketball

UK’s class of 2018 could form quickly. When will the top basketball recruits decide?

Spartanburg Day (S.C.) standout Zion Williamson is one of the top high school basketball players in the country.
Spartanburg Day (S.C.) standout Zion Williamson is one of the top high school basketball players in the country. online@thestate.com

With about 10 weeks to go until the early signing period, nearly half of Scout.com’s top 50 basketball prospects for the class of 2018 have already made their college decisions.

Of the 23 that have announced college commitments, zero are headed to Kentucky.

Yes, the Cats are still looking for their first pledge from the 2018 class. By the time the early signing period rolls around — it begins on Nov. 8 — UK should be well on their way to another recruiting class that will compete for the No. 1 national ranking.

Ten players in the 2018 class have received either scholarship offers or ongoing, serious interest from Kentucky. Here’s a look at when those players are most likely to announce their college decisions:

R.J. Barrett: The new No. 1 player in the consensus recruiting rankings narrowed his list to five schools earlier this month: UK, Arizona, Duke, Michigan and Oregon. Barrett — a 6-foot-7 shooting guard from Canada — just recently reclassified to 2018, but he wants to make a relatively quick decision. He will take official visits to all five of his finalists over the next few weeks and plans to sign in the early signing period. (Scout.com ranking: No. 1 overall).

Bol Bol: A versatile, 7-3 forward now playing for a California high school, Bol has one of the most enigmatic skill sets in the class. His recruitment is equally as mysterious, and that makes him the toughest recruit to peg on this list. While an out-of-the-blue commitment is possible with Bol, he told the Herald-Leader recently that he could be the very last player in the class to make a decision. The best bet seems to be on a spring commitment, which would probably be best for UK, a team that doesn’t seem to be at the top of his list. (Scout.com ranking: No. 2 overall).

Darius Garland: The top uncommitted point guard in the class has narrowed his list to UK, Duke, Indiana, Kansas, UCLA and Vanderbilt (he’s from Indiana originally but now lives in Nashville). Garland is the first confirmed 2018 visitor for Big Blue Madness and has also scheduled other official visits for the fall. Though he’s said he has no exact timetable, a decision in time for the early signing period is probably the most likely. (Scout.com ranking: No. 7 overall).

Quentin Grimes: Kansas is the heavy favorite for Grimes, a combo guard from Texas who has not yet set an official visit to Kentucky. A fall commitment — at this point, it’s looking most likely to KU — appears to be a good possibility. (Scout.com ranking: No. 11 overall).

Keldon
Keldon Johnson received a scholarship offer from Kentucky last week. Mike Fender

Keldon Johnson: The most recent recipient of a UK scholarship offer, Johnson is scheduled for official visits to Texas, Florida State and Maryland next month, and he’s already visited Lexington several times. The Cats are the new favorite in his recruitment, and the 6-6 wing from Oak Hill Academy (Va.) seems to be headed for an early decision. (Scout.com ranking: No. 24 overall).

Romeo Langford: Indiana’s top high school player just recently started talking directly to the college coaches who have been recruiting him (his dad had been handling the bulk of that communication). Langford — a 6-5 shooting guard — has told the Herald-Leader that he’s in no rush and is likely to wait until the spring. Indiana, Louisville and Kansas are the current favorites. UK is a highly unlikely destination. (Scout.com ranking: No. 5 overall).

Immanuel Quickley: The Cats’ top point guard target will take official visits to Kentucky, Kansas and Miami next month. He’s planning to make a college decision no later than early October, and one of the safest bets in recruiting right now is that he’ll sign with UK in November. (Scout.com ranking: No. 8 overall).

Reddish
Cameron Reddish has been one of UK’s top targets in the class of 2018 for more than a year. Mike Fender

Cameron Reddish: Look for Reddish — a 6-7 wing from Pennsylvania — to sign in November. He’s narrowed his list to UK, Duke, UCLA, UConn and Villanova, but he might not even take all five official visits. There has been some recent buzz in favor of UK, but Duke still appears to be the most likely destination. (Scout.com ranking: No. 4 overall).

Simi Shittu: Technically, the 6-8 forward from Canada does not have a UK scholarship offer yet, but the Herald-Leader has been told that he will receive one as soon as he visits Lexington, and that trip could happen very soon. Shittu has put no timetable on a college decision, but if he visits UK this fall, look for a commitment in time for the November signing period, and the Cats would be in great shape if that scenario plays out. (Scout.com ranking: No. 9 overall).

Zion Williamson: The South Carolina star has gone back and forth on when he’d like to make a college commitment, but a decision in time to sign early now seems most likely. As of now, this looks to be a Kentucky-Kansas battle, and we’ve heard convincing arguments for both sides in recent weeks. (Scout.com ranking: No. 3 overall).

Conclusion: UK looks to be in good shape to land Quickley and Johnson this fall, possibly Shittu if he does make an early decision. Add in either Barrett, Williamson or Reddish, and that would be a stellar group heading into the spring.

Five-star point guard Immanuel Quickley talks about his friendship with fellow top recruit Zion Williamson.

Offer party winding down

Keldon Johnson landed his UK scholarship offer last week, and Simi Shittu will get one as soon as he visits Lexington, bringing the Cats’ offer list to 10 for the class of 2018.

That might be as long as that list gets.

Five-star prospects Jordan Brown, Naz Reid and Emmitt Williams — three players who UK watched over the summer — have all narrowed their recruitments recently without getting offers from Kentucky.

Small forward Louis King, who played for John Calipari on the USA Basketball U19 squad last month, is not expected to receive a UK offer.

That leaves post players Moses Brown and David McCormack as the only two other players who have been on UK’s watch list but still don’t have offers from the Cats.

Brown — a 7-footer from New York — doesn’t appear close to landing one, and Louisville, Maryland and Kansas are considered to be his favorites.

McCormack — a 6-9 center from Virginia — recently gave D1Vision.com a long list of the schools recruiting him hardest, and UK wasn’t on it.

No. 1 center Moses Brown talks about the latest in his recruitment and the recent interest from John Calipari and other big-name coaches.

Crystal Ball

Checking in on the 247Sports Crystal Ball, here are the current favorites for the top 10 recruits on UK’s 2018 radar: R.J. Barrett (Duke), Bol Bol (Arizona), Darius Garland (Vanderbilt), Quentin Grimes (Kansas), Keldon Johnson (Kentucky), Romeo Langford (Louisville), Immanuel Quickley (Kentucky), Cameron Reddish (Duke), Simi Shittu (Kentucky) and Zion Williamson (Kansas).

Staying put?

In last Thursday’s notebook, 247Sports national analyst Jerry Meyer told the Herald-Leader why he thinks five-star point guard Darius Garland will end up committing to Vanderbilt.

Such a pledge would be a big deal for Vandy Coach Bryce Drew, who is entering his second season with the program. But what if the Commodores miss on the hometown star?

“As big as it would be to get him, the ramifications negatively would be way worse if they don’t get him,” Meyer said. “That would really sting, to come in and have the energy building — Vanderbilt looked a lot better at the end of the season and there’s a lot of positivity here around the program — man, it would take a lot of air out of the balloon if Darius doesn’t go there.”

Meyer, who lives in Nashville, says he gets the feeling that most basketball people in the city are expecting Garland to end up with the Commodores.

“There have been rumors around town that he’s a silent verbal,” he said, illustrating the magnitude of that buzz. “So, there would be a lot of let down fans if he ends up at Kentucky or Duke or UCLA or Indiana.”

Garland — the No. 1 uncommitted point guard in the 2018 rankings — will visit UK for Big Blue Madness in October.

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