Last week, Scout.com released new basketball player rankings for the recruiting class of 2019.
Prospects in that group still have two more seasons of high school ball to play, but — at this point in the process — it looks like Kentucky might be the early frontrunner to land the player at the very top of Scout.com’s list.
James Wiseman — a 6-foot-11 power forward from Tennessee — has had nothing but great things to say about the Wildcats, he was the first recruit from his class to earn a UK scholarship offer, and John Calipari looks to be in a great position so far.
“I don’t usually call anybody the favorite this early in a recruitment, but it sure seems like Kentucky is in great shape with James Wiseman,” Scout.com national analyst Evan Daniels told the Herald-Leader. “They’ve really targeted him. They went down and saw him in South America. They prioritized him. It wouldn’t surprise me if they’re out in front and leading right now.”
UK assistant coach Joel Justus traveled to Argentina to watch the USA Basketball U16 team compete over the summer, and Wiseman was apparently one of the players who caught his eye.
Justus’ first stop on the first day of the fall recruiting period earlier this month was to see Wiseman — who grew up in Nashville but recently moved to Memphis — then Calipari and UK assistant coach Tony Barbee showed up a few days later to offer Wiseman a scholarship.
Wiseman averaged 11.4 points and 5.0 rebounds in 17.8 minutes per game for Team USA (which won a gold medal at the FIBA U16 event), and he played for Coach Penny Hardaway’s Team Penny squad on the Nike circuit this summer.
He has since moved to Memphis to play for the Hardaway-coached Memphis East High School.
Wiseman has mentioned Anthony Davis as a player he patterns his game after, and the early picks on his 247Sports Crystal Ball page indicate recruiting analysts are thinking that Wiseman will ultimately follow in Davis’ footsteps at Kentucky.
Daniels said that Wiseman — pushing 7-feet tall with a 7-4 wingspan — is looking like the best “long-term prospect” in the 2019 class.
“He races down the court,” Daniels said. “He has great hands. He impacts the game with his defense, because he’s quick off his feet and has good defensive instincts.
“He’s also starting to develop on the offensive end. I mentioned his hands — he’s got good touch. He’s got a little jump hook over his shoulder. He’s just now starting to gain confidence in his mid-range jump shot. When you’re that size and can consistently make shots, it’s a big deal.”
Crystal Ball checkup
Again, it’s very early in the process, but Kentucky does seem to be in good shape with a lot of their initial targets in the recruiting class of 2019.
The Cats are the clear Crystal Ball leader for James Wiseman, and 247Sports national analyst Jerry Meyer has also logged early predictions in favor UK for five-star point guard Ashton Hagans, five-star small forward Christian Brown and five-star small forward D.J. Jeffries (one of Wiseman’s AAU teammates).
Meyer and fellow national analyst Andrew Slater have both logged Florida predictions for five-star shooting guard Scottie Lewis — his AAU team director and family friend is a Gators alum — but UK is also in great shape early for Lewis, the No. 5 junior in the 247Sports rankings.
Kentucky is also thought to be among the top schools for five-star combo guard Bryan Antoine, five-star power forward Matthew Hurt and five-star small forward Keion Brooks, among others.
It could be another Calipari super class in the making.
The sixth and most recent recipient of a UK scholarship offer for the class of 2019 is five-star small forward Keion Brooks, who picked one up during an unofficial visit to Lexington on Saturday.
Brooks — a 6-foot-8 prospect from Fort Wayne — is the No. 14 overall player in the 2019 class and hosted John Calipari for an open gym at his high school last week.
“Keion has a high ceiling,” Scout.com’s Evan Daniels told the Herald-Leader. “He’s a big, tall wing. He’s got good size and he can really score the ball and makes plays in transition. He played up in the (Nike) EYBL and didn’t skip a beat.
“We have him in our top 15 in 2019, and I’ve been really impressed with him when I’ve seen him play.”
Brooks averaged 18.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game on the Nike circuit over the summer. He played for Trey Lyles’ former team and was the top scoring 2019 recruit in the entire league.
More offers coming?
John Calipari is expected to visit five-star point guard Ashton Hagans this week, and someone from Kentucky’s coaching staff — possibly Calipari — is also expected to see five-star small forward Christian Brown.
Neither of those players has a scholarship offer from UK yet, but that could change soon. Both are considered top-10 recruits by Scout.com — Hagans is ranked fifth and Brown is 10th — and both were in Lexington last fall for UK’s Big Blue Madness. They’re also teammates on the Adidas circuit.
Given the recent travel log, it’s a safe bet that Kentucky’s coaches will be checking in on others from the 2019 class over the next few days. Also, Matthew Hurt — a Minnesota power forward ranked No. 4 nationally by Scout.com — is expected to visit UK in the next couple of weeks.
So far, the Cats have extended offers to combo guard Bryan Antoine, small forward Keion Brooks, power forward Vernon Carey, small forward D.J. Jeffries, shooting guard Scottie Lewis and power forward James Wiseman.
One to watch
Rivals.com’s Corey Evans reported Sunday that a UK coach is expected to visit five-star power forward Armando Bacot on Monday. (North Carolina Coach Roy Williams will also be seeing Bacot on that day).
Bacot — a back-to-the basket big man at 6-10 — is ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 13 overall prospect in the 2019 class, and Duke, UNC and Kansas are among the schools that have already extended scholarship offers.
There’s also been a little buzz that Bacot, who turns 18 in early March, could be a possible candidate to reclassify to 2018. Kentucky has not cast a wide net for frontcourt players from that class, and Bacot could turn into an intriguing option if reclassification is a serious option.