UK Men's Basketball

UK basketball recruiting notes on R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson, Bol Bol and much more

R.J. Barrett is ranked by Rivals.com, Scout.com and ESPN as the No. 1 recruit in the class of 2018.
R.J. Barrett is ranked by Rivals.com, Scout.com and ESPN as the No. 1 recruit in the class of 2018. AP

No. 1 recruit R.J. Barrett announced Saturday night what had become clear a few days earlier: he’s down to just three schools.

Barrett — a 6-foot-7 shooting guard from Ontario, now entering his final season at Montverde Academy (Fla.) — has cut Arizona and Michigan from his recruitment, leaving Kentucky, Duke and Oregon.

The three finalists also happen to be the top three vote-getters from a Herald-Leader survey a few weeks ago, when we asked five national recruiting analysts to handicap Barrett’s recruitment.

Barrett decided not to take a previously planned official visit to Michigan this past weekend and also cut Arizona, which had one of its assistants arrested last week as a result of the federal investigation into college basketball.

All three of Barrett’s finalists have now hosted him for official visits, and a decision could be coming soon.

There was a sense of optimism around Kentucky after Barrett’s official visit to Lexington early last month, but Duke remains the consensus favorite. And if Barrett makes his college choice in the next week or two, it sounds like the Blue Devils will be the pick.

(It’s also worth noting that Scout.com’s Evan Daniels logged a pro-Duke Crystal Ball pick for Barrett last week. Daniels has been correct on each of his last 17 predictions.)

Zion’s first visit

Zion Williamson made the trip to Kansas this past weekend for the first official visit of his recruitment. He was supposed to be in Lexington the previous weekend, but that trip had to be postponed due to a death in the family.

Williamson was in Lawrence for the Jayhawks’ version of midnight madness, and — according to the Kansas City Star — the KU students serenaded him with “We Want Zion!” chants during the event.

The No. 2 recruit in the 2018 class, Williamson has official visits scheduled for Duke and UCLA for later this month, and he’s also expected to take an official visit to North Carolina. Local options Clemson and South Carolina are also still on the list.

Williamson will reschedule his official visit to Kentucky, though no date for that trip has yet been made public. The weekend of Big Blue Madness (Oct. 13) is currently free on his recruiting calendar, and five-star point guard Immanuel Quickley, the Cats’ only commitment for 2018, has already said that he’ll be in Lexington for that event. Williamson and Quickley are friends and have talked about playing together in college.

Bol’s first visit

Bol Bol, the No. 3 overall player in the 247Sports composite rankings for 2018, also made the first official visit in his recruitment over the weekend, traveling to Oregon.

Bol — a 7-foot-3 power forward now living in the Los Angeles area — is scheduled to be at UK for Big Blue Madness in two weeks, and he has official visits set for the following three weekends to UCLA, Arizona and Southern Cal.

Going into the fall, Bol’s recruitment was arguably the toughest to handicap out of any of the top players in the class. That hasn’t changed.

Arizona and Southern Cal were seen by some recruiting analysts as the favorites toward the end of the summer, but an assistant coach from each of those schools was arrested last week and charged with federal crimes as a result of the investigation into corruption in college basketball. It’s unclear how those developments will affect Bol’s recruitment.

Bol’s mother told the Herald-Leader at the beginning of this fall recruiting period that UK Coach John Calipari was expected to do an in-home visit with the family in California on the weekend of Sept. 15, but there’s no evidence that Calipari actually made that trip and no confirmation from Bol or his family that he’s had a meeting with UK’s coaches recently.

This recruitment remains a head-scratcher.

ESPN predictions

ESPN recruiting writer Jeff Borzello’s “Hot Board” last week included predictions for UK targets R.J. Barrett (Duke), Bol Bol (Arizona), Quentin Grimes (Kansas), Keldon Johnson (Texas), Romeo Langford (a Kansas-Indiana tie) and Zion Williamson (Kentucky). Only the Duke pick for Barrett had a “confidence level” of more than 50 percent.

The Barrett, Langford and Williamson predictions are all in line with what the Herald-Leader has been hearing recently. Kansas is probably the best bet for Grimes, although — as Scout.com’s Evan Daniels told us last week — UK looks to be in better shape than many think. There’s still a lot of optimism, confidence even, from UK’s camp regarding Johnson, one of the top wing players in the class. Bol, as mentioned earlier, could end up anywhere, especially with the recent uncertainty at Arizona and USC.

First cut

Five-star shooting guard Scottie Lewis — a 6-foot-5 prospect from New Jersey and one of the top recruits in the class of 2019 — made the first cut to his list Saturday night, trimming it to 12 schools. Usually there’s not much to say about such a cut — a dozen choices for a player with two seasons of high school left means there’s a long way to go — but Lewis’ list is notable.

The reason: None of the schools mentioned as a result of last week’s federal report on corruption in college basketball were included. Lewis had scholarship offers from Arizona and Miami, and he’d already taken an unofficial visit to Louisville. All three of those schools were left of the list.

The teams Lewis is still considering are Colgate, Duke, Florida, Harvard, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Seton Hall, St. John’s, Stanford and Villanova.

UK hosted Lewis (and five-star teammate Bryan Antoine) for an unofficial visit in May, and the Wildcats are considered to be in a good spot in Lewis’ recruitment early.

Recruiting flashback

Louisville announced Friday afternoon that assistant coach David Padgett would stay with the program this season as its acting head coach, putting the 32-year-old in charge of a team that many considered to be a top-5 squad nationally this offseason.

Padgett, of course, played for Rick Pitino at Louisville from 2005-2008. Before that, he spent one season at Kansas. And before that, he was one of the top high school basketball players in the country.

The 6-foot-11 center from Reno, Nev., was the No. 7 recruit nationally in the class of 2003 and a McDonald’s All-American selection. The No. 1 player in that class was LeBron James. (Chris Paul was No. 6).

Padgett picked Kansas over Arizona, North Carolina, Stanford and UCLA.

Other notes

▪  Five-star guard Quentin Grimes showed up in Lexington this past weekend for his official visit, as expected. Grimes — a 6-foot-5 prospect from the Houston area — had already taken an official visit to Texas, and he’ll take trips to Kansas (Oct. 13) and Marquette (Oct. 20) next. Those are his four finalists.

▪  Five-star wing Keldon Johnson also took the final official visit of his recruitment over the weekend, a trip to Maryland. The 6-foot-6 prospect from Oak Hill Academy (Va.) had already taken official visits to Texas, Kentucky and North Carolina State, and Oak Hill Coach Steve Smith told the Herald-Leader last month that he would be “shocked” if Johnson doesn’t sign with a school this fall.

▪  UK is not scheduled to host any recruits for official visits this weekend. Bol Bol and five-star point guard Darius Garland are both planning to be in Lexington the following weekend for Big Blue Madness.

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