UK Men's Basketball

Former UK basketball recruiting target is headed to … UNC Pembroke?

North Carolina State’s Shaun Kirk is transferring from the school.
North Carolina State’s Shaun Kirk is transferring from the school. AP

A basketball player who was once on John Calipari’s recruiting radar will apparently finish up his college career at a Division II school.

North Carolina State announced Wednesday that Wolfpack junior Shaun Kirk is leaving the program and transferring to UNC Pembroke, a DII program that plays in the Peach Belt Conference.

Followers of UK recruiting news might remember Kirk from a few years ago, when he was briefly on the Wildcats’ radar to fill out the class of 2015.

It was a strange series of events late in the 2015 cycle.

Kirk — an athletic small forward from Whitesville, N.C. — was ranked by 247Sports as the No. 180 overall prospect in the class, but Calipari was looking for players after losing seven Wildcats as early entrants to that year’s NBA Draft.

Calipari placed a telephone call expressing interest in Kirk, who had earlier in the day committed to N.C. State. The news of his commitment was not yet public, and Calipari apparently didn’t know anything about his pledge to the Wolfpack. There were reports that Calipari had actually offered Kirk a UK scholarship — though those were never confirmed — and the mix-up caused a brief period of confusion in Kirk’s recruitment, but he ended up signing with N.C. State two days later.

“The last couple of days have been outrageous, things I would never have expected,” Kirk said sat the time. “It all happened really fast. It was like two dreams in one day and that’s rare.”

Five-star guard Jamal Murray ended up committing to UK a few weeks later, and the Wildcats also added Isaac Humphries later in the summer.

Kirk never really broke into the rotation in his two-plus seasons at N.C. State. He played a total of 120 minutes over 28 games as a freshman and sophomore and had scored 11 points in 55 minutes of play over five games so far this season.

Kirk’s younger brother, Tyrell, is a freshman guard on the UNC Pembroke basketball team.

“It’s kind of bittersweet today,” said N.C. State Coach Kevin Keatts. “What a wonderful young man. He’s always been about N.C. State. I’m excited for Shaun and Shaun is excited. He wanted to have the opportunity to go somewhere where he can have the opportunity to play a little more. He will play with his brother, who is a freshman and who is doing very well.”