For the past couple of weeks — and, really, even a few weeks before that — all of the buzz in recruiting circles regarding top basketball prospect Zion Williamson has been in favor of Clemson.
The Tigers represent the closest thing to a hometown school for the 6-foot-6 forward from nearby Spartanburg, S.C.
Brad Brownell and his coaching staff have done an outstanding job of recruiting the local star, and Williamson’s stepfather, Lee Anderson, is a former Clemson player.
247Sports national recruiting director Evan Daniels started the latest wave of Clemson predictions on Williamson’s Crystal Ball page with his pick in favor of the Tigers this month.
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Daniels also covered this past weekend’s Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Mass., where Williamson was one of the featured players.
“I don’t know for 100 percent sure that he’s going to Clemson,” Daniels told the Herald-Leader on Tuesday. “That’s the school that’s getting all the buzz, and that’s the school that I’ve heard the most. But I couldn’t say definitively that that’s where he’s going.”
So, there’s still a sliver of hope for Kentucky — and the other finalists on Williamson’s recruiting list?
“For sure. I think there is,” Daniels said. “I feel good about (Clemson), but there’s certainly a chance that he could end up somewhere else.”
At this stage — with so many national analysts predicting Clemson — a small chance is better than nothing for UK fans still hoping to see the No. 3 overall player in the 2018 class in a Wildcats uniform next season.
Williamson is scheduled to announce his college decision Saturday at 8 p.m. He listed UK, Clemson, Duke, Kansas, North Carolina and South Carolina as the finalists over the weekend.
John Calipari watched five-star center Moses Brown play Sunday for the second time this season, and the UK coach also visited Brown in New York in November.
Still, there’s been no word of a UK scholarship offer, and there’s certainly no guarantee that one is forthcoming.
“He wants an offer — I think that’s pretty clear,” Evan Daniels told the Herald-Leader. “If Kentucky offered, then I think things would change. But they haven’t offered. As of now, it looks like he’s going to end up picking either UCLA, Maryland or Florida State.”
UK could return Nick Richards, Sacha Killeya-Jones and Tai Wynyard — as well as forwards PJ Washington, Jarred Vanderbilt and Wenyen Gabriel — to the frontcourt next season. In that case, the Cats might not need another big.
Brown — a 7-footer from Bronx, N.Y. — is the No. 21 overall player in the 2018 class, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.
Next point guard
UK signee Immanuel Quickley scored 19 points in his nationally televised game from the Hoophall Classic on Monday.
Quickley — a 6-3 point guard from the Baltimore area — was named a McDonald’s All-American on Tuesday and is likely to be in an interesting spot at UK next season.
Quade Green — the Cats’ starting point guard for much of this season — is expected to return for a sophomore year. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander — UK’s starting point guard since Green has been sidelined with an injury (and arguably the best player on the team) — could also return next season.
Quickley addressed that possible logjam in an interview during ESPN’s coverage of the Hoophall Classic.
“Basically, what Coach Cal’s told me is, you know, when you get to the NBA it’s going to be three, four point guards you’re battling with, so why not do it in college?” Quickley said. “If you’re not ready for the college level, you can’t be ready for the NBA level.”
247Sports analyst Evan Daniels said Quickley is versatile enough to get minutes alongside Green, just like Gilgeous-Alexander has done for much of this season.
“I think it’ll be a situation where they can both play on or off the ball,” Daniels told the Herald-Leader. “You can put the ball in Quick’s hands, you can put the ball in Quade’s hands. And one of Quickley’s strengths is his ability to defend multiple position. So he could certainly guard shooting guards, and they’re certainly two guys who could play together.”
Quickley got off to a slow start in Monday’s game, but he did showcase much of what makes him a great prospect — No. 13 overall in the 247Sports composite rankings — during the second half. He also made three three-pointers, and his outside shooting has been a point of emphasis.
“He’s made a great deal of improvement over the last year as a shooter,” Daniels said. “It’s still a little bit of a set shot, but he makes them. He did a good job this summer of spending time on that and developing that skill.”
UK’s other McDonald’s All-American selection — Oak Hill Academy (Va.) wing Keldon Johnson — also played on national television Monday, going for 21 points and seven rebounds in his team’s Hoophall Classic victory.
Johnson — a 6-6 prospect ranked No. 12 nationally — has been working on improving his outside shot, among other aspects of his game. What hasn’t changed is his energy and competitive spirit.
“He was really aggressive going to the rim, and that’s always where he’s been at his best — when he looks to drive it and score inside,” said Evan Daniels. “He’s got such good touch around the basket. He’s strong, he’s tough, he’s athletic. He’s good in transition. He competes on both ends — there’s a lot of potential as a defender there.”
Johnson is in his first and only season at Oak Hill, annually one of the nation’s best programs and a squad that plays a national schedule against other top teams.
Oak Hill has already played in nine different states this season (three more states than the UK basketball team has played in so far).
“I think that certainly helps a high school kid, when, one, they have a travel schedule that’s like a college team. And then you’re going against good competition night in and night out,” Daniels said. “I’m sure it’s tiring, but there’s a lot of growth there, in terms of your maturity on and off the court and how you deal with it.”