UK Men's Basketball

Crystal Ball checkup: Latest on E.J. Montgomery and other top uncommitted recruits

Anfernee Simons was committed to Louisville until last fall. Now, Tennessee and Florida are among his suitors.
Anfernee Simons was committed to Louisville until last fall. Now, Tennessee and Florida are among his suitors. Under Armour

With just four weeks left in the college basketball season, more attention will soon turn to the top recruits remaining in the class of 2018 as they close in on their final decisions.

When that happens, there will be only a few five-star players to follow.

Going into March, just four prospects in the top 30 nationally — according to the 247Sports composite rankings — have yet to make a college decision.

Here’s a look at the latest in the recruitment of those four players (and one more who could soon join them on the list), starting with Kentucky’s remaining targets:

E.J. Montgomery

Ranking: No. 12 overall

Crystal Ball says: Duke

The 6-foot-10 power forward from Marietta, Ga., has now visited Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina in recent weeks, but his recent trip to UK didn’t do anything to change the perception among recruiting analysts making predictions on his Crystal Ball page.

Duke still holds a vast majority of the picks on Montgomery’s page, a trend started by national recruiting analyst Andrew Slater back in late January. Every pick since then has been in favor of the Blue Devils, including predictions by national analysts Jerry Meyer and Brian Snow.

Montgomery’s senior season ended last week, but he’ll still have the McDonald’s All-American Game coming up in a few weeks, along with other postseason all-star events. He doesn’t appear to be in much of a hurry to end his recruitment, and official visits to UK, Duke, UNC and possibly others remain in the plans.

Ashton Hagans

Ranking: No. 8 (in 2019)

Crystal Ball says: North Carolina

Though technically a member of the class of 2019, there has been buzz in recruiting circles for months that Hagans would ultimately end up in the 2018 class and play college basketball next season. That speculation has picked up in recent weeks, and at this point it will be a surprise if the 6-3 point guard is not at a college this fall.

National analyst Jerry Meyer logged a Crystal Ball prediction in favor of North Carolina not long after Hagans’ recent decommitment from Georgia, and the Tar Heels are now the Crystal Ball leaders (albeit with not many picks yet in).

Photos of the Big Blue Nation cheering on the Wildcats throughout the 2017-2018 Kentucky basketball season.

The Herald-Leader has been told that Kentucky will be recruiting Hagans — even if he ultimately moves to the 2018 class — and the Wildcats could become major players. Hagans has already been on UK’s campus and has always had great things to say about John Calipari and his program.

His current status as a 2019 recruit will allow Hagans to play spring and summer ball — he was on the Adidas circuit last season — so it could be a while before his final college decision is know. An example: Marvin Bagley played the entire Nike season last year before reclassifying in the summer. Bagley didn’t commit to Duke until Aug. 14.

Anfernee Simons

Ranking: No. 7 overall

Crystal Ball says: Tennessee

Kentucky was expected to get involved in Simons’ recruitment, but there’s been no indication yet of any contact between the UK and the 6-4 shooting guard at IMG Academy (Fla.). A few weeks ago, Simons listed Tennessee, North Carolina State, Minnesota, Florida, Southern Methodist and Dayton as schools of interest.

There hasn’t been any movement at all on his Crystal Ball page recently. The past several predictions have all been in favor of Tennessee, though no new picks have been logged since January.

Simons’ recruitment could also take a while to be settled, if he plays college basketball at all. Hs age and status as a post-graduate high school player make him eligible for this year’s NBA Draft, and he has already said he’s going to exhaust that process before making a college decision.

ESPN’s latest Top 100 list of draft prospects has Simons at No. 20 overall, and he’d likely keep his name in the draft if projected in that range.

Only two other five-star players remain uncommitted for 2018, and neither is considering Kentucky …

Romeo Langford

Ranking: No. 5 overall

Crystal Ball says: Vanderbilt

The 6-5 shooting guard from New Albany, Ind., has narrowed his list to Indiana, Kansas and Vanderbilt, and he hasn’t said much recently about his recruitment. Vandy and IU have the same number of Crystal Ball picks for Langford, but the Commodores have most of the recent ones, including predictions in their favor from national analysts Jerry Meyer and Andrew Slater.

Jordan Brown

Ranking: No. 16 overall

Crystal Ball says: California

Florida's 80-76 defeat of Kentucky ended Cats’ four-game winning streak on Saturday, March 3, 2018. The Gators swept UK for the first time in four years.

The 6-10 power forward from Prolific Prep (Calif.) is still considering several schools, but Cal has always been in the mix and picked up several more Crystal Ball picks following Shareef O’Neal’s recent decision to commit to UCLA, which had been also been one of Brown’s top suitors. national analyst Eric Bossi was also picking California for Brown even before O’Neal committed to UCLA.

Other notes

▪  The only other uncommitted prospects in the top 50 of the 247Sports composite rankings are point guard Brandon Williams, who decommitted from Arizona on Friday, and point guard Courtney Ramey, who decommitted from Louisville last fall. There have been no major Crystal Ball picks for Williams (ranked No. 31) since he backed out of the Arizona pledge. Villanova picked up several predictions for Ramey (ranked No. 40) in January, though his recruitment is still pretty wide open. UK is not recruiting either player.

▪  Rumors persist that No. 1-ranked junior James Wiseman could reclassify to 2018, though he continues to deny that he will make such a move. Kentucky remains the clear leader on Wiseman’s Crystal Ball page, with a Penny Hardaway-to-Memphis scenario seemingly the only thing that will keep him out of Lexington. |

▪  Combo guard Jalen Lecque — ranked No. 12 overall in 2019 — has acknowledged that he could reclassify back to 2018, his original class, and play college ball next season. UK is keeping tabs on his recruitment, and the Cats could emerge as a more realistic possibility once Lecque’s situation (and UK’s roster makeup for next season) clears up. National analyst Andrew Slater logged a Crystal Ball prediction in favor of Oregon back in November.