Tracking the progress of UK signee Tyler Herro throughout his senior season this winter has brought to mind another Kentucky basketball recruit from the not-too-distant past.
The two players share many of the same traits. Both are in the 6-5, 6-6 height range. Both move and play in a similar fashion. Both are dynamic scorers who can generate offense from all three levels. Both, of course, signed with UK early in their senior seasons of high school.
247Sports director of recruiting Evan Daniels, who usually shies away from player-to-player comparisons, acknowledged the similarities between these past and future Wildcats during an interview with the Herald-Leader earlier this week.
“I think I could see that some,” Daniels said. “They’re similar size. They’re similar athletic ability. And similar games. I think we probably didn’t give Devin as much credit as he deserved in terms of his footwork, his skill and ability to score. I think he was kind of looked at as a shooter. And I think that’s the same with Tyler.
“Tyler is much more than a shooter. I would call him a scorer, not a shooter. Now, he’s a guy that can really shoot it, but that dude can make mid-range pull-ups. He can get to the basket on occasion. He’s got good footwork and good skill level. So I can see it.”
Daniels did caution against straight comparisons of a player (Herro) still in high school and a player (Booker) who recently became the third-youngest in history to score 4,000 NBA points, behind only LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
Booker, known as a knockdown shooter during his prep career, averaged 30.9 points per game as a high school senior and was the No. 22 overall prospect in the 2014 composite rankings.
Herro, known as one of the best prep shooters in the country, averaged 32.6 points per game this season and is the No. 32 player in the 2018 composite rankings.
Daniels noted that Booker has outperformed the expectations put on him as a recruit. “Part of that is on me as an evaluator, but the other part of it is: that kid worked really hard. And he put the time and effort in and has continued to improve,” he said.
Herro, too, has the reputation as a hard-worker off the court.
“Yeah, honestly, I think Tyler Herro is the type of player Kentucky’s current team needs. I think there’s a lot of value to having a guy that can really make shots but also has a well-balanced scoring attack,” Daniels said. “And I think he’s going to be a really good player at Kentucky.”
Herro’s high school career came to an end with a loss in the Wisconsin state playoffs Thursday night.
Four-star point guard Brandon Williams’ decision last week to back out of his commitment to Arizona followed four-star forward Shareef O’Neal’s decommitment a few days before that, and the embattled Wildcats now have zero commitments for the 2018 class.
Williams’ move was the final one in the aftermath of the federal investigation into corruption in college basketball, a probe that first became public last fall. Before that, Arizona had commitments from Williams, O’Neal and five-star point guard Jahvon Quinerly, who backed out of his pledge in October.
The four schools that had assistant coaches arrested in relation to the federal investigation — Arizona, Auburn, Oklahoma State and Southern Cal — now have a total of four class of 2018 commitments among them. USC has two top-50 signees — Kevin Porter and Elijah Weaver — and Oklahoma State has commitments from two players outside the top 250 nationally.
Arizona and Auburn have zero commitments for next season. Louisville and Miami, two other schools impacted by the federal investigation, also both have zero commitments from 2018 recruits.
Williams — a 6-2 point guard from Encino, Calif. — told 247Sports this week that he’s expecting to get some interest from UK, which appears to be looking for one more backcourt player to fill out its 2018 class.
The Gatorade high school basketball player of the year awards for all 50 states were announced this week, and Oak Hill Academy standout Keldon Johnson — a UK signee — won in Virginia. Johnson is averaging 22.1 points, 7.2 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.2 steals per game for the loaded Oak Hill squad this season.
Smith, a McDonald’s All-American, averaged 22.2 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks per game this season. Haliburton — the No. 164 overall player in the 247Sports composite rankings for 2018 — averaged 23.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 3.7 steals per game.
University Heights guard KyKy Tandy has emerged as a UK recruiting target in recent weeks, and he’ll be on the Rupp Arena court next week in the Sweet Sixteen.
Tandy — a 6-1 guard in the 2019 class — leads UHA against Campbell County at noon Thursday in the first round of the state tournament. If the Blazers win that one, they would play again Friday at 6:30 p.m.
All the recruiting attention surrounding Tandy in recent weeks — a visit to UK, new offers from Cincinnati, Tennessee and Iowa State, several college coaches at the region title game — hasn’t had much of an effect on the star player or his teammates, according to their coach.
“I think he’s handled it really well,” UHA’s Grant Shouse told the Herald-Leader this week. “He’s a real quiet kid — kind of introverted, soft-spoken. He’s very humble and works hard every day. … But I think he’s enjoying the attention — feeling like a lot of hard work he’s put in is paying off and people are taking notice of that.
“He’s still very much the same guy. He’s a good teammate, and the guys enjoy being around him. As much attention as he gets, I’ve been impressed with the fact that his teammates have really been there for him and been very supportive of him.”
Tandy is averaging 30.5 points per game and hitting 47.6 percent of his three-point attempts this season.