Herald-Leader recruiting writer Ben Roberts spent several days at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., last week, observing the Team USA U17 and U18 basketball training camps, which included 12 players with UK scholarship offers and several more that the Wildcats’ coaches are monitoring for possible offers.
Here’s a look at the five recruits who stood out the most among the UK targets (listed in alphabetical order):
Measuring at 6-9 and 254 pounds with a 7-3.5 wingspan, Carter lived up to his reputation as one of the most accomplished low-post scorers in the country. He was the best player during the U17 training camp sessions, often matching up with top-10 recruit and Auburn commitment Austin Wiley in the paint. Carter has tremendous hands and footwork for a low-post player and can score in a variety of ways with his back to the basket. He was also relentless on the boards, especially on the offensive end, using his length, savvy and underrated athleticism to rebound in and out of his area, leading to several second-chance points for his team. Carter is also a capable mid-range shooter, but his strengths lie in the low post.
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His recruitment: Many recruiting analysts see Duke as the heavy favorite to land Carter, though he told the Herald-Leader that there is no frontrunner in his recruitment and he still plans to visit UK at least twice, including a trip for Big Blue Madness in the fall.
Arguably the most exciting player in the class of 2017, Diallo was a dunk machine through the first few sessions of U18 training camp. On one play, he rose above Miles Bridges – the dynamic Michigan State signee – to grab an offensive rebound and throw down an emphatic one-handed putback slam. He also had a couple of windmill jams in transition. But Diallo isn’t on this list for his dunks. The 6-foot-5, 188-pound prospect was all over the court, bringing an energy level that was matched by few of his highly touted peers. He worked hard off the ball on offense and managed to get solid position on the boards. While he certainly has room to grow as a defender, his athleticism and length (a 6-11 wingspan) give him a tremendous amount of upside in that role. His weakness remains his outside shooting, but his shot mechanics don’t look bad and, most importantly, he’s well aware that he needs to improve in that area and is putting in the work to do so.
His recruitment: Diallo has no planned visits and no timetable for making a decision, but the word behind the scenes remains that UK is in good shape. Though he also has a scholarship offer from Duke, the Cats’ top competition might be UConn. The Huskies’ coaches aren’t far from Diallo’s high school and have made him a priority for a while. UConn Coach Kevin Ollie is one of the assistant coaches for the Team USA U18 squad.
The assists and steals leader during the Nike EYBL regular season, Green carried over his successful spring to the first few sessions of U18 training camp. The 6-1 prospect won’t wow you with his size or length, but he’s a smart playmaker who usually makes the right decisions with the basketball and easily creates scoring opportunities for himself and teammates. Green has great quickness at the position and changes speeds well. He’s also an above-average three-point shooter (37.3 percent on the Nike circuit this spring). On defense, Green hounds his opponents, keeping a low stance and honing in on the ball-handler. He plays with a lot of energy on both sides of the ball. An unselfish offensive player, Green seems like the perfect fit for a college team that features several dynamic scorers. (It’s worth noting that he is averaging 10.5 assists to just 2.6 turnovers per game on the Nike circuit).
His recruitment: Green is the only player on this list that does not yet have a scholarship offer from Kentucky. That could change soon. He is scheduled to visit Lexington later this month, and the Cats’ coaches will be watching him at the Nike Peach Jam finals in July. (It’s also possible that UK will scout him at the FIBA U18 championships if he makes the final team). Green is visiting Duke on Monday, and he could pick up an offer from the Blue Devils during that trip.
Knox was spectacular during the Team USA U17 training camp sessions in Colorado Springs. Measuring in at nearly 6-9 with a 6-11 wingspan, he can play multiple positions and provides a mismatch for just about every type of defender. He handles the ball well for his size, knocked down several three-point shots and can attack the basket from the perimeter. He was also active on the boards, rebounding his position well and dropping down from the perimeter to collect more rebounds. His athleticism allows him to play well above the rim, and he’s capable of throwing down some spectacular dunks. That length and athleticism also comes in handy on the defensive end, where Knox can guard just about every position on the floor.
His recruitment: Knox claims no favorites and doesn’t appear to be anywhere close to a college decision. He will cut his list after next month’s Nike Peach Jam finals, but he’ll still be considering 10-12 schools after that. Duke’s coaches apparently feel good about their chances to land his commitment. Wendell Carter said he hoped to convince Knox to visit for Big Blue Madness, alongside he and fellow Team USA member Gary Trent Jr.
Washington has had one of the best springs of any recruit in the class of 2017, and he was again impressive during the Team USA U18 practice sessions. He’s not a high-flyer and doesn’t have tremendous size, but Washington is a smart player that uses his body well and does what’s asked of him in the paint. He measured at 6-7.5 with a 7-2.5 wingspan, and he uses that length well on both ends of the floor. Offensively, his game extends out to the perimeter and he’s fearless when going against bigger and taller players in the post. He’s also a smart rebounder who gets around box-outs and provides lots of second-chance opportunities for his team. Defensively, he uses that length and frame (232 pounds) to body up opponents. Washington has a good sense of timing on the defensive end, as well. In all, a savvy player who could fill several different roles on a college team, especially if he continues to hone his perimeter skills on the offensive end.
His recruitment: UK seems to be in good shape with Washington, who will be at Big Blue Madness in October and then return for his official visit during a less hectic time on the recruiting calendar. North Carolina and Texas are also often mentioned as possible destinations, but UK has made him a priority in recent weeks and that will continue as the 2017 recruiting cycle progresses. Though Washington is from Texas, he plays his high school ball for Findlay Prep in Nevada and was actually born in Louisville. His family has spent quite a bit of time in Kentucky, and he and his father had great things to say about the state.