UK Men's Basketball

Top 2017 basketball recruits seem happy to play waiting game

DeAndre Ayton, center, and Kevin Knox, left, are two of the top basketball recruits in the class of 2017. Neither player seems close to making a college decision.
DeAndre Ayton, center, and Kevin Knox, left, are two of the top basketball recruits in the class of 2017. Neither player seems close to making a college decision.

In the 2016 recruiting cycle, John Calipari worked all of his magic early, signing five of the country’s top high school players in the fall and adding no one in the spring.

Other that the well-chronicled recruitment of five-star center Marques Bolden, the Kentucky Wildcats didn’t target any of the late-deciders too seriously.

The 2017 recruiting cycle might bring about a change, not just for Calipari and UK, but for all of the elite programs that regularly pursue the nation’s top prospects.

It’ll be interesting to me to see if .... a lot of (2017) guys wait until the spring. It wouldn’t shock me if that’s what happens.

Evan Daniels, Scout.com recruiting analyst

Only seven of Scout.com’s top 50 prospects in the class of 2016 waited until the April signing period to make things official with the college of their choice, and two of those players actually announced their commitments in January.

Many of the top 50 recruits in the 2017 class appear to be on a different schedule.

“I think it’s pretty clear that the recruiting processes as a whole with this class are not that developed,” said Scout.com’s Evan Daniels. “A lot of these guys really have a ways to go, and they aren’t really diving into the process all that much. If you think about it, not a ton of guys are even taking visits.

“It’ll be interesting to me to see if this is something where guys are just waiting until after the summer, and then they’ll make fall decisions, or if a lot of guys wait until the spring. It wouldn’t shock me if that’s what happens.”

At this point last year, 13 of the top 50 recruits had already made college decisions. So far in the 2017 cycle, seven such players have picked their schools, and only two of those are ranked in the top 20 (Auburn’s Austin Wiley and Western Kentucky’s Mitchell Robinson).

Judging from discussions over the past few days with UK’s top recruiting targets — all of whom are ranked in the top 50 — that list won’t grow by much any time soon, and it seems unlikely that 45 of the top 50 players in the class will be committed by January, like in 2016.

The longer we drag it out, the better educated we are in making that decision.

Paul Washington, father of No. 1 power forward

DeAndre Ayton — the No. 1 player in the class — has numerous questions surrounding his recruitment and college eligibility and said he’s “not really worried” about recruiting interest at this stage.

Mohamed Bamba — the No. 2 player in the class — plans to cut his list to 10 schools next month. He noted that, “Who’s coming in, who’s coming out” would play a role in his choice, making it logical that he’d wait on NBA decisions before revealing his own.

Kevin Knox — ranked No. 6 in the class — flat out said that he plans to wait until after his high school season to decide. Five-star center Nick Richards said he’d “most likely” wait until the spring.

Other top UK targets had similar outlooks.

Hamidou Diallo: “I’m still wide open. I haven’t cut down my list, and I don’t plan on making a decision any time soon.”

John Petty: “I’m really not close. I’m just taking my time.”

Jarred Vanderbilt: “There’s no rush right now.”

Top-ranked power forward P.J. Washington told the Herald-Leader recently that he wants to wait until the spring to make a decision, so he can see how college rosters are shaping up and get a better feel for the schools and coaches involved in his recruitment.

Paul Washington, the player’s father, echoed that sentiment.

“The longer we drag it out,” he said, “the better educated we are in making that decision.”

Of all the 2017 recruits with UK scholarship offers, the two point guards at the top of the Cats’ wish list — Trae Young and Quade Green — seem the most likely to make an early decision. Young has left the door open for the possibility of a fall commitment in past conversations with the Herald-Leader. Green acknowledged last week that the point guards wishing to go to UK or Duke might be on a first-commit, first-serve basis.

It should be noted that none of the players mentioned have set up a single official visit, few have taken any serious unofficial visits at all and many have not yet cut their list of schools to a manageable number.

Much can change between now and the early signing period in November, but the top prospects of the 2017 class seem to realize that, in most cases, prospects of their stature have the freedom to dictate the timetable of their own recruitments. And many seem more than willing to do so.

“This class just seems to be going at a different pace than the last couple of classes,” Daniels said. “Five to eight years ago, the trend was to get early commitments, and kids would make decisions when they were freshmen or sophomores and a lot of them wouldn’t stick. Then it kind of trended toward most of them making decisions in the fall (before their senior season), and that’s how it’s been lately.

“I’m curious to see if this class bucks that trend a little. And we’re not going to know that until November.”

Ben Roberts: 859-231-3216, @NextCats

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