The bulk of the summer basketball recruiting schedule is finished, but the University of Kentucky’s efforts with the top prospects in the class of 2017 are ramping up.
There are still 14 players from the rising senior class with scholarship offers from the Wildcats, and John Calipari and his coaching staff are continuing to pursue those players to varying degrees.
Scout.com national recruiting analyst Evan Daniels spoke to the Herald-Leader on Monday afternoon about four prospects he thinks UK is in a strong spot to ultimately land for 2017, and why fans who follow recruiting might have to wait a little bit longer in this cycle to figure out which high school players are most likely to be the Wildcats of the future.
One of the top point guards in the 2017 class, Young cut his list to six schools last week: UK, Kansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Washington. The 6-foot-1 prospect from Norman, Okla., has long been Calipari’s top point guard target in the class, and the Cats still appear to be one of his favorites going into the fall.
“He just cut down his list to six, but he probably could have cut it more to two or three,” Daniels said. “Oklahoma and Kentucky are probably in a tier of their own, and then Kansas is right there as well. I think, ultimately, his decision comes down to staying at Oklahoma or leaving and going to Kentucky.”
Young was tremendous in July, leading his Mokan Elite squad to the Nike Peach Jam title and earning co-MVP honors at the event along with friend and teammate Michael Porter Jr., who has committed to Washington. Young — the No. 26 overall player in the Scout.com rankings — shot 47.1 percent from three-point range at Peach Jam after shooting just 30.7 percent from deep during the Nike regular season.
“He had a terrific Nike Peach Jam,” Daniels said. “He’s playing an efficient, effective brand of basketball. And I think this was probably his shining moment.”
Washington — a 6-8 power forward from Texas — emerged at the beginning of the spring as a major UK recruiting target, and he now looks like one of the most likely prospects to land in Lexington.
He’s already taken visits to UK, Arizona, North Carolina and Texas.
“I think Kentucky has done a really good job recruiting him,” Daniels said. “He’s starting to probably figure his deal out a little more. He’s ahead of some of these other kids because he has taken some visits. I think Kentucky is in good shape with him. He’s not going to tell you they’re his leader. But I’d say they’re one of two or three that are right there at the top, and I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up there.”
Washington — entering his senior season at Findlay Prep (Nev.) — averaged a double-double for Team Penny on the Nike circuit, leading that squad to the Peach Jam semifinals. Scout ranks him as the No. 14 player in the class.
“He’s had a really strong spring and summer,” Daniels said. “He’s one of the best rebounders in the 2017 class, and I love how hard he plays. He’s a tad undersized for a power forward, but he has very long arms — a 7-3 wingspan — and I think, in time, he’s going to be a pretty good shooter from mid-range out to three.”
Diallo — an electric, 6-5 shooting guard from Queens, N.Y. — plays his high school ball in Connecticut and earned a scholarship offer from UK earlier this year. UConn is also seen as a top contender, and Duke is among the other schools that have offered.
Daniels included him on this list, but he also noted that Diallo’s recruitment is tough to figure out at this stage.
“I don’t think Hami is anywhere close to making his college choice,” he said. “He’s got some other really good options. (UConn’s) Kevin Ollie has made him a priority from day one. … I think there’s a long ways to go in his recruitment.”
Diallo is one of the most exciting players in the class of 2017, and Scout.com ranks him as the No. 1 shooting guard and No. 9 overall player in the country. He averaged 19.1 points per game but shot just 20.0 percent from three-point range during the Nike season.
“Hami is a terrific athlete and a very good leaper,” Daniels said. “He’s strong, he’s tough, he’s physical. He’s very good in transition, and he’s very good when he gets a head of steam and is attacking the rim. He’s a very strong finisher through contact.
“He has the potential to be a very, very good long-term perimeter defender. He has all those tools. The next step for him is the development of his jump shot. But the good thing for him is that his mechanics are good. I think he just needs some more reps.”
Petty — a 6-5 wing from Huntsville, Ala. — was the first player from the class of 2017 to earn a scholarship offer from Calipari, who has visited him several times over the past year.
Alabama’s reigning Mr. Basketball is widely expected to choose either UK or the home-state Crimson Tide.
“Kentucky and Alabama appear to be the main two schools in his recruitment,” Daniels said. “I know a lot of people have said that Kentucky’s the leader, and that might be the case. There’s going to be a draw to stay home. Avery Johnson and that crew have recruited him hard.”
Petty — the No. 28 player in the class — joined Team Penny midway through the Nike season and blossomed from there.
“I think he was a little up and down, especially in the spring,” Daniels said. “But as he moved into the summer — and part of it was switching AAU teams — I thought he played better. He’s a good athlete, a good passer. Kind of a do-it-all wing, so to speak.”
Daniels acknowledged that he couldn’t call UK the outright leader for any of the recruits on its 2017 wish list, a bit of a change from past classes but also indicative of where these players are in their respective recruitments.
All of UK’s top targets have spent the spring and summer crisscrossing the country to play in national events. Many of them represented Team USA at FIBA tournaments in Chile and Spain this summer, and some were still in Los Angeles on Monday night for an Adidas event.
“These guys have been playing all summer and haven’t had the time to put into their recruitments,” Daniels said. “A lot of these guys are tired. Some of them are still playing, and I don’t think all of them are going to want to turn around and just start taking official visits (in August). So, it’s going to take some time.”