More than two dozen prospective recruits for the UK women’s basketball program are expected to be in Rupp Arena on Friday night for the Wildcats’ annual Big Blue Madness, and the guest list includes Matthew Mitchell’s top 2020 target and a couple of early commitments for next season’s team.
Five-star wing Treasure Hunt — the No. 10 overall player in the 2020 class, according to the All-Star Girls Report recruiting rankings — headlines this year’s group of visitors. Hunt will be in town for her official visit, and the 6-foot-2 prospect from Chattanooga, Tenn., is expected to make a college decision sometime in the next few weeks.
Her other finalists are South Carolina, Auburn and Baylor — which have all hosted her for official visits — and Mississippi State, which she is expected to see next weekend for the final trip of her recruitment.
Hunt’s mother and head coach, Keisha Hunt, told the Herald-Leader last week that the family was looking forward to the trip to Madness, a visit that will also serve as a reunion of sorts with UK sophomore Rhyne Howard, who is former teammates and close friends with Hunt. Howard, the reigning national freshman of the year, also played AAU ball for Keisha Hunt.
All-Star Girls Report analyst Bret McCormick told the Herald-Leader that Hunt has a great chance to be a future WNBA draft pick and will bring versatility to whichever school she picks.
“She’s probably a wing in college, but it’s become a positionless game,” McCormick said. “She’s a matchup problem. If she’s playing against a ‘2’ guard that’s 5-8, then she’s going to take her inside and post her up. If she’s at the ‘4’ and she’s got a 6-4 girl on her, then she’ll just drag her outside and go by her or shoot threes.”
UK’s two early commitments for the 2020 class — power forward Nyah Leveretter and guard Erin Toller — will also be at Madness for unofficial visits.
McCormick ranks Leveretter — a 6-2 prospect from South Carolina — as the No. 119 overall player in the 2020 class.
“She’s long and she can score some around the basket,” he said. “I know Matthew likes that she has a good motor and plays hard defensively. And she can shoot the three.”
Toller — a 5-7 prospect from Sacred Heart Academy in Louisville — is the No. 144 player in the ASGR rankings, but, if she can regain her past form, she should project much higher.
McCormick said Toller was near top-50 status nationally before suffering a torn ACL near the end of her sophomore season and then suffering the same injury in her other knee at the tail end of her rehab last December. She committed to Kentucky in February.
“The thing that made her good was she was really strong at a young age,” McCormick said. “And she was skilled. She could score at all three levels — off the bounce, get to the rim, shoot the three. And she had a good feel for the game, good motor, played hard. But you don’t know what she’s going to do until she comes back.”
Scott County senior Malea Williams — a versatile 6-foot-4 forward with a 6-7 wingspan — is also on the guest list for Madness.
Williams averaged 12.8 points and 11.6 rebounds per game while making 63 percent of her shots from the floor for the Cardinals last season, and she’s one of the most coveted recruits in the state.
The bulk of Friday night’s recruiting guests will come from the 2021 class, which will be represented by several nationally ranked players.
Raven Johnson — a point guard from Georgia — is the highest-ranked of about 15 high school juniors expected to be in Rupp Arena. Johnson is the No. 13 overall player in ESPN’s rankings for the 2021 class, and she’s listed as the No. 2 point guard in that group.
The program’s 2021 visitors also include Ohio guard Laila Phelia (No. 39 overall), North Carolina guard Reigan Richardson (No. 42), Tennessee guard Kaiya Wynn (No. 48) and Georgia point guard Mia Moore (No. 52).
Franklin County standout Brooklynn Miles — a 5-6 point guard and the No. 50 player nationally in ESPN’s rankings — will be among the in-state recruits to attend Big Blue Madness.
2022 and beyond
Early UK commitment Cassidy Rowe — a star player at Shelby Valley High School — is expected to be one of a handful of younger recruits at Madness. Rowe suffered a second torn ACL during a summer scrimmage and is rehabbing from that injury. She is set to join the Cats for the 2022-23 season. She committed to UK last August and became a breakout star as an eighth-grader.
The No. 9 overall player in the ESPN rankings for the 2022 class — Ohio guard KK Bransford — is also on the Big Blue Madness guest list, along with several other high school underclassmen.