One of the top backcourt prospects in high school basketball, Jalen Lecque still has some decisions to make.
First, he must figure out when he wants to start his college career.
Then, he’ll need to decide where he wants to play that college career.
The clock is ticking on the first decision, and it sounds like Lecque is getting close to an answer.
The 6-foot-4 guard from Bronx, N.Y. — now playing for a school in North Carolina — told the Herald-Leader on Friday that he’s “90 percent” sure he will stay in the class of 2019, which would mean one more year of high school ball.
That’s a pretty big change from just a couple of weeks ago, when Lecque was saying he was still about 50-50 on the decision of whether or not to reclassify to 2018.
“Right now, I’m staying in 2019,” he said. “Me and my parents talked about it, and I feel like — me being at the point guard position right now — I should get more into it and try to become a better player at the point guard position.”
Lecque — ranked No. 9 overall in the class by Rivals.com — has long been viewed as a combo guard with the potential of running the point at the next level. Making that transition has been a focus of his in recent months, and the results have been impressive.
His improvement is reflected on his recruiting resume.
In addition to his national ranking skyrocketing over the past couple of years, college coaches — John Calipari among them — have noticed his improved play, and they’ve been drawn to his still considerable upside as a prospect.
“You have this guy that, 16 months ago, his biggest offer was Iona, and now he’s a can’t miss, five-star prospect, even without a reliable jump shot,” Rivals.com national analyst Corey Evans said. “That reflects just how talented and how hard-working the kid really is.”
Rewind to the 2016-17 high school season, when Lecque was still back home and before he made the move to North Carolina. His recruitment at that point hadn’t really taken off.
He had offers from Virginia Commonwealth, Manhattan and Iona, and an ACL injury effectively wiped out his entire season. He was sidelined from August to January and still rusty when he made his return to the court toward the end of that campaign.
Originally in the class of 2018 but a bit young for that grade — Lecque turns 18 in a couple of weeks — he decided to make the move to the 2019 class. He also decided to make the move to Christ School in North Carolina.
His recruitment picked up that summer, and it hasn’t slowed down.
Lecque averaged 20.1 points, 9.1 rebounds and 9.3 assists per game as a high school junior, and he put up 14.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game on the highly competitive Nike EYBL circuit this spring while playing for the New York Rens, who featured Hamidou Diallo as their star player a couple summers ago.
The only real knock on Lecque’s game at this point is his outside shooting. He was 4-for-38 (10.5 percent) from three-point range during the Nike regular season.
In every other area a five-star point guard recruit is supposed to excel, he does.
“He kind of has that Russell Westbrook explosiveness. A little Trevon Duval dimension to him,” Evans said. “He checks a lot of the boxes, except the most valuable one, which is the shot-making department. Mechanically, it’s not bad. But he has to put a lot of work in.”
Lecque didn’t put up many outside shots through the first few sessions of the USA Basketball U18 training camp here this week, but his explosiveness off the dribble and athleticism at the basket stood out even among this crowd, which includes 33 of the best amateur players in the country and many of the top backcourt recruits from the 2019 class.
That is what has drawn Calipari and others to Lecque, who acknowledges the shortcomings in his shot and continues to work on that aspect of his game.
“He likes my fast-paced game. How I’m athletic,” Lecque said. “I can shoot the mid-range really well. I could shoot the three better at a consistent rate. He said I can get it better if I go there. He said he just likes how my game is on offense and defense.”
Calipari visited Lecque at his family’s home in New Jersey this spring, and that’s when he extended a scholarship offer to Kentucky.
“When you’re younger, you always think about having a Kentucky offer, and a Duke offer, and UNC, as well,” Lecque said. “So, when you get that offer, it’s kind of a surprise. But you can’t get too big-headed. You just have to push through and fight for your goals and keep going on.”
Indiana and Louisville have also extended offers recently, and Lecque mentioned Duke, Tennessee, North Carolina State and Oregon as others firmly in the mix. (The Blue Devils have not yet extended an offer).
Kentucky already has a commitment from five-star point guard Tyrese Maxey for the 2019 class, but Maxey told the Herald-Leader he’s been recruiting Lecque to join him in Lexington, saying he wouldn’t mind sharing the ball with a player like him.
During a break in the USA Basketball action Friday, the two players were practicing alley-oops to each other. “That’s my guy,” Lecque said of the UK commitment.
If he does have a change of heart and switch back to the 2018 class, it sounds like the Wildcats would be less of an option. UK already has two former five-star point guards — Quade Green and Immanuel Quickley — on the roster for this coming season, and another five-star point guard, Ashton Hagans, is expected to join the Cats’ 2018 class later this summer.
If he sticks in 2019, it might be a while before he makes a college decision.
“Not any time soon,” Lecque said of his timetable in that case. “I’m just going through AAU and the camps, and when all the stress of that is done, I’ll have time to look at all of the recruiting.”