UK Recruiting

What UK's top basketball targets are saying, and what's next in their recruitments

Matthew Hurt (1) said he models his game after Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant. He averaged 33.9 points, 15.0 rebounds, 3.9 blocks and 3.6 assists per game as a junior for his high school team in Rochester, Minn., this past season.
Matthew Hurt (1) said he models his game after Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant. He averaged 33.9 points, 15.0 rebounds, 3.9 blocks and 3.6 assists per game as a junior for his high school team in Rochester, Minn., this past season. Rochester (Minn.) Post Bulletin

It’s been a busy spring for UK Coach John Calipari and the highly touted basketball recruits he hopes will be Wildcats this time next year.

Calipari was in Colorado Springs a couple of weekends ago to take a look at one future UK player and several more with scholarship offers to play in Lexington.

He saw Kentucky commitment Tyrese Maxey excel at USA Basketball U18 training camp, where the five-star point guard was joined by UK offer recipients Bryan Antoine, Keion Brooks, Matthew Hurt, Jalen Lecque and Scottie Lewis, No. 1 backcourt prospect Cole Anthony, and a few others that Calipari and his coaching staff have been tracking.

The Herald-Leader caught up with all of those players at USA Basketball training camp, and the other two prospects with UK scholarship offers for the class of 2019 — Vernon Carey and James Wiseman — will be in Colorado Springs on Friday for the start of U17 camp.

Maxey, DJ Jeffries and Ashton Hagans are already committed to Kentucky for the 2019 class, though Hagans is expected to announce his reclassification to 2018 and join the Wildcats for the upcoming season.

Here’s the latest on the top candidates to join UK’s 2019 class, including what they’re saying about the Wildcats, other schools on their list and timetables for their college decisions:

Cole Anthony

The 6-foot-3 point guard from New York City is the highest-ranked backcourt prospect in the 2019 class, but he has said next to nothing about his recruitment. He is the only player on this list who does not have a confirmed scholarship offer from UK, though Calipari and assistant coach Tony Barbee have watched him plenty over the past few months, and there is surely a spot waiting for him in Lexington if he wants to be a Wildcat.

Anthony — the son of former NBA guard and college great Greg Anthony — did tell the Herald-Leader that Tyrese Maxey is recruiting him hard. “Obviously, we’re going to consider Kentucky,” he said. Duke, Kansas and Villanova are among the many other schools in contention for the dynamic playmaker.

What’s next? Not much. Anthony has made it clear that he won’t be talking about his recruitment for the time being, and he said not to expect a college decision until the spring. Kentucky will continue to keep tabs on him.

Bryan Antoine

The 6-5 shooting guard from New Jersey narrowed his list to five schools — Kentucky, Duke, Florida, Kansas and Villanova — not long before the start of USA Basketball U18 training camp, where he didn’t make it past the first round of cuts.

The No. 7 recruit in the 247Sports composite rankings, Antoine said he’s been in contact with current UK players PJ Washington, Quade Green and Brad Calipari, and he continues to have nothing but good things to say about the Wildcats.

“(I like) the coaching staff and how the coaches let their players play. And I was down there for an unofficial visit. The campus was amazing,” Antoine told the Herald-Leader. “I know a couple of players at Kentucky, and they tell me everything about Kentucky. The past players that have gone to Kentucky — they pretty much stormed the league. So I’m just trying to follow in their footsteps.”

Duke remains the consensus favorite in Antoine’s recruitment — though he said there is no true frontrunner — and all of the buzz at USA camp was still revolving around the Blue Devils.

What’s next? Antoine could be back at UK for another unofficial visit in the next few weeks, and he said he will definitely take official visits to all five of his finalists this summer before making a decision in the fall, in time to sign with a school in November.

Keion Brooks

The versatile 6-7 forward from Indiana announced his top 10 schools Sunday night, and UK is one of them.

Brooks — the No. 9 player in the 247Sports rankings — listed the Wildcats along with Georgetown, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, North Carolina, Purdue, Texas and UCLA.

UK — along with Indiana and Michigan State — has been one of the most buzzed-about schools in Brooks’ recruitment this spring, and Maxey said Brooks is the one player he’s recruiting the hardest to join him in Lexington.

“I won’t lie to you,” Brooks said. “Me and him have such a great relationship, and we’ve talked about playing in college together before. Now that he’s committed, I’m not going to say it’s not intriguing to want to play with Tyrese in college.”

What’s next? Don’t expect any major developments anytime soon. Brooks told the Herald-Leader at USA camp that any further cuts to his list and any plans for official visits are “still down the road,” and he’s not necessarily planning to make a college decision in time to sign early in November.

Vernon Carey

A 6-10 power forward and the No. 2 player in the 247Sports composite rankings, Carey recently narrowed his recruiting list to Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, Michigan State and Miami (his father’s alma mater).

Carey has spoken highly of the Cats’ program — particularly UK big man coach Kenny Payne — in recent interviews with the Herald-Leader, and he’s also staying in touch with former Kentucky post player Bam Adebayo.

Duke remains the favorite on his Crystal Ball page, though there was some Michigan State buzz for Carey among those in the gym at USA Basketball camp last week. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him land at any of the five schools on his list of finalists.

What’s next? Carey cut his list a little earlier than planned, and he told the Herald-Leader last month that he will take official visits to all five schools (he’s already been to Michigan State). A final decision by November would not be surprising.

Matthew Hurt

The only uncommitted prospect from the class of 2019 that plays on the Adidas circuit and has a UK scholarship offer, Hurt is a 6-9 forward from Minnesota currently sitting at No. 5 in the 247Sports composite rankings.

He mentioned Kentucky, Duke, UCLA, North Carolina, Kansas, Memphis, Indiana, Louisville and Minnesota — where his brother will be a junior this season — as the schools recruiting him hardest at the moment.

KU is the leader on his Crystal Ball page, and he’s been spending plenty of time with Coach Bill Self as part of his USA Basketball U18 stint this month. That can only help the Jayhawks, though Hurt says there’s no real favorite in his recruitment.

More than one astute recruiting observer courtside for USA Basketball camp mentioned UK to the Herald-Leader as possibly Kansas’ biggest competition in the recruitment, and Hurt continues to say good things about John Calipari and the Cats.

“They’re great,” he said. “They have great one-and-done players. Calipari has a lot of one-and-dones succeeding in the NBA right now. That’s my biggest thing I get out of Kentucky. They develop over the year, or two — however long they’re with them — he’s developing them really good.”

What’s next? Hurt said he would likely cut his list to 8-10 schools at the end of summer ball, take his five official visits in the fall and — hopefully — have a college decision in time to sign with a school in November. “That’s my plan right now.”

Jalen Lecque

A 6-4 combo guard from Bronx, N.Y. — now playing for a high school in North Carolina — Lecque received his UK offer after Calipari and the Wildcats coaching staff watched him extensively during the spring evaluation periods.

He averaged 20.1 points, 9.1 rebounds and 9.3 assists as a high school junior this past season and is the No. 11 overall recruit in the 247Sports composite rankings.

Lecque mentioned Duke, North Carolina State, Oregon and Tennessee as some of the schools, along with UK, recruiting him hardest right now. He has flirted with the possibility of reclassifying to 2018 (his original class) but he told the Herald-Leader that he’s “90 percent” sure he’ll be staying in the 2019 class. “But if there’s an opportunity where I can play at a high level and be in a position where I can have my goal as being like a one-and-done, two-and-done, then I’ll go.”

What’s next? If he does stay in 2019, a college decision is probably not imminent. There are no plans right now for official visits or a final call on his next destination. “Not any time soon,” he said. “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.”

Scottie Lewis

The 6-5 wing from New Jersey cut his list last week to seven schools: UK, Duke, Florida, Harvard, St. John’s, Stanford and Villanova.

Lewis, who was measured at USA camp with a 6-11 wingspan, is one of the most intense competitors in the class and a highly athletic, defensive-minded, team-first prospect for the college level. He’s No. 10 in the 247Sports composite rankings.

Kentucky has already hosted Lewis for one unofficial visit, and the director of his Under Armour travel team is a Florida grad, but Villanova is the school that has been generating the most buzz around Lewis’ recruitment.

What’s next? “There’s just so much to focus on right now,” Lewis told the Herald-Leader. “I still have a year left to make my decision, so we’re focused on the stuff that’s more current, like winning an (Under Armour) championship and worrying about the high school season.” A college decision in time for the early signing period in November isn’t out of the question, but that’s not the expectation at this point. “It’s more about when it feels right, but I’m thinking a little bit more late,” he said.

James Wiseman

The No. 1 player in the class will be the No. 1 prospect on UK’s wish list until he makes his recruitment final.

Wiseman — a 6-11 power forward from Nashville, now living in Memphis — says his recruitment remains open, but it’s almost certain to come down to either UK or Memphis, where his former coach Penny Hardaway is now in charge.

Tyrese Maxey is doing his part to recruit Wiseman to Lexington, mentioning the star front-court player as one of his main targets in the 2019 class.

“He’s very difficult to try and get a read on what he’s thinking,” Maxey told the Herald-Leader. “He talks, but he doesn’t really talk much. He’s kind of quiet. But he’s really cool. He’s a really cool kid.

“My pitch to him is, ‘Follow your heart.’ Everybody’s saying he’s been with Coach Penny for a long time — which I really respect — but if you feel like there’s somewhere else that you want to go …”

Of note: There was more UK buzz at USA Basketball U18 camp last week than Memphis buzz among those who spoke to the Herald-Leader about Wiseman’s recruitment. Wiseman was not at that camp and will play with the U17 team later this month.

What’s next? More waiting. Nothing much is likely to change in Wiseman’s recruitment until the actual decision is made. He’ll surely be on UK’s campus again no later than this fall, but he’s put no timetable on a college announcement.