UK Recruiting

Duke is No. 1 in final recruiting rankings, but can Kentucky still overtake them?

John Calipari has another highly touted recruiting class coming in for this season.
John Calipari has another highly touted recruiting class coming in for this season. aslitz@herald-leader.com

The final rankings for the class of 2018 courtesy of the Recruiting Services Consensus Index were recently released, but — given the reclassification craze among top high school basketball prospects — a final, final version of the RSCI rankings is likely still to come.

For now, those RSCI rankings show a familiar UK recruiting foe at the top of the list.

Duke’s class is currently No. 1, strengthened by the commitments of three of the top four prospects in the 2018 class, as well as another top-15 recruit.

Blue Devils signees RJ Barrett and Cameron Reddish are 1-2 in the final RSCI rankings, respectively, and fellow Duke signee Zion Williamson is No. 4 on that list. Joining them in Mike Krzyzewski’s latest all-star class is Tre Jones at No. 12 overall.

Kentucky is No. 2 in the RSCI team rankings, boasting a class that features Keldon Johnson (No. 9 overall), EJ Montgomery (No. 10), Immanuel Quickley (No. 21) and Tyler Herro (No. 33).

For the class of 2018, the RSCI took rankings from Rivals.com, ESPN, 247Sports and longtime recruiting analyst Van Coleman. The website looks at the top-100 rankings from each of those recruiting services, assigns a point value to each recruit based on his overall consensus ranking, then adds the totals for all players in a class for the team’s final score.

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Jeff Crume, who has managed the RSCI for the past 20 years, told the Herald-Leader that, although this is considered the “final” rankings update for the 2018 class, there might still be another one coming.

The reason for that: reclassification.

It’s been all the rage in high school basketball in recent recruiting cycles — moving up a grade to get to college, and, more to the point, the NBA a year earlier — and UK just so happens to have the highest-ranked reclassifier in the country for 2018.

Five-star point guard Ashton Hagans, who was previously ranked by 247Sports as the No. 6 overall prospect in the 2019 class, announced last week that he was moving to 2018 to play for the Cats this season, a decision that has been expected for months. UK confirmed that move Sunday afternoon.

So, does that mean that — when the rankings services update their 2018 lists to include Hagans — the Wildcats will have the No. 1 recruiting class in the final, final RSCI rankings?

Probably not.

Crume pointed out that Duke has a fifth signee in the current RSCI Top 100 for the 2018 class: Joey Baker, a highly touted prospect who, like Hagans, recently announced a move from the 2019 class to 2018.

ESPN and Rivals.com ranked Baker in their 2018 classes quickly enough for the numbers to reflect in the RSCI rankings, which currently has Baker as the No. 69 overall prospect in that class. When (or if) the RSCI is updated again, Baker’s standing will move up even more as a result of his new 2018 rankings from 247Sports and Van Coleman’s recruiting service.

Baker still likely won’t be ranked nearly as high as Hagans — so it will be a net gain for Kentucky — but that gain won’t be enough for the Cats to overtake Duke for the top spot.

It appears Baker’s final ranking in the RSCI will be about No. 40.

“And then (Duke) would be out of reach for UK even if Hagans came in No. 1, which he wouldn’t,” Crume said. (247Sports slotted Hagans at No. 12 in its final 2018 rankings Sunday).

So, that likely settles that, unless Kentucky adds another player who reclassifies from 2019 to 2018, which is not expected at this stage in the recruiting cycle. (The Cats could still add graduate transfer Reid Travis as early as this week, but transfers are not taken into account in class recruiting rankings).

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This will be only the third time since John Calipari arrived in 2009 that UK will not have the No. 1 national ranking in the RSCI composite. Duke also had the top class in the other two instances, in 2014 and 2015, and UK also finished No. 2 behind the Blue Devils in both of those years.

Of course, none of this will matter match once that first ball is tipped in November, when the players can settle such debates on the actual court.

This year, it’ll be the top two recruiting classes in the country doing just that. Kentucky faces Duke in Indianapolis on Nov. 6, the first day of the college basketball season.

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