UK Recruiting

UK basketball coach headed to Argentina to scout several five-star recruits

Vernon Carey, left, and Scottie Barnes are two of UK's top recruiting targets.
Vernon Carey, left, and Scottie Barnes are two of UK's top recruiting targets.

Another international recruiting trip is coming up for the UK basketball program.

Wildcats assistant coach Joel Justus is scheduled to travel to Argentina later this week to scout the FIBA U17 World Cup, which will feature a USA Basketball U17 squad that is loaded with five-star talent.

The USA team will be led by last year’s U16 MVP Vernon Carey, who is ranked by as the No. 1 overall prospect in the 2019 class and has UK on his list of five finalists along with Duke, North Carolina, Miami and Michigan State.

Carey — a 6-foot-10 power forward from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. — is expected to take an official visit to UK this fall, and he was in Lexington two years ago for Big Blue Madness.

The squad also features Carey’s five-star high school and AAU teammate, Scottie Barnes, who this spring became the first prospect from the 2020 recruiting class to land a UK scholarship offer. Also on the U.S. team are the top three players in the 247Sports rankings for the class of 2020 — Jalen Green, Jalen Suggs and R.J. Hampton, respectively — as well as Jeremy Roach, the top point guard in the 2020 class.

UK has already been linked to all of those recruits.

This isn’t the first such trip for Justus, who was in Argentina last summer to check out the USA Basketball U16 squad and went to Spain the summer before that to see the U17 team.

Last year’s Argentina trip marked the early stages of UK’s recruitment of James Wiseman, who later became the first player in the 2019 class to land a Wildcats scholarship offer and remains John Calipari’s top target in that group. Wiseman, the No. 1 prospect in the 247Sports rankings, was invited to try out for this year’s U17 team but was unable to participate because of an injury.

In Spain two years ago, Justus scouted Immanuel Quickley, who ultimately committed to UK and will be a freshman on this season’s team.

“Putting Joel in a position to really attack and establish us with some young kids — at least have our presence known with young kids — I thought was important,” Calipari said when he promoted Justus to a full assistant coach two years ago.

This month, Calipari, Justus and assistant coach Tony Barbee were all in Canada to see the U18 squad, which featured UK commitment Tyrese Maxey, as well as five-star targets Cole Anthony and Matthew Hurt, among other talented players in the 2019 class.

The FIBA U17 World Cup begins Saturday, and the gold medal game is scheduled for July 8.