UK Recruiting

UK hasn’t signed in-state basketball recruit since 2013. Here’s what Cats have been missing.

Western Kentucky guard Taveion Hollingsworth, Kentucky’s 2017 Mr. Basketball and 2016 Sweet Sixteen MVP, is one of the recruiting jewels that Rick Stansbury has attracted to Bowling Green.
Western Kentucky guard Taveion Hollingsworth, Kentucky’s 2017 Mr. Basketball and 2016 Sweet Sixteen MVP, is one of the recruiting jewels that Rick Stansbury has attracted to Bowling Green. Daily News via AP

A week from now, for the first time in more than five years, an in-state basketball recruit could have a scholarship offer to play for the University of Kentucky.

There’s no guarantee that Pendleton County star Dontaie Allen will land a UK offer on his Aug. 1 recruiting visit, but John Calipari has been in contact in recent days and the Wildcats coach watched Allen play for the first time during the initial July evaluation period, when he established himself as a Top 100 national recruit.

The 6-foot-6 wing has landed scholarship offers from Louisville, Florida, Xavier and several other top programs over the past few weeks, and UK — which has been keeping tabs on him all spring — could be next.

If the Cats do offer Allen —whether it be next week or later on in the 2019 recruiting cycle — he would be the first in-state prospect to earn that honor since Dominique Hawkins and Derek Willis signed with Kentucky’s class of 2013.

Here’s a year-by-year look at the in-state players that Calipari has passed on since Hawkins and Willis signed on with the program:

Kentucky basketball assistant Joel Justus offers a recruiting pitch of sorts, saying that Kentucky isn't just for the one-and-done type players.

2014

UK’s class: Devin Booker, Trey Lyles, Karl-Anthony Towns and Tyler Ulis — all McDonald’s All-Americans.

State’s top-ranked recruit: Ballard point guard Quentin Snider earned Mr. Basketball honors and ended up at hometown Louisville, starting 97 games for the Cardinals and finishing his college career this past season with 1,207 points and 415 assists (placing him 11th in school history in the latter category). Snider — the No. 37 overall player in the 247Sports composite rankings for 2014 — was briefly committed to Illinois, and UK never showed any serious interest in his recruitment.

Others of note: Ballard forward Kelan Martin was the No. 2-ranked recruit in the class and signed with Butler, where he wrapped up his college career this year as the No. 2 scorer in that program’s history. Saint Louis and Texas Tech were the other main players in his recruitment. UK and Louisville were never major factors. Martin played summer league ball with the Utah Jazz this month.

Johnson Central’s Shane Hall and Henry Clay’s Jordan Green were No. 3 and 4, respectively, in the state rankings, but neither panned out at the Division I level. Hall left Marshall for Alice Lloyd College before ever playing for the Thundering Herd. Green left Western Kentucky before playing a game and ended up at Georgetown College.

Perry Central’s Justin Johnson, the No. 8 prospect in the class, developed into an important player at Western Kentucky, leading the Toppers in scoring and rebounding in each of his final three seasons. He finished in the top 10 in school history in both categories. Johnson, who was never recruited by UK, chose WKU over Auburn, Boston College, Providence and Miami (Ohio). He signed a pro contract with a team in Italy last week.

Lafayette standout Jackson Davis was the No. 5 recruit in the class and attracted ample interest late in the 2014 cycle — though none from UK — before signing with Butler, where he played sparingly for two seasons before transferring to Eastern Kentucky.

2015

UK’s class: McDonald’s All-American Isaiah Briscoe, top-five recruit Skal Labissiere, late reclassifier Jamal Murray, early commitment Charles Matthews, and foreign prospects Isaac Humphries and Tai Wynyard.

State’s top-ranked recruit: Louisville Trinity post player Ray Spalding was a bit of a late-bloomer in high school, but his tremendous upside landed him at No. 42 in the 247Sports composite rankings (and he earned five-star status from the in-house 247Sports rankings). Spalding signed with Louisville — UK showed a little interest, but the Cards were long seen as favorites — and played three years for his hometown school, averaging 12.3 and 8.7 rebounds per game this past season. He was selected with the No. 56 pick in this year’s NBA Draft and signed last week with the Dallas Mavericks.

Others of note: Owensboro’s Aric Holman led that school to a state title and signed with Mississippi State, where he will be a senior this season after briefly testing the NBA Draft waters this spring. Holman, who was never recruited by UK, averaged 10.9 points and a team-high 6.7 rebounds per game this past season.

Knott County Central sharpshooter Cam Justice earned Mr. Basketball honors and was one of the leading scorers in state history before signing with Vanderbilt, where he played sparingly before transferring to IUPUI after two seasons. UK did not recruit him.

UK did show some interest in No. 4-ranked recruit Dikembe Dixson, who spent time at Ashland Blazer and Thomas Nelson High School and ultimately signed with Illinois-Chicago, where he earned conference freshman of the year honors. Dixson, who never landed a UK offer, went undrafted as a junior this year and played on the Miami Heat’s summer league team.

Kentucky also showed a little interest in Holmes guard Beetle Bolden, who played a Sweet Sixteen instant classic against Dominique Hawkins — with John Calipari watching — but never earned that Wildcats offer. He’ll be a junior at West Virginia this season. Bolden averaged 8.7 points per game last season and is a career 41.9 percent three-point shooter.

Manual forward Dwayne Sutton was the No. 6 recruit in the class and ended up at UNC Asheville, though he later transferred to Louisville as a preferred walk-on and has since earned a scholarship from the Cardinals, turning into a key role player down the stretch last season.

2016

UK’s class: McDonald’s All-Americans Bam Adebayo, De’Aaron Fox, Sacha Killeya-Jones and Malik Monk, and five-star recruit Wenyen Gabriel.

State’s top-ranked recruit: Taylor County guard Quentin Goodin received some recruiting interest from Kentucky, though he never landed a scholarship offer from the Wildcats and ended up signing with Xavier. The Top 100 national recruit was the only player to start all 35 games for the Musketeers last season. He was third in the Big East in assists as a sophomore and has scored 498 points in his two college seasons so far. Goodin chose Xavier over Western Kentucky, Florida, Miami and Michigan.

Others of note: The only other in-state recruits listed in the 247Sports rankings for this class were Apollo’s Eli Wright, who started his career at Mississippi State and has since transferred to St. John’s; and Owen County’s Carson Williams, who earned Mr. Basketball honors, started his career at Northern Kentucky and announced a transfer earlier this year to Western Kentucky. UK did not recruit either of those players.

2017

UK’s class: Eight-man group led by McDonald’s All-Americans Quade Green, Kevin Knox, Nick Richards, Jarred Vanderbilt and PJ Washington, along with five-star recruit Hamidou Diallo, late-bloomer Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and late-addition Jemarl Baker.

State’s top-ranked recruit: North Hardin small forward Trace Young was at the top of the list in this class, coming in at No. 290 nationally in the 247Sports composite rankings. Young, who was never recruited by Kentucky, attended Mt. Zion Prep in Baltimore last season and signed this year with Wyoming (where former UK player Allen Edwards is the head coach).

Others of note: Paul Laurence Dunbar guard Taveion Hollingsworth is perhaps the in-state player that UK fans most wish had landed a Wildcats scholarship offer over the past five years. Hollingsworth grew up a UK fan in Lexington, led Dunbar to a state title as a junior and ultimately won Mr. Basketball honors. He did get some recruiting interest from UK, but the Cats wanted to wait on a scholarship offer, and Hollingsworth opted to sign with Western Kentucky before his senior season. He excelled for the Hilltoppers as a freshman, averaging 13.3 points in 34.5 minutes per game, starting all 38 on the season. He also shot 37.8 percent from three-point range. Recruiting analysts weren’t as high on Hollingsworth as a prospect. He was considered just the No. 358 overall prospect in the 2017 class and ranked No. 5 in the state despite his stellar track record in high school.

Taylor County guard David Sloan was the state’s No. 2 recruit in this class and was once on the radar of UK, Louisville and several other top schools. He ended up transferring to Ballard High School and then moved to Florida. Sloan played last season at John A. Logan, an Illinois junior college.

Waggener guard Devon Cooper — the No. 3 recruit in the state — started 12 games as a freshman at Morehead State last season.

2018

UK’s class: McDonald’s All-Americans Keldon Johnson, EJ Montgomery and Immanuel Quickley, plus top-50 recruit Tyler Herro and late reclassifier Ashton Hagans, a five-star prospect.

State’s top-ranked recruit: Covington Catholic center Jake Walter signed with Xavier. The 7-footer has high upside as a prospect — he was ranked No. 132 nationally by 247Sports — but he was not recruited by UK or Louisville. Walter barely played as a high school underclassman and is still developing as a post player.

Others of note: Top 10 national recruit Charles Bassey is technically the No. 1 player in the Kentucky rankings for this class, but he played for Aspire Academy, which is not a KHSAA-affiliated team. Bassey — a native of Nigeria — has signed with Western Kentucky, and the Hilltoppers have hired his guardian as an assistant coach. He was not recruited by UK.

Covington Catholic guard CJ Fredrick signed with Iowa, and Fern Creek guard Chance Moore signed with Wichita State. Neither was a top-200 national recruit, and neither was recruited by UK.

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