UK Recruiting

Class of 2019 big man ‘can play anywhere in the country.’ Will UK take a closer look?

Oscar Tshiebwe is emerging as one of the best post players in the class of 2019.
Oscar Tshiebwe is emerging as one of the best post players in the class of 2019.

There weren’t many basketball recruits who generated more buzz during last weekend’s open evaluation period than Oscar Tshiebwe, a class of 2019 post player who outplayed No. 1 prospect James Wiseman and could be due for his own bump in the rankings.

Kentucky could also be taking a closer look.

Tshiebwe — listed at 6-foot-9 and 235 pounds — moved to the United State from Congo less than three years ago and is a star player for Kennedy Catholic in Pennsylvania. He was already a well-regarded national recruit coming into this summer — placed No. 57 overall in the 247Sports composite rankings — but his play during the July evaluation periods is attracting added interest from college coaches and national recruiting analysts.

The highlight came last week, when he tallied 24 points and 13 rebounds against Wiseman — UK’s top recruiting target — and led his team to a high-profile victory over Wiseman’s star-studded squad at the Adidas Summer Championships.

247Sports national analyst Evan Daniels scouted him throughout the week — Tshiebwe averaged 18.6 points and 16.3 rebounds over seven games — and later wrote that the rising senior might have the “best motor” he’d ever seen in more than 10 years of evaluating players.

“He is a tough, physical specimen. He plays with endless energy,” Daniels told the Herald-Leader this week. “He competes. He’s a terrific rebounder. He’s an athlete. I’ll be honest with you, I think Oscar plays as hard as any player I’ve ever evaluated. He’s a great rebounder. He’s a tough kid who contests shots. He’s active, he rim-runs, and he power dunks everything. There’s a lot of value in a guy like him.”

UK has made some initial contact in his recruitment this month, and the Cats could make a bigger move for Tshiebwe after the final evaluation period of the summer this weekend.

Kentucky has already extended offers to 2019 post players Wiseman and Vernon Carey — the No. 2 recruit in the class — and the Cats are still taking a closer look at others as offer possibilities.

Tshiebwe, who played all spring and summer on the Adidas circuit, has listed Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Pittsburgh and West Virginia as the schools recruiting him the hardest coming into the summer. All of his Crystal Ball predictions — including a recent one from Daniels — are in favor of the Mountaineers, whose campus is located just a couple of hours from Tshiebwe’s high school. Current WVU big man Sagaba Konate is also a Kennedy Catholic alumnus.

Tshiebwe will probably have more sorting out to do where his recruitment is concerned once the July evaluation period is finished and college coaches make their next wave of offers. Whether UK eventually joins that list or not, Tshiebwe should have plenty of options.

“Oscar can play anywhere in the country,” Daniels said. “When you have the ability to rebound and play as physical as he does at his size, he can play anywhere in the country.”

No. 1-ranked basketball recruit James Wiseman discusses the Memphis vs. Kentucky battle that is brewing in his recruitment.

Not so fast

Last week, five-star point guard Nico Mannion announced that he was moving from the 2020 class to 2019, a reclassification decision that would get him to college one year faster.

On Wednesday night, Mannion — a 6-3 prospect from Arizona — was expected to cut his list to five or six schools. He didn’t, telling the Arizona Daily Star that recent interest from Kentucky and North Carolina had led him to postpone an announcement of finalists.

That means he’s taking the Cats’ recent overtures seriously, and UK is clearly interested.

Mannion, who averaged 23.4 points, 5.8 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game and led his team to a state title as a sophomore this past season, has had multiple conversations with John Calipari in recent days. 247Sports immediately moved him to the No. 11 overall ranking following his reclassification announcement, placing him two spots ahead of highly touted UK point guard commitment Tyrese Maxey.

A veteran of the Under Armour circuit, Mannion is now expected to cut his list in the next couple of weeks. Arizona holds 100 percent of the predictions on his 247Sports Crystal Ball page, while Duke, Villanova and others are also in the mix.

Crystal Ball

Things are continuing to trend in UK’s direction for Kahlil Whitney, the 6-foot-6 wing from Chicago who picked up a Wildcats scholarship offer last week and has planned an official visit to Lexington for next weekend.

UK now has nearly 100 percent of the picks on Whitney’s Crystal Ball page, including predictions from several national recruiting experts. 247Sports ranks him as the No. 14 overall player in the 2019 class.

Before the UK offer, home-state Illinois and Georgetown were viewed among the favorites in Whitney’s recruitment, though he told 247Sports this week that the three schools standing out the most are actually UK, Louisville and Miami.

Whitney is expected to make a college decision in the next few weeks.

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Last eval period

Pendleton County star Dontaie Allen will play with his M.A.T.T.S. Mustangs travel team at the Louisville Jam Fest this weekend, the final evaluation period of the summer and the last time that college coaches will be able to see him play before the high school season.

Allen — a 6-foot-6 wing — has risen to Top 100 status in the 2019 national rankings and has planned another recruiting visit to UK for next week. He could land a scholarship offer on that trip, to go along with recent offers from Louisville, Florida, Xavier, Clemson and several others.

Nearly all of the nation’s top recruits are playing at events in the Las Vegas area this week, and it will be interesting to see which college coaches pop up in Louisville to catch Allen play one more time this summer. The final evaluation period officially ends Sunday at 5 p.m.

UK’s top recruiting targets in the class of 2019

DJ JeffriesSFOlive Branch, Miss.No. 37 in 247Sports composite
Tyrese MaxeyPGGarland, TexasNo. 8 in 247Sports composite
Bryan AntoineSGEatontown, N.J.No. 10 in 247Sports composite
Keion BrooksSFFort Wayne, Ind.No. 15 in 247Sports composite
Vernon CareyPFFort Lauderdale, Fla.No. 2 in 247Sports composite
Matthew HurtFRochester, Minn.No. 6 in 247Sports composite
Jalen LecqueGTeaneck, N.J.No. 13 in 247Sports composite
Scottie LewisG/FEatontown, N.J.No. 9 in 247Sports composite
Kahlil WhitneyG/FChicago, Ill.No. 19 in 247Sports composite
James WisemanPFNashville, Tenn.No. 1 in 247Sports composite