UK Recruiting

UK? Duke? Memphis? Who leads for the top 25 basketball prospects in the 2019 class?

Vernon Carey is one of the top basketball recruits in the class of 2019.
Vernon Carey is one of the top basketball recruits in the class of 2019.

The July basketball recruiting period is finished, and it won’t be long until many of the top prospects in the 2019 class announce their college destinations.

When the calendar flipped to August, only four of the top 25 recruits in the class — going by the 247Sports composite rankings — had given a school their commitment. UK pledge Tyrese Maxey is the only player ranked higher than 20th who has picked a college.

Maxey will soon have plenty of company on the committed list, and he might soon have some company in the Wildcats’ 2019 recruiting class.

Here’s a look at the top 25 players for 2019 — even those not being pursued by the Cats — and a quick snapshot of their recruitments:

25. Will Baker: The versatile 7-footer from Texas — he can play inside or out — is planning to cut his list soon. Kentucky has not been involved in his recruitment.

Who’s the favorite?: UCLA has been the most-talked-school for Baker, though home-state Texas and Shaka Smart will not be giving up without a fight.

24. Isaiah Mobley: A 6-9 power forward from the Los Angeles area, Mobley has already committed to Southern Cal, where his father is an assistant coach. Mobley’s younger brother Evan is in the mix for the No. 1 ranking in the 2020 class and is also considered to be leaning toward the Trojans.

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Aidan Igiehon is one of the best frontcourt players in the 2019 class. Kelly Kline Under Armour

23. Aidan Igiehon: The 6-10 center from Ireland has had a terrific summer playing alongside fellow five-star recruits Bryan Antoine and Scottie Lewis and attends a New York high school. Igiehon included UK on his list of 10 finalists, but the Herald-Leader has been told the Cats are not actively recruiting him.

Who’s the favorite?: Louisville has emerged this summer as the team to beat, and that would be a major addition for head coach Chris Mack in his first recruiting cycle. St. John’s also has some Crystal Ball picks from national analysts.

22. DJ Carton: A 6-0 point guard from Iowa, he’s established himself as one of the top play-makers in the class and recently announced a commitment to Ohio State.

21. Wendell Moore: The 6-5 wing from Concord, N.C., will be staying close to home no matter where he ends up. His final five are Duke, North Carolina, North Carolina State, South Carolina and Wake Forest.

Who’s the favorite?: Duke is the team to beat for the local star, and he’ll be there for an official visit in late September.

20. Onyeka Okongwu: The 6-8 post player is a native of Los Angeles and has already committed to Southern Cal, which currently has the No. 1-ranked class in the country.

19. Kahlil Whitney: A 6-6 wing from Chicago and one of the newest players on John Calipari’s recruiting radar, Whitney has also been prioritized by Illinois, Georgetown, Louisville and Miami, among others, in recent months. He attends the same New Jersey high school that produced former UK guard Isaiah Briscoe.

Who’s the favorite?: Kentucky extended a scholarship offer a couple of weeks ago, and Whitney is set to be in Lexington on an official visit this weekend. It won’t be a surprise if he commits to the Cats shortly after that trip.

18. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl: The 6-9 power forward will be a senior at IMG Academy in Florida, but he lists Shawnee Mission, Kan. — just outside of Kansas City — as his hometown. His father is former Kansas basketball player Lester Earl, a McDonald’s All-American.

Who’s the favorite?: Kansas is also his mother’s alma mater, and the Jayhawks are expected to land him. Robinson-Earl played for Bill Self on the USA Basketball U18 team this summer.

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Nico Mannion has scholarship offers from several top programs. Kelly Kline Under Armour

17. Nico Mannion: A 6-3 point guard from Arizona — though he was born in Italy and spent the first couple years of his life there — Mannion recently announced that he was moving from the 2020 class to the 2019 class. UK has been watching him this summer, and he’s had multiple conversations with Calipari in recent weeks.

Who’s the favorite?: Arizona is the local contender and perceived frontrunner at this time, though Duke is also seen as a viable option. Villanova has been mentioned, as well, and UK could make a bigger move in the coming weeks.

16. Trayce Jackson-Davis: The 6-9 frontcourt player is from Greenwood, Ind. — about 40 miles from Bloomington — and is coveted by pretty much every program in the Big Ten. He was never recruited by Kentucky.

Who’s the favorite?: Indiana is the local choice and the heavy favorite for Jackson-Davis.

15. Keion Brooks: A 6-7 forward and one of UK’s earliest recruiting targets, Brooks is from Fort Wayne, Ind., though he’s expected to play his senior season for La Lumiere (Ind.). Tyrese Maxey has said in the past that Brooks is the player he’s been recruiting to UK the hardest.

Who’s the favorite?: Indiana? The Hoosiers seem to have a lot of momentum as the summer draws to a close — and Trayce Jackson-Davis is a friend and AAU teammate — though Kentucky and Michigan State should not be taken lightly in this recruitment. Brooks will definitely take an official visit to UK in the future.

14. Trendon Watford: The younger brother of former Indiana standout Christian Watford is a 6-9 standout from Mountain Brook, Ala., and the three schools most linked to his recruitment in recent weeks have been Alabama, Indiana and Memphis. UK has recruited Watford in the past, though the Cats never extended a scholarship offer.

Who’s the favorite?: Memphis is getting a lot of buzz here following a major push by new coaches Penny Hardaway and Mike Miller.

13. Jalen Lecque: A 6-4 combo guard from New Jersey — who played for a high school in North Carolina last season and will be at a prep school in New Hampshire this fall — Lecque is one of the most electric players in the class and picked up a UK scholarship offer this spring. He once flirted with a move to the 2018 class but will apparently stay put in 2019.

Who’s the favorite?: Naming one would simply be a guess. Lecque has been a bit of an enigma as far as his recruitment goes, declining to give a school list in a recent interview with the Herald-Leader. UK, Oregon, Tennessee, N.C. State and Louisiana State are all on a long list of possibilities.

12. Josiah James: He’s listed at 6-6, but he has point guard skills and can play just about anywhere on the court. The Charleston, S.C., native was given a look by UK, but the Cats never offered and he has since cut his list of schools.

Who’s the favorite?: Duke is seen by many as the team to beat. James’ father is a former Michigan State player.

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11. Josh Green: An Australia native, Green is a 6-6 wing with versatility, and Kentucky has been keeping tabs on him this summer. He’ll finish his high school career at IMG Academy (Fla.) this season.

Who’s the favorite?: Predictions have been all over the map for Green, but North Carolina might be the frontrunner exiting the July recruiting period. Arizona, Villanova, Oregon and UCLA are among the many others on his radar.

10. Bryan Antoine: The 6-5 shooting guard from New Jersey landed a UK scholarship offer early last fall and has narrowed his list to Kentucky, Duke, Florida, Kansas and Villanova. He will make a college decision this fall and has an official visit set for Lexington in September.

Who’s the favorite?: Duke has long been seen as the most likely landing spot for Antoine, though there has been a little Villanova buzz in recent weeks.

9. Scottie Lewis: One of Antoine’s high school and AAU teammates, Lewis is a 6-5 wing with next-level athleticism and defensive intensity that should translate well to college. He’s still considering several schools, and Kentucky is among that group.

Who’s the favorite?: A tough read for such an outgoing personality, Lewis might still be truly looking closely at several different schools. St. John’s has been a subject of recent chatter, though Florida will be tough to beat. Villanova and UK are also in the mix.

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Tyrese Maxey is committed to Kentucky for the class of 2019. Doug McSchooler

8. Tyrese Maxey: The 6-3 point guard from Texas committed to Kentucky in June and has been a vocal recruiter on the Wildcats’ behalf ever since, targeting several of the players on this list as future teammates.

7. Precious Achiuwa: A Nigeria native, Achiuwa is a 6-9 wing with tremendous athleticism and was one of the standout players at the Marshall County Hoop Fest last year. There’s been no indication that UK is involved in his recruitment, though he’s just recently begun that process.

Who’s the favorite?: UConn is the school that’s been getting the most buzz this spring and summer. Achiuwa’s older brother is a former St. John’s player, and that program is among the others pursuing him.

6. Matthew Hurt: The 6-9 power forward with perimeter skills is from Minnesota and has an older brother on the Golden Gophers’ squad. Hurt is one of the most-recruited players in the country, with UK, Kansas, Duke, North Carolina, Indiana, UCLA and Memphis all heavily pursuing his commitment.

Who’s the favorite?: Kansas has been seen as the frontrunner by many for the past few months, and Hurt played for Bill Self’s USA Basketball U18 squad this summer. He’s also a veteran of the Adidas circuit. The Jayhawks are one of that brand’s trademark programs.

5. Isaiah Stewart: Few had a better spring and summer than Stewart, a 6-9 post player from Rochester, N.Y., who attends La Lumiere (Ind.). He recently cut his list to 10 schools, and — although there was some UK interest this summer — there have been no recent signs that the Cats will get heavily involved.

Who’s the favorite?: Duke has been viewed as the team to beat for a while.

4. Jaden McDaniels: The 6-10 forward from Seattle is one of the hottest recruits in the country and might have more upside than any prospect in the 2019 class. His brother is a star player at San Diego State, and Kentucky is among the many other schools taking a serious look at his recruitment.

Who’s the favorite?: Too early to say. McDaniels is familiar and comfortable with the San Diego State program. Arizona could be a major player for his recruitment. He’s called UK his dream school growing up, but the Cats haven’t extended an offer yet. He’s in no hurry to make a decision.

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3. Cole Anthony: A 6-3 point guard from New York City, he’s the son of NBA veteran Greg Anthony and will play his senior season at Oak Hill Academy (Va.). The best backcourt prospect in the class — and maybe 2019’s best player, period — has been notoriously silent about his recruitment, though he’s expected to release a list of schools this month.

Who’s the favorite?: Anthony’s silence has bred plenty of speculation, but his recruitment remains a guessing game. UK, Duke, Villanova, Oregon, North Carolina, Kansas and several other schools are expected to be in the mix, and he might be the final 2019 star to announce a decision.

2. Vernon Carey: The 6-10 power forward from Fort Lauderdale is No. 1 in the Rivals.com rankings and the son of former Miami offensive lineman Vernon Carey, who was a first-round NFL Draft pick. Carey has cut his list to UK, Duke, Michigan State, Miami and North Carolina, and he’s set to visit Lexington for Big Blue Madness in October.

Who’s the favorite?: Duke is usually the answer here, but consider the Blue Devils a lukewarm favorite, at best. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Carey end up at any of the five schools on his list.

1. James Wiseman: A 7-footer from Nashville, he left his hometown to play for Penny Hardaway — his summer coach — at Memphis East last year and, for the time being, it looks like that’s the high school he’ll play for this season. Wiseman was the first player in the class to land a UK scholarship offer, though he has strong ties to Hardaway and the Memphis program. His recruitment will come down to those two schools.

Who’s the favorite?: Memphis has the momentum coming out of the July evaluation period. DJ Jeffries — Wiseman’s friend and former teammate — decommitted from UK this week, but it’s Hardaway’s influence that will be the biggest obstacle for the Cats to overcome. Definitely don’t count Calipari out yet, but the “Penny Effect” will be tough to counter, and it’s worth noting that the last 13 predictions on Wiseman’s Crystal Ball page have all gone the Tigers’ way.

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

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