UK Recruiting

How much will loss of Jeffries affect UK’s chances with Wiseman? ‘None,’ says recruiting expert.

James Wiseman, left, and DJ Jeffries both played for the Bluff City Legends — formerly Team Penny — on the Nike circuit this summer.
James Wiseman, left, and DJ Jeffries both played for the Bluff City Legends — formerly Team Penny — on the Nike circuit this summer.

Two things were widely assumed in the immediate aftermath of DJ Jeffries’ decision to decommit from the University of Kentucky basketball program Monday afternoon.

The first was that Jeffries — a Memphis-area native and one of Penny Hardaway’s former players on the Nike circuit — would stay close to home and play for the Tigers.

The second was that Jeffries’ defection would be a blow to UK’s hopes of landing James Wiseman, another one of Hardaway’s proteges who has been teammates with Jeffries the past two summers and just happens to be the No. 1 overall recruit in the class of 2019.

Both of those assumptions might prove to be untrue, says 247Sports national analyst Evan Daniels.

“I think that assuming he ends up at Memphis would be a bad assumption,” Daniels told the Herald-Leader on Wednesday. “There’s a possibility that he ends up at Memphis, but there are other schools that I think will be involved. Mississippi State was heavily involved the first time around, and I would bet that they’re going to be involved again.”

Rivals.com analyst Corey Evans also mentioned Mississippi State on Wednesday as a potential darkhorse in Jeffries’ new recruitment, and the former UK pledge is already taking steps to visit Starkville in the near future.

Mississippi, Louisiana State and Kansas — where Jeffries’ cousins, Dedric and K.J. Lawson, are on the roster — have also been mentioned as possible landing spots over the past couple of days.

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Whether Jeffries ultimately ends up at Memphis or not, his departure from UK’s class was immediately seen as a negative on the Wiseman recruitment. They were teammates this summer with the Bluff City Legends, the Nike travel squad formerly known as Team Penny and formerly coached by Hardaway himself.

Jeffries said a few weeks ago at Nike’s Peach Jam event that Wiseman was his primary recruiting target for the 2019 class. “James, he’s a great teammate,” Jeffries said then of the 7-footer. “He’s a competitor. He wants to win, play hard. He wants the same thing that I want.”

It was assumed that the lack of a friendly face in Lexington would be a blow to the Cats’ chances with Wiseman, who was the first player in the 2019 class to land a UK scholarship offer.

Asked Wednesday how much of an impact Jeffries’ decision to decommit from Kentucky would actually have on Wiseman’s recruitment, Daniels was blunt.

“None,” he said. “I don’t think it has any effect on James Wiseman.”

Well, that would be good news for UK fans.

Daniels reiterated that he doesn’t think this week’s development negatively impacts Calipari’s chances of landing Wiseman in any way whatsoever.

“I don’t think that DJ Jeffries’ and James Wiseman’s college choices have anything to do with each other. They’re making their own decisions,” he said.

Even before Jeffries’ decommitment, however, the Tigers were perceived to have the momentum in Wiseman’s recruitment, which is officially at eight schools but is almost certain to come down to a UK vs. Memphis battle.

The 13 most recent predictions on Wiseman’s Crystal Ball page have all been in favor of the Tigers, including picks from national recruiting experts Jerry Meyer and Andrew Slater.

Daniels, who first logged a prediction in favor of UK back in October, still has the Wildcats pegged for Wiseman, and he doesn’t have any plans to change that pick anytime soon.

“My stance on James Wiseman hasn’t changed,” he said Wednesday. “I think it’s 50/50 between Memphis and Kentucky. Before Penny Hardaway was the coach, I had Crystal Ball’d James Wiseman for Kentucky, because I think they were the leader at that time. Now that Penny is the head coach at Memphis, I think it’s 50/50.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say that I think he’s going to Kentucky — I just don’t have a reason to change it. And I also don’t need to change it, because he’s not close to making a college decision. And the truth is, I don’t think James Wiseman knows where he’s going to school yet. I certainly don’t. But for Crystal Ball purposes, there’s no reason for me to change it until I get more information.”

Memphis East Coach Penny Hardaway talks about star player James Wiseman, a top UK recruiting target.

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