Two early commitments already in the bag for the 2019 recruiting cycle, and John Calipari is looking to add a few more prospects to what could be another sizable class of future UK basketball players.
The Herald-Leader reached out this week to six of the most respected recruiting analysts in the country — Eric Bossi and Corey Evans of Rivals.com, Evan Daniels and Jerry Meyer of 247Sports, Jeff Borzello of ESPN, and Andrew Slater of The Athletic — and asked them to weigh in on the Cats’ chances with the top players in the 2019 class.
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The recruiting analysts were provided with a list of 13 UK targets and asked to rank, in order, the five players from that list most likely to ultimately choose Kentucky.
The 13 recruits on the list were Cole Anthony, Bryan Antoine, Keion Brooks, Vernon Carey, Kofi Cockburn, Matthew Hurt, Jalen Lecque, Scottie Lewis, Nico Mannion, Jaden McDaniels, Oscar Tshiebwe, Kahlil Whitney and James Wiseman.
We took the experts’ lists, tallied the results, and made a composite of the five most likely players to commit to Kentucky. Here are the results:
5. Keion Brooks
A couple of months ago, Brooks probably would have been a little closer to the No. 1 spot on this list, but there has been quite a bit of Indiana buzz surrounding his recruitment this summer.
The Hoosiers are going all out to keep the 6-foot-7 small forward from Fort Wayne, Ind., home for his college career, and Brooks’ friend and Nike league teammate, Trayce Jackson-Davis, is considered a heavy IU lean.
Michigan State could also be a major factor in Brooks’ college decision, though his presence in the top five here shows Kentucky is by no means out of the race for his commitment. The Cats’ coaching staff paid close attention to him this spring and summer, and his father told the Herald-Leader at last month’s Peach Jam event that UK would get one of his official visits before a final decision.
Brooks, who will play his senior season at La Lumiere (Ind.), is also longtime friends with early UK commitment Tyrese Maxey, who has been helping the Wildcats’ coaching staff with Brooks’ recruitment.
4. Jaden McDaniels
The 6-10 wing from Seattle is the first of two players in this top five that — as of now — don’t even have confirmed scholarship offers from Kentucky.
The Cats didn’t start actively recruiting McDaniels until early this summer, but he acknowledged last month that Kentucky was his “dream school” growing up and has told the Herald-Leader in the past he would cherish an offer from the Wildcats.
Luckily for UK, he doesn’t seem to be in any rush at all with his recruitment. McDaniels will also weigh scholarship offers from San Diego State (where his brother is a star player) and Arizona (a school that was on him early in the process), among many others, but he could wait several more months before announcing a college decision.
McDaniels has the potential to end up as the No. 1 recruit in this class.
3. Oscar Tshiebwe
Tshiebwe is another player who does not yet have a confirmed scholarship offer from UK, but the 6-8, 230-pound center caught Calipari’s eye toward the end of the summer, and the Wildcats coach has been in contact the past few weeks.
West Virginia will be the team to beat for Tshiebwe, a Congo native who has deep ties to the Mountaineers’ program and plays for the same Pennsylvania high school that produced current WVU standout Sagaba Konate.
If UK does offer Tshiebwe, the Cats could be tough to hold off. He showed up in four of our experts’ top-five lists, and one recruiting analyst ranked him as high as the No. 2 most likely recruit to pick Kentucky.
2. James Wiseman
The first player in the 2019 class to land a UK scholarship offer, Wiseman has long been at the top of the Wildcats’ recruiting wish list.
The 7-footer from Nashville played last season under the tutelage of Penny Hardaway, who has since taken over the head coaching job at Memphis and is considered UK’s only competition for the No. 1 overall recruit in the class of 2019.
Wiseman hasn’t dropped any hints as to which way he might be leaning in this Kentucky vs. Memphis battle, nor has he revealed a timetable for his college decision. (He is expected to visit Lexington again this month).
Five of the six national recruiting analysts we surveyed had Wiseman at either No. 2 or No. 3 on their lists of most likely to pick Kentucky.
1. Kahlil Whitney
This was the easy part.
On the whole, our recruiting experts’ lists varied significantly, but Whitney — a 6-6 wing from Chicago — was the clear No. 1 pick as most likely player in the 2019 class to commit to UK.
The athletic, two-way prospect announced Monday that he had narrowed his college choices to Kentucky, Georgetown, Illinois and Oregon, but every move he’s made since receiving a scholarship offer from Calipari last month indicates he will eventually end up in Lexington.
Whitney took his official visit to UK over the weekend, and he’s expected to reveal a college decision soon. He might not even take any more recruiting trips before he announces his destination.
Simply put, it would be a major surprise if he ends up anywhere other than Kentucky.
UK basketball targets in national recruiting rankings