Official visit season has begun, and the next few weeks will see most of the nation’s top basketball recruits hosting college coaches and making trips to college campuses.
New scholarship offers will be extended, new commitments will be made, and recruiting classes will start to solidify in the run up to the early signing period in November.
It will be an especially busy time for UK, which has plans to host at least one official visitor over three of the next four weekends and heads into next week’s fall recruiting period with at least nine uncommitted prospects on the radar for 2019.
Here’s a closer look at the latest conventional wisdom on possible leaders for six of the Wildcats’ top targets — and a quick glance at the recruitments of four others — as recruiting starts to heat up once again:
Duke was seen as the favorite early on in Carey’s recruitment, but the 6-foot-10 power forward from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., has been tough to get a handle on in recent months. The Blue Devils still lead on Carey’s 247Sports Crystal Ball page, but only one prediction has been logged in 2018, and it went in favor of Kentucky.
UK and Duke are joined on Carey’s list of five finalists by Michigan State, North Carolina and Miami, his father’s alma mater. The Cats will host him for an official visit on Big Blue Madness weekend, always an exciting time for Kentucky recruits. John Calipari might have watched Carey as much as any other player during the summer, a sign the UK coach thinks the Cats still have a good chance to land him.
247Sports national analyst Evan Daniels has not yet made a public prediction.
“I think that one is as wide open as it’s ever been, to be honest,” Daniels told the Herald-Leader over the weekend. “If I looked at that list, there’s probably only one school that I could take out. So, yeah, I think (Kentucky) has a shot.”
Daniels didn’t say which finalist he’s dismissing, but it’s not UK.
Carey, the No. 3 player in the 2019 rankings, said in July that he was hoping to make a college decision before his birthday in February, but that timeline is not set in stone.
The 6-9 forward from Rochester, Minn., hasn’t yet cut his list of schools and might not even release a final list before announcing his commitment.
Hurt, ranked No. 8 by 247Sports, has scholarship offers from UK, Duke, Kansas, North Carolina, Indiana, Memphis, UCLA, Minnesota and several others, and he’s expected to visit all of those schools one more time before making a decision. (He has not yet set a date for the UK trip.)
Bill Self coached Hurt with the USA Basketball U18 team over the summer, and the Jayhawks have emerged in recent months as the perceived favorite. Not so fast, says Daniels, who has not yet made a Crystal Ball pick.
“I’ve heard those rumblings from other media members, but I don’t have a prediction on where he goes,” he said. “And I don’t necessarily think there’s a favorite. He’s going through this process, and he’s going to take official visits, and we’ll see what happens. But I think trying to handicap his deal right now might be a little early. Obviously, he and his dad do their homework. And they’ve built relationships. But I couldn’t name a favorite.”
The 6-10 center from Ireland — now attending high school in New York — dropped 28 spots to No. 51 overall in the most recent 247Sports rankings, but he also says that Kentucky has picked up its recruitment of him in recent weeks.
Igiehon listed the Cats alongside Louisville, St. John’s and Oregon as finalists last week, and his high school coach told ZagsBlog that UK assistant coach Tony Barbee is expected to visit him early next week, possibly with Calipari along on the trip.
The Herald-Leader confirmed last week that UK is indeed interested in Igiehon, but the level of that interest is not yet clear with the Cats also prioritizing fellow big men Carey, Hurt, James Wiseman and, more recently, Oscar Tshiebwe.
UK is expecting to lose graduate transfer Reid Travis (no more eligibility) along with underclassmen PJ Washington and Nick Richards (NBA Draft) after this season, and freshman EJ Montgomery is a one-and-done possibility. That means the Cats will likely sign at least a couple of new frontcourt players.
If Calipari visits along with Barbee on Sept. 10, that’s a good sign for Igiehon, who’s clearly enamored with the Wildcats’ program. National analysts Jerry Meyer and Andrew Slater both logged Crystal Ball predictions in favor of UK last week.
Daniels and national recruiting analyst Josh Gershon have stuck with their Louisville picks.
Lewis — a 6-5 wing from New Jersey — has been a major UK priority for more than a year, and he’s also expected to get a visit from the Wildcats’ coaching staff early next week.
Five other schools — Duke, Florida, St. John’s, Stanford and Villanova — remain in contention for Lewis, the No. 12 overall player in the 247Sports rankings.
Though UK has stayed on him and will get an official visit later this month, Florida is emerging as the consensus favorite in Lewis’ recruitment. Slater logged a prediction in favor of the Gators last week, and Meyer already had a Crystal Ball pick going Florida’s way.
Lewis’ Under Armour team director is a Florida graduate and a major fan of the Gators’ program.
There’s been no confirmation of a scholarship offer yet, but Tshiebwe — a 6-9 center from Congo, now living in Pennsylvania — is clearly emerging as a major UK target.
The Cats are in his final four along with Baylor, Illinois and West Virginia, and it’s the Mountaineers that UK should be worried about.
Tshiebwe has deep ties to the West Virginia program, which has had its eye on him since even before he arrived in the United States. WVU’s roster currently features Sagaba Konate, a Mali native who also attended Tshiebwe’s high school.
The No. 19 player in the class after rising 53 spots in the most recent 247Sports rankings, Tshiebwe’s Crystal Ball is 100 percent in favor of West Virginia, with picks from Daniels and several other national analysts.
Even with a major recruiting effort, Calipari will have a tough time keeping him out of Morgantown.
Tshiebwe will make a college commitment this fall.
Kentucky welcomes Wiseman to campus for an official visit this weekend.
The 7-footer from Nashville — now playing in Memphis — was the first player in the class to receive a UK scholarship offer (on Sept. 14 of last year) and has held steady as both the No. 1 player in the class and the No. 1 recruit on Calipari’s board for 2019.
His recruitment is expected to come down to UK and Memphis, which has picked up the last 12 predictions on Wiseman’s Crystal Ball page and now holds a two-thirds majority over Kentucky.
Evan Daniels, who broke the news of Wiseman’s official visit plans after speaking with the star recruit’s mother last week, has not yet switched his prediction from UK to Memphis.
“I have no plans to change that pick anytime soon,” Daniels told the Herald-Leader.
Wiseman will not make a college decision until the spring.
Others to watch
Keion Brooks: The 6-7 forward from Fort Wayne, Ind., landed a UK scholarship offer last fall, but some national recruiting websites haven’t even been mentioning Kentucky as a possibility in recent stories. One analyst told the Herald-Leader over the weekend that — with UK’s recent acquisition of wing players Kahlil Whitney and Dontaie Allen — the Cats might no longer have a need for Brooks, the No. 12 player in the 2019 class. Even before those commitments, it looked like Indiana was emerging as the favorite in Brooks’ recruitment.
Bryan Antoine: The 6-5 shooting guard from New Jersey had UK in his final five heading into the week, and he announced his commitment to Villanova on Tuesday morning.
Jaden McDaniels: There’s nothing new in the recruitment of McDaniels, the No. 4 player in the class with No. 1 potential. UK has not yet extended a scholarship offer, and — though San Diego State, where his brother plays — has all three picks on the 6-10 forward’s Crystal Ball page, no one is expressing much confidence in a frontrunner behind the scenes.
Cole Anthony: The No. 1 guard in the class — and No. 2 player overall — announced a list of 12 schools last week, and Kentucky was on it. Duke, North Carolina, Oregon and others have all been mentioned as possible favorites. Evan Daniels says that talk is premature.
“No clue,” he said of potential frontrunners. “If anyone tells you they have a clue in his recruitment, they’re lying to you.”
The wait for that information is expected to continue.
Kevin Knox caught many off guard by announcing his commitment to UK on Kentucky Derby day last year, and he’s one of several Wildcats targets that have taken their recruitments into the late spring. That could happen with Anthony.
“We could definitely be at Churchill Downs when he makes his decision,” Daniels said. “There’s no doubt about it.”