UK Recruiting

The early signing period begins this week. Here’s what Kentucky fans need to know.

Jaden McDaniels talks about his ‘overwhelming’ recruitment

Five-star basketball recruit Jaden McDaniels has blown up on the national scene this spring and summer, and UK is now among the many top schools paying attention.
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Five-star basketball recruit Jaden McDaniels has blown up on the national scene this spring and summer, and UK is now among the many top schools paying attention.

The early signing period for college basketball begins Wednesday, and that means most of the top high school seniors in the country are nearing the official end to their recruitments.

Here’s what you need to know heading into this busy time on the recruiting calendar:

Why it it important?

The early signing period — which will run from Wednesday through Nov. 21 — is the window when high school seniors can officially sign a national letter of intent with the college of their choice. Though many top prospects have already committed to schools, those pledges are not official until they actually sign papers with that institution.

National letters of intent are binding between the college and player, though it’s become common for schools to release players from the agreement in the event of a scandal, head coaching change, or unforeseen hardship on the player’s end.

Who will sign with UK?

Kentucky landed early commitments from five-star point guard Tyrese Maxey, five-star wing Kahlil Whitney, and four-star wing Dontaie Allen, and all three of those players will officially sign with the Wildcats by the end of next week.

Whitney and Maxey are No. 7 and No. 9, respectively, in the 247Sports composite rankings for the class of 2019, and they’re the highest-ranked committed players in the country going into the early signing period. Allen — a standout player at Pendleton County — is the No. 73 overall player in those rankings and an early favorite for Kentucky Mr. Basketball honors this season.

Once a player signs, coaches are permitted to comment publicly on that prospect and his recruitment, though John Calipari often does not make any public statements about early signees until he thinks the fall signing class is complete. UK also doesn’t confirm any early signees until all of its expected fall additions are signed, so don’t expect any comments from Calipari or the university until next week.

Five-star Kentucky basketball commitment Tyrese Maxey was one of the standout recruits through the first few sessions of USA Basketball U18 camp in Colorado.

Who’s left on Calipari’s radar?

The early signing period could be a bit more hectic than usual due to UK’s likely need for multiple frontcourt players in this class and the indecision on the part of some of the Wildcats’ top remaining targets.

Calipari has narrowed his focus to six uncommitted prospects in the 2019 class: perimeter forwards Keion Brooks, Matthew Hurt, and Jaden McDaniels; and post forwards Vernon Carey, Isaiah Stewart and James Wiseman. None of those players have set commitment dates.

Carey and Stewart are nearing the end of their recruitments, but both have said they do not plan to officially sign in the fall, so it will likely be a few more weeks before they reveal a college decision. Hurt has not yet taken any of his official visits — and he’s repeatedly said he plans to take all five such trips — so it would take a total change of plans for him to sign early.

Brooks is scheduled to take his final official visit (to Michigan State) this weekend, and McDaniels, who was on UK’s campus this past weekend, could take his final official visit to UCLA in a few days. It won’t be a surprise if either player is ready to make a college decision in time to sign early.

Wiseman — the No. 1 player in the country and the first player in the 2019 class to earn a UK scholarship offer — has also completed all five of his official visits, and Kentucky and Memphis are seen as his most likely choices. The 7-footer has hinted that he might sign in the early period, though he has not yet scheduled a commitment date, and his timetable for a college decision has shifted several times over the past few months.

Five-star basketball recruit Keion Brooks says UK Coach John Calipari is telling him he could play just like Kevin Knox did for the Wildcats.

What if a player doesn’t sign early?

High school seniors who elect not to sign in the early period can still officially sign with a school in the regular period, which will run from April 17 through May 15 in this recruiting cycle. Such players can also commit to a school at any time between now and then.

There have also been recent instances of players committing and signing with a school during the early period but keeping those decisions secret until shortly after the end of the period, so just because there’s no news on a certain uncommitted player by Nov. 21 doesn’t necessarily mean that recruit hasn’t made a secret commitment. (Oregon’s Bol Bol did this last year, announcing five days after the early period that he had already signed with the Ducks).

Which schools are in good shape?

Southern Cal has the nation’s No. 1-ranked recruiting class going into the week, ranked just ahead of defending champion Villanova in the No. 2 spot. The Wildcats are followed by Arizona, Louisville and Kentucky, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.

Other SEC schools in the Top 25 are Florida (No. 6), Auburn (No. 9), Alabama (No. 15) and Texas A&M (No. 21).

UK’s annual recruiting rival — the Duke Blue Devils — are ranked No. 25 nationally with early commitments from small forward Wendell Moore (No. 23 overall) and shooting guard Boogie Ellis (No. 35 overall). Duke is also still a finalist for UK targets Carey, Hurt and Stewart.

▪ UK’s newest recruiting rival — the Memphis Tigers — are ranked No. 35 nationally with commitments from former UK pledge DJ Jeffries and three-star center Malcolm Dandridge, both former players of new coach Penny Hardaway. Memphis is the Crystal Ball leader for both Wiseman and five-star forward Trendon Watford, and the addition of both players would give the Tigers a top-five national recruiting class in Hardaway’s first year on the job.

Five schools have commitments from two five-star players: Southern Cal, Villanova, Arizona, Kentucky and Florida.

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Who’s left nationally?

The top six players in the 247Sports composite rankings remain uncommitted: Wiseman (No. 1), Carey (No. 2), point guard Cole Anthony (No. 3), McDaniels (No. 4), Stewart (No. 5) and Hurt (No. 6). Small forward Precious Achiuwa (No. 8) is also uncommitted.

Brooks (No. 21 overall), Watford (No. 26 overall) and center Trayce Jackson-Davis (No. 15 overall) are the only other five-star recruits who have not yet committed to a school.

In all, 16 of the nation’s top 50 prospects remain uncommitted, and a total of 24 of the top 100 players in the 247Sports composite rankings are still uncommitted. Many of those players are expected to make decisions in time to sign in the early period.

For the latest news …

Be sure to follow the Herald-Leader’s Next Cats recruiting blog at ukrecruiting.bloginky.com for daily updates on UK’s top targets and the biggest national recruiting stories.

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