Heading into the one-week early signing period for college basketball recruits Wednesday, the UK basketball program finds itself in a strange position.
There appears to be a very real possibility that the Wildcats could strike out on all of their top remaining targets. The Herald-Leader asked several national recruiting analysts Monday for their take on UK’s chances with its top six targets in the class of 2019, and there was little optimism for the Cats to add much to an early signing class that will already include summer commitments Dontaie Allen, Tyrese Maxey and Kahlil Whitney.
All of those players have taken official visits to UK this fall (except for Hurt, who has not taken any of his five official visits). The recruiting experts are predicting that most of them — possibly all of them — will end up playing their college ball somewhere other than Lexington.
247Sports national analyst Jerry Meyer isn’t predicting UK for any of those six players. In the 247Sports Crystal Ball, he has Wiseman to Memphis, Carey to Miami, McDaniels to Texas, Stewart to Michigan State, Hurt to Kansas, and Brooks to Indiana.
Meyer told the Herald-Leader that he has no plans to change those predictions any time soon, and — though he said he’s not counting UK out for any of those six prospects — he also doesn’t expect the Cats to land any of them.
“I just think, at the end of the day, they don’t get any of those guys,” he said. “ I wouldn’t be surprised if something changes, or if they surprised me and pulled something off. I just don’t think they’re leading for any of those guys.”
Rivals.com national analyst Corey Evans is also predicting a complete whiff on UK’s part with his individual Future Cast predictions: Wiseman to Memphis, Carey to Michigan State, Hurt to Kansas, Brooks to Indiana, and McDaniels and Stewart both to Washington.
Evans told the Herald-Leader that he also sees Duke running strongly with Carey. Evans did say that — of the players listed — Brooks is the one that Kentucky has the “best shot” with heading into the early signing period. He also specifically mentioned Hurt as a player the Cats could end up in a good position to land.
ESPN recruiting insider Jeff Borzello told the Herald-Leader that he considers UK and Indiana to be “co-leaders” for Brooks — a 6-foot-7 wing from Fort Wayne, Ind., under intense local pressure to stay home and play for the Hoosiers — and he’s predicting other schools for the Cats’ other targets.
Borzello mentioned Michigan State and Duke for Carey, Michigan State and Washington for Stewart, and noted that McDaniels is “still hard to figure out” but said he was sticking with his Washington prediction, for now. He did say Hurt — a 6-9 forward from Minnesota — is too tough to predict at the moment, and it’s likely he won’t make a decision until the spring.
“So I would feel most confident picking them for Brooks even though they’re probably co-leaders,” he said.
And there’s Wiseman, the 7-footer from Nashville who moved to Memphis to play high school ball for Penny Hardaway — his former Nike league coach — and stuck around for his senior season at Memphis East High this fall after Hardaway took the Tigers’ head coaching job.
Wiseman is expected to pick Kentucky or Memphis.
“I still think Memphis at the end of the day,” Borzello said.
That’s been the consensus in recent months.
The 17 most recent predictions on Wiseman’s Crystal Ball page have been in favor of the Tigers, and no one has picked UK on that page since last December. A couple of months ago, everyone on the Rivals.com national recruiting team logged predictions in favor of Memphis.
Evans said Monday that UK might still have a good shot with Wiseman. “But I still feel good with Memphis here,” he told the Herald-Leader.
247Sports national analyst Evan Daniels has stuck with his original Kentucky pick for Wiseman — a prediction made months before Hardaway took the Memphis job — despite the increasing momentum in the Tigers’ favor.
He told the Herald-Leader on Monday that he considers that recruitment a “toss up” at this point. Daniels also ranked the others on UK’s list, in order of most likely to pick the Cats, like this: Brooks, Hurt, McDaniels, Carey and Stewart. He has not made Crystal Ball predictions for any of those players.
Meyer flipped his prediction on Wiseman from Kentucky to Memphis in April, less than a month after Hardaway was hired as head coach. He noted this week that Wiseman made decisions to change Nike league teams and high schools — and move from Nashville to Memphis — so he could play for Hardaway, and he had great experiences with both teams. Logic would dictate that will work in Memphis’ favor. Wiseman has also popped up at several Memphis basketball events in recent weeks.
“You would think the more time he spends there, the better chance Memphis has to get him. It’s just common sense,” Meyer said. “He went down there to play for the current head coach.”
Meyer also said “it seems like there’s a good chance” most of the players on UK’s wish list don’t sign in the fall, instead waiting until April to make their college decisions official. None of the six players on Kentucky’s radar have publicly named commitment dates.
If the Cats really are trailing in most or all of these recruitments, such a scenario could play in their favor.
“Assuming Kentucky’s not leading, then heck yeah, you don’t want them to make a decision,” Meyer said. “From my perspective, I don’t think Kentucky is leading for any of them. So, yeah, from my perspective, I think it’s a good thing for Kentucky if they don’t do anything.”