UK Recruiting

Wiseman has new challenger for No. 1 ranking in 2019, and UK is ‘in the mix’

Justus: Goal is to identify players who see Kentucky as ultimate destination

Kentucky basketball assistant Joel Justus describes Wildcats' recruiting strategy and the landscape of basketball recruiting.
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Kentucky basketball assistant Joel Justus describes Wildcats' recruiting strategy and the landscape of basketball recruiting.

About an hour before James Wiseman announced his commitment to the Memphis Tigers on Tuesday, he got a new challenger for his No. 1 ranking in the recruiting class of 2019.

Anthony Edwards — a 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Atlanta — revealed Tuesday morning that he has decided to reclassify from 2020 to 2019 and play college basketball next season.

As a result of that decision, 247Sports immediately moved Edwards into the No. 1 spot in its class of 2019 rankings. He had been the No. 2 overall player in the 2020 rankings.

The decision to move Edwards ahead of Wiseman and the other stars of the 2019 class was a relatively easy one, said 247Sports national analyst Evan Daniels.

“It really wasn’t that tough,” Daniels told the Herald-Leader. “I said five or six months ago that I thought the top three players in 2020 were better prospects than the top of the 2019 class. And the (reclassification) thing is something that we’ve been hearing for a little bit. So it’s something that we had given some thought to. But it wasn’t a long discussion, because we’ve scouted and evaluated him so much over the years, and we had talked about the top of this 2020 group and how special it was.”

Evan Mobley, whose father is an assistant coach at Southern Cal, and Jalen Green, who has a UK scholarship offer, are the other two players currently in the junior class that Daniels and the 247Sports recruiting team have pegged as better prospects than Wiseman or anyone else who has been part of the 2019 class.

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Edwards has earned the reputation as one of the best scorers in the country. He averaged 22 points, eight rebounds and five assists per game for Holy Spirit School (Ga.) last season and averaged 21.0 points and 6.1 rebounds on the Under Armour circuit this past summer, shooting 45 percent from three-point range in that league.

Daniels described him as a “strong, physical, long and explosive” guard who has the tools — including a near-7-foot wingspan — to be a great perimeter defender at the college level. Edwards is also a top-flight athlete that excels with the ball in his hands.

“He fits the mold of that new age guard that can do it all. He brings a lot to the table,” Daniels said. “We think he’s in the mold of a James Harden-type player, because he is so effective when he has the ball in his hands. Whether it’s coming off a ball screen or even just breaking down defenders in one-on-one situations — he’s creative in those situations. And he can create space. He can create shot opportunities for others. He’s also a strong, physical guard that can score at the rim, from mid-range, or from deep. His scoring package is pretty impressive.”

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Anthony Edwards averaged 22 points, eight rebounds and five assists per game for Holy Spirit School in Georgia last season. Kelly Kline Under Armour

Rivals.com inserted Edwards at No. 3 nationally — behind Vernon Carey and Wiseman — in its class of 2019 rankings. ESPN had not updated its list as of Tuesday night.

Edwards, who won’t turn 18 years old until August, is listing Kentucky, Florida State, Georgia, Michigan State and North Carolina as his top five schools. He has scholarship offers from all five and told Daniels on Tuesday that he will definitely set up official visits to FSU and Michigan State and hopes to take trips to the other schools under consideration, as well.

Last week, Daniels logged a Crystal Ball prediction in favor of the Seminoles for Edwards, who has been seen as a Florida State lean for the past few months.

“I don’t think he’d necessarily say that Florida State is the leader right now, but I think they certainly have a lot of buzz and momentum in the recruitment,” Daniels said. “What that means going forward, I don’t know. Now that he’s listed as a 2019 recruit, I think you’re going to see some schools really pay him a little more attention. And we’ll figure out where he’s at pretty soon.”

Edwards obviously won’t be signing with a school in the early period, which was to end Wednesday, and he doesn’t appear to be in any hurry to end his recruitment. That’s good news for UK and the other schools on his list.

Kentucky already has commitments from five-star point guard Tyrese Maxey, five-star wing Kahlil Whitney and four-star wing Dontaie Allen, and the Cats could return several talented backcourt players from this season’s team.

Their biggest recruiting need is in the frontcourt, but the addition of a talented player like Edwards could give Kentucky more options to go with a small-ball lineup next season and alleviate some of the apparent need for post players.

Whatever the roster makeup, UK won’t be passing on the opportunity to land Edwards.

“Kentucky is in the mix. He says they’ve made him a priority,” Daniels said. “I think they’ll push to get a visit, and we’ll see where it goes from there. Anything other than that is just speculation at this point.”

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