On the court, the Kentucky Wildcats are back on the right track and coming off decisive victories over North Carolina and Louisville in consecutive weeks.
Off the court, the Cats have one of the best recruiting classes in the country, a group that features five-star point guard Tyrese Maxey and four-star wing Dontaie Allen, who both signed in November, and five-star wing Kahlil Whitney, who will officially sign in April.
The new year will bring plenty of turnover on the Cats’ roster — as it always does — and John Calipari will surely add more prospects to his recruiting class of 2019 (and possibly beyond).
While keeping in mind that incoming transfers — especially immediately eligible graduate transfers — will remain a possibility after this season, here is the latest on 10 recruits to watch in the new calendar year: five from the 2019 class who will definitely be making college decisions relatively soon, and five more from the 2020 class who already have the Cats’ full attention.
The Minnesota native could be the most likely five-star addition to the Cats’ 2019 class moving forward. Hurt — a versatile, 6-foot-9 forward — took his first official visit to Lexington in December and followed that up with an official visit to North Carolina two weeks later. He has two more official visits — to Duke later this month, and to Kansas in February — on his schedule, and Memphis, Minnesota and Villanova are all still on his recruiting list.
Kansas is the heavy favorite on both his 247Sports Crystal Ball page and the Rivals.com FutureCast, and Hurt has several ties to the Jayhawks. He played for Bill Self with USA Basketball over the summer, he’s a longtime star on the Adidas circuit, and the KU women’s program even extended a scholarship offer to his younger sister last month.
Calipari has made him a major priority in this class, however, visiting him around a half-dozen times over the past few months. Hurt’s skill and versatility — he’s a tremendous shooter for his size and capable perimeter player — would be beneficial to the Cats next season.
Hurt has said a college decision in April is the most likely scenario. (247Sports composite ranking: No. 7 in 2019).
One of the first 2019 prospects to land a scholarship offer from UK, there haven’t been many new developments in Brooks’ recruitment in recent weeks. The Fort Wayne, Ind., native — now playing his senior season for La Lumiere (Ind.) — has taken official visits to UK, Indiana, North Carolina and UCLA. He also recently canceled an official visit to Michigan State, and that trip has not been rescheduled.
The 6-7 wing’s recruitment is now expected to come down to Kentucky and Indiana, with UNC a possible darkhorse. The Cats have stayed on him for more than a year, and UK signee Tyrese Maxey once told the Herald-Leader that Brooks is the 2019 recruit he’d most like to team up with. IU, however, is the local option, and the Hoosiers already have commitments from close friends and fellow Indiana natives Armaan Franklin and Trayce Jackson-Davis, the latter a former teammate on the Nike circuit. The Hoosiers hold the majority on Brooks’ Crystal Ball page, but the Cats still have a chance. He could make a college decision as early as this month. (247Sports composite ranking: No. 22 in 2019).
There might not be a more interesting five-star prospect in the 2019 class than McDaniels, a unique 6-10 forward who often ran the point for his Nike league team and excels away from the basket. The Seattle native has narrowed his list to Kentucky, San Diego State (where his brother is a star player), Texas, UCLA and hometown Washington, and he’s already taken official visits to all five schools.
National recruiting analysts are having a tough time coming up with a favorite for McDaniels, who has been among the more quiet top-tier prospects in the 2019 class. He did acknowledge over the summer that Kentucky was his “dream school” growing up, and Calipari has taken multiple trips to Seattle to visit with him and his family in recent months.
Though he could reveal a decision at any time, a spring announcement is probably the most likely scenario for McDaniels, who would give UK a ton of length on the perimeter and might have the most long-term potential of any high school player in the country. (247Sports composite ranking: No. 5 in 2019).
The newest addition to UK’s 2019 wish list has that designation because he just recently reclassified from 2020, making the move to get a head start on his college career and putting him one year closer to the NBA Draft.
Edwards — a 6-5 combo guard from the Atlanta area — is one of the best pure scorers in the country and can shoot from outside, even drawing comparisons to NBA star James Harden. 247Sports made him the No. 1 overall player in its 2019 rankings — replacing Memphis signee James Wiseman — when Edwards announced his reclassification in November.
Kentucky is one of five schools still on his list, along with Florida State, Georgia, Kansas and North Carolina. He’s taken only one official visit so far (to Georgia) and is expected to visit the other four before making a college decision, which likely won’t come until the spring.
FSU has long been seen as his favorite, but that’s a little more foggy now that he’s part of the 2019 class. UK likely won’t have a desperate need for guards to finish out the 2019 cycle, but Edwards has the ability to be the best player in this class, and the Cats would love to add him to next season’s roster. (247Sports composite ranking: No. 4 in 2019).
At one point in the late fall, it looked like Stewart — a 6-10 post player from Rochester, N.Y. — might have been on the verge of committing to Kentucky, but that buzz quickly faded. Though the Cats are technically still on his list, the behind-the-scenes chatter for the past several weeks has indicated that Kentucky has very little shot to land his commitment.
That would be too bad for the Wildcats, who will likely need more bulk inside next season. Stewart, a teammate of Keion Brooks at La Lumiere (Ind.), could be the most college-ready player in the country, regardless of position. Of the five schools that landed one of his official visits — UK, Duke, Michigan State, Syracuse and Washington — it’s Duke and Michigan State that have widely been seen as the favorites in recent weeks, with Washington possibly next on the list. UK, which came in later than Stewart’s other finalists with a scholarship offer, did see him play a few weeks ago, and he’d be an instant-impact player in Lexington, if the Cats can pull the recruiting upset. There’s no set timetable for his college decision. (247Sports composite ranking: No. 6 in 2019).
The first player in the 2020 class to land a UK scholarship offer, Barnes will likely be one of the Cats’ biggest targets this spring and summer. The 6-8 forward with perimeter skills plays on the Nike circuit and has already taken official visits to Florida State and Oregon. A high-energy player from Florida, he’d be a good fit for the Wildcats and a major addition to a future roster. (247Sports composite ranking: No. 3 in 2020).
The second player in the 2020 class to land a UK scholarship offer has been talked about as a reclassification candidate, though Dante has not addressed those rumors himself in recent months. As a powerful 6-11 post player, he’d fill a likely position of need if he were to make a move to 2019. Calipari watched Dante earlier this season. Louisiana State and Oregon both have prominent picks on his Crystal Ball page. (247Sports composite ranking: No. 9 in 2020).
Though Hampton has said he’s sticking in 2020, he’s another high-profile player that has been mentioned as a possible reclassification candidate, and he did take an unofficial visit to UK for Big Blue Madness in October. Duke, Kansas and Memphis also factor heavily into the 6-4 combo guard’s recruitment. The Texas native is switching from the Under Armour circuit to Nike league play this spring. (247Sports composite ranking: No. 5 in 2020).
The No. 1 player in the Rivals.com rankings for 2020 and a major UK priority early on, Green is a tremendous scorer who can play on and off the ball and projects as a high-upside defender. The 6-4 guard from California has already taken official visits to Florida State and Memphis, but UK has also offered and will be keeping close tabs on him. (247Sports composite ranking: No. 2 in 2020).
A sign of how serious Johnson is about UK: He’s been in Lexington for Big Blue Madness in each of the past two years, despite being only a junior in high school. The 6-8 forward from Milwaukee has the ability to contend for the No. 1 ranking in 2020. He took official visits to Arizona, Duke and UCLA in 2019, and home-state Wisconsin is making him priority No. 1. (247Sports composite ranking: No. 4 in 2020).