The announcement Sunday night that five-star recruit Isaiah Stewart had decided to play his college basketball career at Washington left just four uncommitted players with UK scholarship offers in the class of 2019.
One of those prospects — highly touted shooting guard Anthony Edwards — arrived in Lexington on Monday for his official visit to UK, and the other three — perimeter forwards Keion Brooks, Matthew Hurt and Jaden McDaniels — completed their official visits to Kentucky toward the end of 2018.
The Cats are still hoping to add to their 2019 recruiting class that already includes five-star point guard Tyrese Maxey, five-star wing Kahlil Whitney and four-star wing Dontaie Allen, but they have some stiff competition for the four recruits left on their radar.
Rivals.com national analyst Corey Evans doesn’t have Kentucky pegged as the leader for any of those four players, but he’s also not counting the Cats out just yet.
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Evans, who evaluated Brooks, Edwards and McDaniels again this past weekend at the Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Mass., broke down the Cats’ chances with their top remaining targets in an interview with the Herald-Leader following that event.
He called Edwards — ranked No. 3 nationally by Rivals.com — “probably the most God-gifted, talented prospect in that class.” The 6-foot-5 shooting guard’s finalists are UK, Florida State, Georgia, Kansas and North Carolina.
“I still think Florida State and Georgia are the two to beat,” Evans said. “I think Georgia might even be the slight favorite — they’ve really worked that one pretty well, pretty hard. But the elite want to play against the elite and with the elite, and (UK) is something that could definitely catch his eye, I think.”
Of the quartet of 2019 targets remaining, McDaniels might be the most likely to ultimately pick UK, according to Evans, though the analyst is predicting that he ends up elsewhere.
“I think Washington is still the school to beat,” he said. “I think Kentucky is right there though. I think it’s those two schools, for the most part.”
McDaniels’ other three finalists are UCLA, which recently fired head coach Steve Alford; San Diego State, where McDaniels’ older brother is currently a star player but expected to leave for the NBA Draft after this season; and Texas, which hasn’t picked up much buzz in recent weeks.
A Seattle native, McDaniels is also friends with Stewart, who was his roommate at the USA Basketball camp in October and vowed to recruit the 6-10 forward hard as soon as he committed to Washington. “They’re kind of like two peas in a pod,” Evans said, noting that UK transfer Quade Green, now at Washington, might also make the hometown option more enticing for McDaniels, the No. 5 recruit in the Rivals rankings.
“It’s hard to say no to the local program when a five-star kid who’s a good friend of yours now is coming in there, and you could play next to Quade Green, who could get back to being that playmaking point guard type. It’s going to be tough.”
Evans did add that McDaniels and his family don’t appear to be preoccupied with the recruitment at the moment, and they likely won’t start paying more attention to it for another couple months. “They know they have the leverage,” he said.
Brooks — a 6-7 prospect from Fort Wayne, Ind. — is basically down to Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan State and North Carolina. Rivals.com ranks him as the No. 27 player in the class.
Evans — along with just about every other recruiting analyst — is predicting Brooks will end up at home-state Indiana, but his recruitment isn’t that simple.
“I think it’s all over the place,” he said. “They’re still a few weeks away, I was told. I think UNC is probably in second place — I think he’s intrigued by that. But I also think he wants to stay close to home, which definitely helps the other three schools in there.
“I think Michigan State has worked their way back into the mix. I thought they were kind of out of it for a while there. Kentucky, of course, is there. I still think it’s Indiana, but I also think that they don’t know yet.”
Over the past several weeks, analysts have shifted their opinions and oftentimes differed on which school poses the biggest threat to the Hoosiers. “I still think all four honestly have a puncher’s chance, but the constant has been Indiana,” Evans said.
Hurt — a 6-9 prospect from Minnesota — wasn’t at the Hoophall Classic this past weekend, but Evans has been tracking his recruitment for several years. The No. 7 prospect in the Rivals.com rankings, Hurt hasn’t made an official cut to his school list. Blue-bloods UK, Duke, Kansas and North Carolina are among the programs that want his commitment.
“I’ve stuck with Kansas for three years, so call me stubborn, but I’m going to stick with Kansas for now,” Evans said of his prediction. “But they’re kind of similar to how it is with Jaden — they’re in no rush at all. They have the leverage. They’re going to be looking at who’s leaving, who’s staying, who offers the best chance of success in college and putting him on the right track for the NBA Draft.”
That means a college announcement from Hurt likely isn’t coming until April, or possibly later.
“I don’t think Kentucky gets him,” Evans said, “but I think it’s still some time away from any sort of decision there.”