UK Recruiting

Elite basketball prospect takes next step in recruitment. It’s good news for UK.

Justus: Kentucky a place where you get better and play around great players

Kentucky basketball assistant Joel Justus offers a recruiting pitch of sorts, saying that Kentucky isn't just for the one-and-done type players.
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Kentucky basketball assistant Joel Justus offers a recruiting pitch of sorts, saying that Kentucky isn't just for the one-and-done type players.

One of the top basketball prospects in the country has narrowed his recruiting list to five schools, and Kentucky is still among those under consideration.

Five-star guard RJ Hampton announced Thursday that he is down to a final five: UK, Duke, Kansas, Memphis and Texas Christian.

The 6-foot-4 prospect from Little Elm, Texas is the No. 6 overall player in the 2020 class, according to the 247Sports composite rankings, though there has been continued speculation in recruiting circles that he might ultimately move to the 2019 class and play college basketball next season.

Hampton, who turned 18 years old Thursday, wrote on his USA Today blog in late August that he was sticking in the 2020 class, but that hasn’t quelled the recruiting chatter that he might reclassify. His father recently told the Memphis Commercial Appeal that Hampton is continuing to take the necessary academic coursework to move to the 2019 class, should he decide to reverse course and jump to college after this season. Hampton’s father has also said that top recruit James Wiseman, a Memphis signee, has been pushing Hampton to join him with the Tigers next season.

UK has also been recruiting him hard. Hampton was the first class of 2020 prospect that John Calipari visited during the opening days of the most recent fall recruiting period, and he was among the first players in that group to land a scholarship offer from the Wildcats.

Hampton also visited UK for its Big Blue Madness event in October.

UK has already signed five-star point guard Tyrese Maxey and four-star wing Dontaie Allen for next season, and the Cats have a commitment from Kahlil Whitney, a five-star wing and top-10 recruit in the 2019 class.

Still, UK might need more help on the perimeter next season, especially if freshman guards Ashton Hagans and Tyler Herro — both projected as second-round picks and rising up the draft charts — decide to jump to the NBA. Allen, who underwent surgery last month for a torn ACL and torn meniscus, might also not be at 100 percent for the start of the 2019-2020 season.

The Cats are still recruiting shooting guard Anthony Edwards — ranked by 247Sports as the No. 1 player in the 2019 class — but he is expected to commit to Georgia on Monday morning.

Hampton is often listed as a point guard, though he’s a dynamic scorer capable of playing on or off the ball at the college level. He averaged 30.3 points, 8.0 rebounds and 6.6 assists per game as a sophomore and has had multiple 50-point games this season.

He’d be an excellent complement to Maxey and likely UK returnee Immanuel Quickley, who can both also play multiple positions in the backcourt.

“RJ is a gifted scorer. He’s a guy that can go off the bounce and really create shot opportunities,” 247Sports national analyst Evan Daniels told the Herald-Leader in the fall. “He’s good in transition, he’s good attacking the goal, and he can finish. … He’s a guy that you can put the ball in his hands in a pinch. But where he’s best is when he’s using that scorer’s mentality to go get points.”

Ben Roberts covers UK basketball, football and other sports for the Lexington Herald-Leader and has specialized in UK basketball recruiting for the past several years. He also maintains the Next Cats recruiting blog, which features the latest news on the Wildcats’ recruiting efforts.
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