As expected, five-star shooting guard Anthony Edwards announced his commitment to Georgia on Monday morning, deciding to stay close to home and play for the Bulldogs rather than join UK’s 2019 recruiting class.
The commitment was a major coup for new Georgia head coach Tom Crean, who held off John Calipari and early favorites Florida State to land arguably the most college-ready player in the country. 247Sports ranks Edwards as the No. 1 prospect in the 2019 class, and he’ll be among the favorites for Southeastern Conference Player of the Year next season before becoming a likely top pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
Edwards was widely seen as more of a luxury than a necessity for UK, which already has several talented backcourt players lined up for next season. But the Cats could still be in need of another guard, depending on how the next several weeks go.
Kentucky’s 2019 recruiting class currently consists of five-star point guard Tyrese Maxey, five-star wing Kahlil Whitney and four-star wing Dontaie Allen — a trio of perimeter prospects that were seen as instant-impact players at the time of their commitments.
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Maxey and Whitney will likely be among the Cats’ top contributors next season, but there’s some question regarding Allen’s status for the start of the 2019-20 campaign following surgery last month to repair a torn ACL and torn meniscus.
His father told the Herald-Leader a couple of weeks ago that the early stages of Allen’s recovery are going well, though there’s no guarantee he’ll be 100 percent by the start of next season.
Two of UK’s reserve guards on this season’s team — Jemarl Baker and Immanuel Quickley — are likely to return for their sophomore seasons. Neither is currently projected as an NBA Draft pick this year.
Whether or not UK needs to add another backcourt player for next season likely depends on the immediate futures of two other freshmen — Ashton Hagans and Tyler Herro — a pair of starters who have become more prominent in NBA Draft discussions in recent weeks and could still play themselves into first-round territory this year.
ESPN’s latest top 100 ranking of 2019 draft prospects had Herro at No. 40 overall and Hagans at No. 43 overall. (Keldon Johnson, the Cats’ other backcourt starter, is projected as a lottery pick and likely to leave after this season).
If both Hagans and Herro bolt for the NBA — and/or Allen isn’t ready to play a prominent role next season — UK would probably be in search of more help in the backcourt.
Unless there’s a late decommitment from another prominent guard in the 2019 class, UK is unlikely to add a backcourt player from that group. Only five undecided guards remain in the top 100 of the 247Sports composite rankings — Cole Anthony (No. 4 overall), LaMelo Ball (No. 19), Cassius Stanley (No. 29), Lester Quinones (No. 64) and Harlond Beverly (No. 80) — and UK is not recruiting any of those players.
It appears more likely that Kentucky would try to add someone who is currently in the 2020 class, or look to the graduate transfer market.
Two top 2020 guards — RJ Hampton and Jalen Green — have both been the subject of reclassification talk, though neither has made a decision on such a move. Hampton cut his list last week to UK, Duke, Memphis, Kansas and Texas Christian. He visited UK for Big Blue Madness, but Duke and Memphis might be tough to beat if he does reclassify.
Green — a California native and the No. 2 player in the class — was one of the first 2020 prospects to land a UK scholarship offer, though several recruiting experts — including national analysts Corey Evans and Andrew Slater — have logged predictions in favor of Memphis.
The good news for Calipari is that he will likely know UK’s backcourt situation for next season before any potential targets are ready to make their college decisions.
Hagans and Herro will have to pick between UK or the NBA Draft by the end of May, and their announcements will probably come before that. Green and Hampton are scheduled to play on the Nike circuit this summer and wouldn’t have to make a final reclassification decision until June, if they wanted to enroll for summer classes, or August, at the latest. (Hagans reclassified from 2019 to 2018 in mid-June last year).
Any potential graduate transfers would also have until later in the calendar to make their decisions. Reid Travis committed to UK on June 20 of last year, for example.
If there’s ultimately a need for more perimeter help for next season, Calipari still has plenty of time to find it.