UK Recruiting

UK just missed on another No. 1 basketball recruit. That skid is likely to continue.

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

The decision by five-star shooting guard Anthony Edwards to commit to Georgia on Monday morning means yet another recruiting cycle without a No. 1-ranked player for the University of Kentucky.

UK, which landed a player ranked No. 1 by at least one major recruiting service in three of John Calipari’s first four cycles as head coach — John Wall in 2009, Anthony Davis in 2011 and Nerlens Noel in 2012 — has now gone nearly five years without such a commitment.

Skal Labissiere, ranked No. 1 by and the now-defunct in the 2015 class, committed to the Cats in November 2014 and was the last No. 1-ranked recruit to do so. (Labissiere, it should be noted, averaged just 6.6 points and 3.3 rebounds per game in his only season at UK).

It looks like the Cats’ drought with No. 1 players will continue at least until the 2021 class.

Edwards is currently ranked No. 1 in 2019 by 247Sports, while has Duke commitment Vernon Carey at No. 1, and ESPN ranks Memphis commitment James Wiseman as the top player in the class. (If that holds, it would be the first time since 247Sports began ranking players in 2011 that all three recruiting services had a different player in the top spot).

There’s much more agreement on the best prospect in the 2020 class, and — though he remains uncommitted — there’s little mystery as to where he’ll end up.

Evan Mobley — a 7-foot center from California — is ranked No. 1 in the junior class by, ESPN and 247Sports. Mobley is the son of Southern Cal assistant coach Eric Mobley and the younger brother of five-star USC signee Isaiah Mobley. national analyst Eric Bossi told the Herald-Leader that — as long as Mobley’s father and head coach Andy Enfield are still at USC a year from now, and there’s no reason to think they won’t be — the Trojans will be getting the No. 1 recruit in the country.

“I can’t imagine him going anywhere but USC,” Bossi said. “There is nobody wasting an ounce of energy recruiting him right now.”

If Mobley finishes the 2020 cycle ranked No. 1 by Rivals, ESPN and 247, he would be only the fourth player since the one-and-done era began to hold the top spot from every national recruiting service. The others were Duke freshman RJ Barrett last year, Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins in 2013 and Ohio State’s Greg Oden in 2006.

There’s still time for someone to replace Mobley at the top of the 2020 rankings, of course. The No. 2 junior, according to all three recruiting services, is shooting guard Jalen Green, who has a UK scholarship offer, though Memphis is seen by many analysts as the early favorite.

Major UK targets Scottie Barnes and Jalen Johnson are also considered top-five players in the 2020 class by all three recruiting services.

With Edwards off the board to Georgia, the Cats’ top-ranked remaining target for the 2019 class is Jaden McDaniels, who is sixth in the Rivals and ESPN rankings and No. 5 on 247Sports’ list. It seems unlikely he’d rise all the way to No. 1 with any of those recruiting services, though Bossi did note recently that McDaniels might have the highest upside in the class.

Obviously, even without a No. 1-ranked commitment over the past few years, Calipari has done just fine on the recruiting trail. Since Labissiere picked UK back in 2014 — the last top-five national prospect to do so — the Cats have landed commitments from 19 other five-star players.

No. 1 recruits since Calipari came to UK

2020Evan MobleyEvan MobleyEvan Mobley
2019Vernon Carey (Duke)James Wiseman (Memphis)Anthony Edwards (Georgia)
2018RJ Barrett (Duke)RJ Barrett (Duke)RJ Barrett (Duke)
2017Michael Porter (Missouri)Marvin Bagley (Duke)Marvin Bagley (Duke)
2016Josh Jackson (Kansas)Harry Giles (Duke)Josh Jackson (Kansas)
2015Skal Labissiere (UK)Ben Simmons (LSU)Ben Simmons (LSU)
2014Jahlil Okafor (Duke)Jahlil Okafor (Duke)Emmanuel Mudiay (SMU)
2013Andrew Wiggins (Kansas)Andrew Wiggins (Kansas)Andrew Wiggins (Kansas)
2012Shabazz Muhammad (UCLA)Nerlens Noel (UK)Nerlens Noel (UK)
2011Austin Rivers (Duke)Anthony Davis (UK)Anthony Davis (UK)
2010Josh Selby (Kansas)Harrison Barnes (UNC)None
2009John Wall (UK)Avery Bradley (Texas)None
Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader

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.