Just a few weeks ago, it looked like UK’s basketball recruiting options were dwindling for next season.
The Cats had missed out on many of their top targets, and they weren’t considered the clear favorites for Keion Brooks, Matthew Hurt or Jaden McDaniels, the last three uncommitted high school seniors with Kentucky scholarship offers.
With a likely need to add at least a couple more recruits to its 2019 class, UK now appears to be in an enviable situation.
The Cats are now the favorites on the 247Sports Crystal Ball page for Brooks, a five-star wing in the 2019 class. John Calipari extended a scholarship offer Wednesday night to five-star power forward Isaiah Todd, and UK is now the favorite on his Crystal Ball page, as well. (Todd is currently the No. 13 player in the junior class, but he’s widely expected to reclassify to 2019).
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While many analysts still consider Kansas the team to beat for Hurt — a top-10 forward from Minnesota — the Cats have an increasing amount of buzz behind the scenes among those following his recruitment. And UK is widely regarded as a top-two choice — along with hometown Washington — for McDaniels, another top-10 forward in the senior class.
Other prominent reclassification options include guards Jalen Green and RJ Hampton, as well as center N’Faly Dante — all top-10 national recruits — and yet another new possibility has emerged in recent days.
Wasatch Academy (Utah) forward Tristan Enaruna — a native of the Netherlands — was one of the top stars at last week’s Basketball Without Borders showcase, a recruiting event that features top international talent and has became a staple of the NBA’s All-Star weekend.
Enaruna — listed at 6-7 and 205 pounds — was seeing his recruitment pick up steam even before last weekend, but his showing in front of NBA scouts will only expedite the interest from high-major college programs. Kentucky is one of his possible suitors.
“Lucky for him, he had his best on tap in front of NBA scouts,” Rivals.com national analyst Corey Evans told the Herald-Leader this week. “He’s 6-foot-7, rangy, a versatile forward that can play either the ‘4’ or the ‘3’. He’d be a killer small-ball ‘4’. He’s super skilled — ambidextrous to a point.”
Enaruna is naturally left-handed, but he shoots with his right hand and can finish and pass at a high level with both. His shooting has been a point of emphasis in recent months — something that was on display last weekend.
“The one thing that really intrigued me this weekend was that he really made shots consistently, and he really did a good job of scoring through contact. Two deficiencies of his in the past that — somehow, overnight, for three full days in Charlotte — he was unbelievable. He was a top-three prospect, top-three producer in all three days of that camp.”
Enaruna told 247Sports this week that UK has reached out to express interest in his recruitment. He’s also been hearing from Duke and had previous scholarship offers from Kansas, Miami, Creighton (an early favorite) and others.
Kentucky will obviously need a little more frontcourt help with the certain departure of Reid Travis and near-certain departure of PJ Washington following this season. Nick Richards, who will turn 22 years old later this year, and EJ Montgomery have also been mentioned as NBA Draft possibilities in the past, though neither is currently among ESPN’s top 100 draft prospects for 2019.
The Cats also have zero true frontcourt players in their 2019 recruiting class. Kahlil Whitney and Dontaie Allen both have aspects of their game that could translate to the power forward spot, but they’re better suited to play on the perimeter. Brooks, Hurt and McDaniels also have enough size to play down low at certain points, but all three prefer the perimeter. Todd is looking more and more like a realistic addition for next season, but UK might still be in need of one more player at the forward position.
Evans sees Enaruna as a good fit, even if the Cats were to land Todd and/or Brooks.
“He’s definitely more of a ‘4’ than Keion. He’s a little taller. He has good length to him,” he said. “Has to get a little stronger and fill out more, but he probably has a better body than Keion as far as putting on weight. These international guys — they come over to America; he’s been here for a year and a half now — but you put a guy like that into a college weight room and give him the right nutrition program, and they pack on 20 pounds overnight. So I think he’s more of a ‘4’ that would kind of squelch the need that Kentucky might have there.”
Enaruna is planning to take multiple official visits before making a college decision, which isn’t expected for another several weeks. Rivals.com ranked him as the No. 105 overall prospect in the 2019 class going into the Basketball Without Borders camp, but — by the end of this recruiting cycle — he will likely be much higher in the national rankings.
“He’s moving up,” Evans said. “He played like a top-25 guy at that camp. He had NBA guys salivating over him. … It was definitely a step in the right direction for Tristan, that’s for sure.”