A few recruiting-related topics to keep an eye on as UK begins postseason play this week:
Tyler Herro’s draft stock: The least-touted member of UK’s 2018 recruiting class — Herro was No. 37 in the 247Sports composite rankings — has emerged as one of the Wildcats’ top NBA Draft prospects. Herro recently moved into first-round territory on draft lists generated by ESPN, Sports Illustrated, CBS Sports and SB Nation, and national recruiting analyst Evan Daniels wrote this past week that Herro’s stay-or-go decision might be the most interesting in the country. Daniels added that — while he could elevate that draft stock with another year of college — “word on street” is Herro would like to make the move to the NBA after this season.
“NBA teams seem to be kind of all over the board with him,” Daniels told the Herald-Leader. “Obviously, he’s improved as the season has gone on. And someone with his skill level and potential as a shotmaker and scorer brings value. So I think it’s one of the more interesting stay-or-go decisions. I guess I wouldn’t be surprised either way. But I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if he were to go.”
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In the Calipari era, it has been rare for UK players who are widely projected as first-round picks to instead come back for another season of college ball. If Herro were to leave Lexington, the Cats might need some more backcourt help from the 2019 recruiting class. Keldon Johnson will also likely be gone to the NBA Draft, and Ashton Hagans — currently projected as an early second-rounder — could decide to follow.
Such a scenario would leave Immanuel Quickley and Jemarl Baker from this season’s team, plus five-star point guard Tyrese Maxey and highly touted perimeter forwards Kahlil Whitney and Dontaie Allen coming in. There are no other legitimate guard targets currently in the 2019 class — though another perimeter forward, Keion Brooks, might commit to UK on Friday — so if the Cats want another true guard for next season, the addition would likely have to come from a player who reclassifies from 2020 or a graduate transfer.
Among reclassification candidates, five-star guard RJ Hampton remains the most likely. The Texas native completed his official visit to Kansas this past weekend and is expected to take additional official visits to UK and Duke later this spring. He’ll begin play on the Nike circuit in April, and reclassification questions will surely follow Hampton, who turned 18 years old last month and would be ranked as one of the top guards in the 2019 class if he does indeed decide to make that move.
Jalen Green and reclassification: Speaking of players rumored to make the move from 2020 to 2019 … it might be getting time to scratch Green’s name off that list. The highly touted guard from California announced late last week that he will leave his high school team after this academic year and play his senior season at Prolific Prep, which travels the country playing a national schedule. Obviously, if Green — the No. 2 overall player in the 2020 class — is playing high school ball next season, that means he won’t be reclassifying to 2019.
Though Green has often been rumored as a reclassification candidate — and the player himself has even acknowledged he has thought about it — that route has always seemed a bit unlikely. Many of the past five-star recruits who have reclassified have actually been moving back into their original classes. Green, however, just turned 17 years old last month, so he’d actually be going to college a year earlier than normal.
It wouldn’t make much sense for the 6-5 guard to announce his intentions to play for a prep school next season, then reverse course and reclassify instead. His comments in the aftermath of that decision last week indicate he’s making the move to prepare himself for college — and, later, the NBA — by playing against better competition as a high school senior.
So, don’t expect Green to suit up for a college team next season. He’ll likely be among UK’s top targets on the Nike circuit this spring and summer — the Cats extended a scholarship offer several months ago — and Memphis is another team that has generated buzz in his recruitment so far. The Tigers’ progress on the court next season — when Penny Hardaway finally has all of his highly touted recruits — will be closely followed by Green and other top prospects.
The next big decision: There still haven’t been any new predictions for five-star UK target Keion Brooks, who is keeping the mystery alive heading into his college announcement Friday night.
His Rivals.com FutureCast and 247Sports Crystal Ball pages looked the same Monday morning as they did going into the weekend: the Cats leading on the Crystal Ball and home-state Indiana with 100 percent of the picks on his Rivals.com page.
The behind-the-scenes chatter heading into the weekend indicated that Kentucky had the upper hand in this recruitment and should be considered the favorite. That said, much can change in a matter of days with a recruitment that has been difficult to handicap to this point.