UK Recruiting

Recruiting notes on Tyrese Maxey, Jaden McDaniels and graduate transfers at Kentucky

Tyrese Maxey talks about UK’s class and being a leader

UK signee Tyrese Maxey will likely be one of the leaders on next season's basketball team, no matter who comes back from the current Wildcats' squad. He plays in this week's McDonald's All-American Game.
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UK signee Tyrese Maxey will likely be one of the leaders on next season's basketball team, no matter who comes back from the current Wildcats' squad. He plays in this week's McDonald's All-American Game.

Some leftover recruiting observations from the recent McDonald’s All-American Game and UK’s run in the NCAA Tournament:

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Tyrese Maxey: The Texas guard has long been considered one of the best backcourt players in the 2019 class, but his stock went up even more with his performances in the competitive practices leading up to the McDonald’s Game a couple of weeks ago.

It wasn’t just Maxey’s play on the court — but also his attitude throughout the week — that drew positive reviews from scouts and recruiting analysts in attendance. The Kentucky signee showed up on several superlative lists from the event’s practice sessions. 247Sports national analyst Evan Daniels praised his three-point shooting and overall scoring ability after the game itself. national analyst Eric Bossi wrote that Maxey would make for the best teammate of any recruit at this year’s game.

The 6-foot-4 prospect was a favorite among his peers and coaches during the game week.

“He is a guy that is positive, upbeat, happy-go-lucky all the time,” his coach for the week, Kurt Keener, told the Herald-Leader. “He brings a positive vibe to the team. And he’s a prototype Kentucky point guard. Energy, flow, understands about getting the ball to people and scoring himself. It’s been really a joy to have him this week.”

His next coach, John Calipari, will surely enjoy Maxey’s team-first attitude.

The five-star prospect has usually been listed as a point guard, but some in recruiting circles see his strengths catering to more of an off-the-ball role in the future. Maxey acknowledged during McDonald’s week that Calipari has told him he’ll be doing some of both next season, and his role will be partially dictated by who else is on the UK roster. His response to that: “Coach Cal puts us in a position to win. Win the year and win for ourselves. He says he makes families happy. So I know he’s going to figure out a way to make it possible.”

Wherever he plays on the court next season, Maxey should bring a go-to scoring option and a winning attitude to the Wildcats’ roster.

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Jaden McDaniels and Kentucky?: UK was the “dream school” growing up for McDaniels, a Seattle native who has rocketed up the rankings over the past year or so and is now considered to be one of the top five prospects in the 2019 class. His finalists are Kentucky, San Diego State (where his brother played, but has now entered the NBA Draft), Texas, UCLA (which fired the coach who was recruiting him during the season) and Washington, his hometown school.

For the past couple of months, UK and Washington were widely considered to be the two most likely landing spots for the 6-foot-10 perimeter forward. The buzz on the sidelines during McDonald’s week indicated that Kentucky — and the fishbowl nature of the Wildcats program — might not be the best fit for McDaniels, who often shies away from attention and was described by several of his fellow recruits as a quiet guy on and off the court.

McDaniels declined to speak about any aspect of his recruitment and has still not set a date for his college announcement, despite taking all five of his official visits in the fall. national analyst Eric Bossi described his play on the court during McDonald’s week as “surprisingly quiet and passive.”

The consensus among those who have followed his recruitment and observed him on and off the floor is that it would be a surprise to see him travel too far away from home for college. Washington is also looking like more of an attractive option than it has in past years, with Coach Mike Hopkins leading the Huskies to a Pac-12 title this past season and bringing in five-star recruit Isaiah Stewart — maybe the most college-ready prospect in the 2019 class — to pair with UK transfer Quade Green and some other talented players next season.

There’s certainly a chance that McDaniels ends up at Kentucky — even those predicting Washington will readily admit that it’s a pick based on guesswork and observation — but a commitment to the Cats would surprise many at this point in his recruitment, based on the vibes emanating on the sidelines during McDonald’s week.

‘The best spot’

Throughout the season and especially during the Wildcats’ recent run in the NCAA Tournament, graduate transfer Reid Travis had nothing but great things to say about his decision to spend his final season of college eligibility at UK.

Travis was asked before the tournament games in Kansas City what drew him to Kentucky’s program, and — like many other times during the week — he gave his full endorsement of the Cats’ program to other prospective grad transfers.

“As far as just being able to prepare a player in one year for what they want to do, getting a collective group of guys that never played with each other in one year, you got to accelerate the process to win at a high level and get in the right shape to play beyond college,” he said. “I felt like it was a great opportunity for me. Obviously, I’m a different kind of one-and-done as far as I already had four years in college and coming here for my fifth year. I felt like it was the best spot for me as far as coaches and the players that were already established here. So it’s a great spot, and I feel like it’s done everything that I needed it to do.”

One day after UK’s season ended, the Cats hosted Bucknell graduate transfer Nate Sestina for a recruiting visit. Sestina announced his commitment shortly after completing that trip. With more turnover expected on this UK roster over the next few weeks, it won’t be a surprise if more grad transfers are linked to the Cats to close out this 2019 recruiting cycle.