UK Recruiting

Is Matthew Hurt a ‘done deal’ to Duke? Can Kentucky still land Jaden McDaniels?

He’s one week away from revealing his college decision, but any suspense over where five-star recruit Matthew Hurt will end up next season seems to be dissipating.

“I’ve been told pretty much that Duke’s a done deal for him,” national analyst Corey Evans told the Herald-Leader this week. “Maybe I have the wrong sources on that one, which would make me look awful, because I stuck with Kansas for so long. But I expect him to go to Duke, so that’s definitely a giant, giant win for Duke.”

Hurt — a 6-foot-9 forward from Minnesota — has Duke, Kentucky, Kansas and North Carolina on his list of possibilities. The Jayhawks were long seen as the favorite, partly due to Hurt’s history on the Adidas circuit and his long relationship with KU’s Bill Self, who coached him with USA Basketball last summer. Evans, however, changed his Rivals Future Cast prediction from Kansas to Duke last weekend, and several other national recruiting analysts had already logged picks in favor of the Blue Devils.

The tipping point in Hurt’s recruitment might ultimately have been the decision made by point guard Tre Jones — another Minnesota native — to return to Durham for a second season.

“They’re very, very educated on the process,” Evans said of the Hurt family. “They played this whole thing out pretty thoroughly and pretty precisely. So the fact that they saw a guy like Tre — who’s one of the best setup guards in America; one of the best assist-to-turnover guards in college basketball last season as a freshman — and imagined him around, finally, a legitimate shot-maker like Matt Hurt. I mean, it’s hard to say no to that.”

Jones, who averaged 5.3 assists and 1.5 turnovers, played alongside super freshmen Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish this past season, but no one from that trio shot better than 33 percent from three-point range.

With Hurt set to make his college announcement April 19, the Wildcats aren’t conceding the recruitment to Duke. UK coaches are expected to be in Minnesota on Sunday to meet with Hurt and his family one last time before the big decision. John Calipari and company will seemingly need to muster some late magic to get Hurt in a Kentucky uniform next season.

‘Gut’ says Washington

The only other uncommitted prospect in the 2019 class with a UK scholarship offer is Seattle forward Jaden McDaniels, the No. 6 overall player in the rankings.

McDaniels has five schools still on his list, but hometown Washington and blue-blood Kentucky are the two programs that have received the most buzz in recent months. The recruiting chatter lately has indicated that the fishbowl nature of UK’s program — and the distance from home — would make Lexington the less likely destination for the 6-10 forward.

Evans has had a prediction in for Washington since early November, but this one is apparently no done deal.

“It’s still a gut (feeling) for me, honestly. I still think no one really knows,” he told the Herald-Leader. “I spoke to the family (this week), and that circle up there, and they’re still nowhere near a decision. I think Jaden is going to start focusing on some things, but he still has two more months of high school, and he still has all of that stuff going on.

“He’s finally starting to look more into his college recruitment. But, as for now, my guess — and it’s a guess — is it’s still Washington. Maybe it’s wishful thinking for Kentucky, but they’re still in there. … But I think the best guess is still staying out West and going to Washington.”

There is no exact timetable for McDaniels’ college announcement.

More bad news?

Five-star combo guard RJ Hampton recently cut his recruiting list to four schools — UK, Kansas, Memphis and Duke — and the likelihood that he will ultimately move from the 2020 class to the 2019 class appears to be increasing.

This week’s announcements that Ashton Hagans will return to UK and Tre Jones will return to Duke might’ve put those two schools in the back of the pack, if Hampton does indeed decide to reclassify.

“I don’t think it’s vital that RJ plays on the ball, but I definitely think it’s one thing he would like to do,” Evans said. “At Kentucky, you kind of have to share it, right? Especially with Ashton coming back and Tyrese (Maxey) coming in. Then you have Kahlil (Whitney) and Keion (Brooks), as well as Immanuel (Quickley). So, yeah, it could be a little crowded there in the backcourt.

“And then at Duke, same thing. You can’t really play Tre Jones off the basketball, because of his shooting. And Duke has really not invested a ton of time in RJ, primarily because they wanted to see what would happen with Tre.”

Jones was a 26 percent three-point shooter last season and projects to get a large majority of on-ball time for the Blue Devils next season. Hagans, Maxey and Quickley were all five-star point guards in high school, and Brooks and Whitney are five-star wings who can create from the perimeter.

Hampton, who has said he wants to run point in college, would likely get more of an opportunity to do so at Kansas or Memphis.

“I think those two definitely are the two out in front,” Evans said.

One to watch

Another reclassification candidate for 2019 is five-star center N’Faly Dante, who landed a UK scholarship offer a year ago and has remained on Calipari’s radar ever since.

Dante has been in Portland, Ore., this week preparing for Friday night’s Nike Hoop Summit, where the Mali native will compete for the World Select Team against Tyrese Maxey, Matthew Hurt and a squad of American high school players. He was officially measured at the event at 6-11, 249 pounds with a 7-5.5 wingspan and 9-5 standing reach. That’s a lot of length on a player that knows how to use it to his advantage as a rim-protector on the defensive end.

Dante is the No. 8 overall prospect in the rankings for 2020, and the Herald-Leader was told this week that Kentucky remains a legitimate player to land his commitment if he does decide to reclassify to 2019 and play next season. Dante will first compete on the Nike circuit, which begins play later this month.