UK Recruiting

Kentucky basketball recruiting hot board: Where things stand with top 2020 targets

UK basketball target Isaiah Todd talks about reclassification

Five-star basketball recruit Isaiah Todd talks about John Calipari, his interest in Kentucky, the possibility of a move from the 2020 class to the 2019 class, and who's input will be important in his decision.
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Five-star basketball recruit Isaiah Todd talks about John Calipari, his interest in Kentucky, the possibility of a move from the 2020 class to the 2019 class, and who's input will be important in his decision.

Earlier this month, highly touted point guard Jeremy Roach became the first five-star player from the 2020 recruiting class to announce his college destination with a commitment to Duke.

Many of his peers will join him with commitments in the coming weeks and months, and Kentucky appears well-positioned with several top 2020 stars as the recruiting calendar nears summer. With nearly a dozen UK scholarship offers already out there, here’s a look at John Calipari’s top targets and where their recruitments stand this spring (rankings are from the 247Sports composite):

Guards

Sharife Cooper: The Atlanta-area point guard is a wizard with the basketball, and despite his maybe-6-foot frame can score from all over the court, against all manner of defenders. He earned a UK scholarship offer last fall and the Wildcats are generally thought to be in the top two in his recruitment, along with Auburn, which has added several picks in its favor from national recruiting analysts and appears to be the favorite. There has been talk that Cooper, who turns 18 next month, might reclassify to 2019 and play college basketball this season. If that happens, Auburn looks like the choice. (Ranking: No. 18 overall).

Sharife Cooper, the No. 1 basketball recruit in the USA Today rankings for the 2020 class, talks about his interest in Kentucky and Auburn.

Daishen Nix: If Cooper does indeed pick Auburn sometime soon, Nix could very well emerge as UK’s top point guard target for the 2020 class. (And he might anyway). The Alaska native — now playing for a private school in Las Vegas — has the size and playmaking ability that Calipari craves with his point guards. The 6-4 prospect has been described by Rivals.com national analyst Eric Bossi as a “pure passer” with “off the charts basketball IQ.” UK assistant coach Joel Justus visited him earlier this month. Kansas is among his many early offers. (Ranking: No. 13 overall).

Cade Cunningham: You could slot Cunningham as anything from a point guard to a small-ball “4”, and — depending on the personnel around him and the opposing matchup — he could fill any of those roles. The 6-7 Texas native has a college-ready body and an unselfish approach that should blend in well regardless of roster. He has been as impressive as any player on the highly competitive Nike circuit so far this spring and played his junior season at prep powerhouse Montverde Academy (Fla.). UK has ramped up its recruiting efforts in recent weeks. All of the blue-blood schools will likely be heavily involved. (Ranking: No. 7 overall).

Five-star basketball recruit Cade Cunningham talks about his recruitment, his interest in Kentucky, other schools on his list, and more after the first day of action on the Nike EYBL circuit.

Jalen Green: The de facto top-ranked available recruit in the 2020 class — since No. 1 prospect Evan Mobley is almost certain to follow his family ties to Southern Cal — Green is a dynamic shooting guard from California and the No. 2-ranked prospect in the Rivals, 247Sports and ESPN rankings. He has off-the-charts athleticism, a knack for scoring, an improving outside shot, and all the tools college coaches look for in a top perimeter prospect. Memphis has been mentioned as a favorite, but Green recently told the Herald-Leader that his recruitment remains wide open. Calipari has made multiple cross-country trips to see him already, and UK’s pursuit of Green won’t be slowing down anytime soon. (Ranking: No. 2 overall).

Brandon Boston: A teammate of Cooper’s on the Nike circuit, Boston is another dynamic scorer with tons of size and length on the perimeter who has drawn some early comparisons to Brandon Ingram. The Atlanta-area native earned a UK scholarship offer during a visit to Rupp Arena late in the 2018-19 season, and he raved about that trip in an interview with the Herald-Leader a few weeks ago. Good news for UK: national recruiting experts Andrew Slater and Jerry Meyer put in Crystal Ball predictions in favor of Kentucky on Boston’s page last week. It’s early, but the Cats seem to be in a good place. Boston cut his list to UK, Duke, Auburn and Florida over the weekend. (Ranking: No. 8 overall).

Justin Powell: The only Kentucky native on this list, Powell is from Louisville, first starred at Trinity, moved to Montverde Academy in Florida and then transferred back to North Oldham High School where he’ll be a senior this fall. The 6-5 shooting guard started out Nike play with a three-point barrage in Atlanta and was already on UK’s radar before that, hearing regularly from Justus, who also visited after Powell’s impressive Nike debut. If the Wildcats are going to extend a scholarship offer, it should probably come sooner rather than later. Powell is eyeing an early commitment, and Auburn appears to be in good shape unless Kentucky jumps in completely. Other new schools are also getting more involved in his recruitment. Powell’s national ranking should rise now that he’s back on the court after missing pretty much all of his junior season. (Ranking: No. 224 overall).

North Oldham High School basketball player Justin Powell got off to a great start on the Nike circuit, scoring 26 points and making all six of his three-pointers in his debut Saturday.

Others to watch: A trio of shooting guards — Nimari Burnett, Matthew Murrell and Bryce Thompson — all caught Kentucky’s attention in the spring evaluation period and will be worth keeping an eye on as the 2020 cycle progresses. Burnett is a super scorer who will team up with Jalen Green in high school next season. Murrell is a Memphis standout but is apparently no lock for Penny Hardaway’s emerging program in that city. Thompson, an Oklahoma native, is the leading scorer on the Under Armour circuit and has been hearing from the Wildcats.

Wings/forwards

Scottie Barnes: The first recruit in the 2020 class to land a UK scholarship offer is still very much on the Wildcats’ radar, with Calipari visiting him in south Florida and making sure to be courtside for his Nike league debut last month. The 6-8 small forward likes to play on the perimeter — he has even discussed running some point with college coaches — but is also a terrific rebounder for his position and can defend several different types of opponents. He has cut his list to eight schools — UK, California, Duke, Florida State, Kansas, Miami, Ohio State and Oregon — but don’t expect a decision anytime soon. Barnes has said he plans to wait until next spring to pick a school. (Ranking: No. 4 overall).

Isaiah Todd: When it appeared that Todd — a 6-10 power forward — was planning to reclassify to 2019, the Wildcats emerged as a major favorite. The North Carolina high school standout has decided to stick in the 2020 class, but UK is still seen as a front-runner in his recruitment. Calipari has been giving him plenty of attention in recent weeks, and Todd would be a versatile threat at the forward position — a player with skills around the basket that can step out and make plays on the perimeter, too. Todd is Nike league teammates with Scottie Barnes this spring, and he’s been among the top 10 rebounders in league play so far. (Ranking: No. 12 overall).

Jalen Johnson: The Wisconsin native visited UK for Big Blue Madness in 2017 and 2018, and he recently cut his recruiting list to include only Kentucky, Duke, Arizona and the home-state Badgers. Calipari has been recruiting the versatile, 6-8 forward hard, but the Blue Devils appear to be the clear favorite with a college decision possibly coming sometime this summer. National recruiting experts Eric Bossi, Evan Daniels, Corey Evans, Jerry Meyer and Andrew Slater have all logged predictions in favor of Duke, despite Johnson calling UK his “dream school” in a recent interview. (National ranking: No. 3).

Five-star basketball recruit Jalen Johnson says Kentucky was his dream school growing up, starting with John Wall, the star player on John Calipari's first team in Lexington.

Cam’Ron Fletcher: A high-flying prospect from St. Louis, Fletcher’s stock has been on the rise in recent months, and UK’s interest level appears to be increasing along with it. Assistant coach Kenny Payne was on the front row of Fletcher’s Nike league opener last month, and Fletcher said Payne has told him he wants the 6-6 wing to visit Lexington sometime this summer, hinting that a scholarship offer could coincide with that recruiting trip. It’s a visit Fletcher is planning to make happen after the AAU season.He’s already visited Michigan State, and Duke and UCLA are among the others on his list. (National ranking: No. 36).

Henry Coleman: A newer name to UK’s list of recruiting possibilities in the 2020 class, Coleman is a 6-7 forward from Virginia who has been a standout player on the Adidas circuit this spring. He packs plenty of strength into his frame, isn’t afraid to battle in the paint, and projects as a multi-positional defender at the next level. The reigning national champion and home-state Cavaliers look to be in pretty good shape going into the summer, but Kentucky and Duke are among the other programs now paying more attention to his recruitment. (National ranking: No. 45 overall).

Post players

N’Faly Dante: A few days after Scottie Barnes confirmed his UK scholarship offer last spring, Dante became the second player in the 2020 class to land one. The Mali native — now a standout for prep powerhouse Sunrise Christian in Kansas — is a high-level rebounder and shot blocker and was named the most valuable player of the most recent Nike league session. Louisiana State was getting a lot of buzz in the 7-footer’s recruitment before Coach Will Wade’s suspension earlier this year. Wade has been reinstated, but it’s now unclear who is at the top of Dante’s list, and whether or not he’ll make a long-rumored jump to the 2019 class and play college ball later this year also remains a mystery. (National ranking: No. 10 overall).

OmoruyiNike.JPG
Cliff Omoruyi earned a scholarship offer from Kentucky earlier this year. Dean Legge

Cliff Omoruyi: The Nigerian-born center plays for the same New Jersey high school that once featured Isaiah Briscoe and last season had Kahlil Whitney, who was teammates with Omoruyi and will be one of UK’s top players next season. Omoruyi earned a UK scholarship offer after playing in front of Calipari during his junior campaign and then meeting with the UK coach earlier this spring. “He’s the definition of a rim protector: 6-10 with a 7-6 wingspan, fully well-proportioned and strong as a frickin’ house,” said Rivals.com’s Corey Evans recently. The relatively early UK offer apparently had a big effect on Omoruyi. (National ranking: No. 57 overall).

Makur Maker: The younger cousin of NBA player Thon Maker has been perhaps the biggest breakout star in the country over the past few months, rising all the way to No. 3 overall in the 247Sports rankings. He’s a 7-footer who can handle the ball, shoot threes, run the floor, and do everything that will be expected of a center at the college level. Unlike Thon Maker, it appears that Makur is planning to go the college route before heading off to the professional ranks. When it became clear that UK was going to miss out on Matthew Hurt earlier this spring, Calipari called an audible and met with Maker instead. (His composite ranking of No. 67 does not reflect how highly he will be rated after future updates).

Hunter Dickinson: The 7-2 center from perennial basketball power DeMatha (Md.) has been ranked among the top big men in the 2020 class for years, and Kentucky hosted him for an unofficial visit on a gameday earlier this year. He’s more of an old-school player in the paint. Calipari hasn’t extended a scholarship offer yet, but he’s still on the radar for next year’s class. Notre Dame has been the school most often mentioned in relation to his recruitment. (Ranking: No. 22 overall).

Dawson Garcia: Justus visited Garcia — a 6-11 power forward from Minnesota — during the season, and he’s expected to remain on the Wildcats’ radar moving forward (though he does not yet have a UK scholarship offer). Garcia averaged 27.5 points and 11.0 rebounds per game as a junior, and his list of scholarship offers features pretty much all of the Big Ten in addition to several other major programs. (Ranking: No. 28 overall).

Next Cats 2020

Be sure to visit our Next Cats recruiting page dedicated to Kentucky’s targets in the 2020 class at this link. The page includes more info on all of these players, plus expanded rankings, video highlights and Crystal Ball links for each recruit.

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