UK Recruiting

Here’s the status of nation’s top 10 basketball prospects as summer recruiting heats up

Makur Maker got a great first impression of Calipari

Makur Maker, the No. 2 basketball recruit in the 247Sports rankings for 2020, addresses reclassification rumors and his first impression of Kentucky Coach John Calipari.
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Makur Maker, the No. 2 basketball recruit in the 247Sports rankings for 2020, addresses reclassification rumors and his first impression of Kentucky Coach John Calipari.

The calendar has turned to July, and the recruiting process is heating up for several of the top basketball prospects in the class of 2020.

Big-time scholarship offers are still going out, campus visits are being scheduled, and it should only be a matter of time before some of the five-star players in this group make their college decisions.

Here’s a look at the latest in the recruitments of the nation’s top 10 players — according to the 247Sports rankings — as they head into the summer:

1. Evan Mobley

Rivals.com, ESPN and 247Sports all agree that Mobley — a 6-foot-11 center from California — is the No. 1 overall recruit in the 2020 class. Something else that recruiting insiders agree on: Mobley is almost certain to end up at Southern Cal, where his father is an assistant coach and his older brother (fellow five-star recruit Isaiah Mobley) will be a freshman this season. Unless there’s an unforeseen coaching change, the Trojans will be landing the nation’s top prospect.

2. Makur Maker

This one will be interesting. Maker’s older cousins — Thon and Matur — both went straight from high school to the pros, but Makur has said he plans to go to college, and the guardian of all three players, Ed Smith, recently told the Herald-Leader that is indeed the plan, laying out some compelling reasons as to why Makur’s path will be different. Kentucky has stayed in close contact, and Smith said they should be visiting sometime soon. If the versatile 7-footer does indeed go the college route, Oregon is the team with the most behind-the-scenes buzz right now.

3. Cade Cunningham

Like the Mobley recruitment, a family connection has basically ended this one. Cunningham’s older brother was hired as an assistant coach at Oklahoma State last week, a move that had long been rumored in recruiting circles. Before that, the 6-7 prospect with point guard skills seemed like one of UK’s top 2020 targets. That’s no longer the case. There have been cases of college programs hiring a recruit’s family member and still not getting a commitment — Tyrese Maxey’s father was on staff at Southern Methodist not too long ago, for instance — but the Herald-Leader was told last month that Cunningham was almost certain to end up wherever his brother did. This looks like a major victory for the Cowboys.

4. Jalen Green

The elite scorer from California could be the one to end John Calipari’s skid with top-five recruits. Rivals and ESPN both rank Green as the No. 3 player in the class, and the UK coach has made him a major priority over the past several months. Rivals national analyst Corey Evans recently told the Herald-Leader that Kentucky should be considered the favorite in Green’s recruitment. UK assistant coach Joel Justus is in Greece right now to see him with the USA Basketball U19 team. Going into the summer, things are looking good for the Cats.

5. Scottie Barnes

The first player in the 2020 class to receive a UK scholarship offer remains something of an enigma on the recruiting trail. There has been talk that Kentucky is an unlikely landing spot for Barnes — and that might end up being true — but the lack of buzz is also due to a lack of relevant intel. Barnes simply hasn’t shed much light on his recruitment to this point, and that’s bound to change in the coming months. Oregon and Miami — the local choice for the 6-7 wing — are still the schools talked about most.

6. Ziaire Williams

Kentucky hasn’t been connected to Williams — a 6-7 small forward from California — and though Stanford had some early buzz in his recruitment, North Carolina has now emerged as the possible favorite. The Tar Heels landed just one consensus top-10 recruit from 2012 to 2017, but they got Nas Little in 2018 and Cole Anthony this year. Williams could keep that streak alive.

7. Jalen Johnson

The 6-8 forward from Wisconsin has cut his list to Kentucky, Duke, Arizona and the home-state Badgers, and a college decision is probably not far off. Though he told the Herald-Leader at last month’s Top 100 Camp that Duke is not necessarily the favorite, that’s still the school that recruiting insiders expect to land his commitment.

8. Josh Christopher

He has long been considered one of the top players in the 2020 class, but UK has been notably absent from any talk about his recruitment. That changed recently, when the 6-4 shooting guard from California said the Cats have been in contact and called UK his “dream school.” Christopher said he’ll visit Lexington soon. His older brother, Caleb, was a two-star recruit in the 2019 class and will be a freshman this season at Arizona State, which has led to positive buzz for the Sun Devils in Josh’s recruitment. Southern Cal and other Pac-12 schools are also involved.

9. Greg Brown

Another top-10 player that has not been linked to Kentucky, the athletic 6-8 power forward has been impressive playing alongside Cade Cunningham on the Nike circuit this spring. Brown’s father played football at Texas, his uncle played basketball for the Longhorns, and he attends an Austin high school. Naturally, Shaka Smart has made him a top priority in 2020. Auburn, Memphis and North Carolina have also received some recent buzz.

10. Daishen Nix

Kentucky fans have gotten excited about this talented point guard in recent weeks, but talk that the Wildcats might be emerging as favorites for the Alaska native are likely premature. Nix plays for a Las Vegas private school and independent AAU team, and the Herald-Leader was told late last week that programs such as Alabama, Kansas and Maryland are also well-positioned in a recruitment that could take a few twists and turns before a commitment occurs. But with Jeremy Roach already picking Duke, Cade Cunningham probably headed to Oklahoma State, and Sharife Cooper seemingly leaning toward Auburn, Nix is still likely UK’s best bet to land a five-star point guard in this class.

Two more to watch

The 10 recruits mentioned above represent the top 10 players in the 247Sports rankings, but two prospects not on that list have achieved top-10 status over at Rivals.com. Both are major UK targets.

N’Faly Dante — a 7-footer from Mali now playing for Sunrise Christian (Kan.) — was on UK’s campus for an official visit last weekend and is ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 9 overall player in the 2020 class. He could still jump to 2019, however, and the Herald-Leader was told going into that trip that Oregon and Louisiana State remained the two most likely landing spots. We’ll see if UK did enough to change his mind over the weekend.

Brandon Boston — a 6-7 wing from the Atlanta area — is No. 10 in the Rivals.com rankings and has already cut his list to Kentucky, Auburn, Duke and Florida. The Cats have emerged in recent weeks as the favorites, and Boston would be a perfect complement to a player like Jalen Green, giving UK a formidable scoring duo that could co-exist on the wings.

The Wildcats hope to ride their momentum in his recruitment to a possible early commitment.

Ben Roberts covers UK basketball, football and other sports for the Lexington Herald-Leader and has specialized in UK basketball recruiting for the past several years. He also maintains the Next Cats recruiting blog, which features the latest news on the Wildcats’ recruiting efforts.
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