UK Recruiting

These star basketball recruits could be next in line for a Kentucky scholarship offer

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.

By the end of this month, the landscape of Kentucky’s basketball recruiting efforts with prospects in the class of 2020 could look markedly different than it does now.

While it’s not necessarily likely that UK will land its first commitment for next year’s class over the next few weeks, recent history suggests the Wildcats’ chances with longstanding targets will become more clear. And new targets will almost certainly emerge.

The first of two July evaluation periods — when college coaches are permitted to watch recruits play in person — begins Thursday, and the Nike, Adidas and Under Armour circuits all have major events planned. Two weeks from now, there will be another evaluation period that spans several days and includes a USA Basketball-sponsored minicamp featuring most of Kentucky’s top targets in the 2020 class.

John Calpari has already extended nearly a dozen scholarship offers to players in that 2020 class, and more targets are about to rise up Kentucky’s recruiting wish list.

Going into July of last year, neither Kahlil Whitney nor Dontaie Allen had a UK scholarship offer. By the middle of August, both were committed to the Cats.

Two summers ago, Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro weren’t major UK priorities — Johnson was still without an offer and Herro was still committed to Wisconsin — and both ended up signing with the Wildcats that fall.

So, who’s out there in the 2020 class that could finish the summer with a new UK scholarship offer? Here are 10 candidates — in order of their 247Sports composite ranking — to keep an eye on:

Makur Maker

The versatile 6-foot-11 center — and cousin of NBA player Thon Maker — has been dominating the Adidas circuit, and his guardian, Ed Smith, told the Herald-Leader last month that they’ve been in regular contact with Kenny Payne and will be looking to visit UK soon. The talent to play for the Wildcats is certainly there. There’s still a question of whether Maker will play college ball at all. Though he and Smith have both been adamant that it’s in the plans, there are still rumblings in recruiting circles that one year of pro ball before the 2021 NBA Draft might be more likely. If Maker does indeed make it to Lexington in the next few weeks, a UK scholarship offer would be the expected result.

Major current offers: Oregon, UCLA, Southern Cal, Alabama.

247Sports composite ranking: No. 5.

Joshua Christopher

A shooting guard from California with top-10 talent, Christopher had not been linked to Kentucky until he said earlier this year that UK was his dream school growing up and he planned to visit Lexington soon. He’s been a dynamic player on the Nike circuit this year — 21.7 points and 5.8 assists per game — and the next stop is this week’s Peach Jam. It’s always a little tougher for UK to land the West Coast prospects — even those that admired the Wildcats growing up — and it’ll be interesting to see if Calipari decides to go all in on Christopher.

Major current offers: UCLA, Kansas, Oregon, Arizona State, Georgetown, Missouri.

247Sports composite ranking: No. 9.

Daishen Nix

The pool of UK point guard possibilities has been dwindling. The first at that position to land a UK offer was Jeremy Roach, who committed to Duke in the spring. The second was Sharife Cooper, who still seems destined for Auburn. And then there’s Cade Cunningham, whose brother was just hired as an Oklahoma State assistant coach. Nix, an Alaska native now living in Las Vegas, might be the only other five-star point guard option for UK, which dispatched Joel Justus for a visit a few weeks ago but has yet to extend a scholarship offer. The 6-5 playmaker said last month he really wanted to meet with Calipari, and if UK is going to be a major player in his recruitment, there should be some movement in that direction soon.

Major current offers: Kansas, UCLA, Maryland, Gonzaga, Alabama, Memphis, Washington.

247Sports composite ranking: No. 15.

Bryce Thompson

The leading scorer on the Under Armour circuit this spring has also been mentioned as a possible Kentucky target, though the Cats haven’t made him a priority just yet. That could change soon. Thompson — a 6-5 shooting guard from Tulsa, Okla. — has been elevated to five-star range in the rankings and is the kind of lights-out shooter that could find a meaningful spot on any team in the country.

Major current offers: North Carolina, Kansas, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas, Michigan State, Arkansas, Tennessee.

247Sports composite ranking: No. 20.

Nimari Burnett

The 6-3 shooting guard from Chicago is currently Nike league teammates with major UK target Jalen Green, and the duo will team up at Prolific Prep (Calif.) this high school season, with multiple games planned in the state of Kentucky. Burnett is a super scorer (20.4 points per game in Nike play) and Calipari has already watched him this spring. Playing alongside Green will ensure that UK’s coaches will see Burnett plenty over the next few months.

Major current offers: Southern Cal, Stanford, Arizona, Arizona State, Louisville, Marquette, Auburn, Alabama.

247Sports composite ranking: No. 23.

Dawson Garcia

The versatile 6-10 forward from Minnesota can play inside and out, and he’s clearly interested in a Kentucky scholarship offer. This month could be the time when the Wildcats get more serious about the Adidas travel circuit star. In a class thin on quality big men, Garcia is emerging as one of the best in the bunch.

Major current offers: North Carolina, Kansas, Marquette, Texas, Indiana, Minnesota.

247Sports composite ranking: No. 32.

Four-star power forward Dawson Garcia won a gold medal in 3-on-3 basketball with Team USA earlier this spring, and he's caught UK's attention on the recruiting trail.

Mady Sissoko

This one might be more of a long shot, but Sissoko — a 6-9 center from Mali, now living in Utah — told the Herald-Leader last month that Kentucky inquired about his recruitment in the spring, and his stock has only risen since. He’s a hard-working post player with a lot of potential and has split time between Nike and Under Armour travel teams.

Major current offers: UCLA, Brigham Young, Colorado, Michigan State, North Carolina State, Miami, Auburn.

247Sports composite ranking: No. 42.

Lance Ware

An intriguing frontcourt option who could be due for a rankings bump soon, Ware plays for the same Camden (N.J.) High School as former Calipari super recruit Dajuan Wagner. He’s been on UK’s radar for a while, but Calipari has taken a longer look at the 6-9 power forward in recent weeks and will be seeing him again at Peach Jam. The Herald-Leader has been told UK would be in a great spot for Ware if a scholarship offer does indeed come his way.

Major current offers: Maryland, Miami, Ohio State, Virginia Tech, Providence.

247Sports composite ranking: No. 47.

Niels Lane

The 6-5 shooting guard enjoyed a solid spring on the Nike circuit, averaging 14.2 points per game and landing on the EYBL “all-breakout” team. Lane attends the same Roselle Catholic (N.J.) school that sent Isaiah Briscoe and Kahlil Whitney to UK, and he’ll play alongside Wildcats target Cliff Omoruyi there this season. Calipari watched both players recently. Omoruyi already has a UK offer. Will Lane get one later this year?

Major current offers: Florida, Xavier, Seton Hall, Providence, UConn.

247Sports composite ranking: No. 69.

Karim Mane

His composite ranking still hasn’t caught up to his talent level, but Mane — ranked No. 30 on 247Sports’ in-house list — is emerging as a major prospect in the 2020 class. Kentucky reached out to his camp after seeing the 6-5 combo guard play in the FIBA U19 World Cup earlier this summer. The Canada native would be 20 years old by the start of the 2020-21 season and has proven himself to be a college-ready scorer. He plays on the Under Armour travel circuit.

Major current offers: Kansas, Maryland, Xavier, Texas.

247Sports composite ranking: No. 122.

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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