UK Recruiting

‘A great start’: Kentucky’s first basketball commitment for 2020 is a top-10 talent

Five-star guard Brandon Boston talks UK and recruiting

Five-star basketball prospect Brandon Boston has narrowed his recruitment to four schools: Kentucky, Duke, Auburn and Florida.
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Five-star basketball prospect Brandon Boston has narrowed his recruitment to four schools: Kentucky, Duke, Auburn and Florida.

A little more than a month ago, five-star shooting guard Brandon “BJ” Boston had just cut his recruiting list to four schools and was asked what he was looking for in a college destination.

He had a simple response.

“They gotta want me,” Boston said.

If it wasn’t already clear to the 6-foot-6 basketball prospect that he was major UK priority at that time, John Calipari and his coaching staff hammered home the point a few weeks later at Nike’s season-ending Peach Jam event. Whenever Boston set foot on the court, Calipari and his assistants were watching.

On Saturday afternoon, the chase was over. Boston announced his commitment to Kentucky.

His Nike league coach, Omar Cooper, told the Herald-Leader that UK’s presence in the closing stages of Boston’s recruitment “definitely” helped seal the deal for the Wildcats, who first hosted the Atlanta-area standout for a recruiting visit two years ago and then welcomed him back to campus in February.

This spring and summer, the Cats have been following Boston’s every move, and UK had him on campus again this week for the first official visit of his recruitment. That trip ended with his commitment.

“They were at every game. Every single game at Peach Jam,” said Cooper, who is also the father of UK point guard target Sharife Cooper. “And you know it’s more than just you playing out there. So when you’ve got the head coach sitting at every single game, you know the next time you go on that campus it’s a whole different talk.

“At first, it’s like, ‘We like you, we like you.’ And you’re like, ‘Yeah, OK. OK.’ Other kids hear the same thing, too. And kids talk. But then, when every time you’re in the layup line and he’s sitting there, he’s not moving and he’s locked in on you — when you see that, the next time you go talk to him, it’s a whole different conversation. That definitely played a part in the reason he committed. … It’s a great fit for him, and I think he’ll do well. I’m proud of him. It’s a great choice.”

Kentucky targeted Boston as one of its top 2020 priorities early in the process. UK assistant coach Joel Justus was there from the initial stages of his recruitment, and recruiting analysts started pegging the Wildcats as the team to beat this spring. Auburn, Duke and Florida were the other schools on his list when he narrowed it down two months ago.

“A lot of kids want to commit to Kentucky. They just want to know that — as much as they want to be there — that the coach wants them there,” Cooper said. “And when a coach is at your game for the whole tournament, they’re letting you know, ‘We want you here.’”

Boston is UK’s first commitment for the class of 2020, and ranks him as the No. 10 overall player in that group. He averaged 22.8 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game on the Nike travel circuit this year, earning MVP honors at one of the league’s three regular-season sessions.

His three-point percentage was down in 2019 — going just 24.2 percent from deep in Nike EYBL play this year — but he shot better than 40 percent from long range during the 2018 Nike schedule and was 14-for-20 on threes during last year’s Peach Jam finals.

Cooper noted two possible reasons for Boston’s drop in outside shooting efficiency. First, the EYBL moved to an international three-point line this year, a difference of about two and a half feet more than Boston was used to during the high school season. Nike also adopted a 24-second shot clock this season, and Cooper said that Boston — one of the league’s most dynamic offensive players — often ended up with the ball in his hands in late-clock, low-efficiency situations.

“That’ll have something to do with it,” he said.

Boston’s coach isn’t concerned about his ability as an outside shooter moving forward, and he noted that strides the new UK commitment has made as a rebounder and defender in the past year, adding more wrinkles to his versatile game.

“He used to be just a shooter,” Cooper said. “Now he’s just a whole different player.” national analyst Corey Evans noted another strength.

“One undervalued aspect to his game is just how well he passes the ball,” Evans told the Herald-Leader on Saturday. “That’s one part that he does really, really well that kind of gets overlooked. And at a place like Kentucky that consistently has so many scoring weapons, I think BJ is really going to thrive as a playmaker and scorer.”

He should also prove to be a bonus as UK continues to recruit his class of 2020 peers.

An example of Boston’s popularity within that group: Evans said he spoke to Duke commitment Jalen Johnson shortly after Boston picked UK over the Blue Devils, and Johnson said he would have liked to have played alongside his fellow top-10 recruit in college. “Having BJ on your team opens up so many different options that make your life as a ballplayer that much easier,” Evans said.

Boston is transferring from Norcross (Ga.) to Sierra Canyon (Calif.) for his senior season of high school. There, he’ll play alongside a star-studded group that includes top-10 recruit Ziaire Williams — another possible UK target for 2020 — as well as the sons of NBA stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, in addition to a few other highly touted recruits.

Then, it’ll be on to college. For now, Boston is the Wildcats’ only commitment for the class of 2020, but he’ll likely have company soon.

“It’s a great start,” Evans said. “And the best part about it is the fact that BJ is so multidimensional to where there’s really no specific position on the floor that he’s pigeon-holed in. So Kentucky can go out and recruit more guards and wings and not have BJ as any kind of hindrance in doing so.”

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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