UK Recruiting

UK still in mix for five-star center N’Faly Dante. ‘We expect a decision really soon.’

Here’s where the top basketball recruits are playing in college next season

Here's where the Top 10 recruits in the nation are playing college basketball next season. Rankings are according to ESPN.com.
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Here's where the Top 10 recruits in the nation are playing college basketball next season. Rankings are according to ESPN.com.

For the past several weeks, the members of this season’s University of Kentucky basketball team have been on campus, getting to know each other, and going through summer workouts.

As they’ve settled in, a potential teammate has been weighing his next step.

N’Faly Dante — a 7-footer from Mali and now playing at Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas — is one of the top frontcourt players in the class of 2020, but he’s been trying to make the jump to the 2019 class in order to play college basketball this season, and Kentucky remains a viable destination.

Dante’s host mother, AJ Doyle, told the Herald-Leader on Thursday that a decision on the five-star recruit’s immediate future is coming.

“As far as timeline, we expect a decision really soon,” she said. “There isn’t a deadline, but we expect something really soon.”

Dante’s game is ready for college, but he’s still going through the steps of getting cleared for the coming season, a process that is often more stringent for international recruits than it is for players who grow up in the United States.

There’s been ongoing speculation over test scores or final high school class credits, though Doyle said “it’s no one thing” that’s holding up an announcement on if Dante will move on to the next level of basketball this season.

It also might be a few more days before that decision comes. Dante is scheduled to compete at the invitation-only Nike Skills Academy in Los Angeles next week. That academy runs through Aug. 11, and Doyle said the star prospect has been focusing on preparing for the high-profile event.

In the meantime, he has been continuing to weigh his college options.

Dante has been on recruiting visits to Kentucky, Oregon, Louisiana State and Iowa State, and though Doyle didn’t speculate on his destination and Dante has refrained from naming any favorites, all of the recent buzz in recruiting circles has pointed toward UK or Oregon being the most likely landing spot, should he reclassify to 2019.

Rivals.com national analyst Eric Bossi made a prediction in favor of Kentucky over the weekend and told the Herald-Leader on Wednesday that he thinks the Wildcats have a good shot going into the final stages of this recruitment. “Heck yeah, I do,” he said. Others have logged recent picks in favor of the Ducks on Dante’s 247Sports Crystal Ball page.

The general thinking among recruiting analysts is that Dante will ultimately end up in the 2019 class. He would be a major addition to a Kentucky team that is obviously still looking for some frontcourt help for next season.

The Wildcats missed on several top post players in the 2019 recruiting cycle and then lost out to Florida for No. 1-ranked graduate transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr.

Shortly after Blackshear announced his commitment to the Gators late last month, the UK coaches had Dante on campus for an official visit. On that trip, Dante was accompanied by Doyle, her husband, Danny, and their infant child.

“It was great to get to know the staff more and to get to know the team, as well,” Doyle said. “Dante is very relational, and so for him to get to know the people involved better is always a win. With a program like Kentucky, you know the accolades and you know the success they’ve had coming into it, but really getting to know the people is what the visit is all about.”

If he were to end up at Kentucky this season, Dante would bolster a frontcourt that already includes third-year center Nick Richards, sophomore power forward EJ Montgomery, and veteran power forward Nate Sestina, the nation’s No. 2-ranked graduate transfer.

Dante is the No. 12 overall prospect in the 2020 class, according to the 247Sports composite rankings, and recently led his team to the prestigious Nike Peach Jam title, earning MVP honors in the title game by tallying 22 points and 18 rebounds to cap a stellar summer.

Calipari would like to add the elite rim-protector and rebounder to his 2019-20 squad, which is already seen as one of the nation’s top contenders for an NCAA title.

“Coach obviously has the players first perspective, so we really had a chance to talk with him about how he helps develop players and prepare them for whatever the next goal is,” Doyle said. “So we talked about that — what Dante’s goals were — and got a chance to hear a little about what that might look like at Kentucky. And then we had a chance to see the team that they’ve got — a great team — and how it might be to play with that talent.”

Though the Cats are already going through summer workouts, Dante still has some time to join the team. Fall classes at UK start Aug. 26, while Oregon — which is on the quarter system — doesn’t begin its fall session until Oct. 1.

“The summer is coming to an end, so I think he’d like to make a decision soon,” Doyle said.

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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