Terrence Clarke sees himself as a ‘positionless’ play-maker
The fall recruiting period for college basketball coaches begins Monday, and while the focus of John Calipari and Kentucky’s coaching staff will largely be on prospects in the 2020 class, it’s likely they’ll be checking in on several star players currently in the class of 2021.
Over the past few days, Rivals.com national analyst Corey Evans has logged Future Cast predictions for the first three players in that 2021 class to land UK scholarship offers — Paolo Banchero, Terrence Clarke and Jonathan Kuminga — and it’s mostly good news for the Cats.
At least a couple of players from that group of Kentucky targets could end up reclassifying to 2020, meaning they could end up playing for the Wildcats next season.
The Kentucky predictions
Clarke — a 6-foot-6 guard — is of the most immediate interest to Kentucky fans after narrowing his list to six schools last week and announcing that he will reveal his college commitment Sept. 14.
The six schools on Clarke’s list are UK, Boston College, Duke, Memphis, Texas Tech and UCLA. “You have to think that Kentucky has the momentum there,” said Evans, who is predicting Clarke will pick UK.
Kentucky and hometown Boston College are the only schools that have hosted Clarke — the No. 2 player in the 2021 rankings — for recruiting visits. It appears highly unlikely that he will commit to Boston College or a school that he has yet to visit. Evans said he doesn’t expect Clarke to take any other visits between now and his announcement date. That leaves UK.
Then, the question becomes: will he reclassify to 2020?
Clarke, who turns 18 years old later this week, has said he would re-evaluate his reclassification prospects in the spring. Recruiting analysts expect him to ultimately end up in the 2020 class.
“He does have to get some academics aligned, but both Kentucky and Terrence are hell-bent on having him in ‘20,” Evans said. “I also think he wants to make sure he has all of his ducks in a row before he fully announces his (reclassification) decision.”
Evans is also predicting that Kentucky will ultimately land Banchero, a 6-9 power forward from Seattle and the No. 4 overall player in Rivals.com’s rankings for 2021.
Both of Banchero’s parents played sports at Washington, the hometown option, and the Huskies are still seen by many as the favorites in his recruitment.
“I definitely think he’s still some time away from deciding,” Evans said. “There are going to be a lot of fluctuations there, and maybe I just wanted to jump the gun a little bit and pick Kentucky. I think he does want to be recruited — this is not a done deal for Washington whatsoever.
“I think if he does leave Washington, it’s going to be Kentucky or Duke. And, right now, I think he’s feeling Kentucky a little more.”
Evans noted that Banchero, who’s still just 16 years old, has yet to take any recruiting visits outside of his hometown. He’s scheduled to see Lexington later this fall.
The Duke predictions
Now, the bad news for Kentucky.
Evans also logged a recent prediction in favor of Duke for Kuminga, the No. 1 player in Rivals.com’s 2021 rankings and the first recruit from the class to land a UK scholarship offer.
“I think he’s really intrigued by Duke,” Evans said. “I think he really likes the idea of going to Duke and what Duke is all about. But, it’s the same thing — he’s in no rush. He’s going to play things out and take some visits. But I do think Duke is on good footing there.”
Kuminga — a 6-8, do-it-all small forward — will keep Kentucky in the mix, and Evans said he still thinks the Congo native is more likely to stick in the 2021 class than make the move to 2020, which would give the Cats even more time to recruit him.
The most recent recipient of a UK offer for 2021 is Baldwin, a smooth-shooting 6-9 forward from Milwaukee and the No. 3 player in the Rivals.com rankings.
Baldwin, also 16 years old, has been billed as one of the youngest players ever to land a scholarship offer from Mike Krzyzewski, and Evans logged a prediction in favor of Duke this summer. He says there’s still a long way to go in that recruitment. (And reclassification has not been mentioned as a possibility).
“I think the schools to watch that aren’t getting enough notoriety are maybe Michigan State and Purdue. I think those two schools have really developed a great relationship with the kid and his family,” Evans said.
Both of Baldwin’s parents attended Northwestern, and Evans said that is another school to watch, along with Duke, Kentucky and possibly even Milwaukee, where his father is the head coach of the men’s basketball team.
UK’s 2020 point guard?
Perhaps the most intriguing player on UK’s early offer sheet for 2021 is Askew, a 6-3 point guard from California who is still being mentioned as a possible reclassification candidate to 2020.
Askew turns 18 years old next July and would be a little young for his age group if he does indeed move to the 2020 class, but Evans has high expectations for him at the next level.
“He is arguably the best ‘college’ point guard in high school basketball right now, in my mind, regardless of classification,” he said. “He has to become a better athlete and more explosive, but he’s a legitimate 6-foot-3 with a 6-7 wingspan at the point guard spot. He’s strong, he’s super mature. He’s all about the team. He can make shots. He can play-make. He can defend. He’s fiery. There really isn’t much that he’s missing on.
“He’s practically the entire package at the point guard spot.”
Evans acknowledged it would be a “big jump” to go from high school to possibly starting at point guard for a national title contender, but the analyst sees Askew as uniquely equipped to handle that pressure.
“The maturity and all that, it’s all there,” he said. “I think he definitely could do that, for sure.”
This summer, he led Team Why Not to the Peach Jam championship game — while playing alongside major UK target Jalen Green — and, this winter, he’ll be a second-year starter for storied California powerhouse Mater Dei.
This summer, Evans predicted that Askew would ultimately land at Louisville.
This week, he told the Herald-Leader that two others are in strong contention.
“I think the three to watch are Louisville, Kentucky and Villanova,” he said.
UK is still looking to fill its point guard slot for the 2020 class, and — with other targets seemingly leaning elsewhere — Askew is an intriguing possibility for the Wildcats.
“I do think Kentucky has a chance there, just because they have a major, major need at the point guard position. With all the talent that’s likely to be around him — and with guys like Tyrese Maxey and Ashton Hagans likely gone to the NBA — the lead guard spot is wide open.
“And that’s one of the most coveted positions in all of college basketball. You give that opportunity to a guy with the fire and competitive nature of Devin Askew, it’s hard to turn that down.”