Highly touted forward has high level of interest in Kentucky
The fall recruiting period for college basketball is here, and that means John Calipari and his assistants will be out on the road starting Monday — along with every other coach in the country — to check in on their top targets in the 2020 class and beyond.
Kentucky already has two commitments for next year, and the Cats are expected to add another one this weekend. Here’s a look at the current state of their 2020 recruiting efforts with notes on 20 players Calipari and his coaching staff could be seeing in the near future:
UK point guard targets
Ashton Hagans and Tyrese Maxey are both expected to move on to the NBA Draft following the 2019-20 season, opening up the point guard spot for a new face. Immanuel Quickley, who played a more off-the-ball role last season and is likely to be in that position again as a sophomore, could emerge as UK’s point guard if he’s back for a third year. The Cats could also go after a graduate transfer, but they’re still looking at possibilities from the 2020 class.
Sharife Cooper: The Atlanta-area standout is the most celebrated high school point guard in the country and should be an instant-impact college player despite his smaller stature (6-feet and 160 pounds). He landed a UK scholarship offer last fall, but — unless there’s a dramatic change in his recruitment — he’s expected to end up at Auburn.
Top competition: Auburn
Player ranking: No. 17
Cade Cunningham: The highest-ranked uncommitted player in the 2020 class has narrowed his list to UK, Florida, North Carolina, Washington and Oklahoma State (where his brother is an assistant coach). The versatile 6-7 playmaker is seen by many as a lock for the Cowboys, but he has told other coaches he remains open in his recruitment. John Calipari started the recruiting period Monday by visiting Cunningham at Montverde Academy (Fla.), a trip that would indicate he still thinks Kentucky has a good shot to land his commitment.
Top competition: Oklahoma State
Player ranking: No. 2
Karim Mane: The Senegal native now living in Canada popped up on UK’s radar during a FIBA event over the summer, but he still doesn’t have an offer from the Wildcats. The 6-4 guard turns 20 years old in May and will be eligible for the 2020 NBA Draft, meaning he could skip college altogether. His recruitment should clear up somewhat in the coming weeks.
Top competition: NBA, a wide-open college recruitment
Player ranking: No. 24
Devin Askew: Technically, Askew is still in the 2021 class, though he is thinking about a move to 2020. Such an announcement likely wouldn’t come until next spring or summer, so if the Cats have a glaring need for a point guard at that time, it could be a perfect match. The 6-3 playmaker from California should be an instant-impact player in college, regardless of which class he ends up in. Rivals.com national analyst Corey Evans recently predicted Askew will end up at Kentucky.
Top competition: Villanova, Louisville
Player ranking: No. 15 (in 2021)
UK guard/wing targets
It looks like Kentucky will end up with a deep, talented group on the perimeter for the 2020-21 season. Kahlil Whitney is expected to be an NBA Draft pick following this season, but the Cats could get back Dontaie Allen, Keion Brooks and Johnny Juzang for a second year. UK already has commitments from five-star shooting guard Brandon Boston and four-star wing Cam’Ron Fletcher, and the Cats are widely expected to land a commitment from five-star guard Terrence Clarke (a top-five national recruit) this weekend. If Clarke does pick UK and ultimately moves to the 2020 class, Calipari might not need any more off-ball guards or wings in this cycle.
Scottie Barnes: The Florida native was the first 2020 recruit to land a UK offer, but there hasn’t been much buzz around the Wildcats in recent months. Barnes is a 6-7 prospect who plays a “point forward” style and has a gritty, team-focused approach that would fit well at UK. He’s high school teammates with Cade Cunningham, and Calipari was in Florida to see both players Monday.
Top competition: Oregon
Player ranking: No. 8
Josh Christopher: A flashy 6-5 shooting guard from the Los Angeles area, Christopher has narrowed his list to Arizona State (where his brother plays), Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri and UCLA. He’s not expected to make a college decision until the spring and is probably the most likely player in this category to end up at UK after Clarke, though the Cats might already be too loaded at the position.
Top competition: UCLA
Player ranking: No. 10
Terrence Clarke: Currently in the 2021 class, the 6-5 shooting guard (with some point guard skills) is scheduled to announce his college commitment Saturday, and UK is the favorite. Clarke is also expected to reclassify to 2020 in the spring. 247Sports national analyst Evan Daniels said last week that he would likely be ranked No. 3 or 4 in the 2020 class.
Top competition: None — UK is the clear favorite
Player ranking: No. 3 (in 2021)
Jalen Green: The smooth 6-5 shooting guard from California is planning to announce his college decision Dec. 25, and UK and Memphis have long been the two most talked about schools in his recruitment. Green has also left open the possibility of playing a year of overseas pro ball between high school and the 2021 NBA Draft. Daniels wrote last week that Clarke’s commitment to UK could end the Cats’ chances of landing Green.
Top competition: Memphis
Player ranking: No. 3
Jonathan Kuminga: Another player currently in the 2021 class, Kuminga could also reclassify to 2020 and play college basketball next season. He was the first recruit in the 2021 class to land a UK scholarship offer and his versatile game — a 6-8 player who has excelled at multiple positions — makes him one of the most coveted recruits in the country. He’ll play this season at Nick Richards’ alma mater in New Jersey.
Top competition: Duke
Player ranking: No. 1 (in 2021)
Jay Scrubb: The former Louisville Trinity standout has grown three inches since high school — he’s now listed as a 6-6 shooting guard — and is ranked as the No. 1 junior college player in the country. Scrubb, who made 46.4 percent of his threes last season, includes UK on his list of 10 finalists and has also been mentioned as a straight-to-the-NBA prospect in 2020.
Top competition: Louisville, Cincinnati, NBA Draft
Player ranking: No. 1 (juco)
UK frontcourt targets
This is the biggest question mark for UK going into the fall recruiting period. The Cats could lose all three of their frontcourt players from this season’s team — Richards, EJ Montgomery, and Nate Sestina — and such a scenario would mean a whole new group for 2020-21. If that happens, adding at least one graduate transfer for some veteran presence seems a logical move, but there are plenty of talented high school options still out there.
Greg Brown: The super-athletic 6-8 power forward from Austin has UK on his list of finalists along with Auburn, Memphis, North Carolina and home-state Texas. Brown quietly emerged as a major Kentucky target over the summer, and the Cats would love to pry him away from the Longhorns. He’s expected to watch this season play out before making a decision.
Top competition: Texas
Player ranking: No. 7
Isaiah Jackson: Jackson took an official visit to Lexington earlier this month, and the highly athletic 6-9 power forward from the Detroit area will be worth keeping an eye on this fall. He’ll be playing at his fourth high school in four years this season, and his recruitment could extend into the spring.
Top competition: Michigan State
Player ranking: No. 24
Cliff Omoruyi: The only true center with a UK offer for the 2020 class, Omoruyi is a 6-9 grinder in the paint and attends the same school that produced Isaiah Briscoe and Whitney, his teammate last season. Omoruyi has scheduled over a dozen campus visits and appears to be wide-open in his recruitment. UK, as of now, is not seen as one of the favorites, but that could change moving forward.
Top competition: Too early to tell
Player ranking: No. 45
Isaiah Todd: One of UK’s earliest 2020 targets, Todd has narrowed his list to Kentucky, Kansas, Memphis, Michigan and North Carolina. The versatile 6-9 power forward with a game that stretches to the perimeter is expected to wait until the spring before making a college decision. He’ll play this season at John Wall’s alma mater, and UK coaches are expected to see him Monday.
Top competition: Hard to say, but North Carolina has often been mentioned as a possible landing spot and will have the home-field advantage in Todd’s recruitment.
Player ranking: No. 11
Lance Ware: A high-upside 6-9 power forward from New Jersey has ties to Calipari and Kenny Payne and includes UK in a final five with Miami, Michigan, Ohio State and Providence. Other than Clarke, he might be the most likely UK commitment on this list. Calipari and Payne were scheduled to have an in-home visit with Ware on Monday.
Top competition: Michigan
Player ranking: No. 32
Dawson Garcia: A versatile 6-10 power forward from Minnesota who excels on the perimeter, Garcia missed the July evaluation period with an illness and has held off on cutting his list of schools. This could turn into a Kentucky vs. Duke battle if both schools end up extending scholarship offers. Several others are in the mix.
Top competition: Too early to tell
Player ranking: No. 29
Makur Maker: Kentucky will continue to be mentioned for the dynamic 7-footer, but it’s looking increasingly more likely that Maker will end up playing professionally after this season — possibly in the NBL in Australia, where he spent much of his childhood — before going on to the 2021 NBA Draft.
Top competition: Pro ball, Oregon
Player ranking: No. 6
JT Thor: The 6-8 power forward visited UK multiple times while attending nearby Huntington (W.Va.) Prep, but he’ll play his final season of high school ball in Georgia. The Cats have not been mentioned as prominent players in his recruitment over the past few weeks, but Thor did include them in his final five over the weekend. UK was the only school on that list that has not offered a scholarship, an indication the Cats could become prominent players in his recruitment if they make a stronger push. Coaches from Kentucky were expected to visit Thor in the Atlanta area Tuesday.
Top competition: Oklahoma State
Player ranking: No. 47
JJ Traynor: The only Kentuckian on this list, Traynor exploded on the recruiting circuit this summer and will be an interesting player to keep an eye on at Bardstown High School this season. Payne is expected to follow up with the 6-8 power forward this month, and the Cats could be the favorites if they extend an offer. Louisville is in the mix. Cincinnati and Western Kentucky appear to be the favorites among programs that have already offered.
Top competition: Louisville, Cincinnati, Western Kentucky
Player ranking: No. 78
(Note: Player rankings are from 247Sports composite)