UK Recruiting

Calipari set to finish busy week of recruiting with Kentucky’s top commitment in years

Terrence Clarke sees himself as a ‘positionless’ play-maker

Five-star recruit Terrence Clarke is one of UK's top targets.
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Five-star recruit Terrence Clarke is one of UK's top targets.

A hectic week of recruiting that sent John Calipari all over the country and featured the commitment of four-star power forward Lance Ware is likely to pay off with another major reward for Kentucky.

Five-star shooting guard Terrence Clarke will reveal his college decision around 1 p.m. Saturday, and the Wildcats will go into that announcement as the major favorite to land his commitment.

If Clarke — a 6-foot-6 prospect from the Boston area — does indeed pick UK, it would be Calipari’s biggest commitment in years and likely put an end to his skid with top-five recruiting talent.

Technically, Clarke has six schools on his recruiting list: Boston College, Duke, Kentucky, Memphis, Texas Tech and UCLA. But the 18-year-old prospect has taken recruiting visits to only two of those schools — UK and Boston College — and college coaches and national recruiting analysts have all pretty much called this one for the Wildcats.

Memphis Coach Penny Hardaway was supposed to travel to Clarke’s prep school in New Hampshire for a visit Wednesday. Hardaway canceled that trip.

Calipari was at Brewster Academy to meet with Clarke on Monday, the first day of the fall recruiting period.

“I’d be very surprised if he does not go to Kentucky,” national analyst Corey Evans told the Herald-Leader. “Penny Hardaway was supposed to go in there, and they canceled at the last minute. I think that shows you which way he’s leaning. Unless he commits to Boston College — and it’s not Kentucky — he’s going to commit to a school that he never visited. That would be very, very rare. So, it’s either Kentucky or Boston College.

“If Boston College gets that done, it’s maybe the biggest recruiting upset in the past five or 10 years. So, all signs point toward Kentucky.”

Evans and fellow national analyst Eric Bossi have logged Future Cast predictions in favor of Kentucky. Over on Clarke’s 247Sports Crystal Ball page, 100 percent of the predictions are in favor of the Wildcats, including picks from national recruiting experts Andrew Slater and Jerry Meyer.

Clarke is still classified as a member of the 2021 class, though it’s widely expected that he will ultimately announce a move to the 2020 class, which would allow him to play college basketball next season and be eligible for the 2021 NBA Draft. ranks Clarke as the No. 2 overall player in the 2021 class. 247Sports has him as the No. 3 overall prospect in that class. 247Sports national analyst Evan Daniels recently wrote that Clarke would be ranked No. 3 or 4 nationally if he were currently in the 2020 class.

“He’s every bit a top-five player,” Daniels told the Herald-Leader this week.

If that ranking holds, Clarke would be Calipari’s first top-five commitment in nearly five years. Skal Labissiere, who picked the Cats in November 2014, was ranked No. 2 in the 2015 class. Calipari had a total of nine top-five commitments in his first six recruiting classes at UK.

More on Terrence Clarke

Andy Borman, the coach of New York Renaissance on the Nike circuit, has seen plenty of Terrence Clarke over the past couple of years. Borman was the coach of new UK commitment Lance Ware in summer league play, and he offered some analysis on Clarke during an interview with the Herald-Leader this week.

“He’s good,” Borman said with a laugh when asked to assess Clarke’s game. “That’s the easiest thing to say. He’s good. He’s every bit of 6-6. He can play any guard position, whether that’s on the ball as a point or off the ball or sliding to the wing. I’ve seen him slide very, very effortlessly in between roles of being a team-friendly facilitator and also slide into that role of saying, ‘My team needs me to get 30.’ A lot of guys are kind of stuck in their one gear. And I think Terrence has the ability to adjust with kind of what the game dictates, would be the best way to describe it — at least when we’ve played him.”

Clarke put up 19 points, eight rebounds and two assists in his team’s 79-76 loss to Borman’s Renaissance squad at this year’s Peach Jam event. He averaged 17.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game during the Nike regular season.

“Obviously, with a kid like him, we always wanted him to be more of a facilitator. You know, ‘Get the ball out of his hands. Make someone else beat you.’ That was our plan of attack when we played them. ‘If they’re going to beat us, it’s not going to be because of Terrence.’ But, that’s also easier said than done.”

Calipari’s recruiting visits

The fall recruiting period began Monday, and John Calipari wasted no time hitting the trail to meet with his top targets.

A quick day-by-day rundown of where he’s been so far:

Monday: Calipari woke up in Florida and met with Cade Cunningham and Scottie Barnes — two top-10 recruits in the 2020 class — at Montverde Academy. From there, he flew to New Hampshire to meet with Terrence Clarke, and then flew to the New Jersey/Philadelphia area to see Lance Ware.

Tuesday: Following a speaking engagement in Atlanta, the UK coach met with UK commitment Cam’Ron Fletcher and his family in St. Louis, before flying to Austin, Texas.

Wednesday: Calipari met with top-10 recruit Greg Brown and his family in Austin, then headed to Seattle for a meeting with Paolo Banchero, one of the top players in the 2021 class. From there, UK’s coach flew to the Los Angeles area.

Thursday: A meeting with class of 2021 point guard Devin Askew was the highlight of Calipari’s time in Los Angeles. Askew — a five-star player — has been talked about as a possibility to reclassify to 2020, and he might be UK’s most likely point guard commitment for that class.

That’s 6,440 air miles and 14 hours and 12 minutes worth of flight time in the first three days of the fall recruiting period alone. Calipari will continue to travel the country and meet with more high school prospects in the coming days.

Future recruiting visits?

Just as interesting as who John Calipari met with this week is who the UK coach didn’t see.

Calipari didn’t visit with 2020 center Cliff Omoruyi or top-ranked 2021 recruit Jonathan Kuminga — both New Jersey high schoolers — while in the area to meet with Lance Ware on Monday night. Kuminga is expected to get a visit from Calipari in the next few days, though Duke has emerged in recent weeks as a possible favorite in his recruitment.

The UK coach also didn’t see five-star point guard Sharife Cooper while in the Atlanta area for his Tuesday speaking engagement. It could be another sign that the Cats have given up on Cooper, who is widely expected to commit to Auburn. As of Thursday afternoon, the Herald-Leader confirmed that no one from UK’s staff had met with Cooper and there were no current plans for the Wildcats to visit.

There was also no confirmation that Calipari met with top-10 recruits Josh Christopher or Jalen Green while he was in California later in the week. It has been speculated that Terrence Clarke’s expected commitment to Kentucky on Saturday might squash any chance of UK landing Green or Christopher, who are both listed as shooting guards.

UK already has a commitment from five-star shooting guard Brandon Boston, and the Cats should return a few other talented off-ball guards and wings from this season’s team.

Four-star post player Cliff Omoruyi talks about his recruiting meeting with John Calipari earlier this year. He earned a UK scholarship offer during that conversation.

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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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