The never-ending hoopla surrounding Kentucky basketball always translates to a unique experience for the handful of recruits that John Calipari brings to campus for official visits every year.
Those visitors often talk about the fan base and the facilities, the history of the program and the faces of current NBA stars who adorn the walls in places like Rupp Arena and the Joe Craft Center.
Those recruits who come to town in April or October sometimes get to experience another bit of life in Lexington: a trip to the racetrack.
So, last weekend on his official visit to UK, five-star point guard Devin Askew and his entire family ended up at Keeneland.
“He loves horses, too,” said his father, Brian. “He’s been a big horse fan since he was a little kid. So that was an awesome experience.”
Askew said he lists “Spirit” and “Secretariat” — two films about horses — among his favorite movies and lit up with a big smile when talking about getting to see them run up close for the first time. “When I was little, I used to ride horses. I still love horses,” he said.
The 6-foot-3 recruit from California could find himself back in horse country for an extended stay.
Less than a week removed from his official visit, Askew had nothing but great things to say about the Wildcats on the opening night of the USA Basketball minicamp Friday.
With a college decision likely coming in the very near future, several national recruiting analysts have logged predictions in favor of UK, which is now considered the favorite to land Askew, a top-10 player in the 2021 class who could still reclassify to 2020 and play college ball next season.
Kentucky vs. Louisville?
Askew said Friday night that he remains undecided in his recruitment. He acknowledged that many in recruiting circles think he’ll ultimately end up at Kentucky, but he didn’t confirm the Cats as his leader. He did say that he’s narrowed his list of possibilities, but he wouldn’t divulge the identities of those schools.
UK, Arizona and Memphis have all hosted Askew on recruiting visits in recent weeks, and Louisville had him on campus for an official visit last month.
Most who have followed his recruitment see it coming down to John Calipari and Kentucky, which has made a major push for him in recent months, or Chris Mack and U of L, which has recruited him since early in his high school career.
“I love Coach Mack,” Askew told the Herald-Leader. “He’s a great dude. And he’s been on me since the start. That always stands out. How hard they push for me is great. I like their team. I like their program. I like the whole coaching staff — they’re all great guys.”
It was UK, however, that likely got the final crack at Askew, and he was clearly impressed by his recruiting trip to Lexington last weekend.
“That visit was wonderful,” he said. “I love the coaching staff out there. I like the players. I like the program. So, it’s cool.”
As part of the trip, Askew got to see two UK practices — “Great practices,” he added — and could picture himself playing in a similar environment.
“It’s a style of play that I definitely like,” he said. “It’s fast. They play hard. They play unselfish — with five-star players, great players all around them. That’s what I like. If you can get a group of guys that are all really good at what they do — and you get them to play together — it’s cool.”
Next season’s roster is shaping up as one of Calipari’s most loaded yet at Kentucky.
UK already has four commitments — five-star guards Terrence Clarke and Brandon Boston, four-star wing Cam’Ron Fletcher, and four-star power forward Lance Ware — and the Cats will be adding more talented players to this 2020 class, in addition to the returning Wildcats from this season’s team.
Askew, ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 9 overall player in 2021, has said that he plans to stay in that class … for now. His father told the Herald-Leader on Friday that Askew will reassess the possibility of reclassification after the upcoming high school season.
If he does end up playing in college next season — and does ultimately pick Kentucky — Askew could be a key player on a team with legitimate national championship hopes. He was accompanied on his official visit last weekend by Ware — “That’s my guy,” Askew said of the UK commitment — and is well-acquainted with Kentucky’s other 2020 recruits. He and his father also both spoke highly of Cade Cunningham, who is visiting Lexington this week and is ranked as the No. 1 point guard in the 2020 class.
UK has made it clear to Askew that they would love to have his commitment for 2020 or 2021, and — as word continued to spread at USA minicamp that Cunningham is likely to pick either Kentucky or Oklahoma State — Askew and his father both said the two playmakers could fit well on the same team, pointing to Calipari’s past success at the position.
“He plays point guards together,” Askew said. “It’s a great point guard history, and I like it.”
Brian Askew said his son had hoped to get back to Memphis for an official visit — the family made a quick trip there for midnight madness festivities last week — but he didn’t think that would happen before it was time for a college decision.
There is no announcement date set yet, but Askew is clearly in the final stages of the process.
“He’s pretty confident in what he wants,” his father said. “You know how this process goes. It’s long. He knows what he wants out of it, and I think he just wants to get it over with so he can keep working and move forward.”