UK Recruiting

If Cade Cunningham picks Kentucky, other top basketball recruits say they could join him

The positive vibes surrounding Kentucky and top recruit Cade Cunningham continued over the weekend, and the possibility of a commitment from the five-star point guard could lead to even more good news for the Wildcats.

Cunningham — a 6-foot-7 prospect from Texas and the top available recruit in the 2020 class — was in Lexington for Big Blue Madness on Friday night as part of his official visit to UK, which has made him its top priority ahead of next month’s early signing period.

While Cunningham got a closer look at Kentucky’s campus, dozens of his peers spent the weekend at USA Basketball minicamp in Colorado Springs. A trio of five-star players at that event — Greg Brown, Scottie Barnes and Devin Askew — have recruitments that are somewhat linked to Cunningham’s, and all three welcomed the chance to play alongside him in college.

Brown — a 6-foot-9 forward from Texas — has narrowed his recruiting list to UK, Auburn, Memphis, North Carolina and the homestate Longhorns, and he won’t be making a college decision until the spring. Part of that decision-making process, Brown explained, would be tied to what next season’s rosters look like among his finalists.

This past spring and summer, Brown excelled on the Nike circuit alongside Cunningham. It was the first time the two Texans had shared the court as teammates.

“We just instantly had that connection once we got on the floor together, and it just took off from there,” Brown told the Herald-Leader. “He’s a great player. He has great vision — great point guard, and I love playing with him.”

Brown added that — while he will make an independent college decision — he and Cunningham have talked about going to the same school. Brown’s father was well aware that Cunningham was on UK’s campus this past weekend. He plans to get a review of that trip very soon.

“The first thing that we’re going to do when we get back home tomorrow is call Cade Cunningham,” Greg Brown Sr. told the Herald-Leader. “We’re going to give him a call. I’m going to call his parents, ‘I want to know what y’all think.’ And it’s going to be between us. I ain’t telling everybody what they’re saying — none of that. I just want to know how they feel about the situation, because I think Greg and Cade have really good chemistry. They play well together.”

Crystal Ball says Kentucky?

Kentucky is quickly emerging as a possible favorite for Cunningham.

Oklahoma State was long assumed to be his eventual landing spot. The Cowboys hired Cunningham’s older brother, Cannen, as an assistant coach in the offseason, and that move was expected to result in a commitment from the five-star recruit. It hasn’t happened yet.

Instead, Kentucky has emerged as the top threat to Oklahoma State, and 247Sports national analyst Evan Daniels — who is admittedly cautious with his recruiting predictions — logged a Crystal Ball pick in the Wildcats’ favor Sunday afternoon.

The Brown family already had great things to say about UK’s program. A commitment from Cunningham would only help the Wildcats further.

“It would definitely make it a lot more appealing, I’m just going to be honest with you,” Brown Sr. said.

Barnes — a 6-9 forward from Florida — will be one of Cunningham’s teammates at Montverde Academy this season. Barnes was planning to take an official visit to Kentucky this weekend, and he had great things to say about the possibility of playing alongside Cunningham in college, but he announced his commitment to Florida State on Monday morning.

So UK won’t get a chance at a Barnes-Cunningham connection next season, but Barnes still offered an endorsement of Cunningham’s approach.

“I know how great of a teammate he is,” he told the Herald-Leader. “He’s also a leader. … He likes to motivate people on the court. He’s just a great guy.”

247Sports ranks Barnes and Brown as the No. 9 and 10 players in the 2020 class, respectively.

Two point guards

Askew — a 6-3 point guard from California — is a top-10 prospect in the 2021 class, though he is leaving the door open to reclassification, a decision that likely won’t be made until after the upcoming high school season. He’ll make his college decision in the next few weeks, however, and Kentucky has emerged in recent weeks as the favorite.

Recruiting analysts are expecting that Askew will ultimately move to the 2020 class and play in college next season.

Conventional recruiting wisdom would say it’s unlikely that Kentucky could land both Cunningham and Askew in the same class. Apparently, a Cunningham commitment wouldn’t deter Askew from UK.

“That would be great,” Askew told the Herald-Leader. “Cade is a really good player. I’m a really good player. Put us two together, that’s a great team.”

Askew pointed out John Calipari’s past success with multiple point guards — dating back to his first UK team with John Wall and Eric Bledsoe — and others have noted that Askew and Cunningham are such different and versatile players that they could thrive alongside each other.

Asked if such an arrangement would indeed work, Askew’s father was emphatic.

For sure,” Brian Askew told the Herald-Leader. “Cade is unbelievable. Obviously, he’s a big talent and a great kid. I don’t see anything wrong with them playing together — it would be unbelievable. They’re both competitors. They both get after it. They’re both leaders and easy to play with, so I don’t see anything wrong with it at all.”

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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