Two weeks ago, five-star basketball player Devin Askew and his family were in town for their official visit to the University of Kentucky, a major recruiting trip for one of the nation’s top young point guards.
They had been on other such visits to Louisville and Arizona. The previous night, Askew and his family were at Memphis for that program’s midnight madness.
Throughout his recruitment, they’d heard about UK basketball and how much the Wildcats meant to the people of Lexington and the rest of the state. They were finally getting to see it up close, and it didn’t disappoint.
“It means everything,” Brian Askew, the player’s father, said of Kentucky basketball. “From the facilities to the city, it was great. It was everything we expected. … Cal and the whole staff — they’re unbelievable. Great basketball minds. Great people, all around.”
By the time they left, Kentucky felt like home.
Askew — a 6-foot-3 point guard from Santa Ana, Calif. — announced his commitment to the Wildcats on Thursday night, giving John Calipari a major recruiting victory and a versatile perimeter player for the future.
The UK coach extended a scholarship offer to Askew earlier this year and made him a priority as soon as the fall recruiting period started last month. Louisville had been seen as a possible favorite for Askew, but Calipari’s track record of getting players — especially point guards — to the NBA, coupled with the level of internal competition at UK, won out in the end.
“It’s a style of play that I definitely like,” Askew told the Herald-Leader at USA Basketball camp last weekend. “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.”
Could move to 2020
Askew is the No. 10 overall player in the 2021 class, according to the 247Sports composite rankings, but he remains open to the possibility of reclassification. He will turn 18 years old next July, and his father said that he will play out this high school season — at California powerhouse Mater Dei — and then make a decision on reclassification to 2020 in the spring.
If Askew does indeed jump up a class — and that’s what many in national recruiting circles expect him to do — he’d join a loaded Kentucky backcourt. The Cats already have commitments from five-star shooting guards Terrence Clarke and Brandon “BJ” Boston — both are top-10 recruits in the 2020 class — as well as four-star wing Cam’Ron Fletcher. (UK’s other early commitment, Lance Ware, is a power forward and accompanied Askew on his visit to Lexington two weeks ago).
Kentucky is also still in the mix for five-star point guard Cade Cunningham — the No. 2 overall recruit in the 2020 class — and is expected to return a few talented guards and wings off this season’s team.
Askew knew all of that when he committed Thursday night. Getting to play alongside that kind of talent was part of the draw of UK’s program.
“Yeah, he’s certainly unselfish,” 247Sports national analyst Evan Daniels told the Herald-Leader. “And he’s a good passer with pretty good vision. His ball skills have continued to improve over the course of his high school career. He’s certainly played with some really good players. And when you go to Kentucky, you’re going to be surrounded by them.”
Brian Askew was emphatic when asked whether his son and Cunningham — a 6-7 prospect who is expected to make a college decision soon — could both thrive on the same team. “For sure,” he said, before extolling the virtues of both players.
Askew said his son would also have no problem sharing the spotlight with such players as Clarke and Boston.
“He’s very passionate, and he wants to win,” he said. “He doesn’t mind not being the center of everything. He just wants to get people involved, play to win, and do what’s best for the team to win. And I think that’s why people around him find it very easy to play with him. It’s not about, ‘Dev, Dev, Dev.’ It’s not about him.”
Askew has plenty of experience with not being the center of attention, despite his undeniable talent on the court. This past summer, he played on the same Nike league team as top-five recruit Jalen Green and five-star prospect Nimari Burnett, both guards who are considered to be among the best offensive players in the country.
With Askew running the show, that team made it all the way to the Peach Jam championship game, losing by just one point in the finals.
Askew averaged 11.6 points, 4.8 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game during Nike play. His attention to detail and length — a 6-7 wingspan — made him a solid defender, and he thrived as an outside shooter, making 46.2 percent of his three-pointers in the regular season.
“I think the biggest value Devin brings is his ability to make shots,” Daniels said. “He’s got good size for the position. I think he’s more of a true combo guard than a true point, but he is skilled. And the kid can really shoot the basketball. And that’s extremely valuable, especially in today’s game. I can’t remember Kentucky having a primary ball handler that could shoot the ball like him in a little bit.”
Whether he comes to UK in 2020 or 2021 — and whether he ends up on the same team as Cunningham or not — Askew should be a major contributor for the Wildcats as soon as he joins the program. Daniels says he’s good enough to be a difference-maker next season, if Askew does indeed choose to reclassify.
“I think he’s one of those kids that wants to challenge himself and play with the best and play against the best. And he’s certainly done that to this point. … He’s mature enough to play at Kentucky and do so as a 2020 (recruit). He’s physically ready. Especially a guy like him that can make shots — I think that’s valuable.”