UK Recruiting

Devin Askew picked UK. Is Cade Cunningham next? ‘Kentucky is in the best position.’

Kentucky picked up a major point guard recruit late Thursday night with the commitment of five-star prospect Devin Askew.

Can John Calipari land another?

With Askew committed to the Cats — and a good possibility to eventually reclassify and play at Kentucky next season — attention fully turns to Cade Cunningham, the No. 1 point guard in the 2020 class and the No. 2 overall recruit in the country.

Cunningham was in Lexington last weekend for his official visit, a trip that was centered on Big Blue Madness. By all accounts, that was a success for the Wildcats. Shortly after the visit wrapped up, 247Sports national analyst Evan Daniels logged a Crystal Ball prediction for Cunningham in UK’s favor.

Does Askew’s commitment change Daniels’ thinking on Cunningham’s college destination?

“No,” he told the Herald-Leader. “I actually think they complement each other extremely well. Cade is a distributor — a high-IQ guy with good feel that can guard multiple positions but can also run the show.

“With Devin, you could put the ball in his hands or have him play off the ball. Because of that shooting ability, he stretches the floor. So it could be a scenario where it’s really a two point guard lineup, and you have one guy that’s more of the creator and passer, and another guy who can handle it but is also the shooter.”

Dynamic backcourt

Askew is the No. 1 point guard in the 2021 class but will make a decision after the high school season on whether he’ll reclassify to 2020. Many in recruiting circles expect Askew to ultimately make that move, and he made his commitment to Kentucky knowing full well that the Wildcats could still land Cunningham in this recruiting cycle.

In interviews with the Herald-Leader a few days ago, both Askew and his father shared Daniels’ assessment of the situation: the two point guards would play well together on the same team.

Kentucky’s perimeter lineup next season will also feature five-star shooting guards Terrence Clarke and Brandon “BJ” Boston — both top-10 recruits in the 2020 class — and should include a few talented guards and wings from this season’s squad.

The two-way versatility and size across that group of potential newcomers — Askew is 6-3 with a 6-7 wingspan, Boston is 6-6, Clarke and Cunningham are both 6-7 — would make it possible to play all four at the same time.

“All of those guys, I think, could feed off each other pretty well,” Daniels said.

Of course, the Cats still need to land Cunningham.

Back in June, when Oklahoma State hired Cunningham’s older brother, Cannen, as an assistant coach, the star recruit’s eventual commitment to the Cowboys was treated as a foregone conclusion. Instead, he’s stuck to his original plan and taken official visits with an open mind.

Calipari never let up.

The UK coach made Montverde (Fla.) Academy his first stop on the first morning of the fall recruiting period last month. Since then, he’s met with Cunningham again at Montverde, visited with his parents in Texas, and hosted him for the official visit. UK assistant coach Tony Barbee has also made a separate trip to Florida to see Cunningham.

It’s difficult to ever call a UK basketball recruiting victory an “upset,” but this would surely register as one.

“If Kentucky lands Cade Cunningham, it’s the biggest surprise of this cycle, and arguably one of the biggest surprises in recruiting, since I’ve been doing it,” said Daniels, a veteran recruiting analyst with more than a decade of experience. “Everyone has expected him to land at Oklahoma State. I expected him to land at Oklahoma State. But Kentucky has been extremely aggressive. They’ve recruited him hard. I think their message has gotten through to him. I think things started to change in the early fall, when coaches could go out and meet with these kids. And I think they had a good visit.”

Crystal Ball

Daniels is admittedly cautious with his Crystal Ball predictions — he’s a perfect 44-for-44 on his picks in the 2020 cycle, by the way — so it’s noteworthy that he’s gone against the grain with this recruitment.

Rivals.com’s Corey Evans, ESPN’s Jeff Borzello, and nationally respected recruiting expert Andrew Slater have all written this week that they still expect Cunningham to end up at Oklahoma State, which remains the Crystal Ball favorite.

If that happens, it won’t have anything to do with Askew’s commitment, according to several recruiting insiders who have spoken to the Herald-Leader in recent days. If Cunningham does indeed commit to the Cowboys, the family ties of his brother being on the coaching staff will be the overriding reason, and many in recruiting circles are skeptical that the elite prospect will ultimately turn down his older brother’s new program to attend Kentucky.

Cunningham has one more official visit scheduled — a trip to Washington this weekend — and he will make a college decision in time for the early signing period, which is set for Nov. 13-20. An announcement could come soon after this weekend’s visit.

“We’re coming down the stretch of this deal,” Daniels said. “He’s got a visit to take, and then he’s going to make a decision. I think Kentucky is in the best position to land Cade Cunningham, as of October 17th. Could that change? Yeah, it could change. At the end of the day, his brother is at Oklahoma State. But I think Kentucky is in the best position, as of right now, to land Cade Cunningham.”

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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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