UK Recruiting

Kentucky’s original 2020 basketball recruit getting an early primer on UK-level hype

Perhaps somewhat lost in the most recent recruiting excitement surrounding the Kentucky basketball program is the fact that the Wildcats tipped off this 2020 cycle with an early commitment from one of the best prospects in the country.

Over the past few weeks, the headline-grabbers have been the commitment of Terrence Clarke — the Cats’ first top-five pledge in years — and the ongoing recruitment of Cade Cunningham, arguably the best prospect in the senior class.

Kentucky started this 2020 campaign with a commitment from five-star shooting guard Brandon “BJ” Boston, however, and the slim, smooth scorer from Atlanta is making sure his name stays at the forefront of the discussion on the country’s best recruits.

This past weekend, 247Sports national analyst Evan Daniels was in California — Boston’s new home for his final year of high school ball — and said the future Wildcat was as good as he has ever seen him.

“He was awesome,” Daniels told the Herald-Leader. “He was as aggressive as I’ve ever seen him, and he was as confident as I’ve ever seen him. He’s never been a guy that’s lacked confidence, but — just the plays he was making off the bounce, the way he scored the basketball — you could tell that he’s playing with a supreme level of confidence right now.”

Boston — a 6-foot-6 player with a 175-pound frame — had already established himself as one of the best scorers in the 2020 class.

As a junior last season, Boston averaged 18.4 points per game to lead a star-studded Norcross (Ga.) team to the state semifinals. Over the summer, he averaged 22.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game while teaming up with top point guard recruit Sharife Cooper on the highly competitive Nike circuit.

Boston is the No. 13 overall player in the 2020 class, according to the 247Sports composite rankings, and he’s continuing to hone what is already considered to be one of the nation’s best scoring attacks.

“I thought he did a really good job off the dribble — better than I’ve seen him in the past,” Daniels said. “And it always helps when shots are going in, too. But it was how he was scoring the basketball: off the bounce, at the rim, pulling up from mid-range, making long-distance shots. It was a versatile scoring affair.”

The weekend game against Hillcrest Prep (Ariz.) was one of Boston’s first appearances with his new high school team, Sierra Canyon, which has generated plenty of early hype due to its roster filled with big-time recruits and famous last names.

Dealing with the hype

This season, Boston will team up with, among others, top-10 senior Ziaire Williams and five-star sophomore Amari Bailey, as well as senior point guard Zaire Wade and freshman Bronny James, the sons of NBA megastars Dwyane Wade and LeBron James.

Sierra Canyon will play a national schedule and even held its own media day event earlier this fall. This should be a fine primer for what Boston will experience next year at Kentucky.

“I think it’s a good atmosphere for him, for sure,” Daniels said. “It’s great experience for him to play with guys of this caliber. And, the truth is, it’s not only the guys’ actual talent levels, but the hype of and the atmosphere surrounding the team because of Dwyane Wade’s son being on the team, LeBron James’ son being on the team — they get a lot of attention. And that might be a nice steppingstone to get to Kentucky, because obviously you have to deal with that there.

“So, yeah, I think in a lot of ways — both on and off the court — it’s been helpful and will be a good learning experience for him.”

Daniels said Boston still needs to get physically stronger, become a more consistent outside shooter, and work on his overall shot selection, but it’s clear he’s continuing to progress on the court. Over the weekend, he played primarily on the wing — his expected position at UK — but also played some with the ball in his hands and was effective creating for others, according to Daniels.

Once he gets to UK next year, Boston should factor into an overwhelmingly talented backcourt. Clarke — at 6-7 — is one of the best scorers in the 2020 class. Five-star point guard commitment Devin Askew is expected to reclassify to 2020 and be a major part of UK’s perimeter game next season. Current perimeter scorers such as Immanuel Quickley, Johnny Juzang, Dontaie Allen and Keion Brooks could be back for another season. And the Cats could still land Cunningham, a 6-7 point guard and one of the best playmakers in the country.

A recruiting class that includes Boston, Clarke, Askew and Cunningham would be stacked at the guard positions. The size and versatility of that group could also make it possible for Calipari to play all four at once — or some combination of those recruits and other returning perimeter players — in a “small ball” lineup.

“All those guys can definitely play together,” Daniels said. “That’s a versatile lineup that brings a lot to the table, in terms of skill and scoring — guys with good positional size. That’s a really talented group of players you just named.”

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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