UK Recruiting

Next Cats: Calipari picks up pace in recruitment of N.C. big man

Team Doo Be Doo's Bam Adebayo #24 in action against Team EZ Pass in the Under Armour Elite 24 game on Saturday, August 22, 2015 in Brooklyn, NY.  (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)
Team Doo Be Doo's Bam Adebayo #24 in action against Team EZ Pass in the Under Armour Elite 24 game on Saturday, August 22, 2015 in Brooklyn, NY. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan) AP

In the event of another mass exodus of Kentucky Wildcats to the NBA following the upcoming season, UK Coach John Calipari should still be in fine shape on his front line.

The late addition of Australian center Isaac Humphries to the class of 2015, the expected mid-season enrollment of New Zealand power forward Tai Wynyard and the August commitment of high school senior Sacha Killeya-Jones — one of the best offensive big men in the class of 2016 — mean Calipari's frontcourt is likely to remain formidable even if the Cats lose Skal Labissiere, Marcus Lee and Alex Poythress to next year's draft.

Still, the UK coach would like to add at least one more post player to that group.

No. 1 on his wish list has long been North Carolina native Harry Giles, who Scout.com ranks as the top overall player in the senior class.

Giles is still a priority, but another power forward has emerged on UK's recruiting radar in recent weeks, and Calipari has made it clear that he's also coveted by the Cats.

Edrice "Bam" Adebayo hosted the UK coach for the second time in eight days Tuesday, and the Wildcats are emerging as a major player in his recruitment.

Adebayo — ranked No. 7 overall in the senior class by Rivals.com — averaged 32.2 points, 21.0 points, and 4.5 blocked shots per game for Northside High (N.C.) last season, earning first-team All-America honors from MaxPreps.com.

He continued that level of play on the Adidas circuit over the summer and has decided to transfer to High Point Christian Academy — about three hours away from his hometown of Washington, N.C. — for his senior season.

The move should offer Adebayo a tougher level of competition as he prepares for his college career.

"He probably plays harder than any kid in the country," HPCA Coach Brandon Clifford told the Herald-Leader. "You put that with an NBA-type of body — he's 6-9, 250 and can jump out of the gym. He's a rare mix. If I could compare him to anybody it would be Shawn Kemp — that's how explosive he is. And the best part about it is he just plays his heart out.

"He's a lot more skilled than people realize, and I think he'll start to show more of that this year."

Adebayo was a force around the basket for his AAU squad during the summer, but Clifford said he mainly populated the post because that was the best strategy.

If needed, Adebayo can step out and play facing the rim — either shooting the ball or putting it on the floor — and is an exceptional passer, especially out of double teams.

His size, athleticism and motor make him one of the best rebounders and shot blockers in the country, and that has attracted college coaches from all over.

Calipari has been tracking Adebayo for months, and the UK coach finally came through with a scholarship offer in late July.

"I know Cal likes him a lot," Clifford said. "Bam is certainly worth Kentucky's time — he's that good. ... I know that he likes Kentucky, just like he likes the other schools that are involved. Cal coming in again — that obviously shows that he's invested."

North Carolina State was widely viewed throughout the summer as the favorite in Adebayo's recruitment, and that hasn't changed with recent developments.

Wolfpack Coach Mark Gottfried started the fall recruiting period two weeks ago by flying in a helicopter to Adebayo's hometown for a visit with his mother, then doubling back to meet with Adebayo at his new high school.

Gottfried also used the chopper to meet with five-star point guard Dennis Smith Jr., that day. Smith is a close friend and AAU teammate of Adebayo, and he announced his commitment to N.C. State two days after Gottfried's visit.

Some colleges previously linked to Adebayo have seemingly conceded the recruitment to the Wolfpack, but Calipari obviously still thinks he has a shot.

Adebayo is willing to listen.

"He wants to know how you're going to help him get to where he ultimately wants to get," Clifford said. "So Cal talked a lot about the guys that have been there before, the guys that are playing in the league now. And the things that he can do to help Bam get to where he wants to be. That was Cal's message.

"He talked about how the Kentucky program benefits the players in the long run. Cal does a wonderful job presenting himself and presenting his program. I know Bam has some interest there. We'll just have to see how much as this process goes along."

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