UK Recruiting

Top UK targets for 2012

Kentucky's John Calipari was recruiting Perry Ellis when he was still coach at Memphis.
Kentucky's John Calipari was recruiting Perry Ellis when he was still coach at Memphis. The Wichita Eagle

Recruiting is synonymous with looking toward the future. It's never enough to know who's coming now, it's just as important to know who's coming next.

In Kentucky's case, this is especially true for the class of 2012. The Cats could very well lose seven key contributors after this coming season. Darius Miller and Eloy Vargas will have exhausted their eligibility, sophomores Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb are almost certain to jump to the NBA, and incoming freshmen Anthony Davis, Michael Gilchrist and Marquis Teague have all been projected as one-and-done lottery picks.

That means another big rebuilding job is in store for John Calipari.

The UK coach has already filled one major area of concern by securing transfer Ryan Harrow as his point guard of the future.

Who will join Harrow in UK's class of 2012? Here's a look at the likely candidates.

Top targets

Brandon Ashley

Position: Power forward

Height: 6-8

Weight: 210

Hometown: Oakland, Calif.

High school: Bishop O'Dowd

Rivals ranking: No. 14

Scout ranking: No. 9

ESPN Ranking: No. 6

MaxPreps ranking: No. 25

The top prospect on the West Coast, Ashley knows how to finish around the basket and can play in the post or out on the wing, which would be his likely position at Kentucky. He has the type of game that could pose a mismatch for opposing defenses. His midrange game and quickness with the ball would be a problem for slower defenders on the perimeter, and his size and skill on the block allow him to post up smaller players for easy looks inside.

Ashley was hesitant to give too many specifics about his recruitment during his junior season, but he's said that he plans to "trim" his list to 10 schools sometime in the next few days. Ashley also says to expect a commitment shortly after that, possibly as early as the end of the summer.

UK will definitely be on his short list and Lexington seems the most likely destination if Ashley leaves the West Coast, but everyone in the Pac-12 is after him with Arizona looking particularly strong. The Cats do have a secret weapon — incoming freshman Kyle Wiltjer was Ashley's AAU teammate last summer and will certainly be called upon to help bring the elite forward to Lexington.

Dajuan Coleman

Position: Center

Height: 6-9

Weight: 280

Hometown: Syracuse, N.Y.

High school: Jamesville-Dewitt

Rivals ranking: No. 18

Scout ranking: No. 4

ESPN ranking: No. 5

MaxPreps ranking: No. 4

John Calipari is so enamored with Coleman that he flew to Glens Falls, N.Y., to watch the talented big man play the day after UK defeated West Virginia to advance to the Sweet 16. Calipari took some flak from critics for going on the road while No. 1 Ohio State loomed, but landing the Syracuse native would be a major recruiting coup for 2012.

Coleman absolutely owns opponents in the paint, using his big body to create shots and clear space to attack the boards. He's also been praised for his outlet passing off defensive rebounds, which creates easy scoring opportunities for teammates.

Analysts have said he could play the same type of role as DeMarcus Cousins in Calipari's dribble-drive offense, using his power to control one-on-one matchups on the block.

But Calipari has to get him to Lexington first. Coleman attended several Syracuse games last season, and the Orange are seen as the clear favorite for his services. Even so, there are those who see Coleman's still-open recruitment as a sign that he's not sold on Syracuse, a school he grew up around and is completely familiar with. For the moment, that's giving Calipari hope that UK can land one of the premier big men in the country.

Perry Ellis

Position: Forward

Height: 6-8

Weight: 210

Hometown: Wichita, Kan.

High school: Wichita Heights

Rivals ranking: No. 20

Scout ranking: No. 19

ESPN ranking: No. 19

MaxPreps ranking: No. 22

One of the first elite talents to emerge from the class of 2012, Ellis has been a major target of John Calipari ever since the UK coach was in charge at Memphis. Calipari kept up his recruitment of Ellis when he came to Lexington and he remains a top priority going into the fall.

Ellis is a versatile player who can play either forward position. He runs the floor well, has the ability to take his defender off the dribble and is a solid rebounder on both ends of the court. He was the Gatorade Player of the Year in Kansas as a sophomore and junior, and he's a virtual lock to win the award for a third time this coming season. He's also a 4.0 student.

Ellis narrowed his list fairly early in the process to UK, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Memphis and hometown Wichita State. He recently replaced Oklahoma with Duke after the Sooners fired coach Jeff Capel, who then returned to Durham as an assistant coach. The general consensus says it will be hard to get Ellis to leave the state of Kansas, with the smart money on the Jayhawks. But if Ellis does leave home, UK has as good a chance as anyone.

Archie Goodwin

Position: Shooting guard

Height: 6-4

Weight: 180

Hometown: Little Rock, Ark.

High school: Sylvan Hills

Rivals ranking: No. 9

Scout ranking: No. 10

ESPN ranking: No. 8

MaxPreps ranking: No. 8

You'd have a hard time finding something not to like about Goodwin's game. He can drive, he can shoot, he's an unselfish passer and he plays tremendous defense. He might also represent UK's best chance to lock down a top-10 prospect early in the 2012 process.

Though he has offers from dozens of major programs — including North Carolina and Kansas — everything about Goodwin's recruitment says his final decision will boil down to UK and Arkansas.

He's long been complimentary of John Calipari and his staff, and gave signals earlier in the year that he might even be on the verge of a commitment. But the firing of John Pelphrey at Arkansas complicated things a bit.

The Razorbacks replaced Pelphrey with Mike Anderson, who is known for his up-tempo style of play and who built a relationship with Goodwin while the head coach at Missouri. Anderson's arrival in Fayetteville vaulted Arkansas back to the top of the list, but Goodwin has still had plenty of good things to say about UK in recent weeks.

Combining Goodwin with Ryan Harrow would make for an explosive backcourt, and no one would be surprised if he pulled the trigger for UK sometime before his senior season.

Shabazz Muhammad

Position: Guard/forward

Height: 6-5

Weight: 190

Hometown: Las Vegas

High school: Bishop Gorman

Rivals ranking: No. 2

Scout ranking: No. 3

ESPN ranking: No. 3

MaxPreps ranking: No. 3

With skills made for the dribble-drive offense, Muhammad has emerged as John Calipari's No. 1 recruiting target for 2012. The left-hander can drive and dunk as well as anyone in the class, and some recruiting services rank him as the No. 1 overall player regardless of position.

Muhammad mixes his talent of getting to the basket with a potent outside shot — he made his first seven three-point attempts in a game in January — and the ability to play multiple positions. His thunderous dunks have become something of an Internet sensation, with several video mixtapes dedicated to his play above the rim. In addition to his offensive skills, Muhammad is a top-notch defender who will likely be able to guard three different positions at the college level.

He's also talked glowingly of Calipari's offensive style and has already paid a visit to Rupp Arena, where he could be seen cheering and snapping photos behind the UK bench in a Senior Night win over Vanderbilt.

Recent rumblings indicate that UCLA might be pulling ahead in the nationwide quest for Muhammad, but UK, Arizona, Duke and a host of others remain hot on his trail in a recruitment that is likely to stretch into the spring.

Rodney Purvis

Position: Guard

Height: 6-4

Weight: 185

Hometown: Raleigh, N.C.

High school: Upper Room Christian

Rivals ranking: No. 7

Scout ranking: No. 8ESPN ranking: No. 7

MaxPreps ranking: No. 13

Purvis is quick to brush off his designation as "the next John Wall," but he certainly has more in common with the former UK star than hometown and position. The Raleigh native is a flashy guard who is easily capable of taking over a game by blowing past defenders for easy baskets. He's also a tremendous passer, and excels in both the halfcourt offense and transition.

He originally committed to Louisville, but backed off that decision last month after assistant coach Tim Fuller left the Cards for the same position at Missouri. Purvis says he's still considering U of L, but he's added Kentucky, Duke, N.C. State and Memphis to his list of schools. Many analysts see the home-state Blue Devils and Wolfpack as the current favorites, but UK should remain a player in his recruitment thanks to the dribble-drive offense and the connection to Wall.

Some saw Ryan Harrow's transfer to UK as a detriment to bringing in Purvis, who would like to play the point in college. But the top recruit has since said that Harrow would have no bearing on his decision, and that he would be just as comfortable playing the role of a combo guard at the next level.

Other prospects

Omar Calhoun

Position: Shooting guard

Height: 6-4

Weight: 185

Hometown: Brooklyn, N.Y.

High school: Christ the King

Rivals ranking: No. 32

Scout ranking: No. 55

ESPN ranking: No. 38

MaxPreps ranking: No. 41

One of the best scorers in the class of 2012, Calhoun can play both guard positions and has the ability to beat defenders by driving to the basket or pulling up for a jumper. UK is one of eight schools on his list, which he'll cut to five in July.

Robert Carter

Position: Power forward

Height: 6-8

Weight: 245

Hometown: Thomasville, Ga.

High school: Thomasville

Rivals ranking: No. 16

Scout ranking: No. 11

ESPN ranking: No. 14

MaxPreps ranking: No. 61

Drawing comparisons to ex-LSU star Glen Davis, this wide-bodied forward is a creative scorer in the post who averaged nearly 15 rebounds per game as a junior. He hasn't taken any college visits, but he does have a scholarship offer from UK.

Andre Drummond

Position: Center

Height: 6-11

Weight: 270

Hometown: Oakdale, Conn.

High school: St. Thomas More

Rivals ranking: No. 3

Scout ranking: No. 1ESPN ranking: No. 1

MaxPreps ranking: No. 1

The consensus No. 1 player in the class of 2012 is a true center and a dominant scorer and rebounder in the post. UK is competing with six or seven others for his commitment, with home-state UConn long thought to be Drummond's favorite.

Gary Harris

Position: Shooting guard

Height: 6-4

Weight: 195

Hometown: Indianapolis

High school: Hamilton Southeastern

Rivals ranking: No. 26

Scout ranking: No. 14

ESPN ranking: No. 16

MaxPreps ranking: No. 26

An explosive player off the dribble and an excellent defender, Harris would fit well into John Calipari's system. UK just recently started recruiting him and might have already fallen too far behind to such local schools as Indiana and Louisville.

Ricardo Ledo

Position: Guard/forward

Height: 6-5

Weight: 175

Hometown: Barrington, R.I.

High school: Notre Dame Prep (Mass.)

Rivals ranking: No. 10

Scout ranking: No. 7

ESPN ranking: No. 13

MaxPreps ranking: No. 14

An enigma in the class of 2012, Ledo has already attended several high schools and committed to Providence before reneging earlier this year. But there's no doubting his talent as an elite scorer, and the Cats will likely make him a priority.

Mitch McGary

Position: Center

Height: 6-11

Weight: 255

Hometown: Chesterton, Ind.

High school: Brewster Academy (N.H.)

Rivals ranking: No. 5

Scout ranking: No. 15

ESPN ranking: No. 4

MaxPreps ranking: NR

Dubbed this year's Anthony Davis, McGary has skyrocketed in the rankings over the past few weeks. His dominant post play and versatility with high-ball screens and pick-and-rolls has UK and just about every other elite program on his trail.

Devonta Pollard

Position: Small forward

Height: 6-7

Weight: 195

Hometown: De Kalb, Miss.

High school: Kemper County

Rivals ranking: No. 6

Scout ranking: No. 31

ESPN ranking: No. 23

MaxPreps ranking: No. 49

Another late bloomer, Pollard is a highly athletic wing that never takes a play off and has an uncanny ability to block shots (5.2 per game as a junior). Kentucky has already offered him, as have most of the schools in the SEC.

Alex Poythress

Position: Forward

Height: 6-7

Weight: 205

Hometown: Clarksville, Tenn.

High school: Northeast

Rivals ranking: No. 30

Scout ranking: No. 13

ESPN ranking: No. 17

MaxPreps ranking: No. 30

A top target among SEC schools, Poythress would fit well in the dribble-drive offense and stands out as a rebounder especially on the offensive boards. analyst Jerry Meyer recently called him a better athlete than Terrence Jones.

L.J. Rose

Position: Point guard

Height: 6-3

Weight: 175

Hometown: Houston

High school: Westbury Christian

Rivals ranking: No. 52

Scout ranking: No. 42

ESPN ranking: No. 47

MaxPreps ranking: No. 27

One of UK's first targets in this class, Rose is probably the best true point guard who has yet to commit to a school. He still mentions the Cats prominently when asked for his list, but the arrival of Ryan Harrow likely means he'll look elsewhere.

Kaleb Tarczewski

Position: Center

Height: 7-0

Weight: 220

Hometown: Southborough, Mass.

High school: St. Marks

Rivals ranking: No. 11

Scout ranking: No. 5

ESPN ranking: No. 9

MaxPreps ranking: No. 51

This 7-footer could be featured in the dribble-drive offense as a low-post threat, much like DeMarcus Cousins two seasons ago. Kansas was on him early and is still thought to be the favorite, but UK and many others will try to pry him away.

Ben Roberts

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader