UK Recruiting

Analyst's 'Crystal Ball' predicts another superstar recruiting class for Kentucky

There's one common question that recruiting analysts and writers hear over and over again.

"Where do you think (insert hot-shot recruit's name here) will end up?"

Jerry Meyer doesn't have to answer that question anymore.

The longtime basketball recruiting analyst — now with 24/7 Sports — can simply steer curious fans to his page of "Crystal Ball" picks. The new feature, which was launched this year by 24/7, allows recruiting observers to insert their predictions for everyone to see.

Kentucky fans worried about the class of 2014 might want to check out Meyer's picks.

Five-star New Jersey center Karl Towns is UK's only commitment so far from the senior class. The fact that other rivals — such as Louisville and North Carolina — already have as many as three top-notch recruits has unsettled some UK supporters.

If the Wildcats end up with the players Meyer has predicted, it'll be tough to keep them from a sixth consecutive No. 1 recruiting class.

The 24/7 analyst has a veritable dream team of talent headed to Lexington in 2014, including point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, shooting guard Rashad Vaughn, small forward Stanley Johnson and power forward Trey Lyles to go with the center Towns.

Those players are ranked Nos. 3, 4, 7, 12 and 13 overall in the class. On paper, that top five isn't much different from UK's vaunted recruiting class of 2013.

Meyer also predicts Kentucky will get four-star power forward Angel Delgado, who doesn't yet have an offer from the Wildcats but has several ties to the coaching staff.

So why do so many UK fans who follow recruiting seem to be on edge about the progress for the class of 2014?

"I think it's just the nature of the game," Meyer told the Herald-Leader. "Kentucky fans have been worried before. When you recruit like Kentucky, a lot of times you're going to have late signees.

"I think the catch this year is that Kentucky's coming off a bad season. So there's that seed of negativity and pessimism already at work. And then you're worried about, 'Well, how are these recruits perceiving the team?'"

Another point of concern is that few of these players seem like UK "locks," unlike some other top prospects in recent years.

Kentucky is the school most associated with Mudiay, but he's repeatedly denied having any favorites. Vaughn doesn't say much about his recruitment, Louisville is coming on strong for Lyles, and Arizona is seen by many as the leader for Johnson.

Still, Meyer says the Cats will be "right up there" in contention for the top class.

■ On Mudiay ... "I think Kentucky's always been in a strong position with him. At the end of the day, I don't see that changing."

■ On Vaughn ... "I think Kentucky gets him. I just think it's too good a fit, style of play-wise. I think he would thrive there, and I think the people around him understand that. ... I feel pretty good about that one."

■ On Johnson ... "I think Stanley Johnson is just kind of iffy because Arizona's recruited him so hard and they have such a good shot at him. The Crystal Ball's kind of split on him."

■ On Lyles ... "I've just always kind of felt like Kentucky was the reason he decommitted (from Indiana). That he wanted to play (at UK)."

■ And Delgado ... "I think if Kentucky offers Delgado, they'll get him. And I'm expecting that they do (offer)."

The top two players in the class — Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor — have been talking for months about attending the same school. UK is on both players' lists, but Duke is widely seen as the most likely landing spot. (Meyer predicts the Blue Devils will get the pair).

UK has offered a few other prospects from the class of 2014 — Cliff Alexander, Devin Booker, Kelly Oubre and Justise Winslow — but Meyer predicts all four will go elsewhere.

"You can't really expect to have the No. 1 class every single year," Meyer said. "But, the fact is, Calipari has done that. So those are the expectations. That's the bar. But, I think, especially after Kentucky fans experienced what they experienced this past year, winning on the court is more important than winning in recruiting. That sounds obvious. But people are so into recruiting, and it's kind of a competition in and of itself, that I think a lot of fans lose perspective on that.

"It's that competitive spirit. You want to win every battle."

When it comes to the Crystal Ball, Meyer has won just about all of his. He has an 85-percent success rate so far with his predictions — something else that should make UK fans rest easy.

Meyer said the new feature was one of the main things 24/7 Sports founder Shannon Terry talked about when he hired the analyst last year. "The company felt like it would be a hit," Meyer said, "but I don't think they thought it would be this big."

It's not just the fans who are paying attention.

Meyer tweeted from a recruiting event in Las Vegas last week that a coach had approached him to say how much he enjoyed the Crystal Ball. He said he usually gets those kind of comments from assistants, but this was "a very respected, renowned head coach."

"The coaches, I think, are into it as much as the fans, if not more," he said. "Because that's really all the coaches care about anyway. They just want to know which way the wind's blowing. I've had a lot of coaches call me after I make a Crystal Ball pick — or especially if I switch a pick — and they want to know why."

Meyer and his 24/7 Sports colleagues aren't the only ones making predictions. The feature is open to all analysts, sportswriters and bloggers who cover recruiting.

Soon, it will be open to everyone.

Meyer said the next step will be allowing fans to log in and make their picks, an expansion that is scheduled to happen sometime in the next year.

If one of the main questions recruiting writers get is related to where a player will go to school, one of the main responses they hear is that they don't know what they're talking about.

"We get fans all the time who think they can do our job better than us," Meyer said. "They might be right, but they're going to have to put their money where their mouth is."

Meyer's predictions

Notable predictions by 24/7 Sports recruiting analyst Jerry Meyer about where stars in the class of 2014 will end up:

Rk. Player School

1. Tyus Jones Duke

2. Jahlil Okafor Duke

3. Emmanuel Mudiay Kentucky

7. Stanley Johnson Kentucky

10. Cliff Alexander Kansas

11. Kelly Oubre Kansas

12. Trey Lyles Kentucky

17. Justise Winslow Arizona

19. Goodluck Okonoboh Indiana

20. Josh Perkins Gonzaga

29. Devin Booker Michigan

64. Angel Delgado Kentucky

73. Abdul Malik Abu UConn

13. Rashad Vaughn Kentucky

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader