UK Recruiting

UK basketball recruiting: Kentucky wastes little time offering scholarship to James Blackmon Jr.

James Blackmon Jr. of Indiana scored on a reverse layup against Kentucky defender Trey Grundy in the Kentucky Indiana Boys All-Stars game played June 7. Blackmon, a 6-foot-2 senior shooting guard, is ranked as high as the No. 25 overall prospect of the 2014 recruiting class.
James Blackmon Jr. of Indiana scored on a reverse layup against Kentucky defender Trey Grundy in the Kentucky Indiana Boys All-Stars game played June 7. Blackmon, a 6-foot-2 senior shooting guard, is ranked as high as the No. 25 overall prospect of the 2014 recruiting class.

The father of James Blackmon Jr. said his high school basketball star of a son was going to take a wait-and-see approach after his decommitment from Indiana on Thursday.

The Blackmons didn't have wait long to hear from Kentucky.

James Blackmon Jr. picked up a scholarship offer from UK on Friday, his father told the Herald-Leader. The 6-foot-2 shooting guard had been committed to the home-state Hoosiers for three years and is considered one of the best three-point shooters in the class of 2014.

North Carolina, Florida and Michigan State were among several other top programs that got involved with Blackmon's recruitment Friday.

The Wildcats have one thing going for them that those schools do not. The recruit's father — James Blackmon Sr. — played four seasons for Kentucky in the 1980s.

Blackmon Jr. is ranked by as the No. 57 overall prospect in the senior class, though he's rated as high as No. 25 by ESPN. national analyst Evan Daniels said Blackmon's best quality is his shooting ability.

"He is an elite-level shooter in the 2014 class — arguably the best shooter in that class," Daniels told the Herald-Leader. "He can make shots from well beyond the three-point stripe. He's got a pretty quick release. And he's consistent. He's a flat-out shot maker."

New Jersey center Karl Towns is currently UK's only commitment from the class of 2014. The Cats will likely be thin at the two guard positions.

Twin freshmen Andrew and Aaron Harrison are projected to be NBA lottery picks after one season. Guard/forward James Young could be as well. And Jarrod Polson is going into his last season of eligibility.

The departures of those players would leave freshman Dominique Hawkins as the only returning guard on scholarship.

UK will be looking for recruits who can contribute immediately, and Daniels says Blackmon should have no problem doing that.

"I think, especially nowadays, there are not a lot of knock-down shooters," he said. "And I know when I'm evaluating kids — and I think coaches do as well — is they're starting to place a higher premium on the ability to shoot. You can always find room on the floor for a guy who can shoot the basketball.

"So, yes, I do think he is the type of guy who could make an impact at a high-level school early on."

He also might not have a negative effect on the other guards John Calipari is targeting from the senior class.

Calipari has offered two point guards — Emmanuel Mudiay and Tyus Jones — and two other shooting guards — Rashad Vaughn and Devin Booker.

With so much immediate playing time seemingly available, a commitment from Blackmon would be unlikely to deter others from pledging to the Cats, Daniels said.

"I don't foresee James Blackmon affecting their recruitment of Rashad Vaughn," he said. "I think they are guys who can play on the floor at the same time. It's certainly not going to affect their recruitment of point guards.

"But, hey, James Blackmon is a highly touted kid. I think he's the type of guy that if you can get him, you take him. Because he's good enough. His ability to shoot the ball is a difference maker."

Recruiting Blackmon could also help Kentucky with fellow Indianan Trey Lyles, another 2014 prospect who committed to the Hoosiers as a freshman only to decommit later in his high school career.

Lyles is considered by some services to be a top-five overall prospect in the class. The 6-9 power forward will likely choose either UK or Louisville (though Butler and Florida are also on his list).

Blackmon and Lyles were AAU teammates with Spiece Indy Heat. Blackmon Sr. told the Herald-Leader on Thursday that the two players are good friends, but he said his son's decision to decommit from Indiana had nothing to do with Lyles backing out.

"I think it's two different situations," Blackmon Sr. said. "Trey's situation is a lot different from ours."

Reynardo Bluiett coached both players with the Indy Heat. He has coached Blackmon since the seventh grade and coached against him for years before that.

"He's efficient. He takes a lot of shots, but he makes a lot of shots," Bluiett said. "You rarely see him have a non-efficient game. Your team benefits from getting him shots and getting him a high volume of shots.

"He's always worked on his weaknesses and has been willing to put in that work. That's been shown. He has a love for the game. Any guy who can work as hard as he does and loves to play — that's a great combination."

In Thursday's interview, Blackmon Sr. stressed that his son still liked Indiana and considered the Hoosiers the leader in his recruitment. The family notified Tom Crean of Blackmon Jr.'s intentions before the decommitment became public and the Hoosiers coach said he would continue to recruit him.

But the odds of Blackmon ending up in Bloomington got a lot longer with the decommitment.

"I know he's saying that IU still has a chance or whatever," Daniels said. "But it's very, very rare for a kid to end up back at the same school that he decommitted from. Very, very rare."

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