UK Recruiting

Next Cats: Kentucky to put on show for Johnson's Madness visit

Stanley Johnson, a small forward from California, is rated No. 3 overall by in the class of 2014. He has a scholarship offer from Kentucky.
Stanley Johnson, a small forward from California, is rated No. 3 overall by in the class of 2014. He has a scholarship offer from Kentucky. ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

Earlier this year, when asked to recall his first encounter with University of Kentucky basketball fans, Marcus Lee leaned forward in his chair with bright eyes and a brighter smile.

Lee explained how he was on his official recruiting visit to Lexington, and he and some of the other prospects in town that weekend were walking through the bowels of Rupp Arena on the night of Big Blue Madness.

They were walking, talking, paying little attention to anything else. They hit the tunnel to go out to the arena floor and find their seats near the court.

They saw the lights, and then they saw the fans.

"All I see is their heads go from straight to the court to straight up," Lee said, looking up at the ceiling in awe. "We all had the same reaction, 'Wow, this is amazing.' It was packed with people all in blue and white. It was amazing."

Six days later, Lee sat at a table in his high school gym in California and announced that he would be a Kentucky Wildcat.

John Calipari is hoping for a similar story to start unfolding Friday night.

Stanley Johnson — another California kid on Cal's wish list — will make his first visit to Lexington to see Big Blue Madness. Johnson told the Herald-Leader in July that he picked this date for a reason.

"I expect the red carpet to be out," he said. "That's them at their best. And if that's them at their best I want to see a lot of good things happen. I'm already excited about it because I heard all the fans come out and all the players are juiced.

"It'll be all love. I'm excited to see what happens."

Johnson is arguably the No. 1 target on Calipari's recruiting board for the Class of 2014. This will be his first — and likely only — visit to Lexington before he makes his college decision, which isn't likely to come until January.

For that reason, it's important that UK makes a good impression this weekend. national analyst Evan Daniels said the timing is great for the Cats.

"For Kentucky, it's big," Daniels told the Herald-Leader. "They're getting him on campus during a big weekend and an exciting weekend for the Kentucky basketball program. It's one of those weekends where they can showcase Kentucky basketball and what it's all about."

Johnson won't be alone.

Fellow uncommitted seniors Trey Lyles and James Blackmon Jr. will also be in town for their official visits this weekend, though both players have already been to UK before.

Calipari will also be hosting both of his commitments for the Class of 2014: Karl Towns Jr. and Tyler Ulis.

Having Towns and Ulis visit at the same time as Johnson is a plus.

"You want those guys on campus, because they're already committed to the program," Daniels said. "And these kids nowadays, they're going to do some recruiting of their own."

Officially, Johnson has narrowed his list to five schools. Oregon and Florida are on there, but Daniels said the "thought behind the scenes" is that this recruitment is down to UK, Arizona and Southern Cal. ranks Johnson as the No. 6 overall prospect in the senior class. That's a big bump from where the recruiting services had him pegged last year.

There's a simple reason for his rise in the rankings.

"He's improved a great deal," Daniels said. "And that's a testament to how hard Stanley works. His ball handling and all-around ball skills have improved a great deal. His jump shot has improved a great deal.

"He's always had elite intangibles. And Stanley's always been a winner."

Men's recruits

Class of 2014

x-Karl Towns 7-0 Metuchen, N.J.

x-Tyler Ulis 5-9 Chicago Heights, Ill.

James Blackmon Jr. 6-2 Marion, Ind.

Stanley Johnson 6-7 Fullerton, Calif.

Trey Lyles 6-9 Indianapolis, Ind.

Class of 2015

Eric Davis 6-3 Saginaw, Mich.

Class of 2016

Harry Giles 6-9 Winston-Salem, N.C.

Joshua Langford 6-5 Huntsville, Ala.

Kobi Simmons 6-4 Alpharetta, Ga.

Jayson Tatum 6-7 St. Louis, Mo.

Class of 2017

Brian Bowen 6-6 Saginaw, Mich.

Women's recruits

Class of 2014

x-Alexis Jennings 6-2 Madison, Ala.

x-Jaycee Coe 6-0 Cookeville, Tenn.

Class of 2015

x-Maci Morris 6-0 Pineville, Ky.

Napheesa Collier 6-1 St. Louis, Mo.

MeMe Jackson 5-11 Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Kaylan Pugh 5-9 Collierville, Tenn.

Brittany Ward 6-1 Indianapolis, Ind.

Class of 2016

Erin Boley 6-2 Hodgenville, Ky.

Krys McCune 6-3 Louisville, Ky.

Class of 2017

Lindsey Duvall 5-9 Mt. Washington, Ky.

Mikayla Coombs 5-8 Norcross, Ga.

Kasiyahna Kushkituah 6-4 Alpharetta, Ga.

x-Committed to UK

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