UK Recruiting

Next Cats: Bad news, good news for UK recruiting

Orangeville Prep's Jamal Murray shot a free throw against Phelps Academy during the Big Apple Basketball Classic in Manhattan, N.Y. on Jan. 17.
Orangeville Prep's Jamal Murray shot a free throw against Phelps Academy during the Big Apple Basketball Classic in Manhattan, N.Y. on Jan. 17. Associated Press

In less than 24 hours, Kentucky's chances of landing one major basketball recruit for next season greatly improved, while the program's shot at bringing in another disappeared.

The bad news for the Wildcats: Five-star post player Caleb Swanigan committed to Purdue on Tuesday morning, just as it was looking like UK was making gains in his recruitment.

Swanigan — a 6-foot-8 prospect from Fort Wayne, Ind. — was the only uncommitted McDonald's All-American remaining in the class of 2015 after backing out of his pledge to Michigan State this month.

UK's coaching staff had been in contact with him in recent days, but Swanigan chose Purdue, where his legal guardian, Roosevelt Barnes, was a standout football player in the early 1980s.

The good news for the Wildcats: It was revealed late Monday that five-star combo guard Jamal Murray was in Lexington for a surprise official visit to UK.

Murray — a 6-5 prospect from Kitchener, Ontario — is a member of the class of 2016 but he has been eyeing a move to 2015, which would allow him to play college basketball next season.

The talented playmaker and his father made the trip to Lexington to get a closer look at UK.

247Sports national analyst Jerry Meyer spoke to the Herald-Leader about Murray's recruitment Monday afternoon, before news of his UK visit became public.

Meyer pointed out that Murray has the option of staying in high school for one more season and then jumping directly to the NBA Draft in 2016 as an international prospect. already projects Murray as the No. 21 overall pick in that draft.

If Murray goes to college?

"I would think — if he plays college — it's probably either Oregon or Kentucky," Meyer said.

Oregon has strong ties to Murray's AAU program and has been recruiting him longer than UK, but this week's visit shows he has serious interest in the Wildcats' program.

Shortly after his trip was reported, Meyer and other national recruiting analysts changed their "Crystal Ball" predictions for Murray to Kentucky.

247Sports ranks him as the No. 9 overall prospect in the class of 2016, and Meyer said Tuesday that he definitely would put Murray in the top 15 if he moves to the class of 2015.

For comparison, incoming UK point guard Isaiah Briscoe is ranked as the No. 16 overall player in that class by 247Sports.

There's no guarantee that Murray will reclassify to 2015, but this week's developments make the move seem more likely.

There is no timetable for that decision. Last year, one-time UK recruiting target Montaque Gill-Caesar waited until early August to announce his intention to move up a class and commit to Missouri.

It's likely that Coach John Calipari would prefer that Murray join the team next month with the rest of the incoming players, if possible.

UK already has a talented group of backcourt players lined up for next season, with Tyler Ulis and Dominique Haw kins set to be joined by fellow guards Briscoe, Charles Matthews and junior-college addition Mychal Mulder.

Murray — a bigger, versatile guard at 6-5 — would give Calipari several lineup options, including the possibility of a three-guard combination in the starting five alongside Ulis and Briscoe.

His addition also would give the Wildcats another dependable perimeter shooter, which Calipari has been looking for since losing Devin Booker and Aaron Harrison to the NBA Draft.

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