John Calipari isn’t letting up.
No, sir. No way, no how, not now. Remember that hot take claiming Duke was flat-out dominating college hoops recruiting? Coach K is the one-and-done king? Color that outdated. Swaggy Cal is back, wooing recruits, pumping out tweets, signing five-star after five-star after five-star.
Wednesday, standout class of 2019 point guard Tyrese Maxey, 13th in the most recent 247Sports individual rankings, became the latest prime prospect to pledge his future to the Big Blue.
The 6-foot-3, 185-pounder from Garland, Texas, cooled speculation he will re-classify into the class of 2018. His preference, for now at least, is to play his senior season at South Garland High School before arriving at the Joe Craft Center for Camp Cal’s 2019 summer sessions.
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Maxey’s commitment comes a month after, on successive days, Calipari beat out Duke to sign 6-10 EJ Montgomery, a highly rated class of 2018 power forward and former Auburn commit; then received a verbal from 2019 point guard star Ashton Hagans, a former Georgia commit who could re-classify up one year.
Wait, we’re not done yet. The month before that, Calipari picked up a commitment from D.J. Jeffries, a class of 2019 forward from Olive Branch, Miss., ranked No. 53 by Rivals. That came in the midst of signing 2018 standouts Immanuel Quickley, Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro for next season.
And did we mention that, despite a new wave of star guards due for arrival, Calipari talked holdover guard Quade Green out of any thoughts the Philadelphia native had of transferring?
This isn’t to say we should re-crown Kentucky kings of recruiting again quite yet. With R.J. Barrett, Cameron Reddish, Zion Williamson and Tre Jones, plus class of 2019 star Joey Baker re-classifying, Duke retains a grip on the top spot in the 2018 team rankings by most scouting services.
Nor do we know the exact shape of Kentucky’s 2018-19 final roster. Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Hamidou Diallo are departing. PJ Washington, Jarred Vanderbilt and Wenyen Gabriel have all tossed their names into the NBA Draft pool, but with the option of withdrawing before the end of the month and returning to school. We could know more after next week’s NBA Draft Combine.
What we do know is fears of a Calipari recruiting regression have proven premature. Cal likes nothing more than a challenge and he has taken to this one with his typical tenacity.
Recruits are responding. Kentucky’s lack of recent NCAA Tournament success matters less than Calipari’s continued NBA Draft success. Latest example: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The least heralded of Kentucky’s 2017 recruits, Gilgeous-Alexander is a probable lottery pick and possible top-10 selection when NBA teams start naming names June 21.
You also have to factor in how Jeff Capel’s departure will affect Duke’s recruiting now that the Blue Devils’ lead recruiter is the head coach at Pittsburgh.
Maxey’s commitment gives Kentucky three of 247Sports’ top 31 prospects — Hagans is No. 10; Maxey is No. 13; Jeffries is No. 31 — according to 247 Sports, and Calipari doesn’t appear anywhere close to being done.
He’s hot on the trail of Vernon Carey Jr., the 6-10 power forward out of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who is No. 1 on Rivals’ list of 2019 recruits. He’s also hot on the trail of James Wiseman, the 7-foot power forward from Memphis, who is No. 1 on the 247Sports prospect list.
Cal is also recruiting Matthew Hurt, a 6-9 forward from Rochester, Minn., ranked No. 5 by Rivals. And Scottie Lewis, a 6-4 guard from Tinton Falls, N.J., ranked No. 8 by 247Sports. And Keion Brooks, a 6-7 forward from Fort Wayne, Ind., ranked No. 27 by 247Sports.
Suggested title for Cal’s next book: "Can’t stop, won't stop."