Posted: 3:01 p.m. Monday, May 20, 2013
With the 2013 recruiting class in the books, the Kentucky Wildcats and its coaching staff of powerhouse recruiters turn their eyes to 2014. With classes ending across the nation and AAU season in full swing, there are plenty of opportunities to check out some of Kentucky's top targets.
Head coach John Calipari already has one commitment on board for 2014. That would be Karl Towns, who committed to the Wildcats back in December. He's the bell cow of the class. After playing for Calipari as a representative for the Dominican Republic national team, Towns is already out "recruiting" his fellow '14 rising seniors to don Kentucky blue.
Top targets already hold offers, but expect new names (and possibly subsequent offers) to arise throughout the summer. As it stands, here is the latest Big Board.
|Name||Pos||School (Hometown)||247 Composite Ranking||Status [Offer / Commit / Sign]||Other Finalists|
|Karl Towns||PF/C||St. Joseph|
|5*, 9th||[O] 09/04/12|
[S] Exp 11/13
|Name||Pos||School (Hometown)||247 Composite Ranking||Status [Offer / Commit / Sign]||Other Interest|
|Jahlil Okafor||C||Whitney Young|
|5*, 1st||[O] 09/20/12||Duke|
|5*, 7th||[O] 07/17/12||Michigan St|
|Trey Lyles||PF||Arsenal Tech|
|5*, 4th||[O] 09/11/12||Louisville|
|Stanley Johnson||SF/SG||Mater Dei|
|5*, 13th||[O] 08/01/12||Arizona|
|5*, 8th||[O] 09/24/12||UNC|
|Devin Booker||SG||Moss Point|
(Moss Point, MS)
|5*, 21st||[O] 04/24/13||Duke|
|Emmanuel Mudiay||PG||Prime Prep|
|5*, 2nd||[O] 08/14/12||Baylor|
|Tyus Jones||PG||Apple Valley|
(Apple Valley, MN)
|5*, 3rd||[O] 07/20/12||Duke|
|Name||Pos||School (Hometown)||247 Composite Ranking||Status||Other Interest|
|Goodluck Okonoboh||C||Wilbraham & Monson|
|4*, 28th||Not Yet Offered||Indiana|
|Leron Black||PF/SF||White Station|
|5*, 16th||Not Yet Offered||Baylor|
|Craig Victor||PF||St. Augustine|
(New Orleans, LA)
|4*, 33rd||Not Yet Offered||Arizona|
|Abdul Malik-Abu||PF||Kimball Union|
|4*, 56th||Not Yet Offered||Wisconsin|
|Shane Hall||PF||Johnson Central|
|4*, 84th||Not Yet Offered||Butler|
|D.J. Foreman||PF||Massanuten Military|
(Spring Valley, NY)
|4*, 103rd||Not Yet Offered||Rhode Island|
|Theo Pinson||SF||Wesleyan Christian|
|5*, 12th||Not Yet Offered||UNC|
|Jalen Lindsey||SF||Huntington (WV) Prep|
|4*, 27th||Not Yet Offered||Memphis|
|Zylan Cheatham||SF||Westwind Prep|
|4*, 79th||Not Yet Offered||Arizona St|
|Ryan Skovranko||SF/SG||Lincoln Park|
|Not Ranked||Not Yet Offered||Temple|
|D'Angelo Russell||SG||Montverde (FL) Academy|
|5*, 17th||Not Yet Offered||Louisville|
(New York, NY)
|4*, 34th||Not Yet Offered||Syracuse|
|Josh Perkins||PG||Regis Jesuit|
|4*, 31st||Not Yet Offered||Gonzaga|
Kentucky currently has three players on scholarship that could theoretically return for the 2014-15 season: Kyle Wiltjer (senior), Willie Cauley-Stein (junior) and Alex Poythress (junior). The 2013 class currently has 8 signees, including Julius Randle, Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, James Young, Dakari Johnson, Marcus Lee, Derek Willis, and Dominique Hawkins. The safest bets to return are Lee, Willis and Hawkins. Wiltjer will likely stick around for his senior season as well. As always, Calipari will be reloading, not rebuilding.
Karl Towns, listed at 6' 10" by 247 Sports, has a collegiate center's body but possesses an outside-in game that would ideally fit at the 4. That versatility should give Kentucky's opponents matchup nightmares while providing Kentucky some versatility in building out the rest of the class.
Kentucky has offered two traditional low-post bigs in Jahlil Okafor and Cliff Alexander. Okafor ranks atop many 2014 prospect lists, while Alexander, a fellow 5*, is no slouch himself. Either player would be an ideal complement to Towns in the paint. Okafor has been closely linked to Duke, while Alexander may be hard to pry from in-state school Michigan St.
The last important name to know right now is Trey Lyles, who comes with some controversy. Lyles had originally committed to Indiana. After he decommitted, Indiana head coach not-so-subtly implied that other coaches had come sniffing around trying to pry Lyles loose. As of now, Lyles isn't really considering the Hoosiers, and in-state rivals Kentucky and Louisville may be the leaders.
Should Calipari look beyond Kentucky's current offer list, two names to keep tabs on are LeRon Black and Craig Victor. Black, a Baylor decommit, has known Calipari since the coach's days at Memphis. Meanwhile, Victor (who resides in SEC country) has had a great start to AAU play and may shoot up recruiting boards soon. Kentucky may also look for multi-year prospects to provide depth. Other players who have heard from the coaching staff include Goodluck Okonoboh, Abdul Malik-Abu, D.J. Foreman, and Bluegrass native Shane Hall.
Off the radar: Dakari Johnson reclassified to the 2013 class and--hey, look at that!--ended up signing with Kentucky. You'll see him in Rupp next year.
Filling the small forward and shooting guard roles in the class feels like a bit of a fuzzy gray area right now. Ideally, uber-prospect Andrew Wiggins would have stayed in the 2014 class and picked Kentucky. Hey, even Coach Cal can't always get what he wants.
At least Calipari isn't afraid to go prospecting on the West Coast. He has already offered Californian Stanley Johnson. Like most of Kentucky's Pac-12 area offers, Johnson likely will stay west, but it doesn't hurt to try. He ranks right outside the top 10, and kudos to Calipari for believing in him last year when he was a borderline 5* prospect.
Kentucky has offers outstanding to two bigger shooting guards as well in Rashad Vaughn and Devin Booker. Booker is the son of former Missouri star Melvin Booker, and also owns the unique distinction of being the only 2014 prospect to receive an offer from Kentucky this spring. He has Michigan ties, but has since moved to Mississippi to play high school ball. Booker is an elite shooter as much as Vaughn is an outstanding slasher. Since receiving his Kentucky offer last year, Vaughn has moved into the Top 10 nationally.
Of unoffered prospects, Jalen Lindsey from nearby Tennessee has gotten a lot of buzz. Lindsey has expressed interest in visiting Kentucky this summer, and could receive an offer if he continues to impress. Kentucky has also contacted Zylan Cheatham, who has built an impressive offer list, and relative unknown Ryan Skovranko.
One guy that won't be picking Kentucky is Theo Pinson. The five-star player has received sporadic Kentucky interest but is set to decide on Wednesday between the five listed schools.
Off the board:Andrew Wiggins rightfully reclassed to 2013. He'll be the top pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, but unfortunately Adam Silver will announce that he played college ball at Kansas. Shaqquan Aaron expressed a lot of interest in Kentucky last fall but committed to arch-rival Louisville this spring. There also hasn't been much news about Paul White, Okafor's high school teammate.
Kentucky will likely have to reload their backcourt after its 2013 studs, the Harrison twins, depart for the NBA. Naturally, Calipari has already locked in on two potential point guards for the future. Emmanuel Mudiay and Tyus Jones rank alongside Okafor to form a Top 3 in the 2014 class, separating themselves from the pack.
Mudiay is the more prototypical Calipari point guard. At 6 '4", the Texan has the size to go along with the dynamic skill set. Kentucky is considered the clubhouse leader, but look out for local school Baylor. Meanwhile, Jones has elite vision and passing ability, and may be the most mature point guard to come out in years. There have been rumors that he and Okafor will play for the same school (again, Duke is the early leader), along with fellow 5* Justise Winslow.
At the 2, the aforementioned Booker and Vaughn could fit there. The most curious name that doesn't have an offer looks like a perfect fit. That would be D'Angelo Russell, a Louisville native who currently plays at Montverde in Florida (Dakari Johnson's alma mater). He has visited Lexington before, and the five-star player curiously holds offers from Florida and Louisville, but not Kentucky. Another shooting guard, Isaiah Whitehead, from New York, has pined for Kentucky interest.
At point guard, Calipari looks to be hedging his offers by recently reaching out to Josh Perkins. Perkins has made some noise in AAU ball and sits just outside 5* status. However, he's strictly a backup plan unless Calipari feels things going sour with both Mudiay and Jones.
Off the radar:Jaquan Lyle exhibited a lot of Kentucky interest, even visiting the campus, but never received a Kentucky offer. He has dropped the Wildcats from his list and is down to six schools.
The Towns commitment gave Kentucky a really nice start to the class. If Kentucky can rebound with a good 2013-14 basketball season, another top class remains all but assured. The pivot points look like center and point guard, with each position currently holding top two tier options to choose from.
If I were a betting man, I would place my chips on Mudiay being the most likely prospect to commit, in which case Kentucky might push hard for Alexander as well. Both Mudiay and Alexander compare favorably to incoming Wildcats Andrew Harrison and Dakari Johnson, respectively. It's easy to envision Kentucky transitioning to the 2014-15 season hardly missing a beat.
Of course, Calipari can also swing for the fences and try to land the "package deal" of Jones and Okafor. Though Calipari doesn't get every recruit he wants, his proven track record clearly demonstrates that he's a force to be reckoned with on the recruiting trail.
If anything, the most important thing to remember is that it's early in the recruiting cycle. This time last year, the Wildcats had just one 2013 commit in lightly regarded Derek Willis. With Towns aboard, Kentucky is already ahead of the curve. And just like last year's class, this year's will eventually be filled with a lot of great players.