College Sports

Some recent recruiting predictions didn’t go UK’s way. There are other possibilities.

Jaden McDaniels is one of the top basketball recruits in the class of 2019.
Jaden McDaniels is one of the top basketball recruits in the class of 2019. The News Tribune (Tacoma, Wash.)

Recruiting predictions are a dangerous thing.

Sorting through the conflicting information and sources that go along with just about every high-profile recruitment rarely ever results in 100 percent certainty, especially when the subjects of such talk and speculation are 17-year-old kids.

Most of the time, recruiting analysts and observers end up with a small group of schools they believe to be at the top of a player’s list. Often, those analysts are asked to make a bold prediction — no wiggle room — about such prospects. It’s not an easy task, especially when a recruitment is weeks or months away from a resolution.

This week, the Rivals.com basketball recruiting team posted their predictions on all 22 uncommitted five-star players from its new class of 2019 rankings.

That results could’ve looked better for Kentucky.

Yes, the Cats already have three commitments for 2019 — including pledges from No. 7 overall player Kahlil Whitney and ninth-ranked Tyrese Maxey, the only top-10 players to pick a school so far — but, when it comes to recruiting, the mantra of UK fans is more, more, more.

This week’s predictions didn’t offer that.

The two biggest takeaways of most UK fans seemed to be: 1.) all four Rivals.com experts picked highly coveted recruit James Wiseman to Memphis; and 2.) national analysts Eric Bossi and Corey Evans picked the Wildcats for only one player, No. 21-ranked Oscar Tshiebwe.

That means Bossi and Evans had longtime UK targets like Wiseman, Vernon Carey, Matthew Hurt, Scottie Lewis, Keion Brooks and others headed elsewhere.

That didn’t go unnoticed. But the final results will likely be different.

“The fan base — like any fan base — when you see the guys you’re recruiting, you want to see the experts picking every single one of those guys to your team, right?” Bossi told the Herald-Leader. “Maybe that hasn’t happened just yet. But we know they’re going to get their guys. Whether it’s Oscar and James Wiseman, or Oscar and Vernon Carey — whatever combination they end up with — there’s too much history to not think that they end up with two or three more big-time guys and ultimately continue to challenge for the top-ranked recruiting class in the country.”

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UK, which currently has the No. 2-ranked class in the country behind Southern Cal, isn’t done recruiting for this cycle, to be sure. And John Calipari is usually good for a surprise or two in any class.

Bossi and Evans both told the Herald-Leader this week that Wiseman’s recruitment — not expected to end until the spring — could still swing either way between UK and Memphis.

Bossi picked Michigan State for No. 1-ranked Carey, and Evans picked Duke, but there’s no clear leader in that one either.

They both also mentioned Zeke Nnaji, the 6-foot-10 power forward from Minnesota and recent recipient of a UK scholarship offer, as a legitimate possibility. Rivals ranks Nnaji just outside of five-star territory at No. 37 overall, though Bossi said this week that they might regret not having him higher on that list.

“I’m having a hard time imagining him not making the NBA at some point, given his game and upside,” he wrote Tuesday.

Evans told the Herald-Leader that he thinks UK will get “at least one” of Wiseman, Tshiebwe and Nnaji, and Carey and Hurt remain important front-court targets, as well.

Asked if there were any other players from the Rivals.com list of predictions that he could see swinging back UK’s way, Evans came up with a couple of guys that Wildcats fans might have given up on.

Scottie Lewis 049.jpg
Scottie Lewis is one of the top basketball recruits in the class of 2019. Kelly Kline Under Armour

One was Lewis, the 6-5 wing from New Jersey who is scheduled to be in Lexington for an official visit this weekend. Evans, along with pretty much every other recruiting analyst, is predicting Lewis to Florida, which hosted the five-star prospect for a visit last weekend.

The Gators picked up a commitment from Lewis’ friend and teammate, Alex Klatsky, this week, another sign of their strength in this recruitment. If Lewis follows through with the UK trip this weekend, however, it shows the Cats still have a shot.

“People are going to make a big deal about Scottie Lewis and Florida and the Klatsky thing. I don’t think it’s done,” Evans said. “I think Kentucky is still right there in the mix. And I think Scottie is definitely having a problem making the right choice for him. Or figuring out what he wants to do.

“People are making a big deal about that, and I get that, but I think Kentucky is still an option for him.”

Another possibility for UK might be No. 4-ranked Jaden McDaniels, a 6-9 forward from Seattle who could ultimately be the best prospect to come out of the 2019 class.

“I honestly would not be surprised to see Kentucky jump in on Jaden McDaniels,” Evans said. “I think they’re going to wait the process out, and if that’s the case, I think it behooves Kentucky. It gives them an even better chance to get in there and offer, develop that relationship and see what happens.”

McDaniels has not released an official list of schools. UK hasn’t extended a scholarship offer, but he has called Kentucky his “dream school” growing up and is in no hurry to make a college decision. In the Rivals.com predictions story, Evans picked Washington and Bossi picked Arizona. McDaniels’ older brother is also a star player at San Diego State.

Evans told the Herald-Leader that he considered UK a serious player for McDaniels before it was known that Calipari was in the Seattle area recruiting Thursday night. It’s certainly not too late for UK to make an impact for a player who has skyrocketed in the rankings over the past few months and appears wide open to the process.

“He’s in no rush at all. This is all brand new to him,” Evans said. “And he hasn’t really had a chance to relax. He’s been on the road so much and then went right back to school when he got back home in August, so he really hasn’t had a chance to take things in. And for a guy like that, there is no rush, unless you just want to get it over with. What’s the point of making an abrupt decision and signing in November for those kind of guys? You’re better off waiting.”

Five-star basketball recruit Jaden McDaniels has blown up on the national scene this spring and summer, and UK is now among the many top schools paying attention.

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