John Calipari is looking for a few good men to join the Kentucky program.
From a Wildcat fan's perspective, most of the focus has been on the early entry decisions from Kentucky's underclassmen. Big Blue Nation received somewhat unexpected good news that talented freshman Terrence Jones chose to return for his sophomore year. But his fellow freshman All-American Brandon Knight elected not to return, and a strong performance at the New Jersey Combine gave DeAndre Liggins the confidence to stay in the draft as well.
Those decisions drastically shifted the 2011 recruiting landscape for the Wildcats. Going into the 2011-12 season, Kentucky is now top-heavy, with four potential starters (Jones, Darius Miller, Michael Gilchrist, ) to man three positions, and two more capable backups (Eloy Vargas, Kyle Wiltjer) to boot. Meanwhile, the backcourt is light. Doron Lamb is the only returnee who played major minutes, and Marquis Teague will likely step in to fill Knight's shoes starting at point guard. Kentucky also returns scholarship guards Jon Hood and Stacey Poole, and preferred walkons Jarrod Polson and Twany Beckham could receive a one-year scholarship as well.
From a recruiting standpoint, the curious news that Kentucky hadn't made additional contact with 2011 PF Joseph Uchebo is less surprising in retrospect. Uchebo was released from his Letter of Intent at North Carolina State following the hiring of new head coach Mark Gottfried. Calipari thought enough of Uchebo to make a recruiting trip to Word of God Academy instead of visiting highly touted 2012 recruit and Kentucky target Perry Ellis in Wichita, KS. Uchebo, a talented player in his own right, is looking for a school where he can get some, or even any, minutes. With Jones now returning, Kentucky is not that school. Further, Kentucky is likely done recruiting any bigs for the class of 2011, and will shift its focus to its 2012 targets.
Thus the last name on Kentucky's 2011 big board is SG Trevor Lacey. Lacey took an official visit to Kentucky on May 2, and had positive things to say about the Cats. Lacey, on Calipari: "just seeing how Coach Calipari is...he's passionate, always helping his players. He's always on the go about them." Lacey is also considering Alabama, Kansas and Auburn, but Kentucky has to feel good about its chances. Lamb and Teague will almost certainly start at the 1 and 2, but the departure of Liggins and Knight opens up a lot of available backup minutes in the backcourt. If Lacey can develop a passable defensive presence to complement his strong scoring ability, he should have no problem stepping into 10-15 minutes of playing time for a top 5 team. And with Lamb a strong candidate for early entry in 2012, Lacey would then have an avenue into a plush starting gig. Lacey plans to announce his decision on May 18; fingers crossed that he says Kentucky.
As 2011 recruiting winds down, the 2012 class is on the horizon. Given the decisions of Terrence Jones, Jared Sullinger, Harrison Barnes, and other top prospects, it's safe to say that the impending NBA lockout was a key factor in this year's draft. Freshmen may not even be allowed to make that decision next year, should Commissioner David Stern get his way. If the new Collective Bargaining Agreement stipulates that players may not enter the NBA until two years out of high school, Kentucky fans should get pumped for year 2 of Davis, Gilchrist, and Teague. This uncertainty may be one reason why the Wildcats have yet to secure a commitment for the class of 2012.
That doesn't mean there hasn't been activity swirling. Two of the most recent names to surface are combo guard Rodney Purvis and PG Ryan Harrow. Purvis was a Louisville commit, but recently decided to open his recruitment. He was quite close to ex-Louisville assistant Tim Fuller, who left for the same position at Missouri. Kentucky is now one of the teams mentioned by Purvis, along with NC State and Duke. Purvis may be still considering Louisville, and it wouldn't be surprising if Missouri jumped on his list as well. After getting burned once, Purvis may stretch out part two of his recruitment just a little longer.
Harrow is also an intriguing option. Like Uchebo, Harrow chose to leave NC State after not seeing eye-to-eye with the new coaching regime. Harrow struggled in his freshman year, averaging 9.9 PPG and 3.3 APG and shooting just 39% from the field. However, the one-time 5* recruit has loads of potential, and could immediately step into a starting role when he becomes eligible in 2012. Harrow is doing a five school barnstorming tour, starting with Kentucky this evening, followed by Texas, Louisville, Georgia and St. John’s. Per his mother, Harrow's plan is to decide by mid-June in order to start taking summer classes.
A handful of future Kentucky targets recently attended the Jayhawk Invitational, including 2012 SF Shabazz Muhammad, 2012 PF Perry Ellis, 2012 SF Winston Shepard and 2013 PF Chris Thomas. The Shiver, a KU website, has a great recap of the standouts as well as a couple of YouTube highlight reels (Muhammad | Ellis | Shepard).
Other Stories of Interest
Kentucky's women's basketball program is adding a former McDonald's All-American transfer from Cal in DeNesha Stallworth...2013 PG Aquille Carr was supposedly offered a $750,000 contract to play overseas. Carr has Kentucky on his "interest" list....2013 PF Tyrek Coger committed to Missouri, which is of interest because Coger is close friends with Purvis...2013 F Chris Walker may visit Kentucky in the near future...Scout.com updated its 2012 Top 100, with Kentucky target Andre Drummond holding onto the pole position...2011 Kentucky Mr. Basketball Anthony Hickey from Christian County signed with LSU...Former Kentucky target and Washington commit Tony Wroten is in hot water with the NCAA...So is UCF, thanks to its recruitment of Kevin Ware and the outstanding investigative journalism by Pete Thamel...Further changes may be coming to the NCAA Basketball Recruiting Calendar.