Big Blue Madness is almost here. For the Kentucky faithful, it's a chance to see their current team for the first time. For John Calipari and the Kentucky coaching staff, it also happens to be a huge recruiting event. Big Blue Madness will bring out some of the top talent in the nation. There are some exciting underclassmen names in that mix, but in this post, I'm just focusing on the Kentucky Wildcats' 2014 recruiting efforts.
Four 2014ers are expected in Lexington, including one commitment, Tyler Ulis. The other three are Trey Lyles, Stanley Johnson, and James Blackmon. As decisions loom, the intrigue boils higher. With three uncommitted high school seniors in town, Kentucky's recruitment buzz factor this weekend is set to scalding.
|Name||Pos||School (Hometown)||247 Composite Ranking||Status [Offer / Commit / Sign]||Other Finalists|
|5*, 7th||[O] 09/04/12
[S] Exp 11/13
(Chicago Heights, IL)
|4*, 34th||[O] 08/16/13
[S] Exp 11/13
|Name||Pos||School (Hometown)||247 Composite Ranking||Status [Offer / Commit / Sign]||Other Interest|
|5*, 1st||[O] 09/20/12
|5*, 4th||[O] 09/11/13||Kansas
|5*, 10th||[O] 09/11/12||Louisville
|5*, 6th||[O] 08/01/12||Arizona
|5*, 11th||[O] 07/19/13||Duke
(Moss Point, MS)
|4*, 26th||[O] 04/24/13||Michigan
(Fort Wayne, IN)
|4*, 31st||[O] 08/11/13||Michigan
Offered but Committed Elsewhere or No Longer Considering Kentucky
|Name||Pos||School (Hometown)||247 Composite Ranking||Status||Other Interest|
|5*, 3rd||[O] 07/17/12||Kansas
||SF||Henderson (NV) Findlay Prep
(Missouri City, TX)
|5*, 8th||[O] 07/11/13||Kansas|
|5*, 13th||[O] 09/24/12||UNC
|5*, 2nd||[O] 08/14/12||SMU|
(Apple Valley, MN)
|5*, 3rd||[O] 07/20/12
After the late summer transfer of Kyle Wiltjer, Kentucky currently has just two players on scholarship that could theoretically return for the 2014-15 season: Willie Cauley-Stein (junior) and Alex Poythress (junior). The 2013 class currently has 8 signees, including Julius Randle, Andrew Harrison, , James Young, Dakari Johnson, , Derek Willis, and Dominique Hawkins. The safest bets to return are Lee, Willis and Hawkins. In other words, Coach Cal needs 2014 bodies.
Targets - Bigs (Needs: 2-3)
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.
At this point, it looks like three is the target. With Towns as a flex between the 4/5, Kentucky wants one more prospect at each position. At power forward, Kentucky is all-in on Trey Lyles. The big man will officially visit Lexington for Big Blue Madness. He took an official visit to Louisville, his other finalist, at the end of August. Lyles will make a fall decision. If he does not pick Kentucky, the staff will have plenty of time going into the spring to find an alternative.
The center spot feels more murky. Kentucky made Jahlil Okafor's list of four finalists, which is good. But all signs still point to Okafor teaming up with close friend Tyus Jones in college, which is bad. Recruitniks say something like "if any school can break up Okafor and Jones, it's Kentucky." Sounds good in theory. Will not happen. Mark it down: Okafor won't be Bluegrass bound.
Likewise, recruitniks believe that it's only a matter of time before Calipari sells Myles Turner on the "Kentucky effect." Personally, I just don't see Turner straying that far away from Big 12 country. Turner continues to promise Kentucky a visit, but as he starts to use his officials up this month, the chances of him coming deteriorate. He already chose Ohio St.'s Midnight Madness over a trip to Lexington. Like with fellow Texan Kelly Oubre, Calipari may have gotten on the Turner bandwagon too late.
Off the radar: Cliff Alexander dropped Kentucky but stated the Wildcats coaching staff essentially stopped recruiting him. I still don't quite understand the mutual disinterest.
Targets - Wings (Needs: 1-2)
I've long been on the "all-in" on Stanley Johnson train, and it looks like Coach Cal is too. He made Johnson a top priority during the fall open period for coaches' visits. Johnson will be in town for Big Blue Madness on his official visit to Kentucky. The coaching staff will put forth every effort to make the distance from the west coast seem minute. Kentucky's biggest rival here is Arizona, a school Johnson has already visited twice in the past month.
I like classifying Devin Booker here as well. He's listed as a shooting guard, but his tall frame could play well in 3-guard sets, or eventually even as a pure college 3. Kentucky has been stealing momentum in Booker's recruitment all summer to the point where the Wildcats are the favorite in his recruitment. Booker already took his official visit to Kentucky for the UK Alumni Charity Game and will take his final official visit this weekend to his father's alma mater, Missouri. Of the schools Kentucky needs to worry about, Michigan is the primary competitor.
The other name to know is Justise Winslow. He received an offer towards the end of AAU play, but there hasn't been any traction since. For some reason, nothing has really materialized between Winslow and Kentucky, despite Winslow being a highly regarded player seemingly forever.
Off the board: Kelly Oubre came and went. He received an offer around the same time as Winslow. Oubre was scheduled to visit for Big Blue Madness, but took himself off the board by committing to Kansas following his official visit to Late Night in the Phog.
Targets - Guards (Needs: 2-3)
Tyler Ulis, come on down! Ulis became the second commitment in the 2014 class. He chose Kentucky after his official visit to the UK Alumni Charity Game. Despite that, he plans to be back for Big Blue Madness on an unofficial visit, presumably trying to recruit some fellow uncommitted 2014ers.
The other name of note is new as well. That would be James Blackmon, who decommitted from Indiana and now has Kentucky high on his list of schools. Blackmon is also scheduled to take his official visit to Kentucky during Big Blue Madness, despite stopping by for an unofficial visit in late August (when he received his offer). Recruitniks seem fine with the idea that Kentucky could ake both Blackmon and Booker. Of the two, Blackmon just seems more unlikely to be part of that duo. However, he still feels like Kentucky's to lose.
Off the radar: Rashad Vaughn, like Alexander, really trailed off his Kentucky interest. Again, that's a head-scratcher to me. Emmanuel Mudiay pulled the biggest shocker of the class when he committed to Larry Brown and SMU. I really thought he was a Kentucky lock. Tyus Jones dropping Kentucky after the Wildcats picked up Ulis--now that was not so shocking.
The Wildcats have a great shot to double their commitment list if Blackmon and Lyles decide to commit shortly after Big Blue Madness. Neither has set a firm decision date. Blackmon's camp had floated October 22, but shot that down after deciding to visit Indiana one more time following Big Blue Madness. Lyles will be done with his visits, but no date has been set.
Booker has noted a decision date of October 31 (or possibly October 30), and Okafor will also likely decide by the early signing period in November. Johnson could drag it out until the spring, while Turner almost definitely will.
What does it all mean? Some dominoes will fall shortly. Kentucky will soon know if it has a sturdy recruiting class or needs to go back to the drawing board in the spring. Knowing Coach Cal's track record, my guess is the former.
Older Recruiting Big Boards
More from A Sea Of Blue:
- Kentucky Basketball: Big Blue Madness Analysis And Open Thread
- Kentucky Wildcats Basketball: Big Blue Madness Preview
- 2014 Kentucky Wildcats Recruiting Big Board: October '13 Big Blue Madness Primer
- Kentucky Wildcat Lynx: The News In Blue 10/18/2013
- College Basketball: Louisville's Chane Behanan Suspended Indefinitely