Just as we get ready to ramp up for the big game against
Satan and his minions the Louisville Cardinals tomorrow, I think it's time we talked a little bit about 2014 recruiting, or 'crootin as it's sometimes called down south of the Kentucky state line. Many pixels have been darkened about the 2013 class, which is, surprisingly, currently in the process of validating it's hype, even if somewhat belatedly. No matter how that works out, win or lose tomorrow, there will be a 2014-15 basketball season and yes, Kentucky will be invited to participate.
So, let's take a look at what we have incoming, shall we?
Back court newcomers
- Coming from: Moss Point, Mississippi
- Rivals.com rating: 4-star, #30 nationally
- Measurables: 6'5", 180#
- Position: Shooting guard/wing forward
- Notes: Friends with Tyler Ulis, a 2014 Kentucky classmate.
Devin Booker is a big, strong wing with in-the-gym range. He is not a superior athlete, but is athletic enough that, in combination with his long, strong body, can be a major offensive threat for the Wildcats. Booker won't wow you off the bounce or with high-flying dunks, but he has a quick release, can shoot an array of shots including midrange and floaters, and is adept at changing pace and using his size and length on the dribble drive. He's a solid ballhandler but will struggle against much quicker, smaller guards.
Booker is a deft perimeter scorer, can use his off hand, and even though he's not all-world athletically has great size and good length. He is a devastating shooter if not closely guarded.
Video (Booker is #22 in black)
- Coming from: Chicago Heights, Illinois
- Rivals.com rating: 4-star, #33 nationally
- Measurables: 5'8", 150#
- Position: Point guard
- Notes: Friends with Devin Booker.
When people describe Tyler Ulis, the first word that comes to mind is "fearless." When you listen to Ulis talk, you understand why Calipari recruited him. He communicates his intentions very clearly and concisely. He knows what he wants to tell you, and gets it straight out. He exudes a quality of leadership, and he is supremely confident in his ability. He consistently outplayed bigger point guards in both high school and AAU with his quickness, his dynamite on-ball defense, and his commitment to being a pass-first point guard despite having a lethal jumper and long range.
Ulis has an obscene, flashy handle and the kind of quickness only a small, athletic man can possess. He is a very good passer, totally unselfish (as you'll note in the video) and well aware that at Kentucky, he'll be shooting a lot less and passing a lot more. He is a disruptive defender in the open floor and flashes almost invisibly into passing lanes.
Front court newcomers
- Coming from: Indianapolis, Indiana
- Rivals.com rating: 5-star, #8 nationally
- Measurables: 6'10", 245#
- Position: Power forward
Trey Lyles is the kind of player that every coach covets in college basketball. He has size, soft hands, tremendous skill and tireless work ethic. He's a bruising rebounder down low, has an array of post moves, can face up from outside and even swing over to the three. He has range out to the 3-point line but is kind of like Julius Randle in that he's a talented ballhandler and craves contact and finishes through it. Lyles' versatility and solid fundamental game will make him a key player next season.
- Coming from: Metuchen, New Jersey
- Rivals.com rating: 5-star, #11 nationally
- Measurables: 7'0", 240#
- Position: Power forward/center
The first thing you notice about Karl Towns Jr. is how big and soft his hands are. The second thing is that he's a shooting guard in a power forward's body. Former Louisville star and NBA player Francisco Garcia, when asked who Towns reminded him of, replied "... maybe Kevin Durrant?" Towns has extreme range out to 30 feet (yes, that's not a typo) and also possesses an array of post moves, great footwork, an outstanding off hand, an extremely pleasant and outgoing attitude, a quick release, a remarkable work ethic and a partridge in a pear tree. He reclassified from 2015, so he'll be the youngest member in this class. Did I mention that Towns has a 4.3 GPA? No? Oops.
Video - We have a couple
Towns and Andrew Wiggins in an impromptu shootout from the left hashmark (about 28 feet.)
How might these young men affect our team next season? Very positively, no matter who on the current team stays or goes. These kids bring a nice diversity of skill to the team, and every one of them can shoot the basketball with range for their position, sometimes, as in the case of Towns, gobsmackingly so. This recruiting class simply has it all — size, shooting, ballhandling, passing, rebounding, shot-blocking and on-ball defense.
We can't really know what Kentucky will look like next year, but there is no way to keep most of these kids off the floor no matter who stays. The Harrison twins coming back another season are the biggest question mark right now, as I think it is a foregone conclusion that Julius Randle, Willie Cauley-Stein and James Young are all projected at or near lottery picks and therefore very likely to enter the draft early. So it's really too early to speculate on who will be doing what next year. But just like every year since John Calipari came to the Bluegrass, you can expect a blizzard of young talent to take the floor.