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UK gets bizzee on recruiting trail

A few good nuggets of interesting information have made themselves available in an otherwise slow as hell basketball recruiting period.

For those bent out of shape that West Virginia big man Patrick Patterson hasn't verbally agreed to be anyone's new power forward, chill out.  A couple of other quality names are scheduling visits and at-home sit downs with Tubby Smith.

One of those is an off-the-radar recruit with big upside -- and we do mean big.

Chris Barnes, a 6'8", 240-pound power forward prospect from Riverdale (Ga.) High School near Atlanta, is winnowing his choices, with UK among them. Barnes gets an at-home on Sept. 10 (Cincinnati, Wichita State, Tennessee, Florida, Clemson,  Central Florida, NC State, Georgia and Oklahoma are the Cats competitors). Barnes, of course, can only take five visits, and according to Rivals' Justin Young (premium link), Kentucky is in good shape to get an official visit, along with Wichita State (Sept. 16), Cincinnati (Sept. 23) and Florida (Oct. 10).

Barnes is not a rankings darling, coming in at No. 140 overall in Rivals' 2007 list, but he is a rising prospect, and his list of schools puts UK in heady SEC company. Bruce Pearl and Billy Donovan are both A+ recruiters, so Tubby will be working hard on most of his targets (Florida is also all over Patterson and J.J Hickson, another top UK target).

According to reports, it was late summer after the Nike All-America camp that things really picked up for Barnes recruitingwise, and it only intensified after he proved to be a rebounding machine at the Peach Jam, another AAU hot spot.

Speaking of Hickson, The Cats' Pause is leaking info from the other big Georgian on UK's wish list that Kentucky has made Hickson's list of five. We were rumored to be out of the running (rumors, rumors, rumors), and that he was all set to go to Florida. But there have been rumblings of an unofficial visit, and now UK is apparently trying to finalize a date for an official with the center-forward.

According to Mike Brent at TCP, Tubby will get an in-home visit sometime next week. Thanks to Brent for the scoop.

Analysis

So what does this all mean?  It means that fans aren't the only ones who have seen the potentially gaping hole in the middle should Randolph Morris decide to head to the next level after this season. Kentucky's front line as it stands with no Morris and graduation (and minus any announced freshmen-to-be) is Jared Carter, Perry Stevenson and walk-on Mark Coury.

Ergo, the need for quality bodies.

Strangely, this clear-cut playing time hasn't yet translated into any commitments, but Smith has aimed high (Patterson is #14 Rivals, Hickson #15, Barnes a rising prospect) for impact frontcourters, in hopes of an impact class. Good for him.

Tubby's clear front-and-center efforts on recruiting are long overdue, even if they have been necessitated by a run of crummy luck/finishing on the recruiting front.

Whether any of these targets arrive on campus in the fall of 2007 remains to be seen, but one thing folks cannot argue with is Tubby's attention to the top targets or his intentions of refilling the front line with quality NBA-caliber talent instead of reachable prospects with theoretically untapped potential.

Update [2006-9-7 15:4:28 by JL Blue]:

Focusing on 2008 seems hard to do, especially with all of the above 07 recruiting ongoing. But one player for UK fans to keep an eye on is Nasir Robinson (premium link), a 6'5" combo guard from Chester (Pa.) High. Robinson says of the Cats, "Kentucky is my favorite school ... I've always loved Antoine Walker. But they haven't had much to say to me. I just get some mail."

While his shooting apparently needs work, he scouts as a defensive-minded athlete. Comparisons in the article to Paul Harris, an 06 Syracuse guard, make me lick my chops. I saw Harris first-hand at the Jordan Game in NYC, and that kid is going to be a superstar.

Perhaps Kentucky is more focused on an unusual crop of in-state talent (Darius Miller, Scotty Hopson), or perhaps they are just working hard on Patterson & Hickson. Whatever the case is, it couldn't hurt to show the kid some love, could it?