It's the Kentucky Effect in full force. Over the weekend, 2013 power forward Jermaine Lawrence tweeted a list of his final seven schools. In no particular order, they are Cincinnati, Kansas, Kentucky, St. John's, Syracuse, UCLA and UNLV. According to the recruiting sites, all of the schools listed have offered Lawrence except for one notable exception: Kentucky.
And it's not like Lawrence is chopped liver. Lawrence, from Pope John XXIII High School in New Jersey, is ranked 16th by ESPN and 19th by Rivals. Prior to the weekend, there had not really much link between Lawrence and the Wildcats. Earlier this summer, Lawrence had listed Rutgers, Syracuse and Florida as his top three. Since then, the Gators received a commitment from two power forwards, Chris Walker and Schuyler Rimmer. Rutgers fans, meanwhile, are left lamenting their place on the recruiting pecking order.
Back to the Kentucky Effect. Right now, the Wildcats are hot, hot, hot. Yes, the top players want to come to Kentucky. No, they don't always end up here. For example, top recruit Anthony Bennett chose UNLV over the Wildcats last year, despite a substantial push from the Wildcats coaching staff. But if you can argue that any other program has more buzz than Kentucky in recruiting circles right now, I'd like to hear it.
Here are some recent examples of the Kentucky Effect at work:
- Five-star forward Aaron Gordon essentially called a visit to Kentucky mandatory, despite heavy speculation that he will stay on the West Coast.
- Forward Kuran Iverson stated that if Kentucky "ever wanted me to take a visit, I'll take a visit."
- Former Louisville resident Dominic Woodson kept Kentucky in his top 10 while omitting rival program Louisville.
- Forward Tyler Roberson included Kentucky on his list of 10 schools after the Wildcats coaching staff requested a time to visit him.
- Indiana point guard Demetrius Jackson plans to schedule an official visit to Kentucky to see the campus.
- West coast center Marcus Lee chose Big Blue Madness as one of his Midnight Madness destinations (he will also visit Indiana for Hoosier Hysteria).
Okay, yes, this post could probably use a #humblebrag tag. It really is a testament to the Kentucky coaching staff, though. These guys are doing their homework on top prospects across the country, making sure the leave no stone unturned. And in return, prospects have been lining up to listen to John Calipari's pitch.
As for Lawrence, Julius Randle and Gordon are almost certainly the top power forward prospects on Kentucky's big board. While Randle maintains interest in the Wildcats and recently listed Kentucky in his top 10, he figures to be a hard get. Randle is a big fan of the Carolina schools, and likes the top Big 12 programs as well. It's a similar story with Gordon, who is strongly considering Kentucky but may end up opting to stay out west. The Wildcats already have a commitment at forward from local product Derek Willis.
Should Kentucky's staff feel like it is faltering with Randle or Gordon, Lawrence certainly represents a nice fallback option. You know, as much as a five-star, potential All-American could be considered a "fallback option."