As expected, the Kentucky Wildcats are officially out of the running for Wendell Carter Jr.
The five-star big man out of Atlanta announced his final four on Tuesday, and it did not include UK.
The home-state Georgia Bulldogs and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets join the Duke Blue Devils and Harvard Crimson make up his list. UK has shown Carter virtually no interest in the past several months as they’ve prioritized Mohamed Bamba and Nick Richards as their top big man targets in 2017.
The third-overall player in ESPN’s rankings, Carter was being pursued heavily by UK before the summer circuit began, but a combination of Duke being the heavy favorite and John Calipari wanting Mohamed Bamba more has led to little contact between UK and Carter since around May.
Calipari decided that going after Bamba harder was not only the smart move in terms of interest, or lack thereof by Carter, but Bamba is also the superior prospect and someone who’s more likely to be a guy who elevates UK into Final Four contention next year.
That’s when UK is going to have to fill as many as eight roster vacancies, and possibly 4-5 starters from this coming season’s team. Carter is great, but not as complete of a player offensively and defensively as Bamba.
Bamba is also a better fit with a scoring point guard like Trae Young, who UK is strongly in the running for in 2017. Bamba and Young would fit better than Carter and Young, not to mention Bamba plays the 4 and the 5 better than Carter, who is more of a college 4. That also makes Bamba a better big man to pair with Richards, who is a true college center.
As it stands, UK is now in great shape for both Richards and Bamba. If I was to project UK’s 2017 class right now, I would include those two, but there’s still a lot of work to be done to make it a reality.