The signing period of the high school basketball recruiting class of 2018 is still a long ways away. However this isn't keeping John Calipari and company from getting a head start.
The Kentucky Wildcats’ coaching staff has been rigorously recruiting prospects for the 2017 class, one of Calipari's most important classes ever. In conjunction with that, UK is particularly focusing in on three recruits early for the 2018 class of current high school juniors.
On Monday, Calipari was in New Albany, Indiana to watch the top guard in the 2018 class. Romeo Langford is the prototype of a perfect two guard for a Calipari-coached team.
Listed at 6'6" and 195 lbs, Langford is an exceptional offensive player that can do it all. He can put the ball on the floor, attack the rim, hit perimeter shots and make plays for others. Langford is also a highlight maker on the defensive end, making him arguably the best overall player in this class.
Duke, Louisville, Indiana, North Carolina and others are in the running for Langford early on, and it would be fairly pleasing to land Romeo in spite of UK’s arch nemesis's, but this kid is the real deal.
Elsewhere, UK assistant Kenny Payne spent time last week watching Spartanburg Day School forward Zion Williamson. A product of Spartanburg, South Carolina, Williamson currently ESPN's 3rd ranked prospect in the 2018 class; behind fellow Kentucky targets Marvin Bagley and Romeo Langford. Duke, North Carolina, and Clemson join Kentucky as the early favorites for Williamson.
Zion is a lengthy forward with solid size for his age, clocked in at 6'7" and around 230 lbs. Solid athleticism makes Williamson into a top tier slashing-wing prospect, as he lives around the rim.
More of a face-up rim attacker, Williamson can bully his way through contact and finish at the basket with ease. Physicality on both ends of the floor prove why Williamson is one of the best players in this class.
The only knack against Zion is his jumper. Not that it doesn't go in, though he rarely attempts many past the mid-range key, but the form on it is worrisome. The highly noticeable no-no is how far off his elbow goes at the point of release.
A good jump shooter wants the elbow straight and parallel with the rest of their body. Zion's tends to be out on the side of his head. Fortunately that is something that can be adjusted and fixed in an offseason without too much strain.
Point guard is always a must in a great recruiting class, and Kentucky is no exception of that. For 2018, Kentucky's top target at point guard is Maryland prospect Immanuel Quickley. The class of 2018 is another forward-heavy class, and Quickley is ESPN's number one point guard prospect and ranked 11th overall.
UK has had staff members watching Quickley at John Carroll High School in Bel Air, Maryland, to go along with John Calipari and assistant Joel Justus getting front seat views of him at the FIBA U-17 Championships in Spain.
Quickley clocks in at 6'3" and 175 lbs, and the main physical attribute that sticks out with Immanuel is his length. Long arms give Quickley a keen advantage on the floor.
The ability to handle the ball cleanly and get to the rim are contributes of that length, along with stellar perimeter defense Quickley makes life difficult for opposing point guards on both sides of the floor. The vision and playmaking for Quickley are also exceptional, leaving little to question why he is the best point guard in this class.
As it turns out, Quickley has scheduled several unofficial visits in the coming weeks, one of which includes a trip to UK on Oct. 14 for Big Blue Madness. This is big news for UK to already get one of, if not their top point guard target on campus for the school’s biggest recruiting event.
For the time being, these trips to watch Romeo Langford, Zion Williamson and Immanuel Quickley are more of pit stops in UK’s countrywide recruiting tour.
However efforts are being made to make sure that Kentucky is connected to these kids early on. Landing all of these players for 2018 would be huge for the future.