It may be too early to look ahead. It’s also hard to pinpoint which players on the current roster could declare for the NBA Draft.
Does Kevin Knox bolt even though he isn’t a projected lottery pick by many services? Will Wenyen Gabriel feel as confident as Briscoe to forgo his junior season?
I think there’s only one lock for the 2018 draft: Hamidou Diallo. He was a fringe first-rounder last season, so ultimately showcasing his game in a Kentucky uniform will solidify his fate. I believe as many as six Cats (Diallo, Knox, Richards, Gabriel, Washington, Vanderbilt) could declare.
The fall signing period is fast approaching and Kentucky is in good shape with some big-time recruits. Who could possibly replace another mass exodus at Kentucky?
At the moment, Immanuel Quickley is the lone commit in this class, but he expects players to join him soon. Let’s look at recruits that Kentucky can potentially land to round out their 2018 class in confidence order.
Keldon Johnson Shooting Guard, Oak Hill Academy (VA)
Keldon Johnson has arguably taken the biggest leap in terms of recruiting rankings. From being a well-known prospect to a five-star phenom, Johnson didn’t pick up an offer from Kentucky until August, but the Cats have made up significant ground in the past few months. Johnson has made a name for himself with his athletic ability above the rim, his lockdown defense, and his improved shooting ability. Coach’s are drooling about his potential to grow, and that’s why I believe he ends up in Lexington. Coach Calipari will be able to push Johnson to his limits against the best competition, and that allows him to take his game to new heights. His official visit back in September went "amazing," and with his decision expected in the fall signing period, it’s creating buzz that Johnson is the next to rock Kentucky blue.
Confidence: 70 percent
In the hunt: Texas, Maryland, NC State, Miami
Zion Williamson Small Forward, Spartanburg Day School (SC)
Zion Williamson is the most interesting player in the 2018 class. His monster jams have gone viral, and scouts continue to state he is the best player every time he takes the court. Kentucky has prioritized Zion without question. He visited Big Blue Madness recently, and many assume Coach Cal’s speech was directed towards Zion along with other big-time recruits. Kentucky isn’t for everyone, but with good friend Immanuel Quickley and the history of Kentucky basketball, it seems ideal for Zion to commit to BBN. Zion still hasn’t given much clarity on his recruitment process, though he just canceled his UCLA visit. If he were to commit right now, I think Kentucky has the best chance to land his services, but don’t count out Kansas or both South Carolina schools.
Confidence: 60 percent
In the hunt: Clemson, South Carolina, Kansas, Duke, UNC
Bol Bol Center, Mater Dei (CA)
Bol grew so much on the EYBL circuit this past summer that now he is a Top 5 recruit. His recruitment started with Arizona and USC as the presumed favorites, but the tides have turned in light of the ongoing FBI investigations. Kentucky and Oregon are left standing on his final two.
Bol has visited both schools and gave excellent reviews on both programs. It’s hard to pinpoint when his decision will come, but the sooner the better for the Cats. The more he draws the process out, the more I like the chances of Oregon or possibly another suitor to land his commitment. I also think there’s a real chance he remains on the west coast. Had Bol made a decision fresh off his Big Blue Madness experience, I would pick Kentucky in the lead. However, Bol continues to wait to make his decision, which seems to be good news for the Ducks, as they’ve gotten nearly every 247 Crystal Ball pick recently.
Confidence: 70 percent
In the Hunt: Kentucky (30%)
Quentin Grimes College Park (TX)
Grimes has been hard to read over the past couple of months. Many experts believed that Kansas was the leader for Grimes, but that may not be the case now. Kentucky has made up ground recently, but I don’t know if it will be enough to pry him out of Bill Self’s hands. Grimes reminds me a lot of Devin Booker coming out of high school, and I personally would love to see him in a Kentucky uniform. Grimes has come out and said he would be open to playing alongside Quickley in the backcourt and said his Kentucky visit went well. In the end, I expect Grimes to head to Lawrence and play for Kansas. Kentucky’s backcourt logjam is the ultimate reason.
Confidence: 60 percent
In the Hunt: Kentucky (30%), Texas, Marquette
Tyler Herro Whitnall (WI)
Herro recently has been receiving a lot of attention from college basketball fans all over. His de-commitment from Wisconsin has turned heads as many expect him to be seeking more offers from big-name programs. Kentucky,among others, visited him this week in Wisconsin, and the Cats offered him then as well. Herro is an excellent shooter and is a rising star in this class after his showing at the USA camp in Colorado. He would be a great addition to this class, and he now looks like one of the likeliest pledges for Kentucky, though it’s unclear if he’ll be part of the fall signing period.
Confidence: 70 percent
In the Hunt: Duke, Arizona, UNC, Kansas, Oregon, Villanova
R.J. Barrett Montverde Academy (FL)
Barrett’s decision is near, and it is looking more like Duke will be the pick. Being the top overall recruit, R.J. is a game changer for any recruiting class. Kentucky has been in contact and made his Final 3, but at the moment, I think they trail both Duke and Oregon. Don’t count out UK as you saw what happened last year (cough cough Kevin Knox) as no recruit is out of reach for Calipari until they sign their letter of intent.
Confidence: 75 percent
In the Hunt: Oregon, Kentucky (10%)
Darius Garland Brentwood Academy (TN)
Garland was one of many to be in attendance for BBM, and he really enjoyed himself on the visit. That being said, I think it is hard to imagine Darius committing to Kentucky do to the plethora of point guards they could have next season. Garland has expressed serious interest in UK, but it looks like a battle between Vanderbilt, Indiana, and Duke. Unless something drastic happens (decommitment/unexpected player leaving for NBA).
Confidence: 40 percent
In the Hunt: Indiana, Duke, UCLA, Kentucky (<1%)
Romeo Langford New Albany (IN)
Langford still has Kentucky on his list, but don’t expect that to continue for much longer. Kentucky hasn’t been in contact with Romeo lately as they are prioritizing other players in the class. Expect Langford to decide between Kansas, Indiana, Vanderbilt, and UNC. The only good thing to come out of this for the Cats is that Louisville is no longer in the running for Langford.
Confidence: 35 percent
In the Hunt: Indiana, Vanderbilt, UNC, UCLA, Kentucky (0%)
So, now that we’ve made our predictions, who do you think Kentucky lands in the Class of 2018?