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Kentucky Wildcats Basketball: Recruit and Returnee Scenarios

Cameron Johnson, Bam Adebayo, Hamidou Diallo, Mo Bamba, and more are discussed here.

NCAA Basketball: Pittsburgh at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

This may be the busiest offseason in John Calipari’s career at Kentucky. Not only is he still offering and recruiting players for the 2017/2018 team, he is also preparing to coach the Team USA U-19 squad in Egypt this summer.

As Calipari is still pounding the pavement, he has a number of players from last season’s team still pondering their futures at the college level. De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, and Isaiah Briscoe have opted to go the professional route and hire agents. Derek Willis, Dominique Hawkins, and Mychal Mulder have all graduated and will most certainly continue their basketball careers professionally on some level. That is all we are certain of at this point.

What lies in store this summer for Kentucky basketball this summer? Here is a breakdown:

Future ‘Cats High School All-Star Game Tour

The McDonald’s All-American Game and Nike Hoops Summit game are in the books. All of the current commits played in at least one of those games while Jarred Vanderbilt, Quade Green, and Nick Richards were all invited to play in both.

PJ Washington and Quade Green looked the best out of the UK guys in the McDAAG while Jarred Vanderbilt came away with MVP honors from the Hoops Summit by posting 19 points and 10 rebounds. Nick Richards showcased some shot blocking and rebounding ability but showed offensive limitations. Quade Green sat out of the Hoops Summit due to a concussion he suffered at practice during the week.

Shai Alexander took part in the Hoops Summit game and looked extremely smooth with the basketball. He represented Canada for the World Team.

All of the future ‘Cats did some things that I liked but outside of Vanderbilt’s performance, none of them really jumped out at me. Cal has a good collection of young talent coming in, but right now there isn’t the “It” guy like an Anthony Davis, Julius Randle, De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, or John Wall. If Cal can land either Mohamed Bamba or Kevin Knox, then he will have his “It” guy.

The finale of the big High School All-Star Games is the Jordan Brand Classic. Quade Green, Nick Richards, Jarred Vanderbilt, and PJ Washington will represent UK. That will give the guys one last shot at recruiting Bamba and Knox. That game will take place this Friday, the 14th, from the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn.

People Are Forgetting Hamidou Diallo

While I was typing that Cal didn’t have his “It” guy, Hamidou Diallo was in the back of my mind because he may indeed be the “It” guy.

Diallo has been a bit of a forgotten player in regards to the incoming freshmen since he faded into the background after committing to Kentucky during the winter. Diallo opted to sit out and prepare for the 2017/2018 season. Diallo is a 6’5 shooting guard with the athleticism of Malik Monk. The knock on him coming into Kentucky was his shooting ability, but he’s been working hard on getting better at that skill.

Diallo was ranked as either the first or second shooting guard in the class and was a top ten recruit as well. He has the potential to be a dominant defender and an absolute nightmare to guard if his shot improves as much as John Calipari would like it to.

He may still enter the NBA draft process in order to workout at the combine and get feedback from teams and GMs. The likelihood of him turning pro and being a “half and done” player is, in my opinion, extremely low. This is a guard-heavy class highlighted by Lonzo Ball, Fox, Monk, Markelle Fultz, and Frank Mason III. All of those guys are considered lottery picks. NBA teams won’t be as willing to take a chance on a shooting guard they have never seen in meaningful competition when they have much larger samples sizes to go by with the other prospects.

Diallo has a chance to be a star at Kentucky.

Cal is On the Hunt for Another Guard

In the past few weeks, Cal has focused on adding another shooting guard to the team. As of now, the ‘Cats have only three guards that will see meaningful playing time and Brad Calipari. Cal needs one more to round out his guard rotation.

He offered two high school four-star seniors during visitations for both players. Mark Smith was Illinois Mr. Basketball, and Jemarl Baker was once a California commit, but he reopened his recruitment after Cuonzo Martin left for Missouri. Out of those two guys, Baker would be the most likely to commit while Smith seems to be looking to stay in the midwest and play for a Big Ten school.

But the wildcard in all of this is Pitt transfer Cam Johnson. He is the Pitt transfer that will immediately be eligible and will have two years left to play in college. Johnson is EXACTLY the player that Calipari needs: a veteran guard that shoots 42% from the three point line. 20 schools have offered Johnson, but Kentucky is the frontrunner at the moment.

Want to connect the dots to Calipari?

After all, Johnson’s father, Gil — who told the Post-Gazette his son’s decision to leave Pitt had nothing to do with Kevin Stallings and everything to do with next year’s bleak roster outlook — played at Pitt in the late 1980s when Calipari was cutting his teeth in Oakland as an assistant coach.

The Johnson family also hails from Moon Township, the same hometown as Calipari, who has yet another top-ranked recruiting class headed to Kentucky in 2017.

And if you really want to sniff out all the “Coach Cal” connections, Cameron’s older brother, Aaron, played basketball at Clarion, Calipari’s college alma mater.

Out of the three guards Cal is pursuing, I think Johnson would be the best and most important player to land.

Bamba or Knox

There really are no updates in regards to Bamba or Knox. Experts still hold that Kentucky leads for Bamba but isn’t really in the mix for Knox. Out of the two, I want Bamba the most. He is a game-changer on defense with his shot-blocking and ability to guard on the perimeter with an ungodly wingspan of 7’8.

John Calipari has recently visited both players and unless Cal backs off of someone, there is always a chance. And don’t let alarmists fool you into thinking they know what these guys are doing one way or another. Nobody knows what they are doing as far as a college choice, and on most days the players themselves don’t know what they are doing either.

What’s Bam Adebayo going to do?

Bam Adebayo somewhat shocked people when he decided to go through the NBA draft process but not hire an agent. He explained that he wanted to make sure that he is doing what is 100% right for him and his mother.

Right now, Bam is projected the #30 player by and #20 by He is well out of the lottery in almost every mock draft available. The criticism of Bam is that he was a center in college that would play power forward in the NBA. Most players at that position in professional basketball showcase a consistent outside jump shot, something Bam did not show during his freshman year at UK.

The best case scenario for Bam returning to Kentucky would be if Calipari were to land Mohamed Bamba. That would give him Bamba, Nick Richards, and (maybe) Isaac Humphries at the center spot. Bam could slide over and play his most natural position at the four and work on his jumper much like Patrick Patterson did as a junior. Patterson ended up in the lottery.

Bam stands to make more money in next year’s draft as well as the rookie contracts are being restructured next year.

While all of this makes sense for him to return, Bam will no doubt be a physical specimen at the draft that will have GMs drooling. If he can get enough guys to tell him he is a surefire first round/borderline lottery pick, I expect him to go. Millions of dollars is tough to pass up for a 19 year old that spent most of his life watching his mom work two jobs to support him.

Returning Guys

Unless something unusual happens, I expect Diallo, Sacha Killeya-Jones, Wenyen Gabriel, and Tai Wynyard all to return to Kentucky. Gabriel is the one guy that saw time as a starter but he watched his minutes diminish as the season progressed due to Derek Wills taking ownership of the position.

Gabriel showed flashes of how good he can be but he was never a consistent player. I expect him to make a huge jump going forward. He will have to compete with Jarred Vanderbilt and PJ Washington at the small and power forward positions.

SKJ was a headscratcher. He was a five-star player that was a non-factor by the end of the season while buried on the bench. The ability is there, but it never really clicked for him. Hopefully he can reach some of his potential.

Isaac Humphries is an interesting case. If Cal does not get Bamba to commit and Bam does go pro, then Humphries becomes vital for next year. He would be a junior that gained more confidence in the tournament. If only Richards comes in playing center, then Hump, in my opinion, starts off as the starter for that team.

As we know by now, he is deciding whether or not to return to Kentucky or possibly head home to Australia to play professionally. I think all of that hinges on Bam’s decision combined with Bamba’s decision.

Keep checking back with me and A Sea of Blue as all of these storylines continue to develop.