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More thoughts on UK Basketball offering Keldon Johnson

Plus an update from Evan Daniels on KJ.

D 1 Circuit

Recruiting high school players can be tricky, unpredictable and frequently changing.

That’s the case with Keldon Johnson, who just a week ago looked bound for Texas. That is, until John Calipari came calling and offered Johnson a scholarship, making him one of two true shooting guards to earn a UK offer.

In most classes, a UK offer is a big deal, but that’s more true than ever with the 2018 class. This is shaping up to be the smallest class that Calipari has ever assembled in Lexington.

Here’s a list of Kentucky’s 2018 offers so far:

  • PG Immanuel Quickley
  • PG Darius Garland
  • PG Quentin Grimes
  • SG Romeo Langford
  • SG Keldon Johnson
  • SF RJ Barrett
  • SF Zion Williamson
  • SF Cameron Reddish
  • C Bol Bol

So yeah, this offer is a pretty big deal in more ways than one. By offering Johnson, Calipari has given off a variety of signals pertaining to various recruitments in the 2018 class. The most obvious is UK likely moving on from Langford, who most consider the top shooting guard, but he looks bound for somewhere other than Lexington. We can probably take him off UK’s big board for good, especially since UK landing Johnson looks very possible now...

Soon after Johnson scored the offer, UK jumped ahead in his crystal ball with predictions from recruiting gurus Andrew Slater and Jerry Meyer in favor of the Cats. We obviously know the crystal ball has to be taken with a grain of salt, especially since there’s no clear-cut decision date for Johnson, yet.

While offering Johnson would seem to be a negative indicator for Langford, there are some experts who consider Johnson more of a wing than a 2 guard. That could possibly indicate a lack of confidence in getting R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish and/or Zion Williamson.

While Calipari has shown his positionless approach can work with a wealth of talent, it’s hard to see elite game-changers like Zion and Barrett on the same team, especially with the potential of next year’s team to have Quade Green, Shai Alexander and Immanuel Quickley all vying for starting spots.

That’s not even accounting for Johnson, who probably isn’t going anywhere to come off the bench. Perhaps his offer actually indicates Calipari doesn’t feel as confident about getting two of Barrett, Zion and Reddish, or maybe even one. After all, Duke has been viewed as the significant favorite for Reddish, while Zion has supposedly been trending towards Kansas, and Barrett’s recruitment is still a wild card.

I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility that UK ends up with a class that doesn’t include those big three. That seems crazy, but then again, UK has landed just one top-four RSCI recruit in the last four classes, and that was Skal Labissiere.

As crazy as it seems, UK has been in a bit of a slump landing those truly elite, program-changing prospects recently, so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised if it happens again in 2018.

Even so, a class that includes Johnson, Quickley and someone like Simi Shittu and Louis King would still be a solid, top 2-4 class. I still think Calipari lands at least one of the big three, so offering Johnson is more indicative of Langford and even King not being options. The fact that King still doesn’t have an offer after spending the summer with Calipari’s U19 team tells me one may never come.

As for Johnson, recruiting expert Evan Daniels got an update from Johnson following his surprise visit to UK.

“I got to sit down and talk to coach [Calipari],” Johnson told Scout. “We got to chat a little bit about everything that was going on and where I would be in that program, what I need to improve on in my game and was just very honest with me and just went from there.”

Johnson plans to visit Texas and Florida State, but more visits are sure to come. He’s also not rushing into a decision.

“I don’t know yet, it all depends on how the process goes and when me and my family feel like things are right,” Johnson said.

Kentucky is right in the thick in this recruitment now, but don’t expect it to end anytime soon...for now.

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