It is now visit and decision season for the Class of 2019, as prospects begin taking official and unofficial visits, hosting coaches in their homes, and some are closing in on making decisions or have already announced their commitments.
Kentucky has three commitments in the class in point guard Tyrese Maxey and wings Kahlil Whitney and Dontaie Allen. They’re also in the hunt for several top talents in the class and seem to be in good position to compete for the top recruiting haul in the country.
Here’s a look at the players the Kentucky Wildcats are targeting in the Class of 2019.
Note: Player rankings are based off of the 247 Sports Composite, which compiles multiple rankings together
- Cole Anthony (5 star, 3rd overall) ArchBishop Molloy (New York, NY)
- Lester Quinones (4 star, 65th overall) IMG Academy (Bradenton, FL)
With 8th-ranked Tyrese Maxey in the fold, Kentucky is comfortable with Maxey as the point guard of the class, and Maxey seems to be taking on a role as a recruiter for several of his classmates.
One of the guys he is recruiting the hardest is Cole Anthony, who has repeatedly expressed interest in playing with Maxey at the next level. Anthony, the son of former NBA player Greg Anthony, is viewed as one of the best point guard prospects in years, and there is no doubt John Calipari and the Kentucky coaching staff have to love the idea of a backcourt with Maxey and Anthony.
Anthony’s recruitment has been kept very close, and really all we know is that he will decide in the spring. He has listed a top 12 with Kentucky included. That would indicate Anthony will be interested to see who will be returning and who will be leaving for the NBA Draft. This seems like a year in which Kentucky could return several backcourt players, so it will be interesting to see how that factors in to Anthony’s recruitment.
Right now, UNC has been a perceived favorite, but it seems like everyone is really guessing at this point.
Aside from Anthony, Kentucky’s other notable target is four-star guard Lester Quinones, a 6’5 shooting guard from IMG Academy in Florida. Quinones had a successful spring and summer, and has drawn interest from several top programs including scholarship offers from Florida State, Arizona, Xavier, Florida, LSU, and Pittsburgh, among others.
Quinones will be a player to keep an eye on moving forward.
Outside of Anthony and Quinones, the Wildcats aren’t casting much of a wide net in terms of guards. They recruited Bryan Antoine, but he ultimately went ahead and committed to Villanova. They also were in the mix for Nico Mannion, but it’s unclear how serious the two were with each other and Mannion eventually committed to Arizona.
As of now, they probably plan on at least one or two of Quade Green/Tyler Herro/Immanuel Quickley/Ashton Hagans comes back.
- Keion Brooks (5 star, 21st overall) North Side High School (Fort Wayne, IN) Offered
Keion Brooks seemed to be the top wing priority for a while, but with the commitment from Allen and Whitney, Brooks has seemingly fallen by the wayside. It’s unclear what happened exactly, but it is beginning to seem more and more unlikely that Brooks winds up in Lexington. Home state Indiana and Michigan State now seem to be the two favorites for the talented wing.
But Kentucky may not be completely out of the mix for Brooks. Brooks hosted Kentucky coaches recently, and he plans to visit Kentucky, so the possibility remains, but the solid money would be on Brooks staying home and playing at IU or joining the Spartans of Michigan State.
- James Wiseman (5 star, 1st overall) Memphis East High School (Memphis, TN) Offered
- Vernon Carey Jr. (5 star, 2nd overall) University School (Ft. Lauderdale, FL) Offered
- Jaden McDaniels (5 star, 4th overall) Federal Way High School (Federal Way, WA)
- Matthew Hurt (5 star, 6th overall) John Marshall Senior High (Rochester, MN) Offered
- Oscar Tshibwe (pronounced Shoo-bwe) (4 star, 22nd overall) Kennedy Catholic (Hermitage, PA) Offer likely coming soon
- Aidan Igiehon (4 star, 43rd overall) Lawrence Woodmere Academy (Woodmere, NY) Offered
- Isaiah Stewart (5 star, 5th overall) La Lumiere School (Rochester, NY) Offered
Where Kentucky hasn’t cast a wide net among guards and wings, trying to guess how Kentucky recruits their frontcourt for 2019 is a guessing game at this point.
With Reid Travis certainly gone, and P.J. Washington and E.J. Montgomery likely to leave for the NBA, along with uncertainty about Nick Richards, Kentucky will have plenty of frontcourt minutes.
Kentucky has obviously prioritized James Wiseman, Vernon Carey Jr., and Matthew Hurt, the big 3 frontcourt options for the Wildcats, but they aren’t really a solid favorite for any of the three.
Wiseman has long been Kentucky’s top priority in the class and continues to be... for good reason. He’s the #1 or #2 player in the class, depending on which service you’re looking at, and his talent (and upside) are evident.
A 7-footer with an astounding wingspan, Wiseman excels on both ends of the floor, being able to score from multiple spots on the floor and using his length to block and alter shots on the other end. He also has excellent athleticism and can run the floor with smaller players.
While Kentucky was once thought to have a clear lead for Wiseman, that is no longer the case and at best for Kentucky, it is 50/50 versus Memphis with Vanderbilt, Kansas, and Florida State also factoring in. The hiring of Penny Hardaway at Memphis, plus a ton of local pressure to stay home and play at Memphis, has been a major factor for Wiseman.
Kentucky recently hosted Wiseman on a visit and then returned the favor with John Calipari and Joel Justus (who has led the Wiseman recruitment for the last couple years) visited Wiseman at his home in Memphis. Wiseman was initially expected to decide until spring, but it now looks like he’ll commit sometime in 2018.
The player in competition with Wiseman for the top spot in the class is Vernon Carey, Jr., a 6’10” forward from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Carey is skilled and can play inside and out on offense, and is one of the best rebounders in the class. Kentucky is pitching the idea of Carey and Wiseman playing in the same frontcourt together in Lexington, which would be the best frontcourt in the nation, hands down.
However, that is easier said than done, and the momentum around a potential Wiseman/Carey pairing in Lexington has slowed down but isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
Carey visited Kentucky in October for Big Blue Madness and it looks like it will come down to Kentucky, Duke, Michigan State, and nearby Miami for the ultra-talented big man. North Carolina is also in the mix. The only clue Carey gave to when he may announce is before his birthday, on Feb. 25, though he’s since said he plans to decide in 2018 now.
It was once thought that Kentucky would offer Jaden McDaniels fairly quickly, and that may still occur, but things are quite uncertain between Kentucky and the 4th-ranked player in the class.
McDaniels had a great summer and skyrocketed up the rankings, and Kentucky has been in contact with his father, who is seemingly handling his recruitment. Things seem to be kind of cool between McDaniels and Kentucky, but it wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see interest ramp up as McDaniels has one of the highest ceilings in the class.
The recruitment took another interesting turn when John Calipari made the trip to the Pacific Northwest to see McDaniels not once but twice this fall. There has been no official offer to McDaniels as far as anyone knows, but could that change?
McDaniels is definitely a player to keep an eye on as it is one of the more interesting recruitments of a top-level guy.
Hurt projects as a stretch four in college because of his ability to shoot the ball from the perimeter but he is definitely more than just a shooter. Hurt has the ability to score at multiple levels and has a solid inside game.
There is some mutual interest between Kentucky and Hurt, although Kansas has been thought to be a clear leader for a while, but maybe it isn’t a done deal for the Jayhawks. Hurt is scheduled to visit Kentucky sometime this fall, though a date is not set in stone.
Stewart is someone Kentucky recently offered and got back in the mix for, and he even visited Lexington. However, Kentucky seems to have lost ground in this race as Michigan State is coming on strong.
As for Igiehon, he said that Kentucky has offered and the Cats landed in his top four schools. Igiehon will likely take an official visit to Kentucky soon, per Adam Zagoria, but no date has been finalized.
Tshiebwe has come on strong on Kentucky’s radar, and the Cats are one of four teams competing to land him. Tshiebwe is another guy that really rose in the rankings over the summer, and the smart money would be on Kentucky or West Virginia earning his commitment.
Tshibwe has long been viewed as a West Virginia lean, as they have been in with Tshiebwe for a long time, so Kentucky has had some ground to make up in that recruitment. Tshiebwe has wrapped up his visits and appears likely to pick the Moutnaineers on Oct. 20.
Kentucky will soon have to make decisions on how heavily to pursue Igiehon and McDaniels, as it is likely they want to have at least one big man commit in the fall. It could simply be a case of who wants to pull the trigger first.
All are talented players who can do different things, but the Wildcats also know they must come out of 2018 with a big man if Wiseman, Carey, Hurt and Tshibwe all likely deciding this fall/winter.
Honestly, it’s going to be fascinating to see how Kentucky and each of these prospects handle this situation moving forward.
Off the board:
- Scottie Lewis (5 star, 11th overall) Ranney School (Eatontown, NJ): Committed to Florida
- Zeke Nnaji (4 star, 34th overall) Hopkins High School (Hopkins, MN): Cut Kentucky
Nnaji is new to this list, as he did hold an offer from Kentucky, which kind of came out of nowhere, but he has since set his final list and cut Kentucky. He is an AAU teammate with Matthew Hurt, but Nnaji has rose up the rankings over the summer and is making a name for himself as a top-30 talent. The 6’10” forward is skilled offensively and could be a nice piece for whoever lands him.
As for Lewis, he is a top-10 talent in the class who projects to play more at the small forward position in college, but he does have some flexibility to play the shooting guard as well. He’s a super athlete that plays above the rim as well as anyone in the class and projects as a strong defender in college that can guard multiple positions.
HIs teammates and coaches rave about his work ethic, the pride he takes in playing defense, and the quality of teammate he is, which made him a perfect fit to Kentucky’s 2019 class, but he ultimately committed to Florida.
- Tyrese Maxey (5 star, 9th overall) South Garland High School (Garland, TX)
- Kahlil Whitney (5 star, 7th overall) Roselle Catholic (Roselle, NJ)
- Dontaie Allen (4 star, 72nd overall) Pendleton County High School (Falmouth, KY)
Stay tuned here as we bring you more updates from the recruiting trail for the Class of 2019.