The recruitment for No. 1 recruit James Wiseman has come to an end.
The five-star center has picked the Memphis Tigers over the Kentucky Wildcats, an unsurprising move for the Tennessee native. This was widely expected to be the call coming into decision day, but the sting for Kentucky is still a very painful one.
Wiseman had effectively been down to just Kentucky and Memphis for quite some time, and even though John Calipari worked hard on this recruitment, Penny Hardaway had an edge over Kentucky.
First, as already noted, Wiseman is a Tennessee native and grew up in Nashville before transferring to Memphis East last year, so playing at Memphis is a great chance for him to stay close to home. Second, Wiseman is a former player of Hardaway’s, as Hardaway coached him at Memphis East and in AAU ball.
All of this made it a major uphill climb for Kentucky to ultimately land Wiseman, and Memphis proved too much to overcome in the end.
So, what does this mean for Kentucky?
Major blow to getting No. 1 recruiting class
Calipari was already in decent shape in terms of his 2019 class, and he still has time to continue to build it. Wiseman would have put his class over the top and all but guaranteed it to be the No. 1 class in the nation, but even though Calipari worked hard on his recruitment, Kentucky can still be in good shape for the 2019 class.
Kentucky still has its three 2019 commits: five-star guard Tyrese Maxey, five-star small forward Kahlil Whitney and four-star small forward Dontaie Allen. However, getting the No. 1 overall class will require at least one major commitment from someone like Vernon Carey (ranked No. 2 by 247 Sports Composite), Anthony Edwards (4), Jaden McDaniels (5), Isaiah Stewart (6) or Matthew Hurt (7).
Heck, at this point, Kentucky is in danger of not even having a top-two recruiting class for the first time in the Calipari era. This is shaping up to be one of Calipari’s lightest classes since coming to Kentucky, which many will complain about, but the fact he’s been ranked No. 1 or 2 every year speaks to just how special of a run he’s had.
Big man options dwindling
Calipari is now likely to turn his focus to more 2019 big men, as he looks for a true center in the class after missing on Wiseman. But with Wiseman off to Memphis and Oscar Tshiebwe having signed with West Virginia, Kentucky’s options for bigs are dwindling each day.
The Wildcats are already expected to not make the cut for Vernon Carey, so there’s another potentially off the board this week.
That would leave Stewart, Hurt and McDaniels, though Stewart looks highly unlikely at this point. Hurt and McDaniels are a lot harder to project as their recruitments could dip into the spring.
If none of those options pan out, some names like Kofi Cockburn and Precious Achiuwa are out there, but it’s unclear how much, if any interest exists between Kentucky and them.
There is also the potential of a player reclassing from 2020, or another graduate transfer could emerge next spring.
Memphis is a problem for Calipari
It seems the Tigers are finally getting some revenge on Calipari, as they’d fallen on hard times ever since he left to become Kentucky’s head coach.
Now, they’re on the verge of getting back to the glory days Calipari brought them. Wiseman becomes the second commit for the Tigers in 2019, as they hold a commitment from four-star center Malcolm Dandridge, who’s also from East High School.
They also have DJ Jeffries, who decommitted from Kentucky and ultimately picked the Tigers. They’re also strongly in the mix for five-star forward Trendon Watford.
Then you’ve got RJ Hampton and Jalen Green, two elite 2020 recruits that Kentucky wants, but the Tigers are strongly in the mix for both of them. Some recruiting experts are already picking Memphis for those two, and landing a guy like Wiseman should only help that, especially if one or both of Hampton and Green ultimately reclassify into 2019.
There’s a very real chance Memphis finishes 2019 with the No. 1 recruiting class.