Monday afternoon brought a big surprise for fans of the Kentucky Wildcats. 2019 commit DJ Jeffries announced that he is reopening his recruitment and will decommit from Kentucky.
There are several potential reasons for his decommitment, but the most likely revolves around Memphis coach Penny Hardaway and his relationship with the Jeffries family.
This is the first decommitment of the John Calipari era at Kentucky, and it could lead to some interesting developments for the 2019 class at Kentucky. Here are four things that may come from Jeffries taking his talents elsewhere.
James Wiseman more likely to Memphis
This seems like an obvious assumption to make. Jeffries and No. 1 overall recruit James Wiseman are close friends that have played AAU basketball together for years, several of those for Penny Hardaway. If Hardaway is working that hard to lure Jeffries away from Kentucky, it is safe to say that he has a leg up with Wiseman as well.
Many believe that Wiseman is one of a few prizes at the top of a weak 2019 class, so not landing him could dramatically impact the group Calipari brings in next year. But there is still a lot of time and several uncommitted stars out there.
If Wiseman is going to pick Memphis, you have to hope it’s sometime this fall, giving Kentucky more time to prioritize other bigs. We already know Kentucky wants Vernon Carey, who is also looking to decide this fall, but there are other bigs Calipari could go after like Aidan Igiehon, Kofi Cockburn and Oscar Tshiebwe.
Kentucky is certain to offer Dontaie Allen
Pendleton County star Dontaie Allen went from being an unranked recruit to settling in the top 50 over the July recruiting period, but has yet to land a scholarship offer from UK. He is visiting Lexington this weekend, and many have speculated that he would receive an offer while he is there.
The Jeffries news would make it seem like offering Allen is a no-brainer at this point. But I think that logic also works backwards. Perhaps an offer to Allen has been a certainty for the last few weeks, and Jeffries was starting to feel crowded with so many wings being targeted by Calipari.
Regardless of whether a potential offer to Allen played a role in Jeffries’ decision (I doubt it did), I fully expect that offer to come this week on the heels of Jeffries’ announcement.
It’s also worth pointing out that Rivals.com has Allen ranked 47th in the Class of 2019, while Jeffries checks in at No. 46. There may not be any downgrade at all going from Jeffries to Allen, which is looking more and more likely to happen.
Kentucky likely to land Kahlil Whitney and Dontaie Allen
Top 25 recruit Kahlil Whitney will also be visiting Kentucky this weekend, and he received his offer from Kentucky on July 20th. Whitney, Allen, and Jeffries have similar skill sets and all play the same position. Kentucky is also still recruiting Keion Brooks.
While there is certainly room for two or three strong wings in a class, bringing in four guys feels like a little much (looking at you, Coach K). With Jeffries out of the picture, it makes perfect sense for both of these guys to end up at Kentucky based on their previous comments and Calipari’s apparent interest in both.
This also increases the likelihood of landing Brooks, who UK had seemed to lose momentum with as they made Allen and Whitney more of a priority in recent weeks, but that was with Jeffries also committed.
Now that Jeffries is almost heading elsewhere, it makes it easier to convince Brooks to join UK’s class, even if it includes Allen and Whitney. There’s even a chance Brooks could team up with UK targets Cole Anthony and Kofi Cockburn at Oak Hill Academy.
A lot of the summer recruiting hype around UK has been with Jaden McDaniels, who once called UK his dream school and is in the running to be the top-ranked recruit.
However, UK has yet to offer, possibly because they had Jeffries while being in great shape for Allen and Whitney. Now that one of them is out of the picture, it could lead to Calipari making a stronger push for McDaniels.
Will be interesting to see what Kentucky does next. Calipari has always loved wings with size and length. Wouldn’t be surprised to see Wildcats gear more attention towards top-five wing Jaden McDaniels. No offer yet but has been open communication between the two— Corey Evans (@coreyevans_10) July 30, 2018
There’s a lot of debate as to what McDaniels will play in college. Some think he should stick to being a wing, which obviously isn’t good for UK if they land Whitney and Allen.
But there’s also some though McDaniels will be best served as a power forward in college, which makes UK a stronger option, especially if Wiseman ends up elsewhere as well.
Penny is a major player in recruiting
Now that it appears Jeffries is going to end up at Memphis, it’s safe to say that Penny hype is very real. To this point, we’ve seen Penny land some quality recruits at Memphis, but none of them were even top-100 ranked recruits.
If Penny flips a top-50 recruit from UK to Memphis, that is a major statement, and it looks like that will happen. No recruit has ever decommitted from UK under Calipari, so for Penny to be the one who breaks the streak shows he is going to be a major problem on the recruiting trail for Calipari and other major college programs.
It’s already looking like he’ll pry Wiseman away from UK after it looked like the Wildcats were assured of winning that battle, so this could be two major recruits in one class that Penny beats Calipari for.
Now, it has to be noted that Penny coached these two guys for years in AAU — and high school in regards to Wiseman — so in a way, it was Calipari who was having to pry both guys away from Penny.
That won’t be an issue going forward. Penny is going to have to start winning over guys he didn’t coach in high school or AAU. That could be when the tide shifts back to Calipari.
Calipari will shift his priorities for 2019
Calipari has always been one to plan ahead. Piecing together teams from year to year is really tricky when every player that comes in has the chance to be one and done, but Cal has as good of a handle on that as anyone.
Jeffries’ decommitment should put some things in perspective for Kentucky coaching staff. Not only does that free up a scholarship (Tyrese Maxey is now the only commit for 2019), but I think it also sends a message that the Memphis connections are as real as many feared.
Calipari also has had more time with his 2018 class to know who may be around for a while and who he is more likely to lose next June. That could give him a better idea of what needs might exist for the 2019 recruiting class.
I expect Calipari’s recruiting focus to shift somewhat from James Wiseman to Vernon Carey and Cole Anthony, the other consensus studs for 2019. You also have to think Cal takes a look at a few guys he had not given much time to, bringing some new names into the recruiting fold.
Of course, it is disappointing and frustrating to see a player decommit that once seemed too invested, but it is still early and Calipari is still Calipari.
Chin up, BBN.