ESPN released their updated rankings for the players in the class of 2020, and Kentucky is in the mix with quite a few guys.
It has been more difficult to keep up with high school basketball recruiting than in years past due to the increased amount of reclassifications. There are several players listed in ESPN’s top 25 that are still pondering the decision to move into the class of 2019 and join a college basketball team as early as next year.
Here is a breakdown of Kentucky Targets in the newly released ESPN top 25
#4 Combo-Guard RJ Hampton
The top rated player on ESPN’s updated ranking list that is still on UK’s radar is RJ Hampton who came in at #4. Previously, Hampton had been ranked as high as #1 by some experts and is universally considered to be one of the top guards in his class. The five star combo guard is one of the players that is still considering a jump to the class of 2019.
You would have to assume that Hampton moving into 2019 would do nothing but hurt Kentucky’s chances at signing him. The Cats already have a fairly established back-court next season with Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley, and Tyrese Maxey all in the fold. So it’s challenging to create a scenario where not only does Hampton want to play alongside 3 other talented guards but that he would reclassify to do so.
John Calipari’s best shot at getting Hampton to commit will likely be if he remains in the class of 2020 and can be a more focal point of the offense. Even though Hampton himself has said that he wouldn’t mind playing with another elite guard because it will allow him to work off the ball more. Calipari is putting in all of the effort that he possibly can and is reported to be meeting with him again on Wednesday.
Bottom line is that RJ Hampton is an elite player who will make a major impact on whatever team he joins, whether that is this season or next. If he does jump to 2019 it likely that he will end up at either Memphis or Kansas. But if he stays put in 2020 that will place Kentucky is a much better position to sign him.
#6 Forward Scottie Barnes
Scottie Barnes is one of the most versatile players in the country. At 6’8 210 pounds he has guard-like play making ability with the size to be effective in the paint. I have maintained that Barnes is my favorite player in his class because of the wide variety of skills he brings along with an infectious competitive spirit.
He is high school teammates with Duke commit Vernon Carey Jr at the University Schools in South Florida. Barnes has been competing at a high level for his entire high school career and should walk on a college campus ready to contribute.
His top 8 schools are Kentucky, Duke, Oregon, Cal, Kansas, Ohio State, Florida State, and Miami. Although, most believe it to be a race between the blue bloods.
Here is what Barnes had to say about Kentucky in an interview with Rivals.
“Get there and be a one-and-done. Their coach (John Calipari) is going to be really hard on you and I see how he is hard on his guys and wants them to win.”
#7 Small-Forward BJ Boston
If you have been able to keep up with John Calipari over the last few weeks you know he has been burning up the recruiting trail. Kentucky’s Head Coach visited Boston on Wednesday and appears to be turning up the heat on his recruitment.
Boston is a talented wing player who is starting to see his stock rise in the class of 2020. He visited Kentucky back in February and it would be safe to assume that Coach Calipari and the Kentucky staff will have him back on campus at some point this season.
BJ Boston is just another top player that the Cats will be fighting the Duke Blue Devils for. This will be an interesting recruitment to follow.
#8 Forward Isaiah Todd
This is a name that by now most Kentucky fans should be familiar with. Todd may be the most lethal scorer in the entire class of 2020. He was rumored to be strongly considering reclassifying to 2019 but instead decided to stay put. This is likely the best case scenario for Kentucky who already has several wing scoring options on the roster next season.
Todd reminds me of Kevin Durant with the incredible things he can do at his size. His length allows him to shoot over players and finish at the rim with ease. Even though he is ranked #8 by ESPN I think you could make the case that Todd has the most potential of any player in the entire country. He would be another tremendous add for Coach Calipari and a likely lottery pick in the 2020 NBA draft.
#9 Point Guard Cade Cunningham
Cunningham may be a bit less known than some other guys in the class of 2019 but Kentucky has the only crystal ball picked that is currently logged for him. He plays at powerhouse Montverde Academy and understands the value of continuing to play with elite players. Here is what he said about playing for UK.
“It’s a bit different obviously with you being with other players that are so talented. I think the biggest thing is the competition with how we compete every day in practice. That’s been my favorite part about it.” Cunningham said.
Coach Calipari watched him play back in December after the Cats lost to Seton Hall in New York.
#15 Point Guard Jeremy Roach
After an unfortunate season ending knee injury last year Roach will look to get back on track in his senior year. Once considered to be the top point guard in the class of 2019 he will have some work to do to regain that respect.
Kentucky has seemingly been the leader in his recruitment for some time and that is still believed to be the case. A lot will come down to who sticks around next year and what Kentucky adds in the back-court.
But Jeremy Roach has been a player that Coach Calipari has had his arms around for some time. It is a real possibility that he is running the point for the Cats a few years from now.
#17 Forward Jaemyn Brakefield
Brakefield is a player that Kentucky has courted for a while and should be involved with going forward. He is a talented forward that plays for Huntington Prep, a school that has produced numerous star players including Andrew Wiggins.
This will be a fun recruitment because it will heavily involve the Louisville Cardinals. Brakefield has already visited both Kentucky and Louisville.
Could this be the first true Cal vs Mack recruiting battle? Popcorn, please.
#18 Center N’Faly Dante
Several schools can thank Will Wade for the resurgence in Dante’s recruitment. He was once believed to be an LSU lock but with the NCAA’s pending investigation it seems unlikely that he gives the Tigers any further consideration.
At nearly 7 feet tall he is the biggest recruit on UK’s board and plays with big time ferocity. It looks like Kentucky, Kansas, and Oregon are all getting heavily involved.
I will be interested to see where Dante lands and how is development continues. He is still a raw talent that needs polishing but will be a dominant force in the paint while in college.
#19 Small-Forward Johnny Juzang
Juzang is by far the most important name for Kentucky fans to remember at this moment in time. The versatile scorer reported on Wednesday that he will be moving from the class of 2020 into the class of 2019, and Kentucky seems to be the likely destination.
Juzang can shoot the ball at a high percentage and is an above average rebounder. When watching his highlights I have been impressed with how shifty he is in traffic and smooth feel for the game.
There is no doubt that adding him to next year’s team will take some pressure off guys like Maxey and Hagans to score the ball.
We should know more about this situation very soon.
#21 Sharife Cooper
One look at Sharife Cooper and you probably wouldn’t think much of him. He is listed at 6’0 tall but I think that is a stretch. He’s a small point guard but very effective. I have had the chance to see him play 3 or 4 times and have walked away extremely impressed each time. His ability to control pace and contort is body around the rim make him a dangerous offensive weapon.
Sharife Cooper is just another player considering moving into the class of 2019. Kentucky visited him on Wednesday but if he was to reclassify it will not be good news for the Cats who already have their point guard for next season.
Auburn is the reported leader to sign Cooper, especially if he does decide to reclassify.
So, similarly with RJ Hampton, the Big Blue Nation should be crossing their fingers that Sharife Cooper remains in the class of 2020.
Which players would you like to see at Kentucky the most in 2020?