With the addition of Johnny Juzang, John Calipari just added much-needed depth and shooting prowess to his guard rotation.
With the departure of Jemarl Baker, the team needed to fill a whole and Cal did it with rapidity. In a matter of weeks Juzang met with the coaching staff, visited UK, reclassified, and then committed to play in 2019. (Quick side note- to all the haters that say Cal’s slipping, how ya doing?)
Previously, the recruiting class was ranked third by 247 Sports, right behind Duke (2) and Arizona (1), but it’s now up to No. 1 after the recent commitment by Juzang.
The addition of Johnny Juzang gives John Calipari his seventh No. 1 recruiting class at Kentucky in 11 years (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2019) https://t.co/sNdhGTnnMh #BBN pic.twitter.com/EPQFUT51EN— TheCatsPause247 (@TheCatsPause247) May 10, 2019
And John Calipari isn’t done. Not by a longshot.
Here’s a look at who has already committed to the class, signed, and which players are still in play. (All player rankings courtesy of 247 Sports).
Maxey is a five star combo guard. He is ranked 10th in the class and is the third-ranked shooting guard. At 6-3/185, Maxey is the prototypical John Calipari guard. He’s big, he’s fast, and he’s very athletic.
Maxey committed back in the fall and it was assumed that Ashton Hagans would be testing the draft waters at this point. But with an up and down freshman year, Hagans wasted no time in returning to UK to have a breakout sophomore year. It’s assumed that Hagans will retain the starting point guard spot; a spot that was assumed to be Maxey’s when he committed.
The good news is that Maxey is going to be on the court. He can play shooting guard and that gives the Cats a formidable backcourt with size and speed to spare. He can start at the two position and also play the one. He and Hagans will be going at it during practice and should make them much better.
Maxey hasn’t gone against a defender the caliber of Hagans, so it will be interesting to see how he adjusts.
Whitney is a five star small forward. He’s ranked 12th in the class and is the second ranked small forward overall. At 6-6/190, he fills the role that Keldon Johnson left behind. While Whitney might not be a better shooter than Johnson, he’s an overall better athlete and he should make a living at getting to the rim. His hustle and tenacity reminds people of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Honestly it’s been a while since Calipari has had a player like this. In recent years he’s struck out on that true “small forward” type player (Stanley Johnson, Jaylen Brown, etc...) but Whitney gives him what he’s wanted for so long. Cal loves players like Whitney, and I think he was as excited about his signing as he was any player on the roster.
Whitney has the ability to be a defensive stopper and a nightmare match up on offense. It won’t be surprising if at the end of the season he is UK’s best player.
Keion Brooks was a recruit that fell into John Calipari’s lap late in the game. An Indiana native, it was thought that he would be a lock to play for his home state Indiana Hoosiers. But thanks to a disastrous NIT season with Romeo Langford, Brooks starting to ramp up his communication with UK.
The 23rd ranked player in the class and the sixth ranked small forward, Brooks presents an interesting option for UK. He’s bigger than Whitney at 6-7/185 and he did most of his damage in high school on the low post. He’s a relentless rebounder and will make his living on putbacks and dunks.
Brooks will most likely slide over to power forward but do not be surprised to see him out on the wing because he has the ability to take defenders off the dribble and get to the rack.
Juzang dropped to the 32nd player ranked in the class and lost his fifth star. But don’t let that fool you. At 6-6, 200 pounds and a shooter’s touch he is a much needed addition to the class. Outside of Immanuel Quickley, the shooting prowess of the backcourt is a big question mark. The addition of Juzang answers at least one of those questions.
As big as he is he will most likely play as a backup behind Kahlil Whitney at small forward. John Calipari has been very successful with players in the past that compare to Juzang in size, rankings, and ability. Tyler Herro (6-5) and Devin Booker (6-6) were both ranked similar to Juzang and were both thought to be multi-year players. Will Juzang surprise us all the way those two players did?
Four-star Allen is a homestate kid and a Kentucky Mr. Basketball winner. At 6-6, 185 he was a scoring machine until a knee injury cut his season short. There are a plethora of players at Allen’s positions so I doubt we will see much out of him this season. His career could very much look like the careers of Derek Willis, Dominique Hawkins, and Darius Miller.
With the success that John Calipari had with Reid Travis, it’s no surprise he went back to the grad transfer well. While not as accomplished as Travis, Sestina brings much needed experience and leadership with him to Kentucky.
One of the most important aspects of his game is his ability to shoot the three. At 6-9, 245 pounds, he can pound in the middle as a center and extend the defense as a stretch four. In his time at Bucknell he averaged 15.8 points and 8.5 rebounds.
As a senior, he shot 38% from three point land. He’s a bucket.
Who is left for John Calipari to recruit?
A month ago, McDaniels didn’t see like an option for Kentucky but now the 247 Sports crystal ball has him at 85% coming to UK, and recruiting guru Evan Daniels made his official pick for the Cats.
At 6-9/185, McDaniels would be the highest-ranked recruit in the class at eighth and the top-ranked power forward. He is an extremely athletic big and can play both on the post and on the perimeter.
If Kentucky does in fact land him, then this team is officially loaded. With McDaniels, UK will have by far the No. 1 class in the country and will be in play for the No. 1 team in the preseason.
There also may be ramifications in regards to EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards. Neither player was invited to the NBA combine or the G-League combine so it’s assumed that both come back.
If McDaniels does indeed come on board, then maybe one of them takes a harder look at staying in the draft or transferring.
Hampton just reclassified to the 2019 class and is ranked as the fifth-best player. He’s also the No. 2 shooting guard in the class. At 6-5, 185 he is similar to multiple guys already on the team. There’s now a backlog at the guard position and I don’t think there is much room for Hampton.
Nevertheless, Calipari is still recruiting him and there is still interest on Hampton’s part. My personal opinion is that Hampton wants to go to UK, he just needs a reason to do it. If he would have stayed in the 2020 class, UK was in great shape. Right now Kansas is in the lead for him with Memphis in second.
Do not count out Calipari. WIth a recent hit to Duke’s recruiting and the emergence of Penny Hardaway at Memphis, Cal smells blood in the water and he’s looking to make a statement.
Blackshear is another grad transfer. After spending four years at Virginia Tech, he is automatically eligible to play right away wherever he chooses. He was an All-ACC player and averaged 14.9 points and 7.5 rebounds his senior year.
At 6-10, 250 he was a load to handle downlow and was really the lone big man that Tech relied upon as a shoot heavy/perimeter oriented team. Blackshear would be a boost to whichever team he decides to be a part of.
Kentucky looked to be a sensible situation for Blackshear but with all of the Jaden McDaniels talk, he may begin to look elsewhere.
Still, there’s a chance...
Probably ought to add a Juzang, McDaniels and Blackshear option. Not saying, just saying. https://t.co/v7WcO7JOuf— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_ATH) May 8, 2019
**BIG EYES EMOJI**