Kentucky Basketball has always been one of the top destinations ever since John Calipari landed in Lexington.
However, Kentucky’s recruiting has taken a dip in recent years. For one reason or another, Kentucky has struggled to land true big men in recent classes. Thankfully, that slump ended this week when Lance Ware announced his commitment to the Wildcats.
With Ware, Kentucky is getting one of the fastest-rising prospects in the 2020 class, as he’s now a top 35 recruit who’s expected to be an instant-impact player in Lexington.
Getting him was big in more ways than one, including that it ended a surprising, inauspicious recruiting slump Kentucky was in.
On April 9th of 2018, five-star power forward EJ Montgomery announced his commitment to Kentucky over the likes of Duke, North Carolina and Clemson among others.
That was the last time a high school recruit who was a true big man committed to Kentucky.
When I say ‘true,’ I mean recruits who were listed as a power forward or center in all three major recruiting services (ESPN, 247 and Rivals). The closest thing Kentucky got to a true big man was Keion Brooks, who most experts view as a wing-type player, but ESPN did list him as a power forward.
Not since Montgomery has Kentucky landed a high school recruit was viewed as a true big man that would spend his college and potentially NBA career in the post. Of course, Brooks could ultimately become that type of player, but again, most viewed him as someone that’s going to play on the wing a lot and score at all three levels.
We’re talking about true post players that will do the most, if not all of their damage in the paint, and for whatever reason, Kentucky struggled mightily to get those in the 2019 class.
Among the bigs Kentucky offered and missed on in 2019 included James Wiseman, Vernon Carey, Matthew Hurt, N’Faly Dante, Oscar Tshiebwe, Zeke Nnaji and Aidan Igiehon (though he’s debatable on the offer).
You can also add Virginia Tech grad transfer Kerry Blackshear, though the focus here is on high schools recruits.
That came one year after Kentucky landed Montgomery while missing on other bigs like Zion Williamson, Bol Bol and Jaxson Hayes.
Now to be fair, Kentucky had a loaded frontcourt set for the 2018-19 season, especially after landing Reid Travis. But part of the reason why Kentucky got Travis was they missed on their other frontcourt targets in 2018.
The same thing happened the following year when Kentucky missed on every true big man they targeted, then took a commitment from Bucknell grad transfer Nate Sestina. But even with him, Kentucky has just three true big men for next season in Sestina, Montgomery and Nick Richards.
For a school that’s produced DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, Terrence Jones, Anthony Davis, Nerlens Noel, Willie Cauley-Stein, Trey Lyles, Karl-Anthony Towns, Bam Adebayo and PJ Washington, it’s crazy to think Kentucky struggled so much to get bigs over the last year.
Thankfully, Kentucky has been unable to overcome this with guys like Washington, Richards and Montgomery returning for at least one more season while also adding the two aforementioned grad transfers.
And now Kentucky has its first big man for 2020 in Ware while also being strongly in the mix for Isaiah Jackson, Greg Brown and Isaiah Todd (I would include Cliff Omoruyi, but it appears that ship has sailed).