The Kentucky Wildcats wrapped up a successful fall signing period today, as Nolan Hickman, Bryce Hopkins and Daimion Collins all signed national letters of intent with UK. They will join the program for the 2021-22 season.
“Our fans have heard me talk a lot about what it means to be ‘Built Different.’ When you talk about this fall class, you’ve got three kids who are built to play here at Kentucky,” UK head coach John Calipari said in a press release. “They wanted to be a part of this culture. They wanted to play against other really good players. They didn’t need any promises or guarantees – only the promise that this is going to be the hardest thing they’ve ever done and that we will challenge them to become the best version of themselves.
“This place isn’t for everybody and it takes a certain type of player – a ‘Built Different’ mentality – to come here and be in this competitive environment. These three are ready to take that step.”
Collins, a 6-9 forward with a 7-4-plus wingspan, is an elite rim protector ranked No. 10 overall by Rivals. He verbally committed to UK on Oct. 31.
“I’m really excited for Daimion and his family to join our program,” Calipari said. “Daimion is an incredible young man with a bright future – someone who has only begun to realize just how good he can be. Our fans know I don’t like to make comparisons to our other guys, but Daimion has that type of length, the athleticism and the versatility that have separated our players from others. He wanted to be pushed and to be in a competitive environment to help him reach his full potential. The staff and I cannot wait to help him grow.”
Collins averaged 24.6 points, 13.7 rebounds and 7.7 blocks per game as a junior at Atlanta High School. The Atlanta (TX) native was a Third Team All-State selection by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches.
“I wanted to go somewhere that has developed players that have similar skills as me,” Collins said. “I felt that Kentucky was the only place for me.”
Hickman, a 6-2 guard with a 6-8 wingspan, is ranked No. 30 overall by 247 Sports who committed to UK on Aug. 22.
“I had the chance to see a lot of Nolan in the year or so before the pandemic hit,” Calipari said. “I am really excited about his ability to play the point guard position. He has speed, vision and scoring ability. One of the best things about Nolan is his competitive spirit. He plays to win, which our best guards I’ve coached do. Nolan is someone who can play multiple positions in the backcourt, who can fly in transition, and most importantly can create for himself and his teammates. Our guys will love playing with Nolan as he is a team-first player who is incredibly mature.”
Hickman averaged 17.3 points, 3.4 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game for Eastside Catholic (WA) last season. He also connected on 38% of his 3-point field goals. He was also a First Team All-State selection by Scorebook and a Class 3A Associated Press First Team honoree. He’ll play his final high school season at Wasatch Academy (UT).
“Kentucky was upfront with me from the start,” Hickman said. “I felt welcomed right from the jump and I could feel their honesty. They didn’t make any promises. They want to help me get to the highest level of basketball and challenge me off the floor and in the classroom.”
Hopkins, a 6-7 combo forward, is ranked No. 30 overall by Rivals and committed to UK on Oct. 26.
“Bryce has the skillset and the versatility for where our game is going,” Calipari said. “It’s positionless, high-skilled basketball, and Bryce has both. He can play multiple positions and attack other players in different ways. His ability with the ball allows him to play on the perimeter, but he also has the size and the toughness to play at the basket. Bryce’s dream was to play on the biggest stage in college basketball. He will get to do that here at Kentucky.”
The Oak Park (IL) product averaged 24.1 points, 10.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game for Fenwick High School as a junior. The News-Gazette tabbed Hopkins as a First Team All-State selection and the Illinois High School Association honored him as a First Team 3A All-State pick following his junior campaign. He also finished fifth in the Illinois Mr. Basketball voting a season ago.
“When you look at what Kentucky has done under Coach Cal, it’s clear they develop their guys better than anyone else for the next level,” Hopkins said. “They put their players’ dreams first. I wanted that and I wanted to be with a winning program with a family culture.”
With the spring signing period still to go, UK is going to be in the mix for one of the top classes in the nation yet again. Rivals and 247 Sports currently rank UK No. 3 with the three fall signees.
In every season in the Calipari era, the Wildcats have signed a top-three recruiting class according to the Recruiting Services Consensus Index, which tallies major recruiting rankings and plugs them into a formula to calculate a consensus ranking.
With the fall additions, Kentucky has signed 61 top-50 recruits, 47 top-25 players and 26 top-10 players (according to Rivals) in what will now be Calipari’s 13 recruiting classes at Kentucky.
The fall signing period began Wednesday and concludes Nov. 18. The spring signing period begins April 14.