If Matt Haarms would have Kentucky, one former Cat he would have drawn comparisons to is Mark Pope.
Ironically, Haarms may end up playing for Pope at BYU.
On Thursday, word came down that Kentucky was no longer seen as the favorite for Haarms, who is a grad transfer center from Purdue.
Then, Evan Daniels logged a crystal ball prediction in favor of the Cougars for Haarms, who is ranked as the No. 2 grad transfer by ESPN. Daniels is as good as it gets in the recruiting business, so it’s hard to see Haarms not picking BYU on Thursday. Texas Tech is also one of the three finalists.
And heck, if this does come to pass, you do have to feel happy for Pope. He’s quietly risen up the coaching ranks and is primed for big things with the Cougars.
This past season, Haarms averaged 8.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. It’s worth noting that he was averaging 10.6 points, 2.3 blocks, 1.4 assists and 6.3 rebounds per game prior to suffering a concussion vs. Nebraska on Dec. 15 (missed 2 games), then a hip injury vs. Michigan on Jan. 9 that led to him coming off the bench in 12 of the next 15 games.
The hope was Haarms would come in and take on the starting center spot that was likely going to EJ Montgomery, but the sophomore made a surprising decision to go pro. And at least on paper, Haarms is an upgrade over Montgomery with a higher career Player Efficiency Rating (22.2 vs. 14.7), a better true-shooting percentage (61.2% vs. 52.3%), a higher box plus/minus (11.5 vs. 6.9), and a higher win shares per 40 minutes (.180 vs. 129).
Kentucky also has a pair of promising freshmen joining the team next season in four-star forward Lance Ware and five-star forward Isaiah Jackson. However, neither of them is viewed as elite one-and-done talents ready for a starting role right away. Having Haarms would have allowed John Calipari to bring those two freshmen along slowly and potentially have them prepared for bigger roles by the time postseason play begins.
Alas, Kentucky now has to look elsewhere for a veteran big man. I do think they’ll eventually find one, but it will be hard to get one as good as or better than Haarms.
Of course, Marcus Santos-Silva has a good argument as one such big.