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What if: The Land of Kentucky Basketball Recruiting Misses

Kentucky has had some huge “what-if” recruiting misses in the past 10 years, but these are some of the biggest and most unfortunate.

NCAA Basketball: Iowa State at Texas Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

Hello, all. Since there’s been no sports and I have been bored, re-watching old UK basketball games and reading more than I have ever, whether that be physical books or articles online, I’m just trying to pass the time.

Then I stumbled on this article from our brothers over at Tar Heel Blog about recruiting misses and adding one player that UNC missed out on over the years to a specific team. You can find that here.

That got me thinking, why not do one for our Kentucky Wildcats? The rules are simple, you can add one recruit that Kentucky missed out on, on that particular season and add them to that season’s team.

The criteria is only that Kentucky had to have been a major player or finalist in that player’s recruitment, and is has to have been over the past ten years, which is Cal’s tenure at Kentucky.

Let’s get started.

Shabazz Muhammad

Remember Shabazz Muhammad? The No. 2 player in the class of 2012 was rated a perfect 100 by 247 Sports, just behind Kentucky commit Nerlens Noel, the No. 1 overall player and heir apparent to Anthony Davis. Muhammad was down to UCLA, Kentucky, Duke, Kansas, and Texas A&M.

Noel and Muhammad were scheduled to announce their college decisions on the same day, April 11th, 2012, and the rumblings were strong that Kentucky would land both, the No. 1 and No. 2 players in the country.

Noel chose Kentucky (yay) and Muhammad chose....UCLA. Well that’s a bummer. Muhammad decided to stay on the west coast and play for the Bruins, who won the PAC-12 regular season that year.

Kentucky? Well, losing over 90 percent of their scoring from the 2012 National Title team was too much damage to overcome and Kentucky missed out on the NCAA tournament, but Nerlens Noel missed the final stretch of the season with a knee injury.

However, If Muhammad had picked the Cats, they could have probably withstood an Injury to Noel, since they would have had an uber-talented wing on the perimeter and could have at least given themselves a chance to make a run late in the season.

Andrew Wiggins

Had Andrew Wiggins committed to Kentucky, Kentucky would have signed six top-10 players in 2013 instead of ‘just’ five. Wiggins was the No. 1 overall recruit in 2013 and tabbed as ‘The Next LeBron.’

Wiggins had the most hyped recruitment of a high school prospect that I can remember outside of LeBron, and most of the noise was behind Florida State and Kentucky.

Instead, Wiggins picked the dark-horse Kansas Jayhawks and teamed up with Joel Embiid to take Kansas to a second-round exit to Stanford in the 2014 tournament.

If Wiggins picks the Wildcats, they almost certainly don’t get an eight seed in the tournament, but they probably do still make the National Championship game and this time, they probably win it, and maybe Calipari goes on his way to the NBA.

A blessing in disguise?

Mohamed Bamba

Mo Bamba was the No. 3 player in the class of 2017 and could have taken the 2017-18 Wildcats from ten losses and a five seed in the NCAA tournament, to a legit contender for a Final Four.

Instead, he chose *checks notes* Texas? Bamba chose the Longhorns over Kentucky, despite the Wildcats having 55% of the crystal ball picks for Bamba. But, he opted to be yet another talented big to waste his collegiate career playing for Shaka Smart and exiting the tournament in the first round.

Had Bamba picked Kentucky, the Wildcats would have placed Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Hamidou Diallo, Kevin Knox, PJ Washington, and Bamba all on the floor at the same time and it would have been extremely fun.

We also missed out on having Sheck Wes’ hit ‘Mo Bamba’ be about a Kentucky player :/.

James Wiseman

Yes, hindsight is 20/20, as Wiseman was ruled ineligible and eventually ended up withdrawing from Memphis after playing just a handful of games. Also, there was no tournament this past year, so it would have been all for naught.

But, work with me. Wiseman was basically a Kentucky lock for around a year, well before Penny Hardaway took the job at Memphis. But, when Hardaway took the job for his Alma Mater, Wiseman’s crystal ball picks flipped instantly from Kentucky to Memphis, and he eventually picked the Tigers.

Had he picked the Wildcats, Kentucky wouldn’t have suffered their worst loss ever, a home loss as the No. 1 team in the country to Evansville, and would have probably had one of their better season’s under Calipari with a strong starting five of Immanuel Quickley, Tyrese Maxey, Ashton Hagans, Nick Richards, and Wiseman.

Zion Williamson

Ah, the Zion Williamson recruitment. I hadn’t stressed about a recruit like that since Andrew Wiggins.

Going into the day of Williamson’s decision, there was basically only two schools seen as the favorite to land Zion; Clemson (the overwhelming, hometown favorite) and Kentucky (the rockstar school).

He was seen as a heavy lean to Clemson, but Kentucky had been a major player in his recruitment for a while and were still viewed as a legitimate threat right up until the very end.

Well plot twist, he instead chose Duke and then gave all of them the attention. Even worse? That same Duke team beat Kentucky in the opening game by 34 and I was forced to do Social Media reactions after Duke embarrassed the Cats on national television.

Kentucky would have overtaken the ‘cool throne’ again and would have been THE show that year instead of Duke. Who knows, maybe President Obama comes to the Kentucky-Louisville game that year instead of Duke-UNC.

If Zion picks Kentucky, that team more than likely doesn’t lose to Auburn in the Elite Eight, and Kentucky probably wins the National Title. No one is going to stop a Zion-PJ Washington frontcourt, though maybe PJ stays in the 2018 draft if he knew Zion was coming to town.

Also, Duke and Zion may be in hot water due to alleged improper benefits. It’s Duke, so they’ll probably skate by, but if it were Kentucky, then everyone is calling for Calipari’s head on a pike.

Maybe another blessing in disguise? Even so, that team with Zion would have been fun to watch.