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Nolan Hickman is first UK signee under Calipari to get out of NLI; losing Tony Barbee was part of it

Not the kind of first Kentucky needed this offseason.

LSU v Kentucky Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Three years ago, D.J. Jeffries became the first Kentucky commit to back off his pledge and ultimately land elsewhere under John Calipari.

Now, Nolan Hickman has become the first Kentucky signee to get out of his National Letter of Intent under Calipari’s watch.

So, what exactly led to this? Why is Hickman choosing to back off his commitment so late in the 2021 recruiting cycle?

Apparently, losing his lead recruiter, Tony Barbee, played a big part.

In an interview with Ben Roberts of the Herald-Leader, Wasatch Academy (Utah) head coach Paul Peterson revealed that Barbee leaving to become a head coach at Central Michigan had a big impact on Hickman.

“One of the reasonings that I know for sure is that the coach who recruited him hard (Barbee) took a head coaching job,” Peterson told the Herald-Leader. “I think that one hit him pretty hard.”

Ironically, Barbee was the lead recruiter for Hickman and Jeffries.

Hickman, a Seattle (WA) native, averaged 16 points and 3.3 assists per game this past season for Wasatch Academy in Utah. He was one of two McDonald’s All-Americans in the Cats’ 2021 class — forward Daimion Collins being the other — and was the only point guard confirmed for the 2021-22 roster.

Now, Kentucky has no true point guard for next season’s roster as we’re nearly into the month of May.

Davion Mintz is still undecided on whether to return or begin his pro career. Even if he returns, Mintz will have just one more season, so Kentucky has no point guards for the future.

Of course, 2020 combo guard Skyy Clark is still committed, but the Clark family had a close relationship with Joel Justus, who is now at Arizona State, so you have to wonder if losing Justus will cause Clark to go elsewhere just like losing Barbee apparently hurt Kentucky with Hickman.

Most likely, Kentucky will add multiple guards in the coming weeks, and perhaps months, who are capable of running the point, be it in the transfer portal or in high school recruiting.

Hopefully, John Calipari knew this was coming and already has a plan in place to fill out the backcourt.