With fan morale declining and Duke dominating on the recruiting trail (not to mention, hiring UK’s recruiting coordinator), John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats must recruit well in the 2023 class. Fortunately for Kentucky, they seem to be in a good spot for several top recruits, putting them in a position to make that a reality.
Those top targets include the names DJ Wagner, Justin Edwards, Kwame Evans Jr., and Robert Dillingham among others. With 247 Sports releasing their updated recruiting rankings, let’s see where these potential Wildcats stand in comparison to the rest of the 2023 class.
Updated Ranking: No. 2
Previous Ranking: No. 1
While still holding the composite No. 1 ranking in the 2023 class, DJ Wagner has dropped to No. 2 in 247 Sports’ updated rankings behind North Carolina’s GG Jackson. This could really give DJ some motivation to retake his spot as he continues to shine on the Nike EYBL circuit this summer.
Of course on the recruiting front, this comes off the heels of Louisville hiring DJ’s grandfather, Milt Wagner, on Tuesday. While there has yet to be a final determination, the hire is not expected to hinder Louisville from recruiting DJ, giving the Cardinals an advantage.
With that said, Kentucky should not be ruled out holding two of the closest connections to DJ in his father, Dajuan, who played under John Calipari at Memphis, and stepbrother, UK walk-on Kareem Watkins, who DJ has called his “best friend” and “blood brother”.
Updated Ranking: No. 3
Previous Ranking: No. 9
A case could be made that Justin Edwards is the most well-rounded player in the 2023 class, as solidified by his jump in the rankings. At 6-foot-7, Edwards has become one of the top playmakers on the Nike EYBL circuit, averaging 18.4 points and 5.6 rebounds while shooting 40 percent from three.
While a decision is not expected until this fall it is looking to be a battle of the checkerboards, between Kentucky and Tennessee.
Updated Ranking: No. 7
Previous Ranking: No. 4
Picture a long and lanky 6-foot-10 wing that can handle like a guard and shoot lights out from three. Are you thinking of Kevin Durant? Jabari Smith? Try, Matas Buzelis.
Currently averaging 11.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, while shooting 60 percent from the field and 40 percent from three, Buzelis is a type of player that has never played at Kentucky, and would be a big piece to motivate Calipari to play a more modern brand basketball.
Buzelis does a have a good connection with UK assistant Chin Coleman, as Buzelis formerly played for Mac Irvin Fire, a program from Chicago that Coleman used to coach and direct. With that said, Travis Branham of 247 Sports considers Kentucky to be the “too early favorite”, as they are competing with Duke and most recently, North Carolina, for the Lithuanian’s services.
Kwame Evans Jr.
Updated Ranking: No. 8
Previous Ranking: No. 2
Kwame Evans Jr. is one of the most versatile guys in the 2023 class and has the potential to become a great 3-and-D type player.
Described as a 6-foot-9 wiry wing, Evan has good ball-handling skills and a nice pull-up jump shot. While not an elite athlete, has also shown potential as a rim protector with his 7′ wingspan.
Evans was once considered a near-lock for Oregon but with recent staff changes, Auburn and Kentucky have joined the fight. Back in November, Evans and his father visited Kentucky, and his father had this to say.
“The Kentucky visit was awesome. The message was come to the best school with the best resources for the players, nothing is given to you, you have to work hard every day and earn your keep. Accountability, all that stuff that Cal teaches. [John Calipari] is a really good coach in my eyes, I just think he does it the right way.”
Updated Ranking: No. 13
Previous Ranking: No. 16
Ron Holland is a high-motored wing with length, which gives him the ability to defend and rebound at a high level, earning him interest from the likes of Arkansas, UCLA, and Memphis, with the Tigers falling behind the G-League option.
Kentucky is the most recent team to express interest and is bringing him to Lexington for an official visit on June 13th. While, Holland’s recruitment is very much a fluid situation, experts point to Kentucky as the early favorites.
Updated Ranking: No. 14
Previous Ranking: No. 11
Dillingham originally committed to NC State over Kentucky back in December, but at the end of his high school season, Dillingham reopened his recruitment after NC State received sanctions from the NCAA.
This time around, the Kentucky staff is very confident and they should be. On Wednesday, Dillingham received his first crystal ball prediction since reopening his recruitment, coming from 247 Sports’ Travis Branham who pegged the Cats to land the five-star guard's services.
Dillingham is one of the dynamic players in the class and looks to be Kentucky’s next commitment, which could come before July.
Updated Ranking: No. 21
Previous Ranking: No. 25
One of Kentucky’s most recent offers and the teammate of DJ Wagner, Aaron Bradshaw is a 7-footer that is ranked as one of the best centers in the class. Known for his shot-blocking ability, Bradshaw ranks second in the Nike EYBL circuit with 3.2 blocks per game.
While Louisville is gaining momentum on DJ Wagner, Bradshaw has said he is willing to go his separate way. “If DJ goes or he doesn’t go, it doesn’t matter. Kentucky is top five for me, for sure,” Bradshaw told Kyle Tucker back in late April.
Kentucky will look to add a combination of these targets to their lone commit in the 2023 class, in-state legacy recruit, Reed Sheppard, who dropped to 29th, down six spots from his previous 247 Sports ranking.
Another recruit to keep track of is Andrej Stojakovic, who jumped from No. 39 to 25.
Given their current position, the Wildcats have the opportunity to put together one of John Calipari’s best classes at Kentucky, they just need to capitalize.