It’s no secret that the last few seasons have been disappointing by Kentucky Basketball standards, but that’s hopefully about to change.
One complaint John Calipari has received over the last several years is the lack of the elite-of-elite high school recruits. Although it’s rumored to be a somewhat down class, Calipari heard the noise and brought in the top recruiting class in the country, headlined by none other than Justin Edwards.
# 1 Justin Edwards
- Position: Small Forward
- Class: Freshman
- Measurements: 6-8, 203 lbs.
- Hometown: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- School: Imhotep Charter
- High School Recruit Rankings: No. 3 nationally, No. 1 SF via 247 Sports Composite Rankings
Justin Edwards was the prize jewel of Kentucky’s 2023 recruiting class, and for good reason. The No. 1 small forward in the class was ranked No. 3 overall by all three major recruiting services. He earned Pennsylvania Mr. Basketball honors as well as earning a place on the McDonald’s All-American team.
As a junior, Edwards averaged 18.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, followed by an average of 17.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game as a senior for his nationally-ranked Imhotep Charter squad. His play helped his high school team win back-to-back state titles.
Edwards also helped Team Final advance to the Peach Jam quarterfinals after shooting 39.5% from deep while averaging 15.3 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. Additionally, the 6-foot-8 small forward was selected to the Nike Hoop Summit and was named a SLAM High School All-American.
This past spring, Edwards scored 11 points and grabbed 5 rebounds in the McDonald’s All-American Game before dropping 20 points in the Iverson Classic to earn Co-MVP honors with his future teammate.
The top-ranked recruit had offers from just about every school in the country, but he picked the Cats over the likes of the Tennessee Volunteers, Auburn Tigers, Kansas Jayhawks, Maryland Terrapins, Villanova Wildcats, and even the NBA G League.
In the end, Edwards’ “dream school” won out.
Edwards clearly has the prospect pedigree, but, of course, the question always remains, how will he do in his lone season donning the blue and white?
The expectations are unsurprisingly sky-high. Despite being ranked third in his class, several publications have begun touting Edwards as the future No. 1 pick of the 2024 NBA Draft before having played a single collegiate minute.
Some of those expectations came from Edwards’ performance over the summer in the GLOBL JAM tournament in Canada, where he averaged 14.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.8 steals over four games. We’ve learned over the years that expectations should be tempered following summer tour games, but the competition the Cats faced was stiffer than in recent trips.
The smooth lefty has the skillet and size to be the perfect wing. He’s versatile, as he can play anywhere from the 2 spot down to the 4, which is very important for a Kentucky team expected to be without Aaron Bradshaw, Ugonna Onyenso, and possibly Zvonimir Ivisic to start the season.
Edwards is very good at creating for himself and moves fluidly with the ball. His shooting from deep is good, not great, but he really excels in the midrange.
The most exciting part of Edwards’ profile is the defensive potential. He has a relentless motor, is very long and athletic, and moves well for his size. He should be able to guard a variety of positions.
Simply put, it’s easy to see why NBA scouts are infatuated with Edwards heading into his freshman season.
There are always questions surrounding freshmen, but BBN should be excited for Edwards. It remains to be seen if he comes even close to his ceiling—the sky is the limit—while at Kentucky, but Kentucky fans should expect at least a solid, consistent contributor who will work his tail off.
The five-star prospect clearly has the tools and makeup of a very special player, but the BBN will only get to enjoy it for one season. Let’s hope it’s a good one.