The Kentucky Wildcats are pursuing three of the top big men in the Class of 2019 in James Wiseman, Vernon Carey Jr., and Matthew Hurt.
The Wildcats stand in pretty good to decent shape with all three, but it is a wildcard on where those three will end up playing in college. Kentucky is in the mix, and could possibly land 2/3. However, they could also go 0/3, which begs the question:
Who could Kentucky turn to for bigs in 2019 if they miss out on their top three?
Kentucky will need to sign at least a couple frontcourt guys in the class. Reid Travis will have exhausted his eligibility, P.J. Washington is almost definitely leaving for the NBA, E.J. Montgomery will likely be a first rounder, and while a junior Nick Richards sounds like an excellent option, we’ve learned it’s hard to count on guys staying for a junior season. If Richards excels this year, he could even play himself into the first round.
Needless to say, whereas Kentucky could bring back a couple backcourt players, it’s hard to see them bringing back hardly anyone in the front court, which makes Wiseman, Carey, and Hurt so valuable.
So here are a few guys Kentucky could get involved with:
1. Isaiah Stewart
Stewart has been a fast riser this spring and summer, ranking as high as #7 in the class on 247 Sports.
He’s a powerful and athletic 6’8 power forward that is one of the better rebounders in the class and is known as a high-motor guy.
Kentucky has recently got more involved, and Stewart seems to be willing to listen to Kentucky’s pitch, but it’s hard to see Kentucky getting near the lead this late in the game. Stewart has already trimmed his list to 10, but seems willing to consider Kentucky if they come calling.
However, Duke, Texas, Michigan State, Indiana, and others have been recruiting him a lot longer, leaving Kentucky a lot of ground to pick up if they decide to ramp up their pursuit of Stewart.
But that shouldn’t discourage the Wildcats because lately, Stewart has been playing as well as any big man in the country. He was one of the top performers at Peach Jam, and if his team could’ve advanced a little further, he likely would’ve won MVP honors. He averaged 19 points and almost 13 rebounds, and was able to make his way to the free throw line frequently where he knocked down nearly 85 percent of his attempts.
Kentucky really should make a concerted effort for Stewart.
2. Aidan Igiehon
Igiehon is a couple inches taller than Stewart (about 6’10) but like Stewart, Igiehon’s game is built around his strength and motor. He’s one of the stronger guys in the class, and excels around the rim.
Ranked #23 in the class by 247 Sports, Louisville has gained a lot of steam for Igiehon, as he and Cardinals Head Coach Chris Mack have been talking for multiple years. From New York, he is also considering playing at St. Johns.
But don’t count Kentucky out. They made his top 10 without even having offered yet, which is unusual and can be taken a couple of ways. Either he is keeping UK in the mix knowing that they are targeting other big men but he really wants to play there OR keeping Kentucky in the recruitment adds some intrigue. Who really knows?
However, there has been a lot of momentum for Louisville lately in regard to Igiehon. He recently visited and the coaching staff has a strong relationship with him. Igiehon is reportedly targeting a fall commitment, so it could be soon that he becomes a Cardinal.
3. Jaden McDaniels
McDaniels is still relatively quiet on the recruiting scene and it is uncertain where Kentucky stands. Kentucky has reached out to him, but it doesn’t appear there was an offer, and it is unknown how much interest there is on each side.
McDaniels is a top 10 player in the class, who is a wing/forward hybrid who can play multiple positions. He’ll likely play as more of a stretch 4 at the college level, but his versatility will be intriguing.
McDaniels continues to catch the eyes of scouts and coaches, as he continues to burn up the spring and summer. If he keeps at this pace, he could rise into the top five.
It will be interesting to see how Kentucky handles this recruitment. If they miss out on their 3 main targets, Kentucky could begin to try to get more involved with McDaniels, but that remains to be seen.
Coming out of Peach Jam, McDaniels talked about how his father is handling his recruitment, and Kentucky has been in contact, but he also said that Kentucky is no longer his dream school, and he was unsure if he would visit .
Don’t get too confident in McDaniels becoming a Wildcat.
4. Kofi Cockburn
Kentucky’s interest in the massive New Yorker has been mixed at best, according to recruiting experts. Kentucky has been in talks with him and Calipari apparently told him he “should look into coming to Kentucky,” but no offer has came.
Cockburn turned some heads at Peach Jam, averaging around 18 points and 9 rebounds per game. His massive size, 6’10” or 6’11” and somewhere between 255 and 300 pounds (depending on the recruiting service), coupled with an underrated skill set has made him a major target for several high-major programs.
From most reports, Cockburn seems interested in Kentucky and their track record of putting big men into the NBA. But like many of the guys mentioned on this list, he plans to cut his list soon, so Kentucky will need to make a decision soon how heavily to pursue Cockburn.
5. Armando Bacot
Speaking of a player that turned heads at the Peach Jam, that would be the 6’10 forward from Richmond, Virginia. Bacot earned MVP of the Peach Jam after playing on the champion Team Takeover.
Bacot averaged a double-double with 11 points and almost 13 rebounds per game.
Kentucky hasn’t been seen as much of an option for Bacot, as he seems to be favoring Duke and UNC, but there’s always a chance Kentucky could make up some ground for him. Joel Justus recently reached out to him, but there is some concern it could be too late in the game.
It will be interesting to see if Kentucky can get into the race, especially with more momentum for Wiseman staying in Memphis.
Right now, I think Kentucky lands one of their three main targets, but nothing is solid in that regard, so Stewart, Igiehon, McDaniels, Cockburn, and Bacot will also be names to keep an eye on as the drama unfolds.