As the upcoming college basketball season approaches, we get closer to decision time for many of the top high school recruits in the 2019 class. This class is crucial for Kentucky.
The rather loaded roster for the 2018-2019 season will likely be cleared out when the season ends, and after two consecutive years of missing out on top-end recruits, John Calipari is in position to break that trend and land some serious young star power for the 2019-2020 season.
Three names in particular have Kentucky high on their radar, and landing them will be the top priority when the time for it comes. With Tyrese Maxey and DJ Jeffries already locked in, these are the recruits that are vital for Calipari to obtain.
James Wiseman isn’t just the top player on Kentucky’s list, he’s the top recruit in the 2019 class and one of the most well-rounded center prospects in recent memory. The 7-foot big man has unbelievable skill and physical traits with the ability to dominate in just about every part of the floor.
Memphis hiring Penny Hardaway, who coached Wiseman in AAU, has made them legitimate favorites to land him. Kentucky, on the other hand, has already gained a commitment from Wiseman’s AAU teammate DJ Jeffries. Whether or not either are legitimate factors in Wiseman’s decision is unknown to anyone but himself.
Regardless, a lack of a purely dominant center has been the main liability of quite a few of Calipari’s teams in the past. In retrospect, Kentucky’s best teams of this current era have had elite, skilled big men. That is what makes Wiseman such a crucial target.
Vernon Carey Jr. is the most physically imposing prospect in this class at 6-10, 275 lbs. His big, burly frame makes him very reminiscent of a younger Demarcus Cousins in the way he’s able to power his way through the post and finish at the rim.
Carey is considered a Duke Blue Devils lean for the moment, but he does have Kentucky still in the running in his top five. A post player as proficient as Carey would fit in perfectly with what Calipari typically does with his centers, and with a guy like Maxey facilitating it could be a perfect pairing.
Keion Brooks isn’t a highly touted top-tier recruit, but as a mid-teens five star his game is exceptional. He is a classic brand wing scorer at 6-8 and has a great handle with the ability to shoot. He can work with his back to the basket as well.
While Kentucky has had guys who could be considered combo forward wing scorers, Brooks is a full-on small forward with takeover scoring ability. That’s something the NBA has valued tremendously in recent years.
For Kentucky, a guy like him has serious value, especially if they can land either Wiseman or Carey.