Kentucky Wildcat fans have become familiar with Skyy Clark and Shaedon Sharpe over the past year. Being two highly rated commits for the 2023 class, the Big Blue Nation was understandably excited.
Clark, at the time of his commitment to Kentucky, was ranked in the top 10 of some recruiting services and considered to be one of the best point guards in the country. However, he tore his ACL in July of 2021, and upon his return has never quite looked like the same player and has dropped outside the top 30 in most rankings. This resulted in a mutual decommitment back in March between UK and Clark, and he has since committed to play for Illinois.
The No. 1 recruit of the 2023 class before reclassifying, Sharpe became Kentucky’s first top-5 recruit since Bam Adebayo in 2016. Sharpe made the decision to enroll early, coming to Kentucky for the 2022 spring semester. However, as announced on Thursday, Sharpe has entered his name in the NBA Draft and unless on the minuscule chance he is ruled ineligible, he will keep his name in.
What do these two players have in common? They will never play a minute of basketball for the Kentucky Wildcats and they pushed away a top-five recruit.
Have you heard of Nick Smith? Well, get familiar because we will see him in conference play this season.
Smith is a consensus top-10 player in the 2023 class, and he wanted to come to Kentucky. With Clark and Sharpe it did not appear that there were any roster spots available, leading him to commit to his home state school of Arkansas.
One of the best shooting guards in the class, Travis Branham describes Smith as an offensive threat that Kentucky could greatly use.
“Nick Smith is one of the best scorers in the country with a very confident and aggressive approach to the game. His foot never comes off the gas and he gets after it on both ends of the floor. He’s got size, length, athleticism and can fill it up from all three levels and does an excellent job for a high schooler at getting to the free-throw line. He’s got range on his jumper off the catch and bounce, he has floaters, he defends and is excellent in the open floor.”
It’s a shame that of the three players, none will play for Kentucky. In hindsight, if John Calipari and staff had a redo, Smith would be a Wildcat.
With that said, there are two diaper-dandy freshmen coming in that shouldn’t be overlooked, Cason Wallace and Chris Livingston.
Rex Chapman Claims State Politics Cost Kentucky Two NBA All-Stars
Before this Spring when Calipari and Co started regaining traction on the recruiting trail, much of the Big Blue Nation was not satisfied with basketball recruiting.
Much of this was a result of some misfortune. Some of that misfortune is due to unique situations such as family/high school coach hires – as was the case with Cade Cunningham and James Wiseman – but some was due to the reluctance to adapt to the current recruiting landscape.
However, former Kentucky basketball great Rex Chapman tweeted something interesting earlier this month, hinting at another reason, Kentucky politics.
Chapman didn’t name any names, leaving it unclear who these recruits may have been, but still an interesting take by the former Wildcat.
Top Remaining 2022 Prospect Ugonna Kingsley Commits to Kentucky
The Kentucky Wildcats have recruiting momentum in both the football and basketball programs, but today John Calipari and Co were the ones to receive the latest commitment, five-star center Ugonna Kingsley.
Kingsley’s commitment comes off the heels of a visit to Kentucky back in July, where all of his boxes were checked and he felt at home in Lexington. Kingsley chose Kentucky over the Kansas Jayhawks, Memphis Tigers, Oklahoma Sooners, and others.
Kingsley is one of the fastest-rising prospects in the country, first appearing in recruiting rankings back in late May. Two months later, Kingsley was ranked as a top-25 prospect and one of the best centers in the 2023 class.
With that said, Kingsley is no longer with the 2023 class, he would reclassify in late July. With his reclassification, Kingsley now stands No. 39 in the 2022 247 Sports prospect rankings and pushes Kentucky nine spots to No. 2 in the team rankings behind only Duke.
Due to the Shaedon Sharpe saga, the Big Blue Nation is likely to be a little wary – understandably so – of Kingsley’s reclassification, but this is a different situation.
While Kingsley is very talented, he does not yet possess the talent level of a projected top-10 pick coming out of high school. With that assurance, Kingsley’s reclassification is a benefit for himself and the Kentucky basketball program.
In his first year in Lexington, Kingsley will be allowed sit and develop behind reigning National Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe, then take over in 2023-24 when Tshiebwe is expected to be in the NBA Draft. Kingsley’s early arrival will also give Kentucky some insurance if a frontcourt player were to go down with an injury.
Despite both of his parents being under six feet in height, the Nigerian native possesses a 6-foot-11, 195-pound frame, and an impressive 7-foot-5 wingspan. Given his physical gifts, Kingsley is a natural on the defensive end and is a high-level rim protector. Overall, he is one of the best defenders in high school basketball, but his lack of strength can hurt him at times in the post.
On the offensive end, Kingsley has impressive footwork and shows the ability to score consistently around the basket. Outside of that, shooting, passing, and dribbling are all areas in need of improvement.
In early June, Kingsley admitted to On3’s Jamie Shaw, “I have been wanting to go to Kentucky all my life, even before coming to the states.”
Now, Kingsley has made his dream a reality and Kentucky is bringing in one of the best rim protectors they have had in recent memory.
*Also posted on A Sea of Blue
Reed Sheppard Shines in High-Profile ESPN Televised Game
In the last two months, Kentucky has secured commitments from top-10 recruits Justin Edwards (No. 3) and Robert Dillingham (No. 6) in the 2023 class. However, on Tuesday night Kentucky’s first commitment in the class, Reed Sheppard, was the one to make a statement.
In a high-profile game televised on ESPN, Sheppard faced off against Strive for Greatness, a grassroots team who featured top-five prospects Mookie Cook and Mackenzie Mgbako, Bronny James (LeBron James’ son), and his future teammate Dillingham.
Out of all the stars on the floor, Sheppard shined the brightest, going for 16 points, nine rebounds, and four assists to help lead Midwest Basketball Club to a 78-67 victory over the star-filled Strive for Greatness.
Sheppard is a five-star in his own right but ranks between 20th to 40th depending on which service you look at, but showed that he may be better than his ranking indicates.
Sheppard is the highest-ranked recruit from the State of Kentucky since former Louisville player Chane Behanan (Bowling Green, KY). Furthermore, he will be the highest-ranked recruit from the state of Kentucky to play for the University of Kentucky since Rex Chapman.
Check out this short highlight video of Sheppard’s performance!