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KY Insider: Basketball Recruiting Update

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The offseason has arrived and John Calipari and the rest of the Kentucky staff are in full recruiting mode for the spring recruiting period.

A lot has happened in the past wee following the National Championship game, lets take a closer look at where the Cats stand and what they have been up to.

Matthew Hurt Calls Off Visits before Decision Date

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Kentucky really needs some frontcourt depth next season, and one player the UK staff would love to put on the UK blue and white is 2019 five star big, Matthew Hurt.

Hurt will decide the day before his birthday on April 19th and will choose between the four premier bluebloods in college basketball, Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, & North Carolina.

Most recruiting analysts believe that all signs point to Hurt choosing Duke and that belief grew even stronger when Hurt called off in-home visits from Kentucky and Kansas on Sunday.

Duke makes the most sense, due to the fact that he will have the least amount of competition and would play the most at Duke compared to the other schools.

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Here is a recent interview of Hurt at last weekend’s Nike Hoop Summit.

Calipari Visited 2020 Five Star Jalen Johnson

John Calipari kicked off the week by taking a trip to Wisconsin to visit the No. 3 overall recruit in the 2020 class, Jalen Johnson.

Johnson was offered back in September and told CatsPause.com, “It feels great. It’s very humbling. He said they don’t really offer guys this early so being one of the few means a lot.”

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With 15 schools still on his list, Johnson is far from making a decision. However, the 24/7 Sports predictions show Duke in the lead at 71%, followed by Wisconsin at 29%.

As a junior, Johnson carried led Nicolet to a 27-1 record and its first-ever Wisconsin state championship that included a 20 point and 20 rebound title game performance.

Johnson is already being compared to NBA All-Star Paul George, and if he wants to bring his three-and-D style of play to Kentucky, he will be welcomed with open arms.

UK Extends Offer to 2020 Big Man Cliff Omoruyi

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While visiting verbal commit Khalil Whitney, a 6-10 teammate of Whitney’s with a 7-6 wingspan caught Calipari’s eye. That freak athlete is Clifford Omoruyi, a rising recruit from Nigeria in the 2020 class.

Kentucky is the first elite school to show interest among other schools such as Florida, N.C. State, Miami (FL), and Seton Hall.

Omoruyi is ranked as the 56th overall recruit by Rivals and ESPN, while 24/7 Sports ranks him 74th. However, with Kentucky’s newfound interest he will likely receive a bump.

Reclassification has yet to be reported as an option. but it is something to keep an eye on if all else fails.

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UK Target Jaemyn Brakefield, will NOT reclassify

Jaemyn Brakefield, a 6-foot-8 210 pound, power forward, is considered one of the best bigs in the 2020 class. Many believed that there was a strong possibility Brakefield would reclassify and Kentucky was a real option.

Last week, Brakefield layed that belief to rest and will stay in the 2020 class and even suggested that his recruitment was far from over and is “still wide open”.

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Brakefield has been a Kentucky target for a while and has visited Big Blue Madness the past two seasons. Brakefield is a skilled lefty that would be a great piece to next year’s recruiting class.

Names to Keep an Eye On

Makur Maker

Cousin of NBA player Thon Maker, Makur Maker received a visit from John Calipari and Kenny Payne on Sunday.

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At 7 foot 235 pounds, Maker is an athletic specimen in the 2020 class. Maker is a bit of a mystery as he is ranked 15th by Rivals, 50th by ESPN, and 69th by 24/7 Sports.

Maker is yet to receive a scholarship offer, but with his mobility and NBA size Maker could be a “unicorn” in Lexington.

Names to Keep an Eye On

The Hauser Twins

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Could Calipari take two more graduate transfers?

On Monday, the Huaser twins of Marquette put their names into the transfer portal. Sam Hauser, a 6-8 forward, averaged 12.7 points and 6.0 rebounds per game while shooting 40.2% from three. While his brother Joey, a 6-9 forward, recorded 9.7 points and 5.3 boards per game, shooting 42.5% from deep.

Virginia and Wisconsin seem to be the frontrunners those far, but if the Cats can’t find another big, maybe they could go towards a “small ball” style of play with the Hauser twins.

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Karter Knox Has Decommitted From Kentucky

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© Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

Another player has decided to explore his options. Karter Knox, one of Kentucky’s six recruits in the class of 2024, has decided to reopen his recruitment following the departure of John Calipari, according to the Tampa Bay Times. He could reevaluate his decision depending on who Kentucky hires as the new head coach.

Knox had very good ties with Calipari, being the younger brother of former Wildcat Karter Knox. Whether he follows Calipari remains to be seen, but a mass exodus of players could be likely. A fringe 5-star forward on 247 Sports, Knox chose Kentucky over Louisville, USF, and a possible return to Overtime Elite.

A native from Florida, Knox’s older brother, Kobe, is currently playing at South Florida, making them a team to watch in his recruitment. As for Louisville, Knox has ties to Kenny Payne, but Payne is no longer the head coach of the Louisville program.

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Now, John Calipari and Arkansas could be in play for the 6-5 forward. Kentucky got what could potentially be the first of many decommittments after Calipari left Kentucky for Arkansas. Kentucky will need to make a hire soon, or there will be a lot more departures than what is expected. Many decisions are hinging on who Kentucky’s next head coach becomes.

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What Transfers Has Kentucky Reached Out To?

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The college basketball transfer portal is open and Kentucky has reached out to multiple targets, specifically guards.
IMAGN/USA Today

College basketball offseason his here for all but four teams, which means transfer portal season is here. While some teams reach out to everyone, others like Kentucky try to examine potential fit and feel for each player.

With a desire to get older and more physical, the Kentucky staff has reached out to more transfers than they have in the past at this time, especially in the backcourt which, as of now, is where the roster holes are.

Let’s see the transfers Kentucky has reached out to thus far.

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AJ Storr – Guard, Wisconsin

Physicals: 6-7, 205 lbs
Stats: 16.8 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 43.4% FG, 32% 3P
Ranking: 40th (Evan Miya), 2nd (247Sports)

Storr is one of the biggest names in the portal. An athletic, attacking guard who excels at getting to the rim. However is relatively inefficient with his usage and is an average rebounder for his size.

Kentucky did reach out, but Storr is hoping to get a good draft grade, and if he does return to college, has a big NIL ask. Illinois is the favorite if he returns to college.

BJ Freeman – Guard, Milwaukee

Physicals: 6-6, 200 lbs
Stats: 21.1 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 4.1 APG, 42.2% FG, 35.1% 3P
Ranking: 91st (Evan Miya), 44th (247Sports)

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Last week BJ Freeman sounded ready to commit to Kentucky, saying he is “willing to do whatever to win and put another banner up there at Kentucky“. As interested as he is, an offer has yet to be extended.

Freeman is a three-level scorer who made major improvements in rebounding in generating assists this past season. At 6-6, 200 lbs he has a good frame. With more talent around him, Freeman could raise his efficiency.

Sean Pedulla – Guard, Virginia Tech

Physicals: 6-1, 195 lbs
Stats: 16.4 PPG, 4.6 APG, 4.3 RPG, 42.4% FG, 32.5% 3P
Ranking: 4th (Evan Miya), 22nd (247Sports)

One of the best playmakers in the portal, Pedulla can create opportunities for himself and others. This would make him an instant-impact guy. A high-volume shooter and undersized, Pedulla could increase his efficiency playing alongside better talent in Lexington. Kentucky has extended an offer.

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Javian McCollum – Guard, Oklahoma

Physicals: 6-2, 160 lbs
Stats: 13.3 PPG, 3.4 APG, 40.4% FG, 31.4% 3P
Ranking: 118th (Evan Miya), 18th (247Sports)

McCollum is the latest name to enter this list, with Kentucky expressing interest on Friday. Starting his career at Sienna, McCollum transferred to Oklahoma last season and his game transferred well.

While his shooting percentages don’t look great, he was often forced to shoot difficult shots in the Oklahoma offense. Undersized, McCollum is another player who can create for himself or for his teammates.

Cliff Omoruyi – Center, Rutgers

Physicals: 6-11, 240 lbs
Stats: 10.4 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 51.2% FG
Ranking: 14th (Evan Miya), 5th (247Sports)

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Omoruyi was one of the first big names to enter the portal and as a four-year player and two-time Big Ten All-Defense selection, he has received a lot of interest. He is a traditional big who excels in rebounding and rim protection.

At this point, it seems there are about 4-5 schools still in the running, with Kentucky being one. Omoruyi has been told that he will have a key role and the minutes are available, should he choose Kentucky.

Cade Tyson – Guard, Belmont

Physicals: 6-7, 205 lbs
Stats: 16.2 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 49.3% FG, 46.5% 3P
Ranking: 74th (Evan Miya), 20th (247Sports)

Tyson was the Missouri Valley Conference Freshman of the Year last season and Second Team All-Conference this season after averaging 16.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.6 assists. He did that on 46.5% shooting from three.

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Tyson is one of the most sought-after players in the portal due to his efficient shooting, but Kentucky has thrown their hat in the ring. He enters the portal with two years of eligibility remaining.

Jalen Blackmon – Guard, Stetson

Physicals: 6-3, 180 lbs
Stats: 21.3 PPG, 1.9 APG, 42.8% 3P, 42.8% FG, 38% 3P
Ranking: 336th (Evan Miya), 50th (247Sports)

The son of former Kentucky star James Blackmon, Jalen is a standout guard for Stetson University, being named first-team all-conference the last two seasons.

He is participating in the draft process, but will almost certainly return to college. An off-ball scoring threat, Blackmon could be a replacement for Antonio Reeves, and the Kentucky connection is there.

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Jordan Ivy-Curry – Guard, UTSA

Physicals: 6-3, 175 lbs
Stats: 17.1 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 3.0 APG, 40.1% FG, 38.7% 3P
Ranking: 226th (Evan Miya), 194th (247Sports)

Jordan Ivy-Curry was a ball-dominant guard at UTSA, but as a transfer, it would be better for him to go somewhere where he can play as more of a two-guard/combo guard. He still has the handles and ability to create for himself, but is in the 98th percentile in catch-and-shoot situations.

Tyler Nickel – Guard, Virginia Tech

Physicals: 6-7, 220 lbs
Stats: 8.8 PPG, 39.9% 3P
Ranking: 105th (Evan Miya), 162nd (247Sports)

At 6-7, 220 Tyler Nickel is one of the bigger guards in the portal, and he shoots 40 percent from three at the Power Six level. Even at that, he can run the floor well in transition and make the right passing reads.

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Nickel can be a really good supporting type piece on a contender.

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Kentucky’s Incoming Freshmen Show Promise In McDonald’s All-American Game

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Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

This week, Kentucky was well represented in this year’s McDonald’s All-American Game, with three incoming players participating, the most of any school. Those three were Boogie Fland, Jayden Quaintance, and Karter Knox, who all played well.

With most all-star/exhibition games you don’t know what to expect. However, this game has been competitive in recent history and this year was no different, with Fland and Quaintance on the East team escaping with an 88-86 win over Knox and the West.

Quaintance and Fland were both very active on the defensive end, while Knox showed his improvements on offense, shooting more consistently. Fland took control at the end of the first half, heating up offensively, with a good second half also. He showed off his creativity too, creating his shots and making some beautiful passes. He was certainly the biggest talk out of Kentucky’s commits.

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Fland finished with 17 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists for the East team, with Quaintance pouring in 7 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 4 steals for the East. Knox had 9 points and a rebound for the West team in the loss.

A lot of the true evaluation comes from the practices rather than the game itself, so let’s take a look at how the Kentucky guys did throughout the week.

Boogie Fland

A guard who is a really skilled shooter. Fland showed that in his practice evaluations this week, getting to his spots and creating his own. He gets his teammates involved and is really good on the offensive end. His ability to create for himself and others will allow him to be dangerous in the pick-and-roll game. His length and competitiveness help carry him through on the defensive end.

Take a look at some of what he showcased this week.

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Jayden Quaintance

Despite being just 16 years old, the top-10 prospect is known for being one of the more physical players in the class, as he was very active on the defensive end. He was named standout from Day 2 practice.

“He is an explosive player around the basket, showing a lot of explosive burst,” On3 said. “The upside with Quaintance is big. He has some physical traits that simply cannot be taught.” Currently improving on his footwork, the big man has a very high ceiling. Not eligible for the NBA Draft until 2026, Quaintance is a player whom Kentucky hopes to stay for two years.

Karter Knox

A top-20 forward in the class, and brother of former Wildcat Kevin Knox, Karter is a very efficient shot-maker and excels at mid-range. He is a three-level scorer who can make plays when you need him to. There are questions about his ceiling, but he’s getting more efficient and confident by the day. His game has improved a lot in recent months.

Along with Quaintance, Knox was named a standout from Day 2 practice.

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“Knox got into the mid-range for a couple of pull-up jumpers, but he also knocked down some catch-and-shoot threes,” On3 said. “He looked like a plug-and-play type at the next level who can finish plays on the offensive end with low volume and get out in transition to for some easy buckets. There is wonder about the high-end upside for him, but his floor continues to rise.”


There is a lot to like about what Kentucky has with its recruiting class. Now it’s about adding the right pieces around them.

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