LEXINGTON, Ky. – Expecting a mass exodus this offseason, John Calipari and Kentucky basketball continued cleaning up on the recruiting trail Friday. An early Christmas present arrived in the form of 5-star forward Jarred Vanderbilt, who became the fifth top-50 prospect to pick the Wildcats.
The 6-foot-7 Texas native played AAU basketball for Houston Hoops, alongside Kentucky’s star freshman point guard, De’Aaron Fox.
“He kind of tells me their lifestyle and how they are at Kentucky,” Vanderbilt told SEC Country at Peach Jam in July. “It’s a great program. We talk like every other week. He told me he loves it up there. He loves everything, the culture, the fans, the basketball, just the school in general. He loves it all.”
And Vanderbilt, who is ranked as high as No. 15 overall in the Class of 2017 and no lower than No. 22, likes how Calipari develops players for the next level. Vanderbilt averaged 13.5 points, 10.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists in Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League this spring and summer against many of the best players in the country.
Christmas has come early …
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) December 23, 2016
“Really skilled as a ball handler and passer, has point-forward abilities,” 247Sports national recruiting analyst Jerry Meyer said. “I coached against Lamar Odom when he was in college and Vanderbilt has always reminded me of him – a little shorter version. You can use him in a lot of ways.
“The weakness in his game is outside shooting, but he’s a good rebounder, great at starting the break after the rebound. He’s a catalyst-type player, because he has a high basketball IQ.”
Vanderbilt joins 5-stars Nick Richards (center), P.J. Washington (power forward) and Quade Green (point guard), plus 4-star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (combo guard), in the Wildcats’ latest class – which ranked No. 1 nationally before Vanderbilt committed. And Kentucky is hardly done.
Calipari and Co. are still in the mix for three top-10 prospects: center Mohamed Bamba, forward Kevin Knox and guard Hamidou Diallo.
“I love the athleticism, the versatility of the Kentucky class,” Meyer said. “But my one concern is I don’t see outside shooting, really, in this class.”
It will be interesting to see how or if Calipari addresses that through either recruiting or transfers. The Wildcats will lose seniors Dominique Hawkins, Mychal Mulder and Derek Willis – the latter two being dangerous 3-point shooters – and likely underclassmen Fox, Malik Monk, Bam Adebayo and Isaiah Briscoe after this season.
KENTUCKY’S 2017 CLASS
C Nick Richards (6-10, 225) – No. 12 ESPN, No. 15 247Sports, No. 17 Scout, No. 19 Rivals
PF P.J. Washington (6-8, 230) – No. 14 Scout, No. 16 ESPN, No. 16 247Sports, No. 17 Rivals
SF Jarred Vanderbilt (6-7, 205) – No. 15 Scout, No. 19 247Sports, No. 21 Rivals, No. 22 ESPN
PG Quade Green (6-0, 175) – No. 21 ESPN, No. 23 Rivals, No. 25 Scout, No. 31 247Sports
SG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (6-5, 185) – No. 43 ESPN, No. 43 247Sports, No. 46 Scout, No. 53 Rivals