John Calipari has made no secret of his infatuation with Cameron Reddish. Now, after almost three weeks of the 5-star forward playing for Kentucky’s coach on Team USA at the FIBA U19 World Cup, that interest is increasingly mutual.
“I’m getting to know him,” Reddish told SEC Country by phone from Egypt, ahead of the United States’ semifinal game against Canada, “so it has definitely helped him.”
Calipari marveled at the 6-foot-7 Reddish’s versatility during training camp in Colorado, saying he could play all five positions, and has used the 17-year-old star accordingly. Reddish has even played a little point guard in Egypt.
Through a 5-0 start for Team USA, he averaged 25.1 points, 9.5 rebounds, 7.8 assists, 3.9 steals and just 2.6 turnovers per 40 minutes — while shooting an impressive 11 of 17 (64.7 percent) from 3-point range. It’s easy to see why Calipari is interested in Reddish, who is ranked the No. 4 overall prospect in the Class of 2018 by Scout.com.
The all-important question, though, is what Reddish sees in Calipari.
“He expects a lot,” Reddish said. “You have to go out there every single time and play super hard, defend hard, talk a lot. If not, you get subbed, because there’s somebody on the bench ready to play. I would say that’s the main thing I’ve learned about him: You have to play hard every second.
“I like that, because a lot of people say I have a tendency to not play hard, so him pushing me to play hard every play is definitely helping me.”
It also might be improving Kentucky’s position with Reddish. Heading into this Team USA experience, prevailing wisdom was that Duke the overwhelming favorite to land his signature. Of the 13 Reddish commitment predictions logged in 247Sports’ Crystal Ball, 12 are for the Blue Devils, one for the Cats.
But Reddish told SEC Country from Egypt that Duke is “absolutely not” his leader.
“I’m still weighing all my options,” Reddish said. “Obviously they’re one of my top schools, but right now I’m not close to any decision.”
Being around Reddish for the better part of month can’t hurt Calipari’s chances, although it sounds like Kentucky’s coach has been recruiting without overtly recruiting. The pitch is in how he’s coaching Reddish.
“He hasn’t really mentioned anything about Kentucky,” the player said. “He’s just trying to help me and help the team win. It’s been really fun. Everybody’s just going out and playing super hard — and playing for each other. Any of us could go out there and get 20, 30 points, but it’s a lot of fun seeing everybody play hard for each other.”
Sound familiar? That could be said of almost every 5-star-filled Kentucky roster in eight seasons under Calipari. He’s built his reputation on getting deep and talented teams with multiple NBA hopefuls to play unselfishly. And win big.
He’s been so successful at that, guys like 5-star forward Louis King — Reddish’s friend and AAU teammate, a top-15 overall player in the Class of 2018 — find themselves basically begging Calipari for a scholarship. King impressed the Kentucky boss enough to make the 12-man Team USA roster, but his goal in Egypt was to play well enough for that UK offer.
Through five games, King averaged 13.5 points, 10.8 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 2.7 steals per 40 minutes off the bench.
“He’s starting to be more aggressive. We were waiting for him to do that. We need him to do that,” Reddish said. “I think ultimately he’ll get a scholarship offer. He’s done a really good job.”
Better news for the Cats: King says if Calipari offers, there’s a chance he and Reddish would become a package deal. And one more thing for Big Blue Nation to get excited about: Reddish has been very impressed by Kentucky freshmen Hamidou Diallo and P.J. Washington, who start alongside him for Team USA.
“They’re really good leaders,” Reddish said. “They help everybody on our team. They set an example. They both play hard, give 110 percent every play, and a lot of guys follow after them.”
Now Calipari hopes to see Reddish follow them to Lexington.