COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Six 5-star recruits from the Class of 2018 tried out for John Calipari’s USA Basketball under-19 World Cup team, including four who already have scholarship offers from Kentucky, but the Wildcats’ coach seemed especially enamored of one in particular.
“The one kid can play one, two, three, four, five. I’m like, ‘Oh, my gosh,’ ” Calipari said, bugging out his eyes for effect. “The kid can play every position. I mean, he’s skilled and sees it. He’s good.”
And he is Cameron Reddish, a 6-foot-7 small forward with a 7-1 wingspan and an embarrassment of riches in the basketball skills department. For a coach like Calipari, who is obsessed with the increasingly “positionless” nature of the game, Reddish represents the holy grail.
How convenient, then, that Reddish made the 12-man Team USA roster and will end up spending about three weeks with Calipari — the team leaves for competition in Egypt on Tuesday — hearing and seeing daily how the coach would use all of that talent.
“It’s just a blessing, honestly, for a guy that caliber to recognize me for my gifts and talents. That’s just a blessing,” Reddish said. Before a training camp scrimmage in Colorado last week, Calipari grabbed him and “told me he wanted me on the ball more, coming off screens and stuff; that’s how I knew he wanted me to show my versatility more, and I really like that about him.”
Reddish, who plays high school basketball in Pennsylvania, averaged 22.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.5 steals and nearly a block per game during the regular season of Nike’s AAU circuit, which culminates at Peach Jam next month. After that even, he’ll cut a list of his eight top schools — Duke, Kentucky, Arizona, UCLA, Villanova, Maryland, Connecticut and Miami — down to five or six.
The Wildcats “are up there,” he told SEC Country. “I’m not going to rank them, but yeah, they’re pretty high.” His AAU teammate, 5-star forward Louis King, is also in Team USA camp and aiming to earn a Kentucky offer, saying that maybe then the pair could be a package deal.
But the Blue Devils were considered favorites to land Reddish, a consensus top-five overall prospect in the Class of 2018, before last week. You can bet Calipari will try to turn the tide during their shared pursuit of a gold medal. Remember, this is the exact scenario under which Texas coach Shaka Smart stole 2017 star Mohamed Bamba from Kentucky.
So is Calipari overtly recruiting Reddish on this trip?
“He’s talked to me a few times, talked about exactly what I need to work on,” Reddish said. “He’s giving me details, like tighten up my jump shot (he shot 28.6 percent from 3-point range on the Nike circuit), get stronger (he weighs just 203 pounds), things like that. Those are always good things to hear, knowing he’s looking at me and seeing what I can improve. That’s just his main pitch: how I can get better so I can be one-and-done.”
Reddish was already impressed with Kentucky’s program, its reputation for churning out NBA draft picks and the fans. He visited Rupp Arena for Big Blue Madness last October — one of nine 5-star recruits in the building that night — and told SEC Country this spring that he was in awe of that experience.
“It was real fun. The atmosphere was crazy,” Reddish said. “Usually, it’s just like three or four (top recruits on a visit), but that was crazy, a lot of elite players there.”
And now he gets to see the Cats’ coach up close and personal and decide whether that style matches his own. He also had the benefit of three current UK players — Hamidou Diallo, P.J. Washington and Kevin Knox — in Team USA training camp to discuss their experience so far. Diallo and Washington made the team (Knox pulled out due to a hamstring injury) and will be in his ear for several more days.
“You get to see what he’s really like,” Reddish said. “I talk to Kevin a little bit, P.J. every now and then. They say it’s really good. They say it’s nice. They say they do a lot of strength and conditioning, which I need — I need a lot of that — and they say outside of basketball, it’s just a great place to be.”
More importantly, though, what does he say about being coached by Calipari?
“I would say he’s a cool dude,” Reddish said, “but he really pushes you to the limit. Like, he really wants you to be great; he cares for you. I really like that about him. And I trust him. Everything he’s saying makes sense, and his current players right now are kind of backing it up for him.”