LEXINGTON, Ky. — We’re less than a week away from a little more clarity on the 2018-19 Kentucky basketball roster. The deadline to declare for the NBA draft is 11:59 p.m. Sunday, so if Hamidou Diallo, Jarred Vanderbilt and Wenyen Gabriel intend to at least test the waters, they’ll have to announce it by then.
Several other Wildcats have already made their intentions public: Kevin Knox and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander have or will hire agents, ending their college careers, PJ Washington is testing the waters (not hiring an agent), Sacha Killeya-Jones and Tai Wynyard are transferring and Nick Richards plans to return for his sophomore season.
Diallo, a redshirt freshman shooting guard who is currently projected just outside the first round and who almost left for the NBA last spring, is likely gone. There was even a CBS Sports report last week that he was planning to hire an agent — but Diallo’s longtime mentor denied that and told SEC Country he was scheduled to meet with the family to discuss the decision (not yet made) this week.
Vanderbilt and Gabriel, a pair of 6-foot-9 forwards and former 5-star recruits, have much more difficult decisions. Vanderbilt, once considered a potential lottery pick, is now a projected late second-round selection — if at all — thanks mostly to missing 23 of 37 games last season with two different injuries. It didn’t help that, despite elite rebounding numbers, his offense was underwhelming at best.
All has been quiet from the Vanderbilt camp since his father told SEC Country three weeks ago that Jarred remained “day to day” with a left-ankle injury that cost him UK’s final six games, that he hadn’t made a draft decision, preferred to be a likely first-round pick if he was leaving school and believes he had a lot more to his game than what he’s shown in college.
Gabriel has been a valuable contributor each of the last two seasons at Kentucky and finished his sophomore season strong, but he is not listed among ESPN’s top 100 draft-eligible prospects. And only 60 players will be picked in June. But sources told SEC Country last week that Gabriel is seriously considering a pro career even if it isn’t immediately in the NBA.
The one other decision that still must be made — or at least made public — is whether former McDonald’s All-American point guard Quade Green intends to return for his sophomore season or transfer to another school. (A pro career at this point does not see a viable option.)
Kentucky has landed 5-star guards Immanuel Quickley and Keldon Johnson and 4-star guard Tyler Herro in the Class of 2018, plus the No. 1 point guard in the class of 2019, Ashton Hagans, who is widely expected to reclassify and play with the Wildcats this fall. (They also have 6-foot-10, 5-star forward E.J. Montgomery on the way.)
Oh, and John Calipari is in hot pursuit of the No. 2 point guard in the Class of 2019, Tyrese Maxey, who is also thinking about graduating high school early and being part of a ridiculously loaded backcourt at Kentucky this season.
Those big decisions for Green, Hagans and Maxey might not be made in the next week, but those of Diallo, Vanderbilt and Gabriel — at least partially — must be. Stay tuned for the next installment of the soap opera that is the annual remaking of a roster in Lexington.
April 22 — Early entry deadline (11:59 p.m. ET)
May 16-20 — NBA Draft Combine (Chicago)
June 11 — Early entry withdrawal deadline (5 p.m. ET)
June 21 — 2018 NBA Draft (Brooklyn)
WHERE IT STANDS
Gone to the NBA — SF Kevin Knox, PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Gone via transfer — PF Sacha Killeya-Jones, PF Tai Wynyard
Testing NBA waters — PF PJ Washington
NBA undecided — SG Hamidou Diallo, PF Jarred Vanderbilt, PF Wenyen Gabriel
Transfer undecided — PG Quade Green
Returning — C Nick Richards, SG Jemarl Baker
Committed/signed recruits — PG Immanuel Quickley (5-star), PG Ashton Hagans (5-star), SG Keldon Johnson (5-star), SG Tyler Herro (4-star), PF E.J. Montgomery (5-star)
Uncommitted recruits — PG Tyrese Maxey (5-star)