LEXINGTON, Ky. — OK, now John Calipari is just getting greedy.
On the heels of Kentucky commitments from 5-star forward E.J. Montgomery on Monday and 5-star guard Ashton Hagans on Tuesday comes news Wednesday that 5-star guard Tyrese Maxey might also be interested in joining the Wildcats’ stacked roster (and backcourt) for the upcoming season.
Like Hagans, Maxey is currently a class of 2019 point guard. Like Hagans, he tells SEC Country he is considering a reclassification. And like Hagans, he is undaunted by the competition in Kentucky’s crowded backcourt.
“Me and Coach Cal have talked about [reclassifying] multiple times. He’s just saying it would be a great opportunity for me to be a part of this special team that he’s building for next season,” said the 6-foot-3 Maxey, who is rated the No. 2 point guard (behind Hagans) and No. 13 overall prospect for 2019 by the 247Sports Composite. “Just looking at the roster, you see a lot of talent and a lot of high-character guys that are going to be able to play well together. That’s what Coach Cal does: he makes all these kids that they say are selfish play as one and they become great.”
If Maxey picks Kentucky and both he and Hagans do reclassify and enroll this summer, the Wildcats would have four 5-star point guards on the roster: Maxey, Hagans and Immanuel Quickley as freshmen and Quade Green as a sophomore — although adding another elite guard could push Green to transfer out.
Kentucky also has signed shooting guards Keldon Johnson (5-star) and Tyler Herro (4-star) and returns former 4-star Jemarl Baker, who redshirted last season with a knee injury. Officially, former 5-star shooting guard Hamidou Diallo is still on the roster, too, but he is widely expected to declare for the NBA draft.
Even if Diallo and Green leave, that’s still a lot of elite guards in one backcourt. And yet, Maxey is undaunted.
“It’s going to be a lot of NBA talent in the building and it’s going to be getting us all ready for the next level. It’s like an NBA practice every day,” he said. “Coach Cal has had three 5-star guards on the roster before with Isaiah Briscoe and De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk, and he gets it done. And that’s not the first time he’s had it like that. He had Tyler Ulis, the Harrison twins, Devin Booker. That’s four 5-star guards on one team. He finds a way to make stuff like that happen and work, so you gotta trust him.”
Calipari, often slow to jump in with even the very best players, has prioritized Maxey for a long time. The player tweeted on Oct. 14 that he’d received a scholarship offer from Kentucky — including pictures of past UK point guards John Wall and De’Aaron Fox with his message.
Calipari and assistant coach Tony Barbee visited the South Garland (Texas) High School star on Feb. 9 and April 5, while Maxey took an unofficial visit to Kentucky on Feb. 17.
“It’s exciting for a legendary coach like Coach Cal to want me to come play for his school and show what I can do and help lead a team to a national championship,” Maxey said. “He’s just showing his interest in me and making sure I’m interested in Kentucky as much — that it’s a mutual feeling — and I’m just really thankful for that. I trust him. I know he’s really good with point guards and getting us to the NBA.”
It might seem like the biggest threat to the Wildcats in this recruitment is, of all schools, Southern Methodist University. The Mustangs hired Maxey’s father Tyrone as director of recruiting last August. So should Big Blue Nation be worried?
“I wouldn’t say that,” Maxey said. “That’s my dad’s job and that’s for him. I’m just looking at the team that will give me the best opportunity to extend my career in the league — go to the NBA, get to the next level, and help me progress.”
That sounds a lot like Kentucky, which has had 14 guards drafted in Calipari’s first eight seasons and in June will see Shai Gilgeous-Alexander become his sixth point guard picked. The biggest remaining question about Maxey might not be if he’ll be a Wildcat, rather when.