LEXINGTON, Ky. — One day after 5-star recruit Tyrese Maxey told SEC Country that Kentucky is in great shape to land the 2019 point guard and he’s considering a reclassification to play with the Wildcats this fall, his mentor agreed with the first part but pumped the brakes on the second.
“One thing I’ll say about [coach John Calipari] is he’s definitely recruited the kid; he definitely wants him. And I think with Tyrese, it’s mutual,” said Jabari Johnson, a former Louisiana Tech and Texas-Arlington guard turned youth coach and adviser. “I’m not sure he’s going to make that reclassification move. If he did that, that would be a shocker to everybody, in my opinion. I’m almost certain — almost 99 percent sure — he’s going to stay in 2019, unless he’s said something different and you heard something different from his mouth.”
Johnson said he’s known Maxey since he played on a nephew’s team in the fifth grade, but he did not know when reached by phone late Wednesday night that Maxey already had told SEC Country he’s considering a jump to 2018 to join Calipari’s superclass in Lexington.
“That is a possibility. That’s still an option,” Maxey said Tuesday. “Me and Coach Cal have talked about it 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.”
Informed of those remarks, Johnson just barely backed off his stance about reclassification.
“Even if it is a possibility, I’m almost certain it’s a small one,” he said. “You never know with these kids, but we’re definitely getting ready to have a conversation this weekend. He’s going to be with me this weekend.”
They won’t be alone. Calipari, Texas coach Shaka Smart, Michigan coach John Beilein and Michigan State coach Tom Izzo all are planning in-home visits with Maxey, whose father is on staff at SMU.
“He’ll be the first stop for a lot of guys,” Johnson said of Maxey’s appeal to coaches. “He’s definitely an NBA-level player. Wherever he goes, he won’t be there but for one year. Whatever can get him to the NBA the quickest, that’s his mindset. He wants to be an NBA player sooner rather than later, and I know he understands that Kentucky is one of those places where he could do that.”
Of course, reclassifying gets him to the pros even faster. And Maxey himself noted that practicing against the Wildcats’ loaded roster next season would be excellent preparation for the NBA. He is not intimidated by the fact that Kentucky already likely has three 5-star point guards for next season: sophomore Quade Green, freshman Immanuel Quickley and fellow 2019 recruit Ashton Hagans, who is widely expected to reclassify to 2018.
“He’s one of the most competitive players I’ve ever been around — at pretty much any level,” Johnson said of Maxey. “He wants to guard the other team’s best player, not only average 30 points but also make sure the other team’s best player doesn’t even score in double figures.”
Whether it’s this fall or next, if Maxey chooses Kentucky he’ll almost certainly be sharing the spotlight with other talented guards. That won’t matter, Johnson said, because the 6-foot-3 South Garland (Texas) High School star can play on the ball or off.
“He’s evolved. When he was younger, he was a pure point guard: beat guys off the dribble, facilitate, score when necessary. But as he’s grown and grown and climbed the ranks, he’s turned into one of the best scorers in the country,” Johnson said. “He can score, he can defend, he can make everybody around him better — and he’s one of the more athletic guards in the country. Hell, he might still be growing, too. By the time he steps on campus, he could be 6-5 at the combo guard position.”
That’s just the kind of guard Calipari would love to coach, whether it’s this season or next. Both Maxey and his mentor can agree that the Wildcats are in great shape to land him, no matter which class he chooses.