LEXINGTON, Ky. — It looks like John Calipari and Kentucky are going to be in for a fight to land the services of 5-star sensation Zion Williamson. Bill Self and Kansas have the most muscle to knock the Wildcats out of contention for the 6-foot-7, 250-pound small forward who is ranked as high as No. 1 overall in the Class of 2018 by 247Sports, and now the Jayhawks are starting to flex it.
Andrew Slater, a supremely plugged-in recruiting insider for 247, raised eyebrows this week when he changed his “Crystal Ball” prediction for Williamson from Kentucky to Kansas. The Cats had become favorites to land the slam-dunking YouTube star after he and 5-star point guard Immanuel Quickley (a heavy UK lean) openly discussed their desire to play together in college.
Not so fast, Slater tells SEC Country.
“I think Kansas makes sense,” he said, “from the perspective of his relationship with [5-star point guard] Devon Dotson, who may wind up [committing to Kansas] fairly soon, his strong connection to Adidas [Williamson plays on that shoe-company’s AAU circuit] and Kansas’ ability to showcase players like him, as they did with Josh Jackson [No. 4 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft]. He also has a strong relationship with Bill Self.”
Now, for a few key pieces of background information: 1) Dotson, a Jayhawks lean, suddenly joined Williamson’s team for the final week of the AAU season at the end of July. 2) Kansas is the highest-profile basketball program sponsored by Adidas. 3) It is in both the school and shoe company’s best interest to outduel Nike-sponsored Kentucky for top prospects.
Which raises questions: Might there have been some behind-the-scenes maneuvering to get Dotson and Williamson playing together to offset the Quickley connection? And what might be the motivation for Kansas to offer a scholarship to another of Williamson’s AAU teammates — his good friend Dontarius James, whose previous best offers were Massachusetts and College of Charleston — as it did this week?
Perhaps it is all pure coincidence, but these new developments nevertheless add up to a much bigger challenge for Calipari and the Cats as they try to land the most exciting high school player in America. Even so, Slater is hardly counting out Kentucky.
“Not at all. Not at all,” he said. “No, I still think they’re a strong contender. I still think they can close on him. Unfortunately, I’m sort of forced to make one pick at a time [on the Crystal Ball] and you can’t really hedge your bet. But I do think Kentucky is a viable option, and a strong one, because I expect Immanuel Quickley will commit to them immediately following his official visits in September.
“I think Immanuel’s relationship with Zion, as well as the strong track record Calipari has established through the years of being able to showcase one-and-done talent, give them a chance.”