NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. – Kentucky basketball’s recruiting priorities in the Class of 2017 are beginning to take shape with the July evaluation period in full swing. While the Wildcats are cooling on some prospects, they’re cranking up their interest in others.
UK’s coaching staff has all but ignored top-five prospect Wendell Carter and top-15 recruit Gary Trent Jr. at Nike’s Peach Jam this week.
“I haven’t really heard from (John Calipari) lately,” Carter said. “I don’t even remember; it’s been that long ago. Probably months.”
MORE FROM PEACH JAM
- Live updates on who Kentucky’s coaches are watching and what the players are saying about the Wildcats. Already includes notes, quotes on all 14 prospects with UK offers in the Class of 2017.
Although he and Trent still say they’d like to take official visits to Lexington, Kentucky sure seems to be backing away.
“I wouldn’t say that,” Trent said, “but (communication) has been here and there. It’s not every day like some schools.”
That’s not because the Cats don’t want them, rather a realization that continuing to pursue the pair would likely be a waste of time. Carter and Trent have talked openly about their desire to play together in college and all signs point to that happening at Duke.
They hope to make it a Big Three with small forward Kevin Knox, a top-10 prospect who played on Team USA’s under-17 world championship team with them last week, although Kentucky isn’t conceding him just yet.
Carter said if they all pick the same school, they would “probably one of the greatest college teams ever assembled.”
While the Wildcats keep the heat on Knox, they’re turning it up on 6-foot-5 wing Lonnie Walker, a top-25 prospect from Reading, Pa., who has averaged 16.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists and shot 40 percent from 3-point range on the Nike EYBL circuit this spring and summer.
Kentucky offered Walker a scholarship in May, and now “they’re beginning to call a lot more and text a lot more toward my father and keep in contact with me,” he said. “It’s a lot different. At first it was a little slow, and now they’re calling almost every other day.”
Villanova, Syracuse, Virginia, Miami and Arizona are among the other programs making a strong push to land Walker. The Cats have joined that fray with a simple message:
“You’re beginning to be our priority,” said Walker, who called the high level of interest from UK a blessing. “They’re a high-profile school. I got an offer from Kentucky and the newspaper wrote an article about it. I didn’t get no other article when I got an offer from anyone else, but it just shows how high-profile they are compared to everyone else.”
Despite the fact that many of his other suitors are closer to home, location won’t be a factor in this recruitment.
“My father wants me to go far,” Walker said. “He just wants me to get out. That’s his thing. He loves Villanova, he loves Syracuse, he loves the East Coast schools – those are definitely in his top contenders – but he feels as though people are going to be distractions.
“I’m not a homesick type of kid. I’m around my father so much, always talking so much, being annoyed so much, sometimes I wouldn’t mind being away from him.”
He grinned. That was a joke, but his interest in Kentucky – and vice versa – is quite serious.
* Follow Kyle on Twitter @KyleTucker_AJC. Reach him at Kyle.Tucker@ajc.com.