NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. – The July recruiting period is cranking up for college basketball coaches, and while Kentucky’s staff will pop up at several events around the country this week, John Calipari’s focus will be largely on Nike’s Peach Jam. No offense to the other events, but all 14 players with an offer from the Wildcats in the Class of 2017 happen to be at this one.
It looks like Kentucky and Duke will slug it out for the top recruiting class in the country again, so to get an early sense of how that’s going for the ‘Cats, we enlisted Scout.com director of recruiting Evan Daniels. Here are the six prospects he believes UK is in the best shape with at the moment:
KEVIN KNOX (6-foot-8 small forward, No. 6 overall by Scout.com)
“Kevin Knox’s recruitment has a long way to go. Kentucky is certainly heavily involved, but he’s already taken visits to Duke, North Carolina and Florida State. There’s reason to believe he could go to those other places, but Kentucky has prioritized him as the wing that they want and they’re in decent shape with him. He’s somebody they’ve targeted, and usually when they target someone, they get in pretty good with them. So I think they have a good shot.”
P.J. WASHINGTON (6-7 power forward, No. 14 overall by Scout.com)
“I think he is a priority for Kentucky, somebody that they really want, and I think there’s mutual interest there. He’s already visited Kentucky. He took a recent visit to North Carolina. Texas is pretty involved, Arizona as well. If I was handicapping it, I would say Kentucky and North Carolina are probably sitting toward the top of that list. But he’s like these other guys: he’s not going to admit to that.”
JARRED VANDERBILT (6-7 power forward, No. 15 overall by Scout.com)
“He hasn’t really cut his list down. That’s something he was going to do probably a month ago and more schools kept calling. Kentucky is certainly one of the top schools on his list; I don’t know if he would admit to that, but I also don’t know that Jarred’s going to be making his college choice any time soon. He hasn’t taken visits. So would I say that Kentucky is one of the top two or three schools he’s considering? Yes. Would I call them the leader at this point? I don’t know that he has one.”
QUADE GREEN (6-0 point guard, No. 20 overall by Scout.com)
“He’s taken recent visits to Kentucky and Duke, and history tells us when Kentucky and Duke want you, they’re going to have a great shot. Those two are probably sitting right there at the top of the list. I couldn’t pick one over the other, but Kentucky had him on campus pretty recently and it’s my understanding that visit went pretty well.”
TRAE YOUNG (6-1 point guard, No. 26 overall by Scout.com)
“With Young, you’re probably looking at Kentucky and Oklahoma. Oklahoma is obviously the hometown school, but Kentucky prioritized him before any of these other point guards and I don’t think they really wavered in their recruitment of him. They’ve had him on campus and Kentucky is a school that he can see himself at. The decision probably comes down to: Does he stay close to home – he’s grown up in Oklahoma – or go to Kentucky.”
JOHN PETTY (6-5 shooting guard, No. 28 overall by Scout.com)
“I would probably say that they’re the favorite with Petty. Kentucky prioritized him so early, built a relationship with him so early, that it opened his eyes a little bit. I think (home-state Alabama coach Avery Johnson) does have a fighting chance. I’m not saying he’s definitely going to Kentucky, but if you put a gun to my head and said, ‘Make a prediction,’ I would say Kentucky.”
You might notice two point guards on that list – “I would imagine they get one of them,” Daniels said – and no true big men. Kentucky has offered and will be in the mix for centers DeAndre Ayton, Mohamed Bamba, Wendell Carter and Nick Richards, Scout’s respective No. 1, 2, 3 and 31 overall prospects in the country.
Here is Daniels’ take on that quartet:
“(Kentucky is) one of three schools with Carter. Bamba really hasn’t shown his hand yet. I think Kentucky’s in there, Harvard’s in there, Duke’s in there. I think there’s a bunch of other schools,” Daniels said. “This class is a little different in the sense that a lot of these guys are not very far down the process yet. A lot of these guys haven’t taken visits. DeAndre Ayton hasn’t taken any visits. Wendell Carter hasn’t taken any official visits. Bamba has barely been on any campuses. I don’t think Nick Richards has.
“These guys just haven’t been that active, and I feel like the recruiting process in general for this 2017 class has slowed down. It seems like a lot of these top-tier guys are going to wait until spring.”
Other stars with Kentucky offers who are at Peach Jam this week: shooting guards Hamidou Diallo (Scout’s No. 9 overall prospect) and Gary Trent Jr. (No. 13), small forward Lonnie Walker (No. 24) and point guard Tremont Waters (No. 41). Stay tuned to SEC Country for tons of coverage of the Wildcats’ top targets this week.
* Follow Kyle on Twitter @KyleTucker_AJC. Reach him at Kyle.Tucker@ajc.com.