LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky basketball is hosting a pair of top-50 recruits this weekend, one of whom could be the Wildcats’ first commitment in the Class of 2017.
Lonnie Walker, a 5-star shooting guard from Reading, Pa., is expected to arrive Saturday. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a 4-star shooting guard from Chattanooga, Tenn., is already on campus. His Kentucky recruitment has heated up since he de-committed from Florida on Oct. 17.
“The talk on Alexander is going to wait (to make a decision), but I wouldn’t be surprised if he committed this weekend,” said Jerry Meyer, 247Sports’ national recruiting analyst. “I think Kentucky is where he wants to go, and I would think if they pressed him, it could happen.”
College basketball’s early signing period starts next week, running Nov. 9-16, and Meyer thinks the Wildcats are best positioned to land Gilgeous-Alexander, 5-star power forward P.J. Washington and 5-star center Nick Richards during that time. Many of UK’s other top targets are waiting until spring to decide.
The 6-foot-5, 175-pound Gilgeous-Alexander is ranked as high as No. 43 overall in the country (by 247Sports) and no lower than No. 53 (by Rivals). Most analysts consider him a combo guard, with the skills to play on or off the ball, and certainly not a threat to the recruitment of the Wildcats’ top two targets at point guard: 5-stars Trae Young and Quade Green.
“I don’t think so. You’re going to have to have more than just one guard,” Meyer said. “I think the players and recruits are ahead of the fans in understanding this. And the coaches are making it very clear when they’re recruiting, like, ‘Look, especially at Kentucky, we have to really restock. We need two or three guards. We gotta get numbers.’ ”
The Wildcats are likely to lose all five scholarship guards from this year’s team: former McDonald’s All-Americans De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk and Isaiah Briscoe to early NBA draft entry and seniors Dominique Hawkins and Mychal Mulder to graduation.
“It feels like John Petty is going to go with Alabama, so this works out perfect with Alexander,” Meyer said, noting Kentucky’s fading hopes of stealing Petty, a top-50 guard, from his home-state Crimson Tide. “(Gilgeous-Alexander) is really good off the bounce, can get to the basket, create space. He’s just a playmaker off the dribble, does a good job finding teammates. He’s a complete player, in that he rebounds and defends, too. He’s sort of that prototypical modern athletic combo guard that we’re seeing more and more of.”
Or as Kentucky coach John Calipari might say: positionless.