Who’s next to join Kentucky’s basketball recruiting class?
Robert Dillingham joined Reed Sheppard in Kentucky’s 2023 basketball recruiting class with a commitment to the Wildcats on Friday night.
Who’s next for John Calipari?
247Sports analyst Travis Branham spoke to the Herald-Leader late last week about a number of possible additions to the UK’s Class of 2023. He mentioned three names, in particular, as players meeting the criteria to be high on Kentucky’s radar. and have a very realistic photo of ending up in Lexington.
These three rookies: combo guard DJ Wagner, forward Ron Holland and center Aaron Bradshaw.
Kentucky hosted Bradshaw and Holland for official visits earlier this month. Wagner, of course, is a longtime British target with close ties to Calipari. All three enter the summer at the top of the UK recruitment wish list.
Wagner — a 6-foot-3 prospect from Camden, NJ — remains the No. 1 player overall in the 247Sports composite rankings and has topped the recruiting headlines this year. His story is well told: son of Dajuan Wagner, the original Calipari one-and-done in Memphis; and grandson of Louisville legend Milt Wagner, former Calipari staffer and close friend of Kenny Payne who recently joined the U of L basketball payroll in an off-court role.
Branham placed a Crystal Ball prediction for the cards in April — and many seem to think Wagner at Louisville is basically a done deal — but that recruiting remains fluid.
“My reading of the situation is still pretty much the same as it was two or three weeks ago,” Branham told the Herald-Leader. “It’s a very close battle. The information is a little mixed, depending on who you talk to. Right now, I think Louisville still has a slight advantage, but Kentucky isn’t going away anytime soon. That going to be a heavyweight battle until the end.
Calipari clearly wants to add one more dynamic guard to a 2023 class that already includes Dillingham and Sheppard, with Wagner the clear number 1 on its roster. And this one is not finished yet.
Regarding Bradshaw’s recruitment, Branham had better news for UK fans.
“I would probably consider Kentucky the leader right now,” he said. “And Louisville is up there too. I think Kentucky is in a very good position with Aaron Bradshaw going into the final months of the summer.
The New Jersey 7-footer — a high schooler and Wagner’s Nike league teammate — traveled to Kentucky and Louisville earlier this month. He is No. 15 in the 247Sports composite rankings but has immense potential. Bradshaw could very well become the top-ranked center in the Class of 2023, with the UK and Louisville looking like the most realistic college options.
Holland – listed as a 6-8 forward from Texas – is the No. 11 player in the 2023 composite rankings. He secured a scholarship offer to the UK during his official visit to Lexington earlier this month and posted shortly after a new recruitment list: United Kingdom, Arkansas, Texas, UCLA and G League.
For much of the past year, it was expected — almost assumed — in recruiting circles that Holland would skip college altogether and head straight for the professional ranks. Judging from conversations with insiders over the past few weeks, that sentiment has faded and it now looks like college is a realistic possibility for the five-star striker.
Tasked last month with the unenviable task of making “too early predictions” for top uncommitted recruits, Branham named Kentucky as the team to beat for Holland.
“I think I called it a ‘way too soon’ prediction,” he told the Herald-Leader late last week. “I think this one is pretty open right now. Just asking around, I don’t think anyone really trusts who a leader is right now. But, Kentucky, looks like this visit went well. And Kentucky seems to be in a good place.
Duke already has a huge leap forward in the 2023 class, with four player commitments in the top 25 of the 247Sports composite rankings, led by a commitment from rookie No. 3 Mackenzie Mgbako. However, Kentucky could still catch up to the Blue Devils.
“They have a shot at landing a really elite class,” Branham said of the UK. “They would land the No. 1 class, I believe, if they were to knock this out of the park. You add DJ, Aaron Bradshaw and Ron Holland to Rob and Reed – that’s as good a class as anyone in the country.
You’re not going to Kentucky?
A longtime recruitment target in the UK who is unlikely to play for the Wildcats is five-star winger Matas Buzelis, who announced his G League signing on Friday.
Kentucky also extended scholarship offers to four additional Class of 2023 players: Justin Edwards, Kwame Evans Jr., Andrej Stojakovic and JJ Taylor.
Edwards has long been at the top of Calipari’s 2023 wishlist, but league rivals Tennessee have stepped in in recent months to pose a major challenge. “Right now I would say he’s definitely Tennessee-oriented,” Branham said. “It’s that simple.”
Over the past week, Branham also set up new Crystal Ball predictions for Evans at Arizona and Stojakovic at UCLA. Taylor, meanwhile, has become a recruiting enigma. The Chicago native dropped drastically in the rankings — from the consensus top five to No. 32 on the 247Sports board — and didn’t join his Nike team for championship games in Louisville ago a few weeks. There haven’t been many signs of interest from Kentucky in recruiting him in recent months.
Recruits to watch
It seems entirely possible that Kentucky will eventually end up with a player or two not currently on their offer list. Or maybe a rookie who isn’t even currently in the 2023 class.
Rivals.com analyst Travis Graf recently issued a FutureCast prediction in favor of Kentucky for 2023 center Ugonna Kingsley, which was tracked by the Wildcats coaching staff this spring and is worth watching for a while. as the cycle continues. He is the 23rd player in the new 247Sports composite ranking.
The Cats have also been connected to Rhode Island 7ft Isaiah Miranda, who is No. 27 on the composite list and visited Lexington in December, although he left that trip without a UK scholarship offer and won’t. still has not received. Yet, there remains a possibility.
Another big schemer of 2023 is Xavier Booker, a 6-10 Indianapolis prospect who played past Calipari earlier this month. Booker has skyrocketed in recruiting rankings this spring – Rivals now ranks him No. 2 overall; 247Sports ranks him No. 4 — although interest from Kentucky is just beginning.
Branham said he doesn’t think it’s necessarily too late for the UK to make a run at Booker, but he already has offers from Duke and Michigan State (two possible leaders) and a host of others. .
“It’s just a question of whether Calipari really wants to get into the mix there,” he said. “I think that’s the one that’s going to play out in the fall. He has already completed five visits this year, but things obviously continue to evolve with him. So he’s going to want to take more visits this fall. And it’s going to take him a little longer to get where he wants to be before he makes that decision.
New York shooter Ian Jackson has a scholarship offer from Kentucky, but he’s in the 2024 class (and could soon be the No. 1 ranked player in that group). Jackson is already flirting with a possible move to the Class of 2023, though some reliable insiders in the recruiting world believe, for now, that he will remain in place in 2024. It’s a situation Kentucky will be watching closely, and the Cats would like to have a super scorer like Jackson in both classes.
“It’s too early to tell,” Branham said. “(Reclassification) is definitely an option, in my understanding, and I think it’s something that’s going to be on the table. But I don’t think it’s a decision that’s going to be made anytime soon.”
One player Branham is watching: AJ Johnson, a 6-5 Los Angeles area guard now ranked No. 38 overall by 247Sports. The analyst said Wagner will remain the UK’s top priority in the backcourt, but Johnson is an intriguing talent who is rising rapidly in the rankings.
“He’s an exploding kid in California,” Branham said. “I watched it last weekend – Chin Coleman was there too – and Louisville just proposed. He’s a kid who thinks highly of the University of Kentucky. And he looks like one of the top 10 prospects right now. He is 6-5 years old, he is long – very thin, at the moment, but he is a great athlete. He can really, really score. Very dynamic with the ball in his hands, he only scratches the surface of his potential.
“…So he’s one I’ll be watching closely to see if Kentucky gets more involved as the summer progresses.”
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