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Mark Pope addresses philosophy for in-state recruiting at Kentucky

On3 imageby:Sam Gillenwater04/14/24


Explaining Why Kentucky Hiring Mark Pope Is 'Underwhelming' | 04.12.24

Recruiting is a big part of the gig at Kentucky, especially when it comes to home-grown kids from the bluegrass. As head coach, Mark Pope is going to keep that connection to the state’s talent alive too as he used a current recruit to make his point.

Pope answered a question about a focus on in-state recruiting in the commonwealth during his introductory press conference in Rupp Arena on Sunday. He was about to give his answer before realizing that he could utilize a present commitment in the crowd as part of his response.

“From Richie Farmer and all the in-state greats that came before him, all the way to Reed Sheppard most recently last year? I don’t know if he’s here right now but to Travis Perry next year – Travis, are you here? Come on, man. Stand up!” Pope shouted out to Perry, a four-star, committed guard in the 2024 class that was sitting on the court this evening. “Well, there’s a good chance Travis is not going to jump in the portal, guys.”

That example certainly got a pop out of the crowd for the event that welcomed Pope. Anyways, as he got back to his reply, he said that he thought that recruits from the state are ones that he believes can add something to their rosters that others out of high school can’t, which is what he’s looking for on his upcoming teams.

“Before Richie, after Travis, and everybody in between that’s an in-state, Kentucky kid like these young men that grew up in Kentucky? They bring a spirit to this team that cannot be fabricated, cannot be replaced and helps us win,” said Pope.

Perry, the No. 87 player in the nation and top prospect out of Kentucky, committed to John Calipari back in November. That came after he became the state’s all-time leading scorer in high-school history, finishing his career with 5,481 points. It was also before he would go on to lead Lyon County to their first-ever state championship as the Most Valuable Player of the tournament on the same court that he sat on today and is still committed to play on next season.

Perry isn’t the only in-state success in recent history at Kentucky, though. Sheppard was a sensation just last season after averaging 12.5 points, 4.5 assists, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.5 steals while shooting 53.6% from the field and 52.1% from three. That earned him the recognitions as National Freshman of the Year and SEC Freshman of the Year. Now, he too could return to his old Kentucky home and play for Pope next season.

Kentucky has a deep history in basketball, both at the school and in the state, with several hometown players coming through the program. That’s not going to stop either with Pope focusing on them as part of his upcoming recruiting efforts as head coach.

“We’re going to keep recruiting them,” Pope said.