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The Recruiting Efforts Start Now for Kentucky's New Head Coach Mark Pope

Jacob Polacheckby:Jacob Polacheck04/14/24


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Mark Pope already got a head start on recruiting with in-state commit (and the Kentucky high school boys’ all-time leading scorer) Travis Perry. who attended his press conference on Sunday at Rupp Arena. Now, what’s next for Kentucky’s new head coach on the recruiting trail?

Well, he plans on getting to work as soon as possible. Recruits, if you’re seeing this, make sure your phones are turned on.

“Tonight, at some point, we will go home and jump on the phone and start to recruit,” Pope said. “Every call will be an incredible moment because, you know, kids are answering a little bit differently when I talk about Kentucky.”

Pope is planning a balanced attack from a recruiting perspective. He’s talking to all the players on Kentucky’s current team, all of the players Kentucky is recruiting, and “just about every single player in the portal right now.”

“We’re going to find the guys that fit here the way we play and the guys that come here and understand what a gift it is to play here at the University of Kentucky,” Pope said.

He’s already started re-recruiting the Kentucky roster. “One more year” chants rang throughout Rupp Arena after Pope made a Sheppard pun. “Our job as coaches is we get to be shepherds,” he said. Conversations between Reed Sheppard and Pope are in progress. According to Kyle Tucker, another one with Zvonimir Ivisic is on the docket for tomorrow, two days after he submitted his name into the transfer portal.

Transfer Movement Already in Progress

It’s been a busy day for Kentucky basketball, not only with a packed Mark Pope press conference but also on the recruiting trail. Between cut lists and scheduled visits, things are moving at a rapid pace.

The day started with a report from On3’s Joe Tipton that Drexel transfer Amari Williams would be taking an official visit to Kentucky from April 21-22. Williams, a 6-foot-10 forward, was a First-Team All-Colonial Athletic Association selection as a senior and has won three straight CAA Defensive Player of the Year awards.

The fun didn’t end there for Kentucky. Not long after, BYU transfer Aly Khalifa included Kentucky in his top three alongside Louisville and a return to BYU. Khalifa played under Pope during the 2023-24 season at BYU and entered the transfer portal with a ‘do not contact’ tag on April 12.

Kentucky’s new staff has already contacted Oklahoma State transfer Javon Small, per On3’s Jamie Shaw. Small, a 6-foot-3 guard, averaged 15.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 4.1 assists in 31 games last season. Oh, and he’s the cousin of Antonio Reeves.

There’s also Jaxson Robinson, BYU’s 6-foot-5 small forward, who averaged 14.2 points per game last season. KSR’s Jack Pilgrim reported that Robinson has expressed serious private interest in following Pope to Kentucky.

If there’s one thing for sure, Sunday’s press conference won’t do anything but help Kentucky on the recruiting trail. Mark Pope is confident that recruits will take notice.

“There is no doubt that there are great programs all around this country. There are great programs, there’s no doubt,” Pope said. “It’s also true that there is nowhere like the University of Kentucky. There’s nowhere. Listen, you guys are living proof of that. We had a little call to arms and we can’t even fit all the Kentucky faithful in this building. There is nowhere like this. Listen, don’t you think you’re not making a difference because this video is going out to every recruit in America right now.”

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