After recent recruiting misses with top recruits like Jalen Johnson, Jaden McDaniels, and James Wiseman, Kentucky fans have a tendency to roll their eyes and scoff at the ever-popular “dream school” phrase, specifically when it involves the Wildcats.
While guys like Kahlil Whitney and Tyrese Maxey openly called Kentucky their “dream school” growing up and ended up signing on the dotted line when it came time for a decision, it’s the misses that stick out like a sore thumb and spark the narrative that “dream school” is synonymous with “kiss of death.”
When 2020 five-star guard Josh Christopher used that polarizing phrase in an interview with Krysten Peek of Rivals.com back in June, fans immediately wrote it off.
“Kentucky has always been my dream school, honestly,” he said at the time. “Since I was a child, I’ve always been a Kentucky fan, I’ve had the shorts, I’ve had gear when they won championships. As a little child I’ve always loved Kentucky.”
ESPN’s No. 10 prospect already holds offers from Kansas, Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon, Missouri, and Georgetown, among others, but the one he is still patiently waiting on is from John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats.
In that same interview with Peek, Christopher said UK’s communication has ramped up and they are hoping to bring him in on two visits – one unofficial and one official – over the next few months.
“Kentucky hit me up last year, but they also kind of entered the mix a little heavier this year,” he said. “They haven’t offered yet, but I talk to Coach Calipari and Coach Payne [a lot]. I’m supposed to get out on a visit this summer and take an official in the fall. I’m looking forward to that, as well.”
This week at the 2019 Nike Peach Jam, Christopher put on a show, averaging 20.8 points (43.4% shooting), 6.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 0.8 blocks per contest in five games.
And he did it with the Kentucky coaching staff three-deep at every single one of them.
Kentucky is three-deep to see 2020 five-star guard Josh Christopher. Recently said UK was his “dream school,” hoping for a scholarship offer soon pic.twitter.com/gtSqERiL0g
— Jack Pilgrim (@JackPilgrimKSR) July 11, 2019
When asked about the close eye Coach Cal and his assistants have had on him throughout the week, Christopher was quick to say that he was certainly grateful.
“I appreciate Calipari and company, Coach [Kenny] Payne, [Joel] Justus being there,” he said. “I appreciate the love they’re showing right now.”
A scholarship offer still hasn’t come, but considering how hard the coaches have been on him and how often they’ve been in attendance to watch his games, one can assume that it shouldn’t be long.
And if/when that time comes, the five-star guard admits that it’ll be a special moment for him personally.
“I mean, shoot, it’s Kentucky. It’s Calipari,“ he said. “I think any player that’s in high school appreciates what Calipari brings to the table. Of course, being myself, a kid, you always watch Kentucky. You always watch guys like Anthony Davis, John Wall, stuff like that. Of course you appreciate that and take it into consideration [when making a college decision].”
Christopher added that as a kid, he wore Kentucky gear on a regular basis and was a huge fan of the program. He even added that he’s had to purposely go out of his way to not wear UK logowear because he understands he’s a high-level recruit with interest from plenty other schools.
“I’ve worn Kentucky hoodies and stuff like that since I was in elementary school, early middle school,” he told KSR. “Of course, my recruitment, I have to calm down with the college clothing I put on. But I’m a fan of Kentucky, so we’ll see what happens when it comes to making my decision for college.”
On Friday afternoon, Christopher’s Vegas Elite team took on a Team WhyNot squad featuring major Kentucky target Jalen Green, where the two elite guards defended one-another in an intense top-ten matchup.
While Green’s WhyNot squad came out on top, it was Christopher who won the individual matchup, finishing with 15 points, 12 rebounds, two assists, and a steal in the loss.
“He’s a great player. Strong, knows how to get to the cup, can shoot it, has a handle, plays an all-around game,” Green said of Christopher. “He plays defense, really good player. Really well-rounded.”
Green, who is rumored to be currently favoring Kentucky, said that while they are competitors during AAU season, they’re extremely close outside of travel ball.
In fact, the idea of playing together in college has come up in the past.
“It would be lit to go to the same school as Josh,” he said. “We played together in the seventh grade for Nationals with the [Oakland] Soldiers, we’ve been rocking together since seventh grade. If it happens, it happens, and I’ll definitely be glad. We’re a family, all of us. My pops, mom, his dad, his mom, all family. On the court, it’s a war, but off the court, we’re family.”
Green’s father, Marcus Green, was a huge fan of the idea of seeing Green and Christopher together at the next level.
“Ah, JayGup (Christopher’s nickname) and Jalen together in college? We’d love that,” he told KSR. “His dad and I are actually best friends.”
— Josh(ua) Christopher (@Jaygup23) July 12, 2019
And if Kentucky hopes to see that dynamic duo come to fruition, they’ll likely have time to make it happen.
While Christopher hopes to cut his list down a bit and set up a few visits after Peach Jam, he says he’s flexible on when he makes a final decision.
“I think after Peach Jam I’ll start to make some kind of decisions, talk to my family, see what they think, what’s good for me and what’s not, just wait on it,” he said. “I don’t know [about when I’d make a decision], whenever I feel the time is right, I’m just going to go with my heart, honestly. That could be the week after Peach Jam, it could be a year after Peach Jam, so whenever I feel it’s the time, I’ll make that decision.”
As a top-ranked recruit from the West coast, schools such as Arizona State, Arizona, and UCLA remain as strong options for the 6-foot-5 guard out of Bellflower, CA.
But if Kentucky were to put on the full-court press? They might just be the right fit to pull him away.