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Cameron Boozer says Kentucky is 'completely different program' under Mark Pope

Jack PIlgrimby:Jack Pilgrim04/26/24

Cameron Boozer was at the top of the priority list for Kentucky under John Calipari, the Wildcats a sneaky darkhorse to land the nation’s best frontcourt recruit in 2025. Miami (FL) had the hometown edge while the five-star prospect’s father, Carlos Boozer, is a Duke legend — the Blue Devils will be in the conversation until the end no matter what. That’s been the core three, plus Florida and UNC as other schools making a push.

And then Coach Cal left in the middle of the night to Arkansas, shaking up the basketball world at every level.

John Calipari’s move to Arkansas

“It was interesting, for sure. I wasn’t really expecting it,” Boozer told KSR. “When I first saw it, I was like, ‘Oh, that’s weird.’ I don’t think anyone was really expecting it, I was really surprised by it. I wasn’t expecting him to leave Kentucky.”

Instead of pitching Lexington and the larger-than-life brand that is Kentucky basketball, Calipari is now pitching Fayetteville and the Razorbacks. To say it’s an adjustment would be an understatement, Boozer trying to make sense of it all while hearing out the Hall of Fame coach in his transition from blue to red.

To make it a little easier on his prized recruit, Coach Cal is comparing his move to a high-profile business relocating — same product, different home.

“Cal called me the other day, said he’s the same coach, just moving headquarters,” the five-star forward said. “He said he wants to recruit us still and that he’s still very interested in us. He said it’s like when a big company moves to a new location, it’s the same thing he did.”

Where do things stand with Kentucky?

Boozer hinted that a visit to Arkansas could be in the works and things are going well with the Razorbacks in early conversations. As for Kentucky and where things stand under new head coach Mark Pope? Well, it’s complicated.

Has the No. 2 overall recruit heard from the Wildcats since the change?

“No,” he said bluntly.

What does he know about the new staff in Lexington?

“Nothing,” Boozer added.

As for his thoughts on the program itself post-Calipari, the five-star forward admitted the new Arkansas coach is really all he knows about Kentucky — he is just 16 years old, after all. Boozer was still in diapers when Coach Cal arrived in Lexington, so his entire life has been John Wall, Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, De’Aaron Fox and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

So if Pope and his staff were to express interest, it’d be an entirely different conversation and pitch. Not that he wouldn’t be receptive to the new-look Wildcats, but change is change.

“I think it’s a completely different program. I think a big part of all their success recently and the players they’ve gotten is because of Coach Cal,” Boozer said. “If (Kentucky) were to reach out, it would be a whole different recruiting process.”

Miami, Duke, UNC and Florida among schools pushing

Again, that works on Kentucky’s side, too. Pope has been relentless in his pursuit of filling out a coaching staff and debut roster, one he expects to compete at a championship level in year one. High school recruiting is simply on the back burner for now — as it should be, at least for a few weeks. Nothing personal either direction.

As for the other schools involved, Boozer again singled out Miami (FL), Duke, Florida and UNC as the schools prioritizing him most at this point.

We’ll start with the hometown Hurricanes.

“They’ve been recruiting me since freshman year,” he said. “They’ve been saying the same stuff (as other schools), that they’re interested in us and they really want us there.”

Keeping it in the state, the five-star forward’s AAU teammate and four-star SG Alex Lloyd just committed to Florida. Could he join him in Gainesville?

“(Alex) said it’s a great school and he’s excited to go,” Boozer added. “It’s a great opportunity for him. Coach (Todd) Golden is a great coach, as well, so I’m glad my dog is committed there.”

What about Duke and the opportunity to be a legacy star in Durham?

“They came to visit us,” he said of their push for him and his twin brother, Cayden. “They’ve been saying the same stuff, that they are super interested in us. They talked about some stuff with the portal, some stuff about their players. We just have good communication.”

Could he play for his father’s arch rival in Chapel Hill? The Tar Heels are making a push.

“They offered me a little while back, but they’ve been active ever since they offered me,” Boozer said. “I think they offered me last year during EYBL. They want to get us up for a visit and that they’re super interested in us.”

Nailing down a decision

His brother is a blue-chip prospect in his own right, Cayden Boozer ranked No. 16 overall and No. 3 among point guards. It’s assumed the twins will play together in college, but is that a guarantee? That remains up in the air, their decisions made separately based on their own fits and needs.

“We could go together, we could not,” the standout forward said. “At the of the day, we are doing our own process. So it’s about what school is right for us. It might be different for me, or might be the same for both of us.”

When could we see a final decision for the No. 2 overall prospect in the rising senior class?

“Probably sometime around the start of the next school season,” he said.

It’s clear Kentucky has some work to do if it wants to jump back in the race under Pope.

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