Back in January, whispers began growing louder that Kentucky freshman guard Johnny Juzang was contemplating a transfer from the school, with the Los Angeles, CA native flirting with the idea of returning closer to home.
Despite staying the course and carving out a solid role off the bench to close out the regular season, the 6-foot-6 guard ultimately decided it was in his best interest to enter his name in the NCAA transfer portal and take his talents elsewhere, likely the West Coast.
“What a ride. The last year at Kentucky was one of the best experiences of my life,” Juzang said in an official announcement Friday afternoon. “I grew so much not only as a player, but as a young man as well. I’d like to thank all my coaches, my brothers, the trainers, the staff, BBN, and everyone who made this year so special. From the bottom of my heart I’m going to miss this place.
“With lots of thought and consideration, I’ve decided to put my name into the transfer portal.”
Though not official yet – UK head coach John Calipari stressed he would welcome the freshman guard back with open arms if he changed his mind – Juzang’s decision to leave marks yet another transfer out of the program from a player originally out of the West Coast, with the Los Angeles native set to join Jemarl Baker (2019), Marcus Lee (2016) and Kyle Wiltjer (2013) in the Calipari era alone.
In fact, Terrence Jones (Portland, OR) is the only West Coast recruit Calipari has signed since 2009 that has not transferred out of the program after staying more than one season in Lexington.
Looking ahead to Kentucky’s 2020 recruiting class, it’s hard to ignore the two five-star guards with “California” written next to their names in Brandon Boston Jr. of Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, CA) and Devin Askew of Mater Dei (Santa Ana, CA).
While Boston, a 6-foot-6 shooting guard ranked No. 7 overall in the 247Sports Composite Rankings, is originally out of Norcross, GA and only spent one year in California for his final season of high school basketball, Askew was born and raised in the Golden State.
Given Kentucky’s recent track record with true West Coast talent, it raises the question – will Devin Askew be next?
If you ask the 6-foot-4 combo guard, while he respects the decisions of recent Kentucky players who felt it was in their best interest to transfer back closer to home, he’s certain he doesn’t fit that mold.
Why? Askew is “different.”
“I’m different. I’m way different,” the Kentucky signee said in an exclusive interview with KSR. “I live on the West Coast, but I don’t play like a West Coast player at all. Nope. I play like an East Coast kid. I like to be physical, that’s just my game.
“Even though those are all great players, all the players you named are great players and they all had fun while they were at Kentucky, they just wanted to do something that was better for them. But I’m different.”
Despite the narrative that West Coast kids struggle to adjust away from home, Askew’s father, Brian, agrees that his son is a bit “different” than most players. Thus, there are no worries on their end that the newest Wildcat guard will continue the trend of recent transfers out of Lexington.
“As far as me worrying about that or Devin worrying about that, no, not at all,” Brian Askew told KSR. “I know they put a lot on how West Coast kids can’t handle that stuff and they get homesick, which they do a lot. … It doesn’t worry me at all.
“There are no worries whatsoever from either of us with who’s gone there, who has left, none of that,” Askew continued. “This is based on Devin and how he wants to go there and handle himself. I think he’s mature enough to do it.”
Knowing the Juzang family from living in the area, the five-star guard’s father has a tremendous amount of respect for the Kentucky freshman and his decision to do what he felt was best for him. Even if his son won’t be playing with Juzang in Lexington next year, he’s confident the 6-foot-6 guard out of Los Angeles will find the right fit on the next step of his basketball journey.
“Johnny and his family are great people, great kid,” Askew said. “He’s a talent, and I think Coach Cal and the whole staff knows that. I can’t really speak on whatever happened, this and that, but Johnny will be fine. Everybody knows that.”
At the same time, Brian Askew knows his son is in a different situation than Juzang, along with other West Coast players who ultimately decide to return home via transfer. While some recruits in the area feel – despite their hearts remaining out West – they have to take advantage when blue-blood programs come calling, Askew has always wanted to leave California for college.
While he enjoys being home with his family, he understands that signing with Kentucky was a business decision. Now, his focus is on basketball, and basketball only.
“I think I told you this the last time we talked, Devin has always made it very clear that he wanted to leave the state of California to go play basketball,” Askew said of his son. “He’s a homebody as far as his family goes, he loves us and loves being around us, but as far as [leaving for college]? He’s never had a problem with that. To be honest with you, to get out of L.A. takes a lot of, you know, he’s not into everything. He’s just concentrated on playing basketball at Kentucky and developing into a better player.
If and when adversities hit during his time in Lexington, Askew is prepared to face them head on and “grind it out,” no matter how long it takes. At the end of the day, he’s certain Kentucky is, and always will be, the answer for his basketball future.
“I know I’m going to fight through adversity,” Askew told KSR. “If I don’t get out after one year [to the NBA], I’m staying at Kentucky. I’m going to grind it out for sure.”
For KSR’s entire conversation with Devin and Brian Askew on the Sources Say Podcast, you can listen below: