Five-star center Dereck Lively II breaks down recruitment, Kentucky interest with KSR

by:Jack Pilgrim06/14/21

(Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Boasting elite length, athleticism, defensive instincts and a growing offensive game, Dereck Lively II has quickly solidified himself as one of the top frontcourt targets in the class of 2022. As a result, he has jumped to the top of the priority list among big men prospects for many of the nation’s blue blood programs, namely Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina.

During his time at the 2021 Pangos All-American Camp last week, KSR sat down with the 7-foot-1 center to discuss his game, recruitment, upcoming visits and a decision timeline, among other topics.

Check out the complete conversation below:

What’s it like attending a high-profile camp like this one?

It’s a great experience because it’s been a while since I’ve been at a camp. It’s good to compare myself and see how I do against other people in my grade and just work on the things I’ve been working on.

How do you think you played? What separates you from the other bigs in the class?

I wasn’t hitting most of my shots, so I was having to score most of my points in the paint with putbacks, dunks, lobs, stuff like that. What separates me from other bigs is that I can step outside on the floor, I can guard guards, I can guard anyone from outside the three, I can step out and take threes myself, and I can put the ball on the floor if I need to.

You’re teammates with Jalen Duren on Team Final, he’s considered the No. 1 overall prospect in the nation. Do you feel like you deserve to be in the conversation for the best big in the class? 

I should definitely be in the conversation. Even though Jalen is there, I could definitely give Jalen a run for his money any day of the week. We go at it in practices, practice against each other and refine our skills with each other.

Does it mean anything to you that you’re the fastest-rising big in the class? How much do the rankings matter to you?

A ranking is a ranking, I don’t care too much about that. It’s definitely an achievement to reach top 15 and I plan to keep going up, but just because I got top 15 doesn’t mean anything is going to change. I still have more to show.

How excited are you to begin the official visit process? 

I’m really excited, this is my first official visit so I’m looking forward to what they have to offer and have to say. I’ve never been in a situation like this and I’m really looking forward to it.

What are your thoughts on the North Carolina program and your relationship with Hubert Davis?

Our relationship has been great because he’s been keeping it honest with me and talking without any filter. He’s been telling me that if I come there, we’re going to run it through you. You’re going to be able to show off what you can do and everything you’ve been working on. The communication between me and Coach Hubert, we’re talking through practices, how I could develop, and what I could show at UNC.

What’s your stance on the Duke program now that Coach K is retiring? Still the same as before or have things changed?

My stance with the Duke program is still high, I still love the Duke program. Even though Coach K has left, he was on the Zoom call with me and he said he would still be a part of the whole coaching and building you as a player, developing you throughout the Duke program, if I were to go there.

What is Jon Scheyer’s pitch to you now that Coach K is leaving?

His pitch to me has been great. He’s mainly been talking about, even though Coach K is leaving,  it doesn’t mean Duke is going to change at all. They’re still a top program in the nation, they still have the respect. Even though Coach K has stepped down, I still feel like the coaching staff isn’t going to change in any way, shape or form.

As for Kentucky, how is your relationship with John Calipari now that he’s started reaching out to you? What’s his pitch for you?

It’s been great, building a relationship between me and Coach Cal. We’ve been talking about, if I go there, they can make me the best player I can possibly be. When I think about myself and my game, I remind myself of Anthony Davis. Anthony Davis went there and started to blossom there, and that’s something I’m thinking about and feel that’s something I could do as well.

He’s been talking about how, individually, I can do a lot more than some of the other bigs that have come through the program at my age, but there’s a lot more he can do with my game and he’s showing me the ropes of how he’s going to get me better.

There’s no offer on the table right now, but the general consensus is that one is coming during the official visit. Are you expecting one?

Me and Coach Cal, we made an agreement that with his recruiting, he likes to offer people in person and see the people in person. I’m really just waiting until the right place and right time when we’re in person, and then hopefully everything falls the right way.

Do you believe you’re Kentucky’s top priority in the frontcourt?

I would say I’m definitely one of the top priorities. I’m not sure who else is a top priority, but I know I’m definitely up there. They’ve been reaching out and showing a lot of support to me, so it’s definitely been great.

Skyy Clark says he’s recruiting you to Kentucky. What do you think of his game and the idea of teaming up with him in Lexington?

Skyy is a great player and a great person as well. He could definitely be my point guard or shooting guard at Kentucky if I go there. If we played on the same team, we’d really have a good chance of taking out anybody because he’s a great guard and I think we complement each other’s games very well.

When you think of Kentucky, what comes to mind?

Kentucky has always been one of the top programs, they’ve always competed, they’ve always brought great energy. That’s something I could definitely be a part of. If I were to go there, we would win, and that’s just something I’d love to be a part of.

You’re still in the process of scheduling two other official visits. Have you figured those out yet?

I’m really not sure yet. Michigan has been talking about visiting during the football season, other schools like that. I’m still trying to lock in those dates with those schools.

In terms of a decision, how late do you think this could go? Are you planning an early or late commitment?

I think this could definitely last till the spring, even through the end of my senior year. This is a very tough decision for me and I really want to wait for the right place and the right moment.

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