If you weren’t too careful, you might’ve gotten whiplash following Jordan Burks‘ recruitment and ensuing commitment to the University of Kentucky. One day he’s a new name to keep an eye on, the next he’s on campus with a decision announcement scheduled almost immediately after.
A week after his official visit to Lexington, he was moved into his dorm and officially a Kentucky Wildcat. Take away the brief announcement delay — he pushed back his public commitment five days, June 7 to June 12 — and it was one of the quickest and pain-free recruitments in recent memory.
Burks’ head coach at Hillcrest Prep, Nick Weaver, had the same reaction as all of us watching things play out.
“I was just as surprised as a lot of you guys were at the beginning,” he told KSR on Sunday Morning Sports Talk. “Like, ‘Wow, Kentucky is in the mix. It just kind of happened fast and before I knew it, it was over. It was done.”
Looking back on the decision, though, Weaver says it couldn’t make more sense for either side. On Kentucky’s end, the program is getting Overtime Elite’s leading scorer — 27.1 points per contest on 46.7% shooting to go with 7.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 1.4 steals — at a time it desperately needed bodies. On Burks’ end, he gets to play for his dream school in Lexington.
At the end of the day, the partnership was a “no-brainer.”
“The thing with Jordan was growing up, that was his dream school. That’s where he always wanted to be, so it was a no-brainer for him,” he said. “The other thing was, once he got the ball rolling, he realized he liked playing against the best and wanted to compete against the best every day — that’s just the kind of person he is. So speaking with him about decision-making (during the process), it really was a no-brainer for him.”
What are the Wildcats getting in the all-around scoring threat originally out of Decatur, AL? An alpha with a dog mentality, someone who won’t be afraid of competition in practice and games.
It’s why his coach believes the four-star recruit should have been a blue-chip prospect from the beginning. He’s simply hard-wired to work, compete and get buckets.
“He’s a pit bull, that’s what we call him here. He never backs down from anybody. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, he always shows up to play,” Weaver said. “He practices hard as hell, practices and plays super hard. You can just tell watching him play — I mean, he led OTE in scoring. That’s a league with guys about to go top-10 in the draft. He averaged over 27 points a game. He’s just a guy that brings it every day and I think Kentucky fans love him because of his personality.
“He is just a blue-collar guy, someone who was under-ranked and undervalued, but he’s clearly a top-100 kid. Easily. He’s a guy that just proves it, every time he steps on the court he’s one of the best guys out there. It doesn’t matter if he’s with draft picks, guys ranked in the top 50, top 30, he just kept leading the team in scoring. That’s just what he does.”
His unique combination of size and skill makes him unique. Standing 6-9, 180 pounds, he’s essentially a big guard capable of playing multiple positions, a plug-and-play threat for Calipari and the Wildcats.
“He can be a three or four. The thing about him is he’s unique — stands 6-9 with over a 7-1 or 7-2 wingspan and he’s long,” Weaver said. “He’s a kid that can score in the paint. If you watch him, he can play with his back to the basket a little bit. He didn’t do it a whole lot here because we had two great bigs — Aiden Sherrell, a top-50 kid and Jason Asemota, who is a top-15 kid going to Baylor. Those guys predominantly played in the paint, did a lot at the four and five, but he can be a great stretch four guy who can pick and pop.
“Fours aren’t athletic enough to guard him, he’s kind of a mismatch if you use him in the ball screen the right way. On the defensive end, he can guard anybody because he’s athletic and can move his feet. You can switch him one through five defensively and he’s going to compete. He’s not scrawny, not a kid that’s going to get bullied. He’s going to play hard and he’s going to be physical.”
On3 has Burks ranked No. 101 overall and No. 23 at the small forward position, a four-star. Other outlets have him listed as an unranked three-star. If you look at pure production, though, his coach has no idea how he’s not a clear top-25 kid.
The good news? None of that matters when the ball is tipped in practices and games. And Calipari has a long history of allowing the cream rise to the top, regardless of recruiting rankings.
“We try not to get caught up on it, but every time he stepped on the court, he looked the part of a top-25 or top-30 kid. He brought it every night,” Weaver said. “He could be playing against All-Americans or a kid going to a D2, he was the best player every time he stepped on the floor.”
For that reason specifically, Weaver is confident Burks will be able to step in and make an immediate impact in Lexington. Knowing how he operates and his work ethic, along with his dog mentality, the Hillcrest coach doesn’t see a scenario where Kentucky isn’t better sooner rather than later with the help of his standout wing.
“He’s a guy who is never going to back down, he’s never going to quit. For what you guys have there with all of the stars, he doesn’t care about all of that. He’s just going to come in, work hard and play, do what he needs to do,” he said. “I think he’s going to make Kentucky a whole hell of a lot better, and quickly.
“He’s just not soft, he’s not going to get punked. Every team needs someone like that in practice. Every team needs someone who is going to push you in practice. I think he can do a lot of things. He’s going to be humble and grind, just do what he needs to do. His mindset is, ‘I’m a pit bull, I’m going to come after you.’ Let’s see where the chips fall at the end of the year.”
Will Burks prove to be Kentucky’s diamond in the rough?