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Kentucky re-offers No. 1 recruit AJ Dybantsa under Mark Pope

Jack PIlgrimby:Jack Pilgrim05/18/24

Mark Pope promised to continue recruiting the best of the best when he took the Kentucky job, and he’s following through on that promise by offering a scholarship to the best of the best.

AJ Dybantsa is the consensus No. 1 recruit in high school basketball, the most dangerous player in the gym, no matter which one he strolls into any given weekend. At 6-9, 200 pounds, he’s long and wiry, yet slithery and smooth, carrying himself like a guard with the body of a four. A guy his size shouldn’t move like that, certainly not while making the shots and plays and defensive stops he does.

In an era where ‘generational talent’ gets thrown around too loosely, he’s truly a generational talent.

And Pope is making it clear he’s interested, re-offering the top-ranked prospect in high school basketball this past week, Dybantsa tells KSR.

“Mark Pope is here (in Indianapolis at EYBL Session III), he told me he’d be here,” the five-star wing said. “He called my dad, I hopped on the phone with them and we had a little chat. When we hopped on the call, I received the offer. … I had (John) Calipari first, and now, I’ve been re-offered by Pope.”

Dybantsa previously told KSR to open the spring he was interested in the Wildcats, but conversations had been loose and minimal up to that point shortly following Pope’s move to Lexington. It was just too early at that point to know which direction things would go one way or another. The new head coach hasn’t been shy in making that clear since.

“He’s talking to me about what is going to be happening, keeping it the same Kentucky as a top team,” Dybantsa added. “And he was saying that he thinks I’m a good fit.”

It’s not just Kentucky, obviously — to be expected when you’re going for the biggest fish in a sea of top-flight talent. And he hopes those conversations continue to ramp up as live viewing periods continue into the summer.

“It’s going well,” he said of his general recruitment. “After this session, I’m going to get some more calls — I hope [laughs].”

That’s one way to put it for the player currently ranked second in the circuit in scoring at 23.6 points per game to go with 4.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists per contest while shooting 58.3% from the field and 37.5% from three. He’ll be able to pick his poison among potential schools when the time comes — just about everyone in college basketball and among professional options want him.

Who is pushing the hardest at this stage?

“My dad handles my recruitment, but I’ve got Duke, Arkansas, USC from the new staff, and I’m sure I’m hearing from other schools, too,” he said. “I’m open to every school. I’ll probably narrow it down right after Peach Jam, then I’ll take my visits.”

Duke is another recent offer of his, one he’ll admit felt good adding to his list of dozens — and growing.

“It’s a dream to have every single blue blood and all of the DI schools. That was the last blue blood, so it felt really good,” Dybantsa said. “I wasn’t (expecting it). I just thought they were done recruiting me, thought I would’ve gotten it already, but it came late. He called Ryan Bernardi, my coach at Prolific Prep. He handed me the phone and I was talking to Jon Scheyer. He’s good — he is going to do some big things there.”

Things are admittedly complicated, though, considering his father runs his recruitment and will continue to do so throughout the summer. From there, the No. 1 prospect in the nation will take things back over as he inches closer toward a decision.

For now, his focus is on school and basketball, in that order.

“When I first reclassed up, they were blowing up my phone and it was too distracting. All I focus on is books and ball now,” he said. “When I narrow it down, I’ll have the coaches’ numbers and start building a good relationship with them myself. … The harder they recruit me, the more likely I go on a visit there. I don’t want to go to a school where I’m not wanted.”

How does he know what schools he likes if he doesn’t even talk to them personally at this point?

Oh, he knows. He definitely knows.

“I know what schools I like [laughs]. I’ll narrow it down right after Peach Jam. It’s good that (my dad) is handling it right now, but I don’t want to go to a school where I haven’t talked to the coach,” he added. “After I cut my list, I’ll talk to all the coaches and see which relationships are the best.”

So what does the visit schedule look like? A handful will come later this fall, those trips helping him inch closer toward a final decision.

“I’ll probably go on four to six more (visits). I actually don’t know which ones yet, but I have plenty of time to figure that out,” Dybantsa said. “I’ll take all of my visits from September to October-ish.”

Will Kentucky get one of them? He’s got his eye on one.

“A visit is potentially in the works this fall,” he told KSR.

As for the commitment itself, he’s got a plan in mind. He may not know the who or when yet, but he’s got the where down pat in terms of the announcement.

“I don’t have a date, but I’m trying to go back to the crib and do it,” Dybantsa said. “I’m trying to go back to Brockton and do it whenever I get the chance to go back home.”

If Pope wants to make his first major statement in the recruiting world at Kentucky, Dybantsa is certainly a great place to start. It starts with this week’s offer.

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