Pilgrim’s Insider Notes: Nike Sibande, Frank Anselem, Makur Maker, and more
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Pilgrim’s Insider Notes: Nike Sibande, Frank Anselem, Makur Maker, and more

Jack Pilgrimover 1 year


Article written by:Jack PilgrimJack Pilgrim
Nike Sibande
Miami University Athletics
[caption id="attachment_296989" align="alignnone" width="2000"] Miami University Athletics[/caption] Kentucky is in pursuit of a few final pieces to close out the 2020-21 roster, with a few new prospects coming into play, along with another familiar name the Big Blue Nation will likely recognize from last summer. First, let's break down the newest name that has come to light in the last 24 hours before touching on the other prospects left on the table.

Nike Sibande

The hot topic of conversation today has been Miami (OH) guard transfer Nike Sibande, who reportedly got in contact with the Kentucky program after announcing his decision to enter the transfer portal on Wednesday evening. 247Sports first broke the news that UK and Sibande had been in touch, with various other outlets - including Jake Weingarten of Stockrisers.com - reporting similar news in the time since. Despite the significant reports, news of UK reaching out to the 6-foot-4 guard originally out of Indianapolis, IN came as a surprise to several individuals within the Kentucky basketball program. A few were unfamiliar with Sibande's game and transfer status entirely. After reaching out to numerous people on Sibande's side, Kentucky's side, and in regular recruiting circles, sources tell KSR that interest and contact was initiated by the Miami standout. Sibande is close with UK forward Keion Brooks Jr. - a native of Fort Wayne, IN - and his family, and grew up a fan of the Kentucky basketball program, so it's no shock that he'd be interested in playing for John Calipari in Lexington. Sibande is supposedly interested in sitting out a year - the NCAA potentially closing the door on the one-time immediate transfer waiver may make that decision for him - to develop his skills in preparation of one final season in college before heading to the NBA. The opportunity to build exposure at a high-profile school to close out his collegiate eligibility is an enticing one. As for Kentucky's side of things, taking a player like Sibande - who averaged 13.9 points on 44% shooting to go with 5.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 28.8 minutes per game last season - is a difficult decision. Being in solid position with Jaden Hardy, Paolo Banchero, and Brandon Huntley-Hatfield - who is expected to reclassify to 2021 and sign with Kentucky - do you risk penciling in a potential starting point guard from the MAC right away? Banchero and Hardy have been outspoken about their interest in playing with 2021 five-star guard Kennedy Chandler, and UK signee Devin Askew is expected to be a two-year player in Lexington. Unless Sibande just desperately wants to go to Kentucky to sit out a year and develop without the promise of playing time, stardom, or new potential recruits and/or transfers coming in next year, it's an odd fit and the timing simply doesn't make sense right now. He could also be - and I'm only speculating here - wanting to use Kentucky buzz to build hype in his recruitment and potentially bring in other high-major interest. I know there was at least one grad transfer in Harvard guard Bryce Aiken this offseason in a similar boat that the UK staff sniffed out early and cut off further communication. At the very least, it's not a cut-and-dry decision on either side, and to say we are in the early stages of this process would be an understatement. If I were to make a prediction today, though, I would not expect Sibande to end up in Lexington.

Frank Anselem

Led by UK assistant coach Joel Justus, Kentucky has been in regular contact with 2020 four-star center Frank Anselem, with significant momentum picking up between both sides. After participating in multiple Zoom meetings over the last several days and maintaining regular contact with the 6-foot-10 center, it has become clear that Kentucky has prioritized Anselem to fill one of the final roster spots, with sources telling KSR that UK has established itself as the firm leader in his recruitment. While the "where" in his recruitment is becoming much more clear, it must be established early what kind of player Anselem is and the expectations fans should have for him if and when he does make it official. After speaking with individuals close to the Prolific Prep program, along with numerous other sources in high school and AAU recruiting circles, it’s clear that the Suwanee, GA native is a major project and will likely need anywhere from two to four years at Kentucky before becoming a serious threat on the floor in Lexington. It's a general consensus at this point. While he has physical tools – great frame, phenomenal wingspan, and solid athleticism – he is extremely raw offensively and needs elite coaching to refine his footwork and post moves. Above all else, Anselem struggles with his hands, fumbling the ball with crisp passes down low and in transition. While he thrives catching the ball off the rim for putbacks and offensive rebounds, he simply isn’t there to be a difference-maker on the floor, at least initially. As a freshman, Anselem would likely see minimal playing time, serving primarily as a clean-up specialist on offense and shot-blocker on defense, similar to what we saw from Nick Richards in his first years in Lexington. The staff, however, sees elite potential out of the 6-foot-10 center, believing they could mold him into a player like Richards down the road. If he gets on campus and grasps the system early, they obviously won't hold him back, but the expectation is that a long-term plan would be in place. One thing to note is that while Kentucky is zeroing in on Anselem and a commitment could come in the next week or two, they are also planning on adding one more instant-impact player to officially close out the roster. It makes sense, but it's certainly big news and something Kentucky fans should be happy about. Like Rhode Island transfer Jacob Toppin, Anselem is expected to provide long-term help, while the search continues for a player who will help them win games this season. But who could that other addition be?

Makur Maker

Back when Makur Maker's cousin, Thon Maker, was going through the recruiting process in 2015 and professional rumors picked up, the staff essentially told him they were going to focus on recruiting other big men until he made it clear college was a realistic possibility and priority for him. Get serious with them, and they would return the love. This situation is fairly similar, as Kentucky has let it be known with Maker that there is a roster spot available for him if he looks to take the college route. If he doesn't receive first- or second-round grades in the NBA Draft process, the five-star center will go to college, with Kentucky being one of four options, along with UCLA, Oregon, and Auburn. Maker has been wildly positive about the UK coaching staff and program, adding that he truly values a school that can develop him for the NBA. Maker's guardian, Ed Smith, wasn't thrilled about the development others in the Maker family have seen by going straight to the pros in recent years, so a move to an NBA factory like Kentucky under Calipari is intriguing. I wouldn't expect Maker to fill the final spot - the professional route remains the favorite - but they won't turn him down if he wants to join the fold. Instead, the reclassification option remains a possibility - top-five prospect Paolo Banchero is not expected to reclassify, while top-20 prospects Moussa Cisse and Efton Reid are not seen as likely options even with a jump to 2020, though others could emerge in the coming months - as does the graduate transfer route.
For more on Kentucky’s potential additions, listen to this evening’s episode of the Sources Say Podcast:

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