Pilgrim’s Insider Notes: One down, two to go for Kentucky’s ‘Pie in the Sky’

by:Jack Pilgrim07/30/19
Good evening and welcome back to another edition of Pilgrim's Insider Notes. Tonight, we will discuss Kentucky's first commitment for the class of 2020 and how that unfolded, the school’s recruiting blueprint moving forward, who could be the next to pop, and a quick note on N'Faly Dante's reclassification decision. At the end, I will also have a surprise announcement to make involving something new we are bringing to KSR in the very near future that should excite the Big Blue Nation. Let's dive right in.

BJ Boston commits to Kentucky

Going into BJ Boston’s official visit, it was no secret that Kentucky had significant momentum and was seen as the runaway favorite. Duke was seen as the longtime threat, with Auburn also lurking as a sneaky contender over the last few months. Oregon was also added to the list, and he has always spoken highly of Mike White and the Florida program, but there were whispers dating back to the NBPA Top 100 Camp in Charlottesville, VA back in June that he was Kentucky's to-lose. At the very least, though, I still expected him to go home after the trip and think things over, with the possibility of one or two more visits in the next week or so before deciding in early to mid-August. Historically speaking, very rarely do commitments come during visits, even if a specific school is seen as the consensus favorite. Sources tell KSR, however, that Boston went into the visit extremely open-minded and made it clear to the coaching staff that a commitment could be on the table if things went according to plan. The five-star guard and his family are in the process of packing their bags and heading out to Los Angeles to spend his final high school season at Sierra Canyon, and KSR has been told that they simply didn’t want a college decision hanging over their heads in the midst of it all. Boston’s camp heard everything they needed to hear over a final meal at Jeff Ruby’s on Friday night, they informed the coaching staff they were ready to commit, and the official announcement was made the following day. Extremely cut and dry. “He just wanted to be [in Lexington], plain and simple,” one source close to the Kentucky basketball program told KSR, adding that the UK coaching staff wasn't being overly pushy about a commitment and it was all on the Boston camp's own accord. Boston told KSR at both Peach Jam and the NBPA Top 100 Camp that he would make a decision whenever he was ready, and that’s exactly how it unfolded. No unnecessary drama and hype, no big announcement ceremony, nothing to draw out the process. It was simply a kid ready to get the process over with and come on board, a gesture the Kentucky coaching staff absolutely appreciated.

Jalen Green and Josh Christopher

In the last edition of Pilgrim’s Insider Notes, KSR reported that the possibility of Boston, Green, and Christopher playing together in college was being thrown around at Peach Jam and that the UK coaching staff was intrigued with the idea. Green’s father, Marcus Green, told KSR that he was best friends with Christopher’s father, Laron Christopher, and that both families were very open to that idea of teaming up at the next level. Then, Green himself told KSR that Christopher was “family” and that their families are extremely close. “It would be lit to go to the same school as Josh,” he told KSR. “We played together in the seventh grade for Nationals with the [Oakland] Soldiers, we’ve been rocking together since seventh grade. If it happens, it happens, and I’ll definitely be glad. We’re a family, all of us. My pops, mom, his dad, his mom, all family. On the court [against each other], it’s a war, but off the court, we’re family.” After Peach Jam, Green - originally with Team WhyNot on the Nike EYBL circuit - decided to team up with Christopher at the Big Time Tournament in Las Vegas with Vegas Elite. Over the course of the weekend, the duo went a perfect 6-0, putting together a wild highlight tape together in the process: https://twitter.com/SLAM_HS/status/1156002728864178177?s=20 Afterward, Green posted on Twitter that the duo is "serious." https://twitter.com/JalenRomande/status/1155630129948717056?s=20 Boston also said at Peach Jam that he was extremely interested in teaming up with Green in college, with Green making it known that his interest was mutual, as well. The buzz was there in North Augusta at the Nike EYBL Finals, but it still felt fairly fresh. Players enjoy teaming up with one another at major high school and AAU events all the time and entertain the idea of potentially teaming up in college, but plenty of times that in-the-moment infatuation is proven to be nothing more than a short-term fling. This isn’t one of those instances. Sources tell KSR that Boston, Green, and Christopher are in “active discussions” about playing together in Lexington, and the Kentucky coaching staff has made it clear to each of them that they are welcoming the idea with open arms. This is no longer a dream scenario, it’s a genuine possibility. In fact, I'm told that pairing the elite duo together with Boston is Kentucky's recruiting blueprint moving forward. “That’s the pie in the sky,” one source close to the program told KSR. There was one theory floating around on social media that Boston jumped on a commitment several weeks before an announcement was expected to establish his territory on the roster, hoping that it would push one of the other two shooting guards elsewhere (likely Christopher) to avoid a logjam in the starting lineup. There was another rumor that Green and Christopher joining the fold could ultimately lead to Boston walking in the end. When asked if there was any merit to these conspiracies, sources close to both Kentucky and the players’ camps laughed them off and told KSR they couldn’t be further off base. The reality of the situation is that there is more than enough room for all three in the starting lineup and that they are all confident in their abilities to fight off whatever competition is there at their respective positions. Christopher would likely fit in as the primary ball-handler, with Green taking over at the two and Boston playing the three. But the beauty of the idea is that none of them are locked into any specific positions, they are all versatile enough on both ends of the floor to play all three. As far as their individual recruitments are concerned, sources tell KSR that Green and Christopher are both in the process of scheduling visits to Kentucky, with Green's father telling me that a trip to Lexington will be coming "very soon." There is speculation that Green and Christopher are hoping to take their visit at the same time, and one source told KSR that while it's not a certainty at this point, it's still a possibility.

One source close to the program added that the UK coaching staff is "feeling that [scenario] out," with another adding that they might want to stagger the visits to give each prospect the individual attention they deserve. Boston got his own presentation during his official visit, and as much as Green and Christopher are in love with the idea of teaming up at the next level, it only makes sense that Kentucky wants to show just as much attention to their other prized targets.

Christopher recently cut his list to five, with Kentucky, Missouri, Arizona State, Michigan, and UCLA remaining as the final contenders. ASU currently boasts a roster that includes the 6-foot-5 guard's brother, Caleb Christopher, a key factor as to why the Sun Devils are seen as Kentucky's biggest competition to land the top-10 prospect in the class of 2020 and keep the Lakewood, CA product out West. As for Green, Memphis joins Kentucky at the top of the No. 3 prospect's list, and it will almost certainly stay that way throughout his recruitment. Green's family has great respect for Penny Hardaway and the Tiger coaching staff, though Sam Mitchell's departure in May didn't do them any favors. The 6-foot-5 prospect told KSR that he will likely take his recruiting process all the way through the Spring of 2020, though things could absolutely change when he starts taking his official visits. As of today, I'd bet on the Cats to land the elite guard trio, giving John Calipari one of his most talented backcourts since he arrived in Lexington. One down, two to go.

Sharife Cooper/Daishen Nix/Cade Cunningham/Terrence Clarke

With Kentucky ready to go all-in on a backcourt of Boston, Green, and Christopher, what does that mean for their other rumored guard targets? After receiving a commitment from Boston this past weekend, there were a few whispers that his Athletes of Tomorrow (AOT) teammate and close friend Sharife Cooper could join him in the UK backcourt next season. Despite strong Auburn whispers for several months, Kentucky has long been seen as the strong No. 2 on his list for quite some time. In fact, one individual close to the AOT program told KSR at Peach Jam that UK was still a serious option for the five-star point guard out of Marietta, GA, with another source close to Cooper adding that he wouldn't be surprised if he eventually ended up in Lexington. While Cooper and Boston have been tremendous together at the AAU level, I've been told that the possibility of them potentially teaming up at the college level is likely off the table. Sources told KSR this weekend that communication between Kentucky and Cooper has been nearly non-existent as of late and the 5-foot-11, 160-pound point guard will not end up in Lexington. “It’s just not happening,” one source close to the situation told KSR. “Any Kentucky buzz is just a smokescreen.” Barring a major change of events, Cooper will end up signing with Bruce Pearl and the Auburn Tigers. And even if something did happen to the Tigers that forces him to look elsewhere - like the NCAA coming down on the program following the recent FBI investigation into college basketball - I'm told that Kentucky is still seen as a highly unlikely destination. Elsewhere, 2020 five-star guard Daishen Nix recently told Krysten Peek of Rivals.com that he believes an offer from Kentucky is coming and that he "definitely" wants to schedule a visit to Lexington in the very near future. And while both of these cases may still be true, sources told KSR that the situation isn't as cut-and-dry as it sounds. Kentucky is open to bringing him in on a visit, and I do believe an offer is a possibility, but I'm told that Nix's shooting concerns are legitimate and it is causing hesitation on UK's end of things. They love his potential as a passer and the court vision he already possesses - he's seen as the best passing guard in high school, regardless of class - but they’d have to feel extremely confident in reeling in plenty of other high-level scorers to compensate for those deficiencies. Does that mean Kentucky goes small ball next year with Nix starting at the one, Christopher at the two, Green at the three, and Boston at the four, with, say, Isaiah Todd at the five? It certainly sounds intriguing, and I'm told that could be up for discussion if the five-star point guard does decide to make the trip to Lexington, but I don't think that's the likely scenario. With recent speculation being that he wants to make a decision sooner rather than later, I don’t know if the timing works out for an extravagant scenario like that to unfold that would lead to Nix ending up at Kentucky. Sources also tell KSR that Kentucky will continue to monitor 2020 top-three prospect Cade Cunningham's situation, but the feel around the program is that despite his recent comments about his recruitment being "wide open," the Oklahoma State talk is legitimate. An offer is still on the table for the 6-foot-6 guard, but it's no secret among other schools on his list that the Cowboys sit alone at the very top. To close out the other potential guard options, I continue to hear that 2021 five-star guard Terrence Clarke wants to reclassify to 2020 and will make the jump if he can get his academic situation in order, though that is a huge "if." As I have said in my notes on a few separate occasions, Clarke is a true rising junior and those close to him feel that it will be extremely difficult to fit two full years of coursework into one. There is currently Kentucky, Duke, and Memphis buzz with Clarke, but step one for the 6-foot-7 prospect is to get the academics in order. As much as he hopes to reclassify, I think the most likely scenario for him right now is to stay put in 2021. Again, Kentucky is serious about Green and Christopher joining Boston in the 2020-21 backcourt, no question about it.

Cam'Ron Fletcher and Lance Ware

Over the last several days, Kentucky has picked up a ton of momentum with four-star forwards Cam’Ron Fletcher and Lance Ware, with commitments potentially on the table for both sooner rather than later. Fletcher, a consensus top-45 prospect in the class of 2020, will head to Lexington on an official visit starting this Thursday (August 1), where sources tell KSR that a commitment could come as early as the end of this weekend. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that the athletic 6-foot-6 small forward is hoping to be a Wildcat by the time his visit comes to a close. And despite the fact that Kentucky is going all-in on their "pie in the sky" trio of wings, sources tell KSR that A) UK wants Fletcher in Lexington and will still happily accept his commitment and B) there is a mutual understanding that they will still make a strong effort to land both Green and Christopher. In short, a Fletcher commitment this weekend will have no bearing on Kentucky's future plans surrounding the dynamic guard duo out of California. The Kentucky coaching staff is hopeful for a class that includes all four of Boston, Green, Christopher, and Fletcher. As for Ware, one source close to the situation told KSR that Kentucky could wrap things up with the top-50 power forward out of Camden, NJ very soon, though I wasn't given a specific timetable on a decision quite yet. The Wildcats have received five consecutive picks on his Crystal Ball over at 247Sports, namely from recruiting experts Andrew Slater, Jerry Meyer, and Chris Fisher. Growing up a huge fan of John Calipari and the Kentucky program, sources tell KSR that he has been waiting "quite some time" for this offer, and it would be a mild shock if he ended up anywhere other than Lexington.

N'Faly Dante

The current speculation is that Dante has done enough to meet his academic requirements to reclassify from 2020 to 2019, with an announcement on the jump potentially coming at some point this week. The fact that this is now seen as a strong possibility should not come as a surprise, as the 6-foot-11 forward told KSR at Peach Jam that he would be making the move if he could get everything in order in the form of online coursework. With that now rumored to be complete, the jump can be made with a college enrollment expected in early August. With the "when" almost certainly out of the way, the next question at hand is the "where." The general consensus is that this will likely come down to Oregon and Kentucky, though I am genuinely torn on which school is on top right now. On Kentucky's end of things, I'm told that they are still interested in bringing him in for the upcoming season, though they are thrilled with the current layout of the roster. John Calipari told the media a while back that he'd be happy with another addition for depth purposes alone, a sentiment that remains the same. On Oregon's side, I'm told that there are still a few people in his inner circle that are - for whatever reason - still strongly pushing the Ducks. Crystal Ball picks are also currently rolling in for Oregon, which obviously isn’t a great sign. That being said, Eric Bossi of Rivals.com, who lives in Kansas and is close to Dante’s MoKan Elite and Sunrise Christian teams, recently submitted a Rivals FutureCast in favor of Kentucky. I trust him quite a bit, especially when it comes to prospects in his area. Regardless, Kentucky is content with how things are now. He’d obviously be one heck of a get for the program this late in the game, but it’s not a necessity.

A major KSR announcement...

Starting in August, KSR is set to release the Sources Say Podcast with Pilgrim, Weingarten, and Graf. I will be hosting a weekly Kentucky basketball recruiting podcast with national recruiting insider Jake Weingarten (Stockrisers.com and Cats Illustrated) and Kentucky football and basketball insider Travis Graf (Cats Illustrated) as my co-hosts. There, we will discuss anything and everything there is to talk about Kentucky's work on the recruiting trail, along with the latest on what is happening with the current UK basketball team both on and off the floor. With all three of us covering the ins-and-outs of recruiting on a day-to-day basis, it will be something that you certainly won't want to miss. We will also be looking for one or two sponsors for the Sources Say Podcast, so feel free to reach out to me on Twitter (@JackPilgrimKSR) or by email ([email protected]) if you are interested. [mobile_ad]

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