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Which 2025 Kentucky targets could reclass to 2024?

Zack Geogheganby:Zack Geoghegan05/23/24

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New Kentucky head coach Mark Pope still has two scholarships to work with. The belief is that one of them will go to either North Florida transfer Chaz Lanier or BYU’s Jaxson Robinson — the latter still going through the NBA Draft process. There is a small possibility that Kentucky lands both, but we’re working under the assumption that it’ll be one or the other.

That leaves one final scholarship for Pope to fill. The head coach said not too long ago that he could go in several directions with that spot: redshirting an older transfer, a project piece, a high-risk player, or someone younger. The “someone younger” would likely be a high school prospect, but the class of 2024 is already bare with most of the top recruits already committed and set to arrive on campus in the coming weeks. Which turns our attention to the 2025 class.

There are three rising high school seniors, in particular, who have significant Kentucky interest and check the boxes required to make a leap to the 2024 cycle. Who are they? Let’s find out below.

5-star (No. 3) SG Darryn Peterson | 6-5, 195 (Huntington Prep)

Back when John Calipari was still running the show in Lexington, he made it a point to show Darryn Peterson he was wanted at Kentucky. In fact, Peterson was the first class of 2025 prospect to receive an offer from the Wildcats and was believed to be the first-ever sophomore to earn a UK offer from Calipari. But Kentucky’s interest never wavered once Mark Pope took control.

Peterson, who officially visited Kentucky back in March, has said he’d like to make a return trip to the Bluegrass State in order to familiarize himself with the new staff. Kansas, North Carolina, Washington, Ohio State, Michigan, South Carolina, Southern California, and Calipari’s Arkansas are all in the mix, too. But Pope and Co. wasted little time re-offering Peterson and he returned the favor by including them in his updated group of interested schools.

A jump to 2024 for Peterson has been on the table since last spring and the buzz surrounding that possibility hasn’t died down since — there’s plenty of smoke here. He only turned 17 in January, so he’d be young arriving on a campus (which could be the only pause on him actually making the leap), but he’s physically ready now and could impact a college team right away going into the 2024-25 season.

Lexington’s own Jasper Johnson was another top-priority recruit under Calipari. Pope has maintained that level of communication since taking over and might be prioritizing the talented scorer even more than the previous staff. Kentucky coaches watched all four of Johnson’s games over the weekend at the Nike EYBL session in Indianapolis. With the in-state ties, Pope is going to make it tough for Johnson to go anywhere else, regardless of which class he’s in.

Johnson has expressed a desire to remain in 2025, but there’s real smoke to a 2024 reclass. He turned 18 in March, meaning he’d be 19 by the time he arrived on campus next summer. Along with UK, the likes of Arkansas, Louisville, North Carolina, Alabama, Baylor, Auburn, and Ohio State are also involved. Johnson will be back home in Lexington all summer and the expectation is he’ll make quick trips to campus a handful of times.

A decision could come as soon as the end of the summer after he takes his official visits. It’s likely we would find out about a reclass to 2024 at the same time he commits. Johnson needs to add some strength to his frame if he wants to make an immediate impact, but he has the scoring touch that would allow him to play from day one.

4-star (No. 19) SF Will Riley | 6-8, 180 (The Phelps School)

Will Riley might be the most realistic reclass option for Kentucky of the bunch. He’s been tight-lipped about which way he’s leaning, but he did turn 18 in February, so age wouldn’t be an issue if he did elect to make the 2024 jump. If anything, he’s well-positioned to make the transition.

Calipari and his staff were lightly recruiting Riley when they were at Kentucky, but Pope has taken it to another level since taking over, making it clear to Riley that they want him in Lexington. The Wildcats are among his finalists, as are with Arkansas, Alabama, Arizona, and the NBL. A visit to UK is expected to happen in June.

In terms of fit, Riley might also be the best piece for Pope as a reclassed freshman. At 6-foot-8 with long arms, he’s an elite shot-maker from anywhere on the court who can also get his own looks. Kentucky staffers watched three of Riley’s four games over the weekend in Indy.

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2024-06-12