Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
2013 Class Could Be Kentucky’s Best Ever; ‘Cats Reach Out to 2014 Star Chris McCullough
NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. –– Over the last 12 days, Kentucky coach John Calipari traveled several thousand miles in his private jet on recruiting trips.
Yes, it’s good to be King.
But Calipari’s efforts may pay off with his best class ever.
Calipari and Kentucky are in the mix for many of the top players in the Class of 2013, including Aaron and Andrew Harrison, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, Troy Williams, Aaron Gordon and James Young, as well as Canadian star Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 overall player in high school basketball.
How good could this class be? Just ask them.
“Great class, I don’t think we can be stopped,” Young, a 6-7 wing from Troy, Mich., told SNY.tv at the Peach Jam. “Honestly if we get that class together, I think we’ll be tough to beat.”
“I think it could be the best class they’ve ever had,” the 6-foot-9 Randle out of Plano (Texas) Prestonwood Academy said at the event.
During the first July live period, Calipari shuttled back and forth between Philadelphia — where the Harrison Twins headlined the Reebok event — and the Nike Global Challenge in the Washington area — where Wiggins, Young and Williams were the stars. Wiggins and Young ultimately squared off in a final won by Young’s USA Midwest team.
And then this past weekend, the Kentucky coach went back and forth between the Peach Jam to watch Wiggins, Young, Randle, Williams, Gordon and 2014 point guard Tyus Jones, and Milwaukee, where the Harrisons and others played.
Of course, Kentucky won’t likely get all of these guys — but they will get some of them.
The Harrisons could be the first domino to fall.
They said at the Reebok Breakout Challenge they plan to commit in September or October, and are down to Kentucky, Villanova, Baylor, Maryland and SMU.
Some folks think it’s already done for Kentucky.
“Everyone’s on an equal playing field right now, so no one’s above anyone,” Aaron Harrison told SNY.tv at the event.
Parker, meantime, told SNY.tv he will announce in November.
According to Chicago recruiting expert Roy Schmidt, only three schools — Duke, Michigan State and Kentucky — have a “realistic” shot at the No. 1 player in the Class of 2013.
Sources told SNY.tv that Calipari himself thinks Duke is the favorite, but the smart money says he lands at either Duke or Michigan State, the latter being closest to his Chicago home.
As for Young, he has made no secret of his passion for Kentucky and told SNY.tv at the Peach Jam he wants to be a one-and-done, something Calipari knows a thing or two about.
“I’m just looking for my best college, the one that’s going to get me one-and-done and give me the best opportunity to get out there,” he said.
Of course, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo is also working hard for both Young and his Family teammate, point guard Wesley Clark. Clark told SNY.tv he and Young could end up in a package deal at MSU or Syracuse.
Williams was one of the most impressive players at the Nike Global Challenge with his dunks on unsuspecting Chinese defenders.
He had initially planned on picked Kentucky or North Carolina in May, but is now actively talking about packaging with teammate Anthony “Cat” Barber to either Louisville or Alabama, assuming Barber doesn’t pick Kansas.
If Barber does choose Kansas, Williams might be more inclined to attend Kentucky or Carolina, or one of the other schools recruiting him.
Randle says he remains open and could end up at one of the Carolina ACC schools. Duke, North Carolina and N.C. State are all heavily involved and his AAU teammate, Matt Jones, is headed to Duke.
Still, Kentucky, Kansas, Texas, Baylor and others are also in the mix for Randle, who lost an intense battle to Wiggins and CIA Bounce at the Peach Jam.
As for Aaron Gordon, he told SNY.tv he plans to visit Kentucky “to see what it’s all about,” but also lists Washington and Arizona as his top two.
Washington coach Lorenzo Romar, Arizona coach Sean Miller and Kentucky’s Orlando Antigua and Kenny Payne were all on hand Sunday as an injured Gordon played like a warrior in helping the Oakland Soldiers win the Peach Jam title over Wiggins and CIA Bounce, 51-50.
Still, he says he will wait until the spring to decide, so many of the aforementioned guys will be off the board by then.
And then there’s Wiggins, arguably the best player not currently in the NBA.
His official position is that he won’t reclassify, but both he and Huntington (W.V.) Prep coach Rob Fulford told SNY.tv that that position could change.
After all, if he becomes part of the Class of 2013, that would put him into the NBA a year earlier.
Wiggins could turn out to be the Nerlens Noel of this year, in the sense that he might not decide to reclassify until the spring…and then he could pick Kentucky over Florida State, where his parents attended.
Even f he waits until 2014, then Kentucky still remains the favorite for his services.
The ‘Cats also reached out to another 2014 star in Chris McCullough, a Bronx native from the Salisbury (Conn.) School.
“Coach Antigua reached out and they are now showing interest in Chris,” his AAU coach, Terrance “Munch” Williams, told SNY.tv Sunday night.
Though he managed just 4 points in Team Scan’s 16U semifinal loss to the Southern Stampede, the 6-10 McCullough was one of the most talented players there this weekend.
“He will be in college for one year,” one Division I coach told SNY.tv. “Just look at his skills.”
Syracuse, St. John’s, Rutgers, Florida, UConn and Kansas had headed McCullough’s list prior to Peach Jam, but now here comes Kentucky.
And, after all, that’s no surprise, is it?
FREE THROWSCheick Diallo, a raw, but super-athletic 6-9, 2015 forward on Team Scan, picked up offers from Washington and Seton Hall to go with Arizona and Rutgers. Kentucky and West Virginia also started “showing interest,” Munch Williams said.
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.