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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.
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Tuesday / June 18.
  • Calipari Ready for New York, New Jersey Recruiting Run

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    John Calipari knows full well the basketball talent that can be found in the fertile area from New York City through New Jersey to Philadelphia.

    While at Memphis, he recruited and landed former Camden (N.J.) High School star Dajuan Wagner.

    During his time at Kentucky, Calipari recruited Somerdale, N.J., native Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (now with the Charlotte Hornets) and Brooklyn native Dakari Johnson — both of whom starred at perennial power St. Patrick of Elizabeth — as well as Karl-Anthony Towns of St. Joe’s-Metuchen, who is projected as a top-5 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.

    So it should come as no surprise that after meeting Wednesday night with 2015 forward Carlton Bragg, the Wildcats coach will spend Thursday meeting with three of the top players in the New York/New Jersey area in 2015 Our Savior New American forward Cheick Diallo, 2016 Gill St. Bernard’s guard Tyus Battle and 2015 Roselle (N.J.) Catholic point guard Isaiah Briscoe.

    Diallo and Battle already hold Kentucky offers, while Briscoe could pick one up during Thursday night’s home visit.

    “It says the talent in New Jersey and New York is amongst the best in the country,” Gary Battle, Tyus’s father, told SNY.tv.

    “The area of New York/New Jersey is producing some of the best talent in the country,” said Terrance “Munch” Williams, the Team Scan coach who coaches both Battle and Diallo.

    Calipari is expected to meet with Diallo after school on Thursday, one day before Diallo leaves for his official visit to Kansas. The 6-foot-9 Diallo is an active, athletic big who was bothered this summer by some back trouble that kept him out of the Under Armour Elite 24 game.

    He is considering Kansas, St. John’s, Iowa State and Pittsburgh in addition to Kentucky.

    “When Kentucky offered me, I was so happy,” Diallo told Ben Roberts of the Lexington Herald-Leader at the NBPA Top 100 Camp this summer. “I have a lot of top schools, but Kentucky is the best school, you know?”

    Kentucky assistant Barry “Slice” Rohrssen moved to Kentucky from Pittsburgh, where he had already established a relationship with the Mali native, in part because he speaks a little French.

    “Little bit,” Diallo said. “He’s not really good.”

    Diallo will take official visits to Kansas Sept. 19, Iowa State Sept. 26 and St. John’s Oct 18.

    He has already been to Iowa State, Pittsburgh and Kentucky.

    In Battle, Calipari will meet with one of the most talented and sought after guards in the Class of 2016.

    In the last week, the 6-5 Battle has hosted Louisville’s Rick Pitino, Villanova’s Jay Wright, Rutgers’ Eddie Jordan, Michigan’s John Beilein, Ohio State’s Thad Matta and Florida’s Billy Donovan. Virginia’s Tony Bennett is expected Wednesday.

    And Kentucky’s Rohrssen has already been through Gill St. Bernard’s to see Battle, who, along with Diallo, helped lead Team Scan to the semifinals of the Peach Jam this summer, where they lost to Briscoe and the eventual champion NJ Playaz.

    Battle also won a gold medal with the USA U17 team at the FIBA World Championship in Dubai.

    As for Kentucky, he visited the school this summer and came away impressed. Battle will visit again for Big Blue Madness Oct. 17.

    “It’s very attractive because you know it’s Kentucky,” Tyus told SNY.tv this summer. “He recruits a lot of high-level kids, recruits a lot of pros so it’s very attractive.”

    Gary Battle said Calipari told them he would “work hard in recruiting” Tyus.

    “A lot of things will be expected if he comes to Kentucky in terms of hard work hard,” Gary said this summer. “Championships are expected, going to class is expected, being on track to get a degree is expected, trying to be the best in the world is expected.”

    Gary added: “It’s very attractive. Obviously, he’s a Hall of Fame level coach who’s been to two out of the last three Final Fours. He’s excited about the opportunity, I think every kid who’s out here doing what Tyus is trying to do is wanting Kentucky and the Kentucky-level schools to be recruiting them and he’s got that opportunity. So mission accomplished in terms of him putting in the hard work, but this one is a special offer.”

    Calipari is expected to finish the day with a home visit with the 6-3 Briscoe after SNY.tv first reported the visit two weeks ago.

    Briscoe had been considering St. John’s, Seton Hall, Rutgers, Villanova and Arizona, but Villanova recently landed point guard Jalen Brunson and Arizona already has two guards in the fold for 2015.

    With Briscoe set to announce in the spring, his recruitment has opened up for both Kentucky and reigning NCAA champion UConn to enter the fold, as well as schools like Missouri and Georgia Tech. UConn coach Kevin Ollie met with Briscoe on Tuesday after meeting with Battle.

    “Certainly I would hope to see an offer extended to him during the visit, but I don’t want to speculate,” Roselle Catholic Dave Boff told the Lexington Herald-Leader. “We’re excited to sit down with Coach Cal and the Kentucky staff. If an offer comes at that time, that’d be great. If not, we’ll hear what they have to say anyway.”

    Said longtime New York recruiting expert Tom Konchalski: “John Calipari is a very persuasive man. He’s a master recruiter.”

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    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.

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