On Top of the Game, Kentucky and UCLA Have the Top Two Recruiting Classes for 2017 | Zagsblog
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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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Monday / July 15.
  • On Top of the Game, Kentucky and UCLA Have the Top Two Recruiting Classes for 2017

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    Kentucky and UCLA aren’t just two of the most storied programs in college basketball history, they are also at the frontier of recruiting the next wave of stars.

    The Wildcats and the Bruins — who will meet on Saturday afternoon at Rupp Arena (12:30, CBS) — have the Nos. 1 and 2-ranked recruiting classes in the Class of 2017, according to both Scout.com and ESPN.com.

    Kentucky’s four-man class includes guards Quade Green and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and bigs P.J. Washington and Nick Richards. (Alexander went for 21 points in Hamilton Heights’ (TN) win Thursday night on ESPN2).

    UCLA, meantime, has a five-man class that features guards Jaylen Hands and LiAngelo Ball, small forward Kris Wilkes and bigs Cody Riley and Jalen Hill.

    “UCLA has a very powerful brand,” Bruins head coach Steve Alford said on The 4 Quarters Podcast. “A lot of players want to play here because of the history and tradition of UCLA, because of the amount of guys we’re putting into the league [NBA], seven guys the last three years. That will grow this year, obviously. We’ve got a brand new practice facility that will be done September of ’17 so I think that has been something that has been missing.

    “With that on the horizon, I think it makes it a much easier choice because of everything that’s in place here. Most of the people that come here have success not just when they’re here but have success at the next level.”

    High school players want to know that they have a chance to play in the NBA, and Kentucky and UCLA are regularly sending dudes to the league.

    Alford’s first team at UCLA (2013-14) had six players on the roster who have played in the NBA: Zach LaVine, Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson, Travis Wear, David Wear and Norman Powell. Kevon Looney, who arrived during Alford’s second year, is also in the NBA.

    Kentucky, meantime, led all schools with 24 players on opening-night NBA rosters and guys like Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Davis and Boogie Cousins are literally rewriting the record books for big men.

    “I think every high school kid looks at the college that they want to go to and how many people they have in the pros and the one thing that that stands out with Kentucky is [John] Calipari puts them in the league at a rapid rate,” said Paul Washington, the Findlay Prep coach and P.J.’s father.  “I heard somebody say that most coaches probably don’t have five players in the league, he’s got five people on one team in Phoenix. So that’s big-time, that’s big-time.”

    Kentucky isn’t done for 2017, either.

    Shooting guard Hamidou Diallo of Putnam Science Academy (CT) and big man Mohamed Bamba of the Westtown (PA) School are both priorities for the spring signing period.

    The 6-foot-6 Diallo is eligible for the 2017 Draft but has said he wants to attend college and is considering Kentucky, UConn, Syracuse and Arizona, among others.

    After his recent performance at the National Prep Showcase in New Haven, it appears more likely that he will spend a year on campus.

    “[The NBA scouts] were disappointed by the lack of urgency that he showed,” Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.com said. “He was kind of going through the motions and coasting. His jump shot still needs a lot of work. His body needs a lot of work. If Hamidou is not going to play hard, then he’s just not that interesting a prospect. He’s 6-5, 190 pounds without a great jumper. You can find that a dime a dozen.

    “What I loved about Hamidou before that with USA Basketball, on the AAU circuit, Adidas Nations, every time I’ve seen him play, he was always playing harder than everybody else. He was a monster defensively. He seems to kind of have backed off of that a little bit and that’s not a good sign for him. I think he’s  a much better prospect than what he showed, but when NBA guys come to evaluate you and you turn in that kind of performances, they might not come back. So he has to be thinking strongly about college at this point.”

    The 7-foot Bamba is mulling Kentucky, Duke, Texas and Harvard, among others. He is projected as the No. 2 pick in the 2018 Draft by DraftExpress.com.

    Both will be on display on Sunday at the PSA Cardinals showcase at the Hill School (PA), where college coaches are expected to watch.

    Photo: Jeremy Schneider/ Star-ledger

     

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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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