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.
John Calipari visits with Cade Cunningham, Scottie Barnes at Montverde Academy
By ADAM ZAGORIA
On the first day of the September recruiting period, Kentucky coach John Calipari visited early Monday with Class of 2020 stars Cade Cunningham and Scottie Barnes at Montverde (FL) Academy.
Calipari was also expected to hit Brewster (N.H.) Academy later Monday for wing Terrence Clarke,who is expected to announce his college plans on Saturday.
Per ESPN.com, the 6-foot-7 Cunningham is ranked No. 2 in 2020 and the 6-7 Barnes 11. Clarke is the No. 4 player in 2021 but is expected to reclass to 2020.
The 6-foot-7 Cunningham visited Oklahoma State this past weekend and will visit North Carolina (Sept. 27), Florida (Oct. 5), Kentucky (Oct. 13) and Washington (Oct. 20). His brother,Cannen Cunningham, is on staff at Oklahoma State but Cade has said he’s “open” in his recruitment.
“I think Cade has great admiration and love and respect for his brother, but I think he truly has expressed to me that he’s giving Oklahoma State a very, very strong look,” Montverde coach Kevin Boyle said by phone.
“But he’s also looking very hard at the other schools that are recruiting him. With Ben [Simmons], I always thought that Ben was going to LSU because his Godfather [David Patrick] was there. With Cade, I really believe that if there’s a school that’s a better fit for him, that he thinks has a better chance to get him where he wants to be as a player, and he enjoys the campus and the social life and all that, I think it’s possible” he could pick another school.
Boyle pointed out that Cunningham’s family isn’t putting pressure on Cade to pick Oklahoma State, and in fact is encouraging him to make the best decision for himself.
“We’ll see what happens,” he said.
As for Calipari’s message to Cunningham and Barnes, Boyle said: “I’m sure Cal’s usual pitch is how he can get guys to the pros, how he can develop guys, that they’re not afraid to coach good players. He’s going to coach good players hard.”
Boyle said Cunningham “is arguably as good as any player in the country right now. He’s such a versatile player. He’s shooting the ball so much better. In my 30 years, he’s made as much progress in one year as any kid I’ve had. He’s gone from being a good player last year to arguably the best player in the country this year. He’s in that conversation for that No. 1 overall player. Not since Al Harrington have I had a player make such development from one year to the next.
“He’s just come on. He’s big for today’s game, a big guard that’s versatile, that can score, that can facilitate. He’s a very versatile player. He can guard multiple positions. He’s going to fill up a stat sheet and I think he’s going to have the chance at a really good career in the NBA.”
Since 2011, Boyle has coached six top-3 NBA Draft picks in No. 1s Simmons and Kyrie Irving, No. 2s D’Angelo Russell and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and No. 3s Joel Embiid and R.J. Barrett.
Barnes, meantime, transferred in to Montverde from University School to join possibly Boyle’s most loaded team ever. He lists Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Miami, Oregon, Florida State, California, and Ohio State as his top eight schools.
“With Scottie, that kid to me has such great energy and passion for basketball,” Boyle said. “He’s got such a great motor. He loves to play. To me, he’s a can’t miss lottery NBA player in the sense of giving you an immediate contribution for your team.
“I mean, he can guard multiple positions. He could rebound, he could facilitate. Now he needs to define himself more offensively to be a higher level player, but he’s a can’t-miss successful player that can contribute right away where a lot of lottery picks don’t. I can’t see how he’s not a top-five lottery pick. He just brings it and competes.”
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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.