Five-Star Chris Livingston denies reclassification rumors, recaps recent visits and talks future plans | 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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Saturday / May 28.
  • Five-Star Chris Livingston denies reclassification rumors, recaps recent visits and talks future plans

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    By JACOB POLACHECK

    Chris Livingston, the nation’s No. 6-ranked prospect in 2022, told ZAGSBLOG Thursday evening that rumors of a reclassification are false and he is looking to make his college decision sometime next calendar year.

    Livingston, a 6-foot-6, 200-pound small forward from Akron (OH) Buchtel High School, is currently down to 11 programs: Kentucky, North Carolina, Memphis, LSU, Ohio State, Georgetown, Kansas, Tennessee State, Florida, Alabama and the Overtime Elite League.

    “These are the colleges that I could see myself at, basically,” Livingston said. “Some did depend on coaches and if they reached out to me after they offered me.

    “Some coaches just offered me, but they never gave me their number or we never came in contact. It wasn’t really a feeling of interest from that school as much of the other schools. I just picked where I felt like I was wanted at and could see myself going to.”

    Fresh off his first two officials visits, Livingston says he’s factoring everything into his decision, paying close attention to facilities, location, play style, atmosphere and his family’s input.

    “There’s a lot that goes into this decision,” he said. “It’s a tough decision, but I’m really confident I’m making the right one.”

    Livingston kicked off his official visits with a trip to Kansas from June 11-13.

    “I really loved it,” he said. “I loved the atmosphere. I loved the people around. The coaches, they were really nice, really took care of me.”

    Prior to his visit, Livingston had already been familiar with KU players Bobby Pettiford, K.J. Adams and David McCormack and had the chance to spend time with them on his trip.

    “We talked about the fan base and how the fans were really into the basketball down there,” Livingston said. “That’s big for me, playing where you’re appreciated. People really want to come out and see you.”

    On his visit, Livingston says he was very impressed by the program’s history and the “top-notch” facilities.

    “Everything is newer, the dorms and everything like that,” he said. “I like how everything is set up, the court, the gym in the dorm. It’s just little stuff like that really made me appreciate the visit and have them stand out to me on the visit.”

    Livingston also had the chance to meet with head coach Bill Self and the staff, talking to him about his fit within the KU system and showing him the long lineage of Kansas guards to make it to the NBA including Andrew Wiggins, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Brandon Rush.

    “Somebody who is my status, they really think that I can be utilized in a better way and a bigger way,” he said. “They talked about how they would really love it if I came, things like that.

    “They sent me video of the practices, showed me the play style, and what’s worked for them to become one of the winningest programs since he’s got there. They talked to me about a lot of stuff, how they play basketball.”

    One week after his Kansas trip, Livingston made the trip to Lexington for his second official visit at the University of Kentucky from June 18-20.

    Livingston was very impressed by UK head coach John Calipari on the trip.

    “Coach Cal is a great guy,” he said. “He’s really personable, considering how much of a legend he is and how big his status is in the basketball community and the world. He’s down to earth, easy to talk to, funny and cool. I like him. The coaching staff was nice and welcomed my family.”

    One remark in particular from Calipari caught Livingston’s attention immediately:

    “The program won’t change for you, but it will change you,” Livingston recalled. “That really means that you have to be committed if you want to be a Kentucky basketball player.”

    Livingston noted the UK fan base and reach as benefits of the program.

    “Every game they play is on national television,” he said. “They were competing with NBA teams as far as viewership and television. People want to watch Kentucky basketball. It’s really a stage.”

    Livingston also had the opportunity to meet with family while near Lexington, an area he’s familiar with.

    At both Kansas and Kentucky, each staff spoke about their plans for helping players navigate the new world of NIL, as the NCAA prepares to effectively allow name, image and likeness rights for athletes, starting July 1.

    “Kentucky basketball, one thing that they pitched was being at the forefront of the schools that are working towards it, knowing this was going to come,” Livingston said. “They have plans set in place for the players. It’s really going to shake up college with people knowing that they can make money while being a college basketball player. It’s definitely something that affects my decision at the next level.

    “Kansas and Kentucky, they talked about it. They have such crazy fanbases, which is another reason why it’s important to me.”

    Livingston is also considering joining the Overtime Elite League, which has already been successful in signing elite high school talent thus far.

    In little over a month, Overtime Elite has signed class of 2022 four-star guards Amen and Ausar Thompson, 2022 four-star forward Jai Smith and 2023 five-star guards Matthew and Ryan Bewley.

    Yet, Livingston still has questions about the new league.

    “Since it’s the first year, are they going to be stable? Livingston asked. “Who are they going to have in charge of it? Who’s going to be involved? Stuff like that.”

    Overtime, has secured $80 million in financial backing from Jeff Bezos, Drake, Alexis Ohanian, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and others. The league said it will pay players guaranteed minimum salary of at least $100,000 per year, plus bonuses and shares of equity in Overtime. It also maintains players will participate in revenue from use of their name, image and likeness, including through sales of custom jerseys, trading cards, video games and NFTs.

    “They talked about the plan, but they didn’t go into numbers yet,” Livingston said.

    Next up for Livingston is a trip to HBCU Tennessee State in August for his third official visit.

    Livingston has met by Zoom with the TSU staff as they’ve pitched their culture, history and NBA pedigree.

    “We talked about how things are changing, how certain NBA players have been to TSU,” he said. “They talked about multiple people that are pulling into the program to build it up and get things off the ground.”

    Due to the nature of the Zoom calls, Livingston and the TSU staff haven’t had the chance to talk in detail about play style.

    “We’ll get more in-depth [on the visit],” he said. But it was more of an overview. We had a Zoom call maybe a month ago. I’ll get to see the staff in-person.”

    With more visits on the way and a decision not expected until 2022, Livingston listed all the factors he’s looking at when making his decision.

    “I’m looking at the kind of things that I was impressed by on the visits,” he said. “The facilities, location, where everything is at, little things that separate the programs, play style, how I feel about the coaching staff, as far as the atmosphere, basketball around that specific school or environment, how my family feels about it and their input.”

    Considered Akron’s best prospect since LeBron James, Livingston averaged 31.1 points, 15.8 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 4.7 steals and 4.0 blocks per game, while shooting 71 percent from the field as a junior during the 2020-21 season.

    This summer, Livingston is playing with the We All Can Go All Stars AAU Program, suiting up alongside fellow five-star prospect Mikey Williams.

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