July 18, 2024

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New predictions for basketball recruits with Kentucky offers

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New predictions for basketball recruits with Kentucky offers

Brewster Academy (N.H.) basketball player Matas Buzelis is one of the most versatile, highly ranked recruits in the 2023 class.

Brewster Academy (N.H.) basketball player Matas Buzelis is one of the most versatile, highly ranked recruits in the 2023 class.

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UK basketball recruiting updates

Ben Roberts and Cameron Drummond of the Lexington Herald-Leader and Kentucky.com are producing several stories and videos analyzing last weekend’s Nike EYBL basketball recruiting showcase in Louisville. Click below to access all of their coverage this week.

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The Nike EYBL stop in Louisville this weekend will bring most of Kentucky’s biggest basketball recruiting targets to the commonwealth, and while college coaches won’t be permitted to attend the event, it’s a sure bet that UK’s staff will be keeping close tabs on the progress of these star prospects.

How are their recruitments looking off the court?

Here’s a quick rundown of all the players from the 2023 class with Kentucky scholarship offers so far — listed in order of the new rankings from 247Sports — and what the latest predictions from the national recruiting websites say about each UK target.

DJ Wagner

The star of the show this weekend, at least locally, will be DJ Wagner, who comes to Louisville just days after U of L announced the hire of his grandfather, Cardinals great Milt Wagner, as a new staffer under Coach Kenny Payne.

Wagner, whose father played for John Calipari at Memphis, has long been considered a major Kentucky lean, but the expectation that his grandfather would be hired has led to a flurry of national predictions going Louisville’s way in recent weeks. All told, the 11 most recent picks on Wagner’s 247Sports Crystal Ball page, Rivals.com FutureCast page, and On3.com recruiting page have all been in favor of the Cardinals.

UK is by no means out of this recruitment, but Louisville will obviously be tough to beat. Wagner lost his No. 1 spot in the 247Sports rankings to North Carolina commitment GG Jackson, but the 6-foot-3 combo guard from New Jersey is still No. 2 nationally.

Justin Edwards

Now ranked as the No. 3 overall player in the 2023 class, Justin Edwards is a longtime UK target who has called Kentucky his “dream school” in the past and earned a Wildcats scholarship offer during a trip to Lexington last fall. Tennessee, however, hosted Edwards for an official visit in March, and the Volunteers have picked up a couple of predictions on Rivals.com over the past two weeks. 247Sports analyst Travis Branham also posted about his early prediction for Tennessee, though he noted there that Kentucky has “tightened up this race” and added the Wildcats are “gaining momentum” headed into the summer.

The 6-7 wing from Philadelphia remains a major UK target to watch.

Matas Buzelis

Now ranked No. 7 by 247Sports, the versatile Matas Buzelis — a 6-10 wing from Chicago — has a seemingly wide-open recruitment, with zero predictions from recruiting analysts at 247Sports, Rivals.com and On3.com. Florida State has been mentioned as a possible favorite in recent months, but the lack of public predictions here is telling.

In that same post Thursday where Branham explored Justin Edwards’ recruitment, the 247Sports analyst called Kentucky the “current betting favorites” for Buzelis, who will also consider the NBA G League route. As of now, North Carolina, FSU, Wake Forest, Arizona and UCLA are all still in the picture, and Duke has extended a scholarship offer, too.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuvU-uPC5Xk

Kwame Evans Jr.

A 6-9 forward from Baltimore now ranked by 247Sports as the No. 8 player in the class, Kwame Evans Jr. was one of the first players from that group to visit Kentucky (and land a UK offer) last fall, but there hasn’t been a ton of buzz around the Wildcats in recent months.

Instead, Arizona and Oregon seem to be generating the most talk in his recruitment. A 247Sports recruiting expert based in Evans’ home-state of Maryland logged an Arizona Crystal Ball pick on Thursday, and Branham wrote the same day that he was giving his “too early prediction” status to those Pac-12 Wildcats. There haven’t been any other new predictions in the past couple of months. Kentucky is still in the mix here.

Ron Holland

Ron Holland — a 6-8 forward from Texas — is an outlier on this list, since he doesn’t yet have a scholarship offer from Kentucky, but that is expected to change when he takes his official visit to Lexington a couple of weeks from now. Once that offer comes, things should get interesting.

Word behind the scenes for months has been that UK would jump to the top of Holland’s college list if the Wildcats extended an offer. The key word there is “college,” as Holland has also been rumored to be a likely candidate to jump straight from high school to the pros. Branham gave the nod to Kentucky in his “too early” predictions post a couple of days ago, while acknowledging the pro angle. There have been zero Crystal Ball, Rivals.com or On3.com predictions over the past six months for Holland, who 247Sports now ranks at No. 13 nationally.

Robert Dillingham

The No. 14 overall player in the new 247Sports rankings, Robert Dillingham could be the next commitment for Kentucky. Prominent analysts Travis Branham of 247Sports and Jamie Shaw of On3.com logged predictions in favor of the Wildcats over the past few days, and it sounds like a decision could be coming from the 6-2 combo guard from North Carolina by the end of next month.

Dillingham is arguably the most dynamic perimeter scorer in the 2023 class, and he would add a ton of punch to UK’s offensive attack as a freshman. The Cats are the team to beat here.

Aaron Bradshaw

A 7-footer from Camden, N.J. — and a high school and AAU teammate of DJ Wagner’s — Aaron Bradshaw moved up to No. 21 in the new 247Sports rankings and might ultimately be the top center in the 2023 class. There are no predictions from national experts across his recruiting pages, but Kentucky has been talked about as a possible favorite, and it won’t be a surprise at all if some picks in favor of the Wildcats start rolling in over the summer.

Officially, Bradshaw has seven options on his latest list: UK, Louisville, Maryland, Michigan, Oklahoma State, UCLA and the G League.

Andrej Stojakovic

One of the biggest risers in the new 247Sports rankings this past week, Andrej Stojakovic — son of former NBA star Peja Stojakovic — went from No. 103 to No. 25 nationally following a spring in which he racked up offers from Kentucky, Kansas, UCLA, Indiana, Tennessee, Texas and several other major programs. There are a total of zero predictions on the recruiting pages of the Sacramento-area star, and this pursuit appears to be pretty wide open entering the summer.

The 6-6 wing is scheduled to take his first official visit (to Stanford) in the next few days, and several programs, including Kentucky, will host him for such trips over the next few months. Stojakovic is the only uncommitted non-Nike league prospect with a UK scholarship offer in this cycle so far. He plays on the Adidas circuit, along with early Kentucky commitment Reed Sheppard.

JJ Taylor

Long ranked as one of the top 10 prospects in the 2023 class, Chicago native JJ Taylor took a tumble — to No. 34 in the latest 247Sports rankings — following his junior year move to the Kanye West-backed Donda Academy. Kentucky assistant coach Chin Coleman has been recruiting Taylor since the 6-8 wing was in middle school — dating back to Coleman’s time at Illinois — and the Cats at one point looked like a possible favorite to land his commitment.

Now, things are a bit more murky. There are no predictions from 247Sports, Rivals.com or On3.com heading into the summer, and the pro route is expected to be one option as Taylor looks toward his basketball future.

This story was originally published May 28, 2022 7:00 AM.

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Ben Roberts covers UK basketball, football, horse racing and other sports for the Lexington Herald-Leader and has specialized in UK basketball recruiting for the past several years. He also maintains the Next Cats recruiting blog, which features the latest news on the Wildcats’ recruiting efforts.
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