As for right now, John Calipari has the number one ranked recruiting class for the 2014 class … but don’t get too comfortable with that position. Tyus Jone, Jahlil Okafor, and Cliff Hawkins are all set to announce for teams that are probably not named the Kentucky Wildcats and now Stanley Johnson may join the list.
Mater Dei Coach Gary McKnight told the Herald-Leader that Johnson will announce his decision Friday during ESPNU’s recruiting special, which begins at 4 p.m. ET.
The timing of Johnson’s announcement is probably not a good sign for Kentucky. Several national recruiting observers have posited that a decision during the November signing period would favor Arizona, while a later decision would make UK a more likely destination.
Johnson reiterated earlier this week that he had no plans to announce a college choice until January, but ESPN’s “bottom line” scroll during Tuesday night’s Champions Classic games mentioned that he would make that announcement Friday. After conflicting reports, McKnight confirmed to the Herald-Leader that Johnson does indeed plan to reveal his college decision Friday on ESPNU.
Scout.com ranks Johnson as the No. 7 overall prospect in the Class of 2014.
I said a few days ago that if Johnson announced in the early signing period, it looked like Arizona. I still stand by that, but in the end, would not be shocked if it were Kentucky … just don’t count on it.
There are some that still have the Stanley Johnson recruitment as a Kentucky lean. Ben Roberts notes that ESPN’s Recruiting Nation “Hot Board” updated their predictions yesterday and listed Kentucky as the leader for Johnson. But once again, the early signing period was mentioned.
But ESPN posted its Recruiting Nation “Hot Board” on Tuesday and predicted that Johnson would end up picking Kentucky. The feature, which offered picks for all of the top uncommitted prospects in the Class of 2014, was accompanied by a note that stated, “Our predictions are based on what we’re hearing from high school coaches and from the prospects themselves. They are subject to change as more information becomes available.”
Many analysts have been saying that Arizona is the leader for Johnson, a 6-foot-7 prospect from California who is ranked among the top 10 players in the class by every major recruiting service. Kentucky and Southern Cal are thought to be the main competition.
The ESPN prediction came with one caveat: “If Johnson does sign early … Arizona may have an advantage. But if Johnson waits until January … Kentucky will reel in this recruit.” They pointed out that Johnson is expected to wait until next calendar year to pick a school. He told Scout.com recently that he has no plans to sign this month.
Let’s face it. Kentucky should have beaten Michigan State last night. And it says a lot about this team that they lost just 68-64 to the #2 team in the country. But if you can reduce the 17 turnovers in half …. if you can reduce the 16 missed free throws in half, if you can improve your transition defense even a bit … well Kentucky wins going away.
Last year in the State Farm Champions Classic, Kentucky did their best to NOT get blown out by Duke. This year, Kentucky competed until the very end. There is a HUGE difference in last years Wildcats and this years team … and most of the problems are fixable.
For most of the game, State put the young Cats through some punishment to make them earntheir top standing. Michigan State led 10-0 before Kentucky seemed to figure out the game had started.
“We had guys jogging,” Calipari said. “They had guys sprinting.”
“I guess we just didn’t get back,” said Alex Poythress, who scored seven points and grabbed 12 rebounds. “That’s something we need to work on.”
They did come back — State led 59-46 with 11:31 left — only to be undercut by their early errors.
The Cats made just 20 of 36 free throws, just 14 of 26 in the second half.
They ended up with 17 turnovers, compared to Michigan State’s seven.
“Instead of making that one extra pass, we held the ball,” Calipari said. “Julius had eight turnovers because we held the ball. You miss 16 free throws you don’t deserve to win.”
Kentucky dominated the boards, outrebounding Michigan State 44-32. And yet, the Cats couldn’t come up with the biggest one of the night. Branden Dawson tipped in an MSU missed jumper with five seconds remaining for the game’s final points.
“I remember North Carolina,” Calipari said, “Anthony Davis blocked that jumper.”
And yet for such a young team that didn’t play well enough to think it should be in the game, it had a chance to win.
“They’re going to get a lot better,” Izzo said. “We’re going to get a lot better.”
“We had guys crying in there,” said Calipari of the losing locker room, “which is a good thing.”
The fact that the undefeated season talk can now be officially put to bed is a good thing, too.
“We’ll be fine,” said Calipari.