Kentucky Basketball: Can the 2017 recruiting class lead Kentucky to a National Title?

Photo by David Banks/Getty Images
Photo by David Banks/Getty Images /

It’s not a secret, the 2017-18 version of the Kentucky Basketball team will rely on the talent of true freshmen to take them where they want to go.

John Calipari is officially in the hunt to win his second national title at Kentucky. As the head basketball coach of the Kentucky Basketball program, Calipari has emphasized recruiting and a player’s first program. But, the Wildcat faithful are still waiting on Coach Cal to deliver championship number nine.

Lexington during basketball season is a different world. Kentucky Basketball fans are literally crazy. They camp out for a week to get tickets to a practice. That practice just so happens to be the first look at the new Wildcats, so that seems logical to me.

To begin, the reality of Kentucky’s current basketball situation is that freshmen will almost constantly lead the team. Every so often, a group of sophomores will return after deciding to forgo the NBA and team up with another group of prep superstars. The 2017-18 season, however, doesn’t seem to be leaning toward much veteran assistance. The player with the most returning experience is forward Wenyen Gabriel. Kentucky’s loaded 2017 recruiting class will be counted on to do the bulk of the work.

Can they win it all?

Kentucky Basketball fans know very little about what kind of players these freshmen really are. The USA U19 campaign in the FIBA World Cup gave us a glimpse of two Wildcats in particular. Hamidou Diallo and PJ Washington headlined Team USA for much of the tournament. Although the Calipari-coached team was defeated by Team Canada on their way to a Bronze Medal, those Wildcats had some great moments.

Hamidou Diallo is a freak of nature. His numbers at the NBA Combine are among the best ever. With that said, his shooting abilities were questioned by many. His ability to score the basketball at Kentucky in a variety of ways will enable him to lead this team.

PJ Washington on the other hand is the hard worker the Wildcats have been looking for. Washington has drawn comparisons to the Kentucky Basketball great, Chuck Hayes. Their games transcend one another in a variety of ways. Rebounding and scoring in bunches will allow Kentucky to have at least two go-to players on the floor most of the time. Washington, at 6-foot-9 can also catch the ball out on the perimeter and use his handles to get to the rim like a guard. That is something that will help the Wildcats win a lot of games.

The others

As for the rest of these impact freshmen, the list goes on and on. Kevin Knox was probably one of the more impactful players in the USA U19 training camp. A precautionary injury protocol sidelined Knox and knocked him out of the roster running. Knox is definitely the type of player that can changed the face of a program. He just may be the face of this team. Diallo may run the team, but Knox could very well be the go-to hand in crunch time.

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Jarred Vanderbilt has the ability to become one of the better power forwards in the game. Paired with PJ Washington, the front court will have some serious athleticism. That is something that championship teams need.

The post will be settled by seven footer, Nick Richards. The five star center will definitely have his hands full inside as the primary shot defender. Richards is relatively less talked about than most of the recruits on this team. He doesn’t get the shine, but he could provide much needed defense inside for the tough SEC big man matchups.

Guard Play

Quade Green, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Jemarl Baker are the guards who will play different roles on the team. All three will have to pull their own weight in relief of Diallo. Baker will be the go-to shot maker from the outside. Alexander will be called upon to run the floor and score with the second group. Green will be expected to run the point alongside Diallo and will have plenty of options to facilitate the basketball.

Kentucky Basketball is in desperate need of a dominant run to the Final Four. Does this class have what it takes to take the state of Kentucky on a memorable trip to win number nine? It’s very likely that the talent level of this class trumps that of every other class up to this point.

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In an all-around game consideration, Kentucky’s 2017 recruiting class has every piece to a championship puzzle. The Wildcats have their impact star players in Knox and Diallo. They also have a workhorse that is willing to do the dirty work in PJ Washington. They have scoring off of the bench in Baker and Alexander along with Gabriel and Killeya-Jones. Additionally, the Wildcats will have solid guard play as well as plenty of options to score the basketball. And finally, defensively, they have a rim protector in Nick Richards and rebounders in Washington and Vanderbilt. I’d say this Kentucky Basketball team will make as strong push at the 2018 NCAA Final Four and possibly the National Title.