Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari has been laser-focused on the recruiting trail this year and it paid off in a big way as top-5 prospect Justin Edwards committed to the Wildcats on Monday.
The 6-foot-7, 180-pound small forward from Philadelphia’s Imhotep Academy had his choices down to Big Blue and Tennessee. But the stud showed out at the Peach Jam last week and with Calipari, and assistant Chin Coleman watching while the Vols Rick Barnes was absent it was evident UK had won the battle. Kudos to Orlando Antigua for being the lead recruiter on Edwards.
Edwards is rated as the top small forward and the No. 3 overall prospect in the Class of 2023, according to 247Sports’ composite rankings. He made his decision to wear Kentucky basketball blue and white and not that dreadful orange on CBS Sports HQ Live.
He was asked on CBS after donning the UK hat why he chose Kentucky and what Big Blue Nation would be getting from him.
“It really came down to me following my dreams and playing at the University of Kentucky. I’ll be able to go in and be myself. I can still be able to work on my weaknesses but still play my game. A player with a winning mentality and try to get them back to win national championships.”
Kentucky basketball fans would just like to see this team get past the first round unlike its unexpected departure in the first round this past season to St. Peters.
He is the third player to commit to Kentucky basketball in the 2023 class joining two other 5-star players in top-ranked point guard Robert Dillingham from Donda Academy in Simi Valley, California, and in-state North Laurel star Reed Sheppard, son of former Cat Jeff Sheppard.
The three players play different positions and bring different games to Kentucky.
Dillingham, at 6-foot-2, 165- pounds, is fun to watch and very savvy and creative running the offense and just seems to have a smooth and natural feel for the game. He can put on quite a show consistently making tough plays and knocking-down shots he now has a pair of shooters and playmakers beside him in Sheppard and Edwards.
Sheppard, a 6-foot-3, 170-pound combo guard can flat out fill it up from almost anywhere on the floor confident, focused, and very smooth with the ball.
But with his decision looming ahead, Edwards preceded the announcement at the Peach Jam by averaging 16.3 points, seven rebounds, and three steals spanning six games with the Philadelphia-based Team Final.
His team fell just short in the tournament by three points to Team Durant last Friday. But Edwards’ talents were on full display dropping in 24 points on 57-percent shooting, snarred 10 rebounds, and had four steals in 33 minutes.
The Kentucky coaches had gone hard after Edwards since last fall with Calipari and coaches visiting him in Philadelphia in September and October and then offered him a scholarship in November all the while he was considering Kansas, Auburn, Villanova, Maryland, and even the G-League.
Bringing in Edwards, Dillingham, and Sheppard shows that Calipari has that swag and mojo back of going hard after players he wants.
There could be a few more announcements coming soon stay tuned as Coach Cal looks to add to his 5-star collection.