November 7, 2012

Another reclassification, and more

It's been a busy week on the recruiting trail so far, and it's only Wednesday. As Kentucky coach John Calipari prepares for the start of the season on Friday against Maryland, here are some storylines that coach must have in the back of his mind.

Senior Search
Much has been made this week of Monday's news that five-star center Dakari Johnson, formerly the number five prospect in the 2014 Rivals150, has reclassified to the senior class of 2013.

Unlike similar reclassification situations Johnson is the age of a typical junior, whereas most reclassified players enter the senior class to avoid a prep school year, so Johnson will be entering college earlier than the average player.

A 6-foot-10 wide-bodied bruiser with excellent touch and a polished low post skill-set, Johnson is one of the premiere prospects in the land, and Rivals Eric Bossi announced via Twitter that Johnson will settle in at no. 13 in the new 2013 Rivals150.

In a press release from Johnson's school, Montverde (Fla.) Academy, the principal announced that not only has Johnson reclassified but that the school and Johnson's mother are working hard on identifying which schools are best suited to land Johnson, who will wait until the spring to sign.

The release went on to mention Kentucky, Florida, Syracuse, Georgetown, and Kansas as schools who stand out to Johnson and his mother right now.

Syracuse seems like a logical landing spot for the big man, as he is originally from New York City, where he was National Freshman of the Year at Newark (N.J.) St. Patrick's Prep.

Also in the Orange's favor is the commitment of fellow five-star, and New Yorker, Chris McCollough, a friend of Johnson's who will join the 'Cuse in the 2014 class.

Georgetown, Florida, and Kentucky also have all seen their names mentioned heavily with Johnson for different reasons.

Florida is an attractive option as they have a star power forward committed in Chris Walker who could compliment Johnson nicely in the post. Gainesville is also just over an hour away from where the Johnson's currently live in Florida.

Georgetown is known for their development of low post players, and is also highly suitable to Johnson academically, as he is a very strong student in the classroom.

Kentucky is not only appealing as a program to Johnson but the 6-foot-10 five-star also has Kentucky roots. Johnson lived in Lexington briefly, and attended the eighth grade at Sayre Junior High.

Fourteen to Go
While he's far from committed anywhere, 2014 five-star forward Stanley Johnson, of Santa Ana (Cal.) did shorten his list on Tuesday.

Johnson included Kentucky in his new list of 15 schools, which he announced via Twitter.

The other fourteen schools on the list of the 6-foot-6 wing forward, who does hold a Kentucky offer, are Syracuse, Arizona, UCLA, USC, Florida, San Diego State, Washington, Stanford, Louisville, North Carolina State, Florida State, UNLV, Oregon and Colorado.

Pick and Roll
The nation's number one junior, with the departure of Andrew Wiggins to the senior class, is now Chicago (Ill.) Whitney Young center Jahlil Okafor.

On Tuesday, the Duke Rivals site, Devils Illustrated, got a chance to talk with Okafor for an exclusive Q&A about his recruitment and relationship with top five prospect Tyus Jones.

In the interview Okafor said that his recruitment is wide open, but that two schools are constantly being brought up by fans, media, and even other college coaches using negative recruiting tactics.

"I don't have a list or anything like that, but in every conversation it seems like Duke comes up or Kentucky comes up," Okafor told Jackson. "I would rather they just focus on what they can do for me and how they would use me instead of telling me what Duke or Kentucky is going to do with me."

Later, when discussing Okafor's friendship with Tyus Jones, something we at Cats Illustrated discussed with Jones in a piece on Monday, Okafor confirmed that the two do plan on going to college as a package deal. Okafor went on to say this of Jones -

"We are still on the same page. It's more than just about basketball with us. My dad and his mom are close friends. Our families are close. I'm really close with his little brother, he's almost like my younger brother. It's more than just basketball with us. Our experience with the USA team just helped us form such a close relationship. I would love to play with him, go to classes with him. It's just more than talk with us."

So far, we are pretty much on the same page. We feel the same way about some of the schools that are recruiting both of us. There isn't a school that he's really high on that I don't like and there's not a school that I really like that he doesn't care for, so basically we're on the same page with that and it's great."

We might sign together. Since we're a package deal, we kind of have to make our commitments together or else everyone will just know where the other one will be going. I know our families will have to sit down and talk about what we want to do when the time comes."

Terps Win One
Former Xavier transfer, Kentucky target, and current Maryland player Dez Wells won his appeal with NCAA on Wednesday, granting him immediate eligibility to play this season.

The NCAA found that the manner in which Wells was dismissed from Xavier was unfair judicially, especially considering the fact that the crime in which the accuser claimed Wells committed was promptly thrown out by the local prosecutor.

Wells visited Kentucky, as well as Memphis, before committing to Maryland just days after leaving Xavier, and before the semester began. The Wells transfers adds just one more chapter to the brewing Kentucky vs Maryland rivalry, which will play out on the court Friday, but has become famous after the recruitment of Andrew Harrison and Aaron Harrison.

More than Meets the Eye
Kentucky commit Derek Willis, a 6-foot-9 combo forward from Mount Washington (Ky.), made Eric Bossi's Wednesday list of ten players who are ranked in the Rivals150 that deserve another look to move up in the rankings.

In the list, which was sorted alphabetically, Bossi said of Willis, " At one point, the thin 6-foot-8 face-up four man was pushing for five-star status. Now, he's on the verge of falling completely out of the rankings. Is he more of the sharp shooting and offensively clever big man with mobility we saw early in his career? Or, is he really more of the player who struggled with his shot, rebounding and physicality when we've seen him most recently?"

Willis will get an early opportunity to avenge his fall in the rankings when his Bullitt East High School team opens the season on November 30th at the Marshall County Hoopfest in Southwestern Kentucky. The event will be attended by all of the top scouting services, including Rivals.com, and should be an opportunity for Willis to play under the microscope again, something he missed out on by skipping AAU this spring and summer.


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