Kentucky Basketball Recruiting: Early Wish List for Class of 2015 Prospects
Is it possible to be looking too far ahead by creating a wish list for Kentucky's recruiting class for 2015? More than likely, but if Kentucky head coach John Calipari is already getting commitments from players, then we can take a look at it.
The Wildcats already have a commitment from the No. 12 player in the class in Charles Matthews from Chicago. Matthews is a 6'6" shooting guard that can do a little bit of everything and has been compared to players like Bradley Beal, Gary Harris, Evan Turner and even Paul Pierce.
Much like every other year under Calipari, Kentucky is recruiting the best of the best in the class of 2015. We'll take a look at some of these players and what the ultimate wish list should be for Big Blue Nation.
Stephen Zimmerman will be the gem of the class of 2015. The Las Vegas native is a true 7-footer who can play both inside the paint and from 18 feet out.
Zimmerman is being recruited by the biggest names in the country, with Arizona, Duke and North Carolina all in the mix for the big man. Zimmerman, though, fits the profile of bigs that Calipari likes to recruit. His versatility allows Calipari to play him at both the power forward and center positions, pending on matchups.
Zimmerman runs the floor extremely well for a player his size and is strong on the defensive side of the ball, too. One of his only weaknesses is the fact he isn't as strong as most players his size. He would make a nice complement to Marcus Lee or Dakari Johnson if those players return for their junior years.
Expect Calipari and Kentucky to stay in the mix for him, and if he commits to Kentucky expect him to be the next great shot-blocker under Calipari.
Carlton Bragg is another big guy who is expected to be heavily recruited by Kentucky until he makes a commitment. The 6'9" power forward from Cleveland is currently ranked as the No. 11 recruit by ESPN and also has offers from schools like Louisville, Kansas, Ohio State and UCLA.
Bragg is a strong athlete with the ability to stretch the defense by hitting jumpers from 20 feet out. He is also very mobile and can take his slower defenders off the dribble to attack the rim. Much like Zimmerman, he has a ton of coordination for someone his size, which results in being a great rebounder and shot-blocker.
Bragg is coming off an injury-plagued season, which saw him miss time due to a broken toe. While that's not expected to slow him during his senior year, his injuries are something to keep an eye on for coaches.
Now that the wish list for big men in the class of 2015 has been addressed, it's time to talk about the all-important guard. Malik Newman, hailing from Mississippi, is a dynamic scorer who has college coaches drooling over his game.
While Newman is small for his shooting guard position at 6'3", he has the ability to bypass defenders thanks to his quick first step and ability to get quickly off the floor. However, defenders have to pick their poison with Newman, as he has range that goes well beyond the three-point line.
Newman is the second player from Mississippi that Kentucky has recruited heavily in as many years, with Devin Booker signing with Kentucky in the class of 2014. Newman would provide Calipari with a scorer from the wing with the possibility of transforming him into a point guard, similar to what Calipari and staff did with Eric Bledsoe.
While Zimmerman might be the gem of the class due to his size—as there just aren't that many 7'0" players in college basketball—Newman very well could go down as the best player in the class. Expect Kentucky to be in constant contact with him, as every big name program in the country is expected to be in the mix for Newman.
The Names You Know
The class of 2015 doesn't have to be just those graduating from high school. It'll be extremely vital for Calipari and staff to keep a couple of players from next year's team to spend another year in Lexington.
The first important player, and the one I believe most likely to return, is point guard Tyler Ulis. He's a McDonald's All-American point guard who is entering his freshman year, and his ability to distribute the ball and keep defenders honest would be a perfect fit with those players we talked about already.
The most important player to return, though, would be Alex Poythress. The Tennessee native is returning for his junior year, so why not make it a full four years and continue to grow as a player under Calipari? More importantly, he would provide veteran leadership, much like Darius Miller did for the 2012 national title team.
Then comes the question of who returns from a loaded frontcourt in 2014. With Dakari Johnson, Willie Cauley-Stein, Marcus Lee, Karl Towns and Trey Lyles all on the roster, there will be a fight for minutes to do enough in the stat box to draw attention from NBA scouts. It's vital for two players to return from that list, with my guess being Lee and Towns as the two who return. Those two also make a perfect pair to play another year due to Lee's limited offensive game, i.e. he can dunk, while Towns can stretch the floor with his jump shot.