How much did James Young enjoy his first trip to Lexington?
So much so that the five-star recruit could be back in town next weekend for Big Blue Madness.
“Great visit, great visit,” said Young’s godfather, Sean Mahone. “We were able to witness firsthand the quality of the facilities and the entirety of the program. It’s clear why they are so successful. All of the things we read about, all of the things they verbalized to us when they came to visit, the things that we’d seen on TV — we were able to see firsthand.
“We were impressed with every facet of it.”
Mahone told the Herald-Leader that Young is planning to visit Michigan State “within the next week” and then the family would sit down and assess his recruitment. Young, the No. 5 recruit in 2013 according to ESPN, is also considering Syracuse and Kansas.
The UK visit and the upcoming trip to Michigan State are classified as “unofficial visits,” which means the recruit has to pay his own way. For a prospect to make an official visit, he must first provide the college with an academic transcript and proof that he has taken a college-entrance exam.
Mahone shot down reports implying that Young has not yet met those qualifications.
“There’s a lot of speculation as to whether he’s eligible to take an official visit. He certainly can take an official visit,” he said. “We’re going to start getting these officials going.”
Mahone said the family used unofficial visits for UK and Michigan State because both were close to their home in Rochester, Mich.
If Young comes to Lexington for Big Blue Madness, it will be as an official visit. Mahone said that trip was a possibility but that UK isn’t the only school trying to get him on campus for that date.
“Everybody’s asking to visit on that weekend. Not just Kentucky,” Mahone said. “Every school is asking us to visit on their big night.”
Mahone also left open the possibility that Young could make a commitment in the next few weeks, before even getting a chance to see the other schools on his list.
“If the fit is there, we aren’t afraid to move forward and make a decision,” he said. “We have always believed that we would take time and the process would be extended due to the fact that we had hoped to be able to visit the schools during the seasons and watch the games. However, if there’s a clear choice, we are not afraid to go ahead and make a decision.”
So what made Young’s first visit to UK so great?
Young got along great with the current players. “And all of those guys are really nice guys,” Mahone said. He called the new Wildcat Coal Lodge “first class” and was impressed with the proximity to the practice facility and classroom buildings. He also said the family got to spend “a lot of quality time” with John Calipari and his coaching staff.
One aspect of the visit that stuck out was the UK fans. Mahone said Young didn’t really expect to be recognized. That changed as soon as he got to Commonwealth Stadium for the UK-South Carolina football game.
“There were different times throughout the night where it was clear that he was recognized as one of the top recruits,” he said. “And that was fun for him and I’m sure it was fun for the students as well.
“James is so unassuming and very laid back. Going into it, his excitement was really around getting an opportunity to see the campus and see the program. He didn’t know that students were aware of his arrival and might even recognize him and be excited to see him. But he was flattered. He was excited about it and appreciative of it.”
Mahone said the family also appreciated the time and attention from Calipari, who came to Rochester for an in-home visit with Young last month. The UK coach reiterated that Young is “an integral part of their strategy for 2013” and “would fit in nicely with all of the players they’re recruiting.”
Mahone said that’s another misconception about Young’s interest in UK. Some recruiting analysts have speculated that the 6-foot-6 wing would not pick Kentucky if backcourt players such as Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison and Andrew Wiggins were also expected to commit there.
Not only did Mahone say that wasn’t true, he said the possibility of teaming up with players of that caliber would increase UK’s chances.
“If you are very confident in your basketball abilities, you’re not going to run from competition,” he said. “And I think people who know James recognize that he’s a very confident player. But the other thing about James is he’s so unselfish and one of James’ goals is to go to a team that has an opportunity to win a championship.
“And one of the things that James will tell you is that who he plays with his critical. Because wherever he decides to go, he really wants to have a legitimate opportunity to win a national championship. And you can’t do that unless you have quality players around you.
“He looks at all of those guys as giving him an opportunity to achieve one of his goals. He respects their game. … If that’s where he goes, he would be going there because he would be excited about the caliber of players he would be playing with.”