UK Coach John Calipari traveled back home to western Pennsylvania on Sunday to check out under-the-radar 2014 guard Ryan Skovranko.
Calipari was scheduled to see Skovranko earlier this month, but that visit was postponed in the aftermath of Nerlens Noel’s season-ending knee injury.
Skovranko, a 6-foot-7 junior, plays for Lincoln Park Charter in Midland, Pa., which is just a few miles from where Calipari grew up and started his basketball career.
Lincoln Park Coach Mike Bariski said Calipari showed up 30 minutes before the afternoon practice wearing a Pittsburgh Steelers shirt and stayed for the entire two-hour workout.
“It was the best kept secret in Western Pennsylvania,” Bariski said. “We didn’t want a circus.”
Bariski told the Herald-Leader a couple of weeks ago that one of his only knocks on Skovranko is that he doesn’t play hard 100 percent of the time.
Effort wasn’t a problem Sunday.
“He was killin’ yesterday. I said, ‘You play like that all the time and it’ll be hard to beat us,'” Bariski said. “And it was all the kids. You know, Coach Cal comes in the gym and even the JV guys think he’s looking at them. That’s just human nature for kids.”
The Lincoln Park coach said Calipari asked about several of his players after the practice, including 6-9 junior forward Elijah Minnie, 6-0 sophomore guard Antonio Kellum and 6-6 freshman guard Maverick Rowan. Rowan is the team’s leading scorer and the son of former St. John’s and Notre Dame star Ron Rowan.
Bariski expects Calipari’s visit to raise the national profiles of some of those players.
“Just by John Calipari being in the gym looking at whoever, the Division I kids that we do have — their visibility just went up a couple of notches,” he said. “He’s the man. He is absolutely the king of recruiters. So when he comes and looks at somebody, everybody else should take notice too.”
There has already been some expanded interest in Skovranko. Bariski had a phone message from Maryland sitting on his desk shortly after Calipari’s visit became public. “They’ve never called us before,” he said.
Other major programs that have expressed interest in Skovranko include Wisconsin, Pittsburgh, Iowa, West Virginia, Virginia Tech and DePaul.
Calipari first saw Skovranko play last season when he was in the Pittsburgh area to support his own high school coach, Bill Sacco, who had a team in the Western Pennsylvania finals for the first time in his 40-year career.
Sacco’s squad lost that game to Lincoln Park, and Calipari later expressed interest in Skovranko, who is not nationally ranked by any of the major recruiting services.
Skovranko and Lincoln Park play Tuesday night in the Western Pennsylvania semifinals, and a win there would give the team a chance at a repeat in Friday’s championship game.