UK’s top recruiting targets in the class of 2019
John Calipari

John Calipari

John Calipari and the UK coaching staff got off to an earlier-than-usual start with basketball recruits from the class of 2019, and it looks like this will be an especially strong group of prospects nationally.

“It’s definitely pretty early, but this class looks pretty good. It looks pretty deep,” Scout.com’s Evan Daniels told the Herald-Leader in February. “The 2018 class just lacks depth and isn’t very good overall. The 2019 class — it already has developed some star power and it appears to have good depth — so I think it’s going to be the next really good one.”

Click on a name below for more information on the players already on UK’s radar for the class of 2019, and check this page throughout the year for regular updates and additions to Calipari’s priority list for the class.

Cole Anthony

The son of former NBA point guard Greg Anthony is already regarded as the No. 1 point guard in the recruiting class of 2019. Coaches from UK, Duke, UCLA, Kansas, Indiana and several other major college programs have visited him in recent months. Anthony played on the Nike EYBL circuit as a rising sophomore and was teammates with UK signee Quade Green and top recruit Mohamed Bamba, and he’s a high school teammate of five-star center Moses Brown. “Cole is a pretty dynamic guard in that 2019 class,” Scout.com recruiting analyst Evan Daniels told the Herald-Leader. “I think he has a lot of combo guard to him. Right now, and especially on his high school team, he’s looked at as more of a scorer. And that’s kind of his mentality. He’s aggressive off the dribble and looks to drive the ball, but he can also make some jump shots. I think what is clear about Cole — and this goes with the pedigree of his dad being Greg Anthony — is he’s a confident kid. And he’s clearly been taught the game of basketball.”

Position: Point guard
Height: 6-1
Weight: 180
Hometown: Briarwood, N.Y.
High school: Archbishop Molloy
Travel team: PSA Cardinals (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 7
Scout ranking: No. 23
ESPN ranking: No. 17
247 ranking: No. 11
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Bryan Antoine

Antoine is one of two five-star recruits from New Jersey’s Ranney School — along with small forward Scottie Lewis — and John Calipari has already watched the duo multiple times. Antoine is one of the top shooters in the class and picked up early scholarship offers from Kansas, Villanova, Florida, UConn, Maryland and others, with the Gators forming an especially strong relationship with him at the beginning of the recruiting process. Scout.com’s Evan Daniels spoke to the Herald-Leader about Antoine after Calipari watched him play in February: “I don’t like comparing these high school kids to elite-level NBA players — because I don’t want to put those type of expectations on them — but, that said, there’s a little Ray Allen to his game. He plays similar to him, and his strengths are similar. He can really make shots. He has good form and shot mechanics. He’s a confident shooter. And it’s not just catch-and-shoot threes. He can go one, two dribbles and pull up. … He’s one of the best shooter-scorers I’ve seen in that class.”

Position: Shooting guard
Height: 6-5
Weight: 180
Hometown: Tinton Falls, N.J.
High school: Ranney School
Travel team: Team Rio (Under Armour)
Rivals ranking: No. 7
Scout ranking: No. 11
ESPN ranking: No. 17
247 ranking: No. 11
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RJ Barrett

Barrett enters the spring/summer schedule as the No. 1 player in the class of 2019, according to every major recruiting service. The Canada native plays for Montverde Academy in Florida — led by Kevin Boyle, the former coach of ex-Cats Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Dakari Johnson — and UK is among many top schools showing early interest in Barrett. John Calipari watched him play in January, and Tony Barbee has also seen him multiple times. Barrett can score from anywhere on the court, passes the ball well and projects as an exceptional perimeter defender down the road. He’ll likely have all of the nation’s top programs pursuing his commitment.

Position: Small forward
Height: 6-7
Weight: 180
Hometown: Mississauga, Ont.
High school: Montverde Academy (Fla.)
Travel team: UPlay Canada (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 1
Scout ranking: No. 1
ESPN ranking: No. 1
247 ranking: No. 1
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Charles Bassey

Bassey — a native of Nigeria now living in Texas — visit UK last summer, and the Wildcats are expected to be players in his recruitment. The 6-11 post player missed the beginning of his sophomore season due to an eligibility flap, but returned to the court a few weeks later and has continued to display the inside skills that make him arguably the best big-man prospect in the 2019 class. Bassey has said that he models his game after former UK star Anthony Davis. He has also said that Western Kentucky is among the schools he’s been most impressed with early in his recruiting process.

Position: Power forward
Height: 6-10
Weight: 220
Hometown: San Antonio
High school: St. Anthony Catholic
Travel team: Yes II Success (Adidas)
Rivals ranking: No. 2
Scout ranking: No. 2
ESPN ranking: No. 4
247 ranking: No. 7
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Christian Brown

Brown was one of the youngest recruits in attendance for UK’s Big Blue Madness event last fall, and Wildcats assistant Joel Justus visited him at his high school a couple of months later. The South Carolina wing is a high-motor, elite athlete and already accomplished on the offensive end. Kansas, North Carolina and Florida are among the many schools already showing interest in his recruitment.

Position: Small forward
Height: 6-6
Weight: 200
Hometown: Columbia, S.C.
High school: A.C. Flora
Travel team: Georgia Stars (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 10
Scout ranking: No. 13
ESPN ranking: No. 10
247 ranking: No. 15
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Vernon Carey

Carey is the son of the former Miami Dolphins offensive lineman of the same name, a longtime professional football player who played for the Miami Hurricanes before being selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. The younger Carey has emerged as one of the very best players in the basketball class of 2019, and he visited UK last fall with high school teammate Balsa Koprivica — another five-star player in the 2019 class. Carey is a big-bodied post player who can also play away from the basket and looks to be one of the best rebounders in the class. Many of the nation’s top programs are already recruiting him, including his father’s alma mater.

Position: Power forward
Height: 6-9
Weight: 245
Hometown: Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
High school: University School
Travel team: Nike Team Florida (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 3
Scout ranking: No. 6
ESPN ranking: No. 2
247 ranking: No. 2
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Ashton Hagans

Hagans visited UK for Big Blue Madness last fall along with Christian Brown — his teammate on the Nike circuit. Hagans is one of the top point guards (and floor leaders) in the 2019 class and has early scholarship offers from several Southeastern Conference programs. UK coaches have already seen him a couple of times since his Big Blue Madness visit, so the Wildcats are certainly interested in staying involved with his recruitment.

Position: Point guard
Height: 6-3
Weight: 195
Hometown: Covington, Ga.
High school: Newton
Travel team: Georgia Stars (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 35
Scout ranking: No. 19
ESPN ranking: Not ranked
247 ranking: No. 18
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Matthew Hurt

Hurt is one of the most highly recruited players in the 2019 class, and there’s been a show of mutual interest between the talented forward and Kentucky’s coaching staff. Hurt is 6-9 and effective in the post, but he’s being groomed as a perimeter player at the college level, and he has the ability to shoot the ball and defend multiple positions. UK assistant coach Joel Justus attended one of his games during the high school season. Duke, Kansas, North Carolina and Louisville are among the many other major programs recruiting him.

Position: Power forward
Height: 6-9
Weight: 200
Hometown: Rochester, Minn.
High school: John Marshall
Travel team: D1 Minnesota (Adidas)
Rivals ranking: No. 6
Scout ranking: No. 10
ESPN ranking: No. 7
247 ranking: No. 9
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DJ Jeffries

Jeffries, who has early offers from Kansas and several others, fits the “positionless” descriptor that John Calipari has been pushing on the recruiting trail lately. Calipari himself visited Jeffries in the fall, and the Memphis-area standout can do a little of everything offensively while possessing the length and athleticism to be a solid perimeter defender as his game matures.

Position: Small forward
Height: 6-7
Weight: 190
Hometown: Olive Branch, Miss.
High school: Olive Branch
Travel team: Team Thad (Under Armour)
Rivals ranking: No. 8
Scout ranking: No. 5
ESPN ranking: No. 6
247 ranking: No. 13
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David Johnson

The state of Kentucky looks like it will have several talented, nationally recruited players in the class of 2019, and Johnson appears to be the one getting the most attention outside the Bluegrass so far. Coaches from Kentucky, Louisville, Indiana and Xavier have stopped by Trinity to see Johnson during his sophomore season, and several other colleges have already made contact. A dynamic, versatile guard, Johnson can get it done on both ends of the court and likely will be a Top 100 national recruit as the 2019 rankings expand and this recruiting cycle progresses.

Position: Guard
Height: 6-4
Weight: 175
Hometown: Louisville
High school: Trinity
Travel team: Louisville Magic (Adidas)
Rivals ranking: Not ranked
Scout ranking: No. 49
ESPN ranking: Not ranked
247 ranking: Not ranked
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Balsa Koprivica

A Serbia native, Koprivica is a high school teammate of fellow top-10 2019 recruit Vernon Carey and has shown some early interest in Kentucky. 247Sports national analyst Jerry Meyer wrote that “Karl Anthony Towns immediately came to mind” when he first watched Koprivica play. The 7-footer — now living in Florida — is the son of Serbian basketball great Slavisa Koprivica and has a highly versatile game for his size. Louisville, Florida and UConn were all quick to extend scholarship offers.

Position: Center
Height: 7-0
Weight: 240
Hometown: Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
High school: University School
Travel team: Nike Team Florida (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 4
Scout ranking: No. 3
ESPN ranking: No. 11
247 ranking: No. 4
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Scottie Lewis

Lewis — a consensus top-10 player in the 2019 class — is a teammate of fellow UK target Bryan Antoine and has already been seen multiple times by the Wildcats’ coaches. “Scottie is a ridiculous athlete,” Scout.com’s Evan Daniels told the Herald-Leader. “He plays the game so hard, and he’s got good size and length. He’s really good in transition. He has the potential to be a really good defender and defend multiple spots.” Kansas, Florida, Villanova and Maryland are among a number of schools that have already expressed heavy interest in Lewis’ recruitment.

Position: Small forward
Height: 6-5
Weight: 185
Hometown: Tinton Falls, N.J.
High school: Ranney School
Travel team: Team Rio (Under Armour)
Rivals ranking: No. 5
Scout ranking: No. 4
ESPN ranking: No. 13
247 ranking: No. 6
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Josh Nickelberry

UK reached out to Nickelberry during his sophomore season, a few weeks after the talented shooting guard picked up a scholarship offer from home-state North Carolina. Nickelberry has point guard skills, so he projects as a versatile backcourt player at the next level. He’s an exceptional outside shooter and is likely to rise in the recruiting rankings as the 2019 cycle continues.

Position: Shooting guard
Height: 6-4
Weight: 175
Hometown: Fayetteville, N.C.
High school: Trinity Christian
Travel team: Georgia Stars (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 58
Scout ranking: No. 52
ESPN ranking: Not ranked
247 ranking: No. 48
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Trendon Watford

Watford is the younger brother of Christian Watford — known by UK fans as the Indiana Hoosier who beat the 2011-12 Wildcats with a buzzer-beater in Bloomington. The younger Watford visited Lexington for Big Blue Madness as a sophomore and projects as a highly versatile forward in this 2019 class. UK, Duke and Indiana are all schools that have shown some early interest in his recruitment.

Position: Small forward
Height: 6-8
Weight: 210
Hometown: Mountain Brook, Ala.
High school: Mountain Brook
Travel team: Alabama Challenge (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 14
Scout ranking: No. 12
ESPN ranking: No. 5
247 ranking: No. 16
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