UK’s top recruiting targets in the class of 2020

Ace Baldwin

Baldwin has already visited Kentucky — coming to campus a few weeks after his sophomore season — and he’s a member of the same travel team that formerly featured Immanuel Quickley, a McDonald’s All-American and one of UK’s top signees in the 2018 recruiting class. Baldwin doesn’t quite have the size of Quickley, but he’s similarly suited to run a team on both ends of the floor. Miami, UConn and Georgetown are among the many schools that offered Baldwin early in the process, and he’s been hearing from Kansas, North Carolina and Villanova, among others.

Position: Point guard
Height: 6-1
Weight: 155
Hometown: Baltimore, Md.
High school: St. Frances
Travel team: Team BBC (Adidas)
Rivals ranking: No. 85
ESPN ranking: Not ranked
247 ranking: No. 140
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Scottie Barnes

Barnes — a high school and Nike league teammate of top 2019 recruit Vernon Carey — was the first prospect in the class of 2020 to land a scholarship offer from Kentucky. “It’s a big thing to me, getting an offer from one of the best coaches that will ever coach. For him to offer me, it’s a blessing,” Barnes told the Herald-Leader at the time. The athletic, high energy, team-first player was a first-team sophomore all-American last season, according to MaxPreps.com, and he continued to excel as one of the younger stars on the Nike circuit this past spring. His recruitment is expected to be a battle of the bluebloods until the end.

Position: Small forward
Height: 6-8
Weight: 210
Hometown: West Palm Beach, Fla.
High school: University School
Travel team: Team Florida (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 2
ESPN ranking: No. 2
247 ranking: No. 4
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Jaemyn Brakefield

Brakefield made an impression on UK’s coaches early in the recruiting process, and the Cats will be able to keep close tabs with him playing at Huntington Prep just across the Kentucky-West Virginia border. The versatile forward, who was born in Wisconsin and later moved to Mississippi, has already visited Lexington for Big Blue Madness, and he’ll be a target of many of the nation’s best programs moving forward. Brakefield averaged 19.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game as a sophomore.

Position: Power forward
Height: 6-8
Weight: 205
Hometown: Jackson, Miss.
High school: Huntington Prep (W.Va.)
Travel team: Louisiana Elite (Under Armour)
Rivals ranking: No. 18
ESPN ranking: No. 18
247 ranking: No. 20
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Josh Christopher

UK often takes it slow with West Coast prospects — trying to get a feel for their chances before going all in on such long-distance recruitments — so it’s telling of Christopher’s talents that he’s been one of the first players in the 2020 class to hear from the Cats. He’s clearly one of the best prospects nationally in this group, averaging 25.9 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.0 steals and 3.6 assists per game as a high school sophomore and picking up some impressive offers early in the process. Christopher is a long, athletic wing that projects as a dynamic playmaker at the next level.

Position: Shooting guard
Height: 6-4
Weight: 200
Hometown: Bellflower, Calif.
High school: Mayfair
Travel team: Las Vegas Prospects (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 12
ESPN ranking: No. 9
247 ranking: No. 12
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Cade Cunningham

UK has had plenty of recruiting success in the state of Texas in recent cycles, and Cunningham could be the Cats’ latest major target from that area of the country. He’s listed at 6-5 and has good size for a wing player, but he also excels at making those around him better with his unselfish playmaking ability. If his outside shot continues to improve, Cunningham could end up as a consensus top-10 recruit in the 2020 class. He averaged 18.8 points, 8.4 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game as a high school sophomore.

Position: Shooting guard
Height: 6-5
Weight: 185
Hometown: Arlington, Texas
High school: Montverde Academy (Fla.)
Travel team: Drive Nation (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 15
ESPN ranking: No. 12
247 ranking: No. 9
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N’Faly Dante

The second player from this class to land a confirmed scholarship offer from UK, Dante has established himself as one of the top big men in high school basketball. The Mali native — now playing high school ball in Kansas — averaged 13 points and 10 rebounds per game while playing a national schedule as a sophomore. He’s been one of the most talked about prospects on the Nike circuit this spring, among the league leaders in both rebounding and shot blocking.

Position: Center
Height: 6-10
Weight: 225
Home country: Mali
High school: Sunrise Christian (Kan.)
Travel team: Mokan Elite (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 5
ESPN ranking: No. 13
247 ranking: No. 15
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Hunter Dickinson

Dickinson plays for D.C.-area hoops power DeMatha Catholic and has already built a reputation as one of the best post players in the 2020 class. He was one of only two players from his class to earn an invitation to the USA Basketball U18 training camp in June, and — though he ultimately didn’t make the final squad — he did hold his own against some of the best players from the 2018 and 2019 classes. Dickinson is more of a throwback center — listed at 7-2 and with the ability to throw his body around in the paint — but UK is keeping tabs on him early. He averaged 16.3 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game for DeMatha as a sophomore, earning national second-team honors in his age group from MaxPreps.com.

Position: Center
Height: 7-2
Weight: 255
Hometown: Hyattsville, Md.
High school: DeMatha Catholic
Travel team: Team Takeover (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 17
ESPN ranking: No. 21
247 ranking: No. 25
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Noah Farrakhan

A teammate of top-10 recruits Vernon Carey and Scottie Barnes on the Nike circuit, Farrakhan is a flashy point guard from New Jersey who doesn’t lack for confidence on the court. The athletic playmaker also knows former UK guard Isaiah Briscoe from his Jersey days, and he’ll definitely be one to watch as the 2020 cycle progresses. UK reached out to him in June, shortly after the first day that college coaches were allowed to start contacting 2020 prospects directly.

Position: Point guard
Height: 6-1
Weight: 160
Hometown: Newark, N.J.
High school: IMG Academy (Fla.)
Travel team: Team Florida (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 36
ESPN ranking: No. 36
247 ranking: No. 71
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Xavier Foster

UK’s coaching staff has shown an early interest in Foster, a highly skilled power forward who early on emerged as a major recruit in Big Ten country and will likely evolve into a highly coveted player among top programs around the nation. Home-state Iowa has been on him hard and will continue to recruit him heavily, but Foster is seemingly in no hurry to make a college decision.

Position: Power forward
Height: 6-9
Weight: 215
Hometown: Oskaloosa, Iowa
High school: Oskaloosa
Travel team: Pure Prep (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 23
ESPN ranking: No. 30
247 ranking: No. 30
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Jalen Green

Heading into the summer, Green had emerged as the No. 1 prospect in the class in the composite rankings. MaxPreps.com named him the national sophomore of the year following last season, when he averaged 27.9 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. All of the top Pac-12 programs will be on him hard, but Kentucky has also made early contact, and UK assistant coach Joel Justus watched him with the USA Basketball U17 squad in Argentina in July. He’s an explosive offensive player who’s still working on his outside shooting and projects a solid defender at the next level.

Position: Shooting guard
Height: 6-5
Weight: 170
Hometown: Fresno, Calif.
High school: San Joaquin Memorial
Travel team: EBO (Adidas)
Rivals ranking: No. 1
ESPN ranking: No. 3
247 ranking: No. 3
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RJ Hampton

Regarded as the best point guard in the 2020 class, Hampton is another dynamic playmaker from Texas whose recruitment will likely turn into a battle of the bluebloods. Already one of the top players on the Under Armour circuit despite having two years of high school remaining, he averaged 30 points, eight rebounds and six assists per game as a sophomore. Duke, Memphis and Kansas are among his early scholarship offers, and Kentucky has been tracking him for a while. There had also been buzz in recruiting circles that he could ultimately transfer to the 2019 class, though he has said he’s staying put in 2020.

Position: Point guard
Height: 6-4
Weight: 180
Hometown: Little Elm, Texas
High school: Little Elm
Travel team: Team Mudiay (Under Armour)
Rivals ranking: No. 4
ESPN ranking: No. 7
247 ranking: No. 7
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Jalen Johnson

One of the first 2020 prospects to pop on UK’s radar, Johnson actually visited Lexington for Big Blue Madness early in his sophomore year. He went on to average 18.6 points and 9.9 rebounds per game this past season. A smart, versatile player, Johnson is picking up major scholarship offers on a regular basis and is definitely a candidate to land a Kentucky offer later this year. Home-state Wisconsin will likely be among his favorites until the end.

Position: Small forward
Height: 6-7
Weight: 210
Hometown: Sun Prairie, Wis.
High school: Nicolet
Travel team: Phenom U (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 9
ESPN ranking: No. 4
247 ranking: No. 6
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Walker Kessler

UK hosted Kessler for a recruiting visit last fall, and he followed up a stellar sophomore season — 17.4 points, 10.4 rebounds and 3.8 blocks per game — with sustained excellence on the spring travel circuit. He was widely considered to be one of the top performers at the annual NBA Top 100 camp in June, despite being a class younger than many of the competitors. Kessler has strong ties to home-state Georgia — his father, uncle and brother were all Bulldogs — but his recruitment is expected to go national as he continues to cement his status as one of the best bigs in the 2020 class.

Position: Center
Height: 6-11
Weight: 220
Hometown: College Park, Ga.
High school: Woodward Academy
Travel team: Game Elite (Adidas)
Rivals ranking: No. 19
ESPN ranking: No. 23
247 ranking: No. 14
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Ethan Morton

John Calipari often visits with local stars when he makes trips to his family home near Pittsburgh, and Morton is the latest in that line of players. Though the UK coach doesn’t always continue to recruit the Pittsburgh-area prospects he scouts, Morton could turn out to be a longterm UK target. He’s a versatile guard with a lot of length on the perimeter and continues to rack up major scholarship offers. Morton was a 33-percent three-point shooter on the Nike circuit this spring.

Position: Shooting guard
Height: 6-4
Weight: 195
Hometown: Butler, Pa.
High school: Butler
Travel team: New York Rens (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 47
ESPN ranking: No. 43
247 ranking: No. 78
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Jeremy Roach

One of the first players to hear from UK’s coaching staff after the June 15 date that allowed colleges to reach out to 2020 prospects, Roach is shaping up to be one of the Wildcats’ top targets moving forward. He averaged 15.2 points per game for Paul VI (Va.), a perennial contender in the D.C. area, and he played a contributing role for the undefeated Team Takeover during the Nike spring season. Roach has drawn comparisons to NBA legend Chris Paul with his play this summer, and he’s clearly one of the top point guard prospects in the country, regardless of class.

Position: Point guard
Height: 6-2
Weight: 170
Hometown: Fairfax, Va.
High school: Paul VI
Travel team: Team Takeover (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 16
ESPN ranking: No. 17
247 ranking: No. 11
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Jaden Springer

Springer played a game in Lexington with his high school team last season, and he took advantage of that opportunity to make an early recruiting visit to UK. His high school coach is a Kentucky native and former support staff member at UK under Tubby Smith. Springer told the Herald-Leader last year that a UK offer would be big. “It’s something I want,” he said with a grin. “That’s one of the biggest schools in America so that would be great for me if I could get an offer from there.” Springer averaged 24.7 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.4 steals and 2.4 blocks per game as a sophomore. His offer sheet continues to grow.

Position: Combo guard
Height: 6-4
Weight: 190
Hometown: Charlotte, N.C.
High school: IMG Academy (Fla.)
Travel team: B. Maze Elite (Under Armour)
Rivals ranking: No. 13
ESPN ranking: No. 10
247 ranking: No. 23
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Jalen Suggs

Not only is Suggs one of the best basketball prospects in the 2020 class, he’s also a standout on the football field. The Minnesota native is one of the top 10 quarterbacks in the 2020 class, and his early scholarship offers on the gridiron include one from Ohio State. He’s also one of the best backcourt players in the country, and — though he says he hasn’t decided which sport will be his primary area of focus in the future — he’s likely to land offers from many of the country’s top basketball schools.

Position: Combo guard
Height: 6-4
Weight: 185
Hometown: Minneapolis, Minn.
High school: Minnehaha Academy
Travel team: Grassroots Sizzle (Under Armour)
Rivals ranking: No. 10
ESPN ranking: No. 11
247 ranking: No. 8
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Isaiah Todd

Very early in the 2020 cycle, Todd was considered to be the No. 1 player in the class. His ranking has dropped a tad since then, but he’s still regarded as one of the very best players in the country and will likely be among the most coveted recruits in this group. UK started scouting him before his sophomore season — not many get that much early attention from the Cats — and he went on to average 18.6 points and 6.5 rebounds per game as a sophomore, leading his team to a Virginia state title. He’ll play this coming season for a team in North Carolina, and he’s one of the most talented offensive frontcourt players in the country.

Position: Power forward
Height: 6-9
Weight: 195
Hometown: Richmond, Va.
High school: Trinity (N.C.)
Travel team: Team Loaded (Adidas)
Rivals ranking: No. 8
ESPN ranking: No. 8
247 ranking: No. 18
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