UK’s top recruiting targets in the class of 2020

Scottie Barnes

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Barnes — a high school and Nike league teammate of former UK target Vernon Carey — was the very first player in the class of 2020 to land a scholarship offer from Kentucky, which extended that offer while he was still a sophomore in high school. “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 summer. Barnes will continue to battle for the No. 1 spot in the 2020 rankings, and Kentucky will have plenty of competition for his commitment.

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. 4
ESPN ranking: No. 4
247 ranking: No. 3
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Brandon Boston

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A standout player on the Nike circuit this past summer, Boston has emerged as one of the best perimeter prospects in the 2020 class, and the early attention has included several top scholarship offers. He is one of the top scorers in high school basketball and has considerable range, shooting better than 40 percent on his three-point attempts during Nike play. Duke has been seen by many analysts as a possible early favorite for Boston, who is also getting a ton of interest from several SEC programs.

Position: Shooting guard
Height: 6-6
Weight: 175
Hometown: Atlanta, Ga.
High school: Norcross
Travel team: AOT Rebels (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 7
ESPN ranking: No. 7
247 ranking: No. 12
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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. (There has also been talk that Brakefield could eventually reclassify to 2019, though a final decision on that is unlikely to come until the summer).

Position: Power forward
Height: 6-8
Weight: 205
Hometown: Jackson, Miss.
High school: Huntington Prep (W.Va.)
Travel team: Phenom U (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 30
ESPN ranking: No. 17
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 was 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. 9
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Sharife Cooper

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The second point guard in the 2020 class to land a UK scholarship offer, Cooper was one of the most dynamic prospects on the Nike circuit this past summer despite being a year behind most of the top players in that league. He was named the Nike EYBL offensive player of the year after averaging 20.9 points, 6.7 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 1.4 steals while running the point for the highest-scoring team in league history. Cooper landed his UK scholarship offer during a recruiting visit to Lexington in September. Fellow SEC program Auburn might end up being the Cats’ top competition for the talented playmaker.

Position: Point guard
Height: 6-0
Weight: 160
Hometown: Powder Springs, Ga.
High school: McEachern
Travel team: AOT Rebels (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 16
ESPN ranking: No. 21
247 ranking: No. 19
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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 and now plays for prep powerhouse Montverde Academy (Fla.).

Position: Shooting guard
Height: 6-5
Weight: 185
Hometown: Arlington, Texas
High school: Montverde Academy (Fla.)
Travel team: Drive Nation (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 10
ESPN ranking: No. 10
247 ranking: No. 8
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N’Faly Dante

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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 was one of the most talked about prospects on the Nike circuit this past summer, averaging 13.7 points and 9.1 rebounds per game while finishing among the league leaders in blocked shots. There has been talk that Dante could ultimately reclassify to 2019 and play college basketball next season.

Position: Center
Height: 6-10
Weight: 225
Home country: Mali
High school: Sunrise Christian (Kan.)
Travel team: Mokan Elite (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 8
ESPN ranking: No. 15
247 ranking: No. 14
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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 last 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. 27
ESPN ranking: No. 27
247 ranking: No. 23
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Cam’Ron Fletcher

Fletcher is an elite athlete whose game is just starting to fill out, and he caught the eye of John Calipari while playing against UK signee Tyrese Maxey at a marquee recruiting event in November. Michigan State, Ohio State and UCLA were among the major programs to extend scholarship offers relatively early in the recruiting process, and Kentucky and others will continue to keep tabs on the St. Louis native as his game continues to grow.

Position: Small forward
Height: 6-6
Weight: 180
Hometown: St. Louis, Mo.
High school: Vashon
Travel team: Brad Beal Elite (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 38
ESPN ranking: No. 31
247 ranking: No. 51
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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. Rivals.com national analyst Eric Bossi said Foster reminded him of a young Willie Cauley-Stein after evaluating him midway through his junior season, and he’s now listed in the 7-foot range after growing a few inches over the past year or so.

Position: Power forward
Height: 7-0
Weight: 225
Hometown: Oskaloosa, Iowa
High school: Oskaloosa
Travel team: Pure Prep (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 24
ESPN ranking: No. 30
247 ranking: No. 31
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Dawson Garcia

In a recruiting class that’s a bit light on impact post players, Garcia is establishing himself as one of the best in the 2020 group. He was already a highly touted prospect coming into his junior season, and he’s continued to build his reputation with a stellar showing for his Minnesota high school team. The former Adidas league teammate of five-star 2019 recruit Matthew Hurt is a major Minnesota target, but lots of other top programs will be clamoring for his commitment over the next several months. UK assistant coach Joel Justus made a special trip to see Garcia in January, and he will be a legitimate Wildcats recruiting target moving forward.

Position: Power forward
Height: 6-10
Weight: 200
Hometown: Prior Lake, Minn.
High school: Prior Lake
Travel team: D1 Minnesota (Adidas)
Rivals ranking: No. 35
ESPN ranking: No. 34
247 ranking: No. 27
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Jalen Green

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Heading into the summer, Green had emerged as the No. 1 prospect in the class in the composite rankings, and he’s likely to battle for that spot for the rest of his recruitment. 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. One of the first 2020 prospects to land a UK scholarship offer, Green will continue to be a major priority for the Cats.

Position: Shooting guard
Height: 6-5
Weight: 170
Hometown: Fresno, Calif.
High school: San Joaquin Memorial
Travel team: Oakland Soldiers (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 2
ESPN ranking: No. 2
247 ranking: No. 2
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RJ Hampton

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Regarded as one of the best guards in the 2020 class, Hampton is another dynamic playmaker from Texas whose recruitment will likely turn into a battle of the bluebloods. He was one of the top players on the Under Armour circuit this past summer despite having two years of high school remaining, and he’ll switch to the Nike EYBL (where UK does most of its recruiting) this spring. 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. Hampton was the first high school junior that John Calipari visited during the most recent fall recruiting period. 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: Combo guard
Height: 6-4
Weight: 180
Hometown: Little Elm, Texas
High school: Little Elm
Travel team: Drive Nation (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 5
ESPN ranking: No. 5
247 ranking: No. 6
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Jalen Johnson

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One of the first 2020 prospects to pop up on UK’s radar, Johnson actually visited Lexington for Big Blue Madness early in his sophomore year and returned for the same event this past fall. He averaged 18.6 points and 9.9 rebounds per game as a sophomore and got off to another stellar start to his junior campaign. A smart, versatile player, Johnson is picking up major scholarship offers on a regular basis and was one of the first players in the class to earn a Kentucky offer. Home-state Wisconsin will likely be among his favorites until the end, and Duke has been rumored to be a possible frontrunner early in the process.

Position: Small forward
Height: 6-7
Weight: 210
Hometown: Sun Prairie, Wis.
High school: Nicolet
Travel team: Phenom U (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 3
ESPN ranking: No. 3
247 ranking: No. 5
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Johnny Juzang

Juzang missed the first part of his junior season with a lingering injury, but he’s back on the court now and will continue to draw interest from some of the top college basketball programs in the country. He said during the fall that Kentucky was among the schools that had reached out, and his early list of scholarship offers included Kansas, UCLA, Virginia and several others. Juzang excelled on the Adidas circuit this past summer and is one of the top perimeter scorers in the class with plenty of talent from long range.

Position: Small forward
Height: 6-7
Weight: 200
Hometown: North Hollywood, Calif.
High school: Harvard Westlake
Travel team: Compton Magic (Adidas)
Rivals ranking: No. 22
ESPN ranking: No. 19
247 ranking: No. 26
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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 last 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 has gone 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. 18
247 ranking: No. 13
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Makur Maker

The cousin of former five-star recruit and current NBA player Thon Maker has emerged as one of the best and most intriguing prospects in the 2020 class. The 7-footer with perimeter skills has said he intends to play college basketball — unlike Thon, who went straight to the NBA from prep school — and, despite rumors that he could reclassify to 2019, it appears that he will stick with the 2020 class. UK has reached out to Maker, who could ultimately be in the mix for a top five spot in this group.

Position: Center
Height: 7-0
Weight: 230
Hometown: Orange, Calif.
High school: Orange Lutheran
Travel team: TBA
Rivals ranking: No. 15
ESPN ranking: No. 50
247 ranking: No. 24
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Jeremy Roach

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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 drew comparisons to NBA legend Chris Paul with his play last summer, and he’s clearly one of the top point guard prospects in the country, regardless of class. Unfortunately, Roach suffered a torn ACL before his junior season and will be sidelined several months. Before that injury occurred, he narrowed his recruitment to four schools: Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina and Villanova.

Position: Point guard
Height: 6-2
Weight: 170
Hometown: Fairfax, Va.
High school: Paul VI
Travel team: Team Takeover (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 21
ESPN ranking: No. 16
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 former 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, and he’s since moved to basketball powerhouse IMG Academy in Florida.

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. 11
ESPN ranking: No. 11
247 ranking: No. 21
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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. Kansas, Memphis and UCLA were among his early offers for basketball.

Position: Combo guard
Height: 6-4
Weight: 185
Hometown: Minneapolis, Minn.
High school: Minnehaha Academy
Travel team: Grassroots Sizzle (Under Armour)
Rivals ranking: No. 14
ESPN ranking: No. 12
247 ranking: No. 7
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Isaiah Todd

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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 continue to 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. He might reclassify to 2019.

Position: Power forward
Height: 6-9
Weight: 195
Hometown: Richmond, Va.
High school: Trinity (N.C.)
Travel team: Team Melo (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 13
ESPN ranking: No. 8
247 ranking: No. 18
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Lance Ware

Ware attends the same New Jersey high school that once featured Dajuan Wagner, one of John Calipari’s signature recruits from his days at Memphis, and Calipari was back at Camden High last fall to pay Ware a visit. A couple of weeks later, the junior recruit was in Lexington for a trip to Big Blue Madness. Ware brings good size, athleticism and a high motor to the court, and he plays for the same Nike-affiliated team that Hamidou Diallo stared on during his final season of travel ball. Louisville also appears to be making Ware a priority recruit for 2020. His mentor is former Cardinals great Pervis Ellison.

Position: Power forward
Height: 6-8
Weight: 205
Hometown: Burlington, N.J.
High school: Camden
Travel team: New York Rens (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 54
ESPN ranking: No. 49
247 ranking: No. 60
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