For more than a year, Jonathan Kuminga has been the undisputed No. 1 player in the basketball recruiting class of 2021, holding the top spots in the Rivals.com, 247Sports and ESPN rankings.
The bigger rankings debate for that group has been centered on who should come next in the class, with the top candidates being smooth-shooting 6-foot-9 forward Patrick Baldwin Jr., versatile 6-10 power forward Paolo Banchero, and unique 7-foot prospect Chet Holmgren.
Though Kuminga has not yet officially announced a move to the 2020 class, he did graduate from his New Jersey high school over the weekend, and it’s become even more clear that reclassification is a foregone conclusion. So, who will be the new No. 1 in 2021?
ESPN went ahead and shuffled Kuminga out of its 2021 rankings with this week’s update, and Holmgren — a star recruit from Minneapolis — was placed in the No. 1 spot, followed by Baldwin and Banchero at No. 2 and 3, respectively.
Kentucky has not been linked to Holmgren’s recruitment, which features scholarship offers from dozens of high-major schools. Minnesota, Gonzaga, Ohio State and North Carolina are among the programs getting the most attention for Holmgren going into his senior season. Though he’s 7-feet tall and is a tremendous rim-protector, Holmgren is likely to play on the perimeter in college, due to his standing as a three-point threat and his unique ball-handling skills for a big man. The buzz in recruiting circles is that his style of play doesn’t quite match up with John Calipari’s approach, hence the lack of communication between the two sides.
UK has extended scholarship offers to both Baldwin and Banchero, and the Cats seem to be in an especially good spot for Banchero, a standout player from Seattle who is also considering Arizona, Duke, Gonzaga, Tennessee and Washington.
Las Vegas area shooting guard Jaden Hardy is No. 4 on ESPN’s list, and he’s also been strongly linked to Kentucky, with some national analysts already calling the Wildcats the favorites for his commitment.
No other players in ESPN’s top 10 rankings for the class of 2021 have received UK scholarship offers, and none of those prospects have been strongly linked to Kentucky in recent months.
The only other recruit in the 2021 class with an early UK offer is point guard Kennedy Chandler, who is the No. 11 player in the ESPN rankings.