UK’s top recruiting targets for the class of 2021

Kuminga

With the NBA targeting 2022 as a possible end to the one-and-done era, the 2021 high school recruiting class could be the last group that sends its top prospects to college for a season before heading off to the pros.

John Calipari and the UK coaching staff got off to an early start with players from the 2021 class, extending a scholarship offer to Jonathan Kuminga while he was still playing his sophomore season and following that up with offers to fellow top-five recruits Terrence Clarke and Paolo Banchero shortly thereafter. More UK offers will be doled out in the coming months, and more targets will emerge on Kentucky’s radar over the next couple of years.

For now, here’s a look at some of the 2021 recruits that have already been linked to the Wildcats. (This page will be updated regularly with new rankings, video highlights and bio information on these and other Kentucky targets).

Devin Askew

A college-ready point guard who is used to playing alongside top talent, Askew entered the summer looking for a coveted UK scholarship offer, and the Cats extended one at the end of July. He plays his high school ball for the celebrated Mater Dei (Calif.) program — alma mater of Stanley Johnson and other top players — and Askew is a Nike league teammate of top UK target Jalen Green. Louisville has made Askew a major priority, but UK will be a program to watch. He’s also been open about the possibility of moving to the 2020 class, and the Cats are still in search for a viable point guard in that group.

Position: Point guard
Height: 6-3
Weight: 195
Hometown: Santa Ana, Calif.
High school: Mater Dei
Travel team: Team Why Not (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 18
ESPN ranking: No. 16
247 ranking: No. 17
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Patrick Baldwin

While UK has gotten in early on other top-5 talents such as Jonathan Kuminga, Terrence Clarke and Paolo Banchero, there wasn’t much initial buzz surrounding the Wildcats and Baldwin, who has spent much of the past year ranked No. 1 in the class. It looked like Kentucky might be conceding the versatile Wisconsin forward to Duke — he’s reported to be the youngest ever to get a scholarship offer from Mike Krzyzewski, and he plays Nike ball alongside five-star Duke commit Jalen Johnson — but the Wildcats’ coaches watched Baldwin play plenty and his unique talent made him impossible to ignore. Kentucky extended a scholarship offer by the end of the summer, and Baldwin — a smooth shooting prospect with tremendous length and size — will be one to watch moving forward.

Position: Small forward
Height: 6-9
Weight: 200
Hometown: Sussex, Wis.
High school: Hamilton
Travel team: Phenom U (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 3
ESPN ranking: No. 1
247 ranking: No. 2
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Paolo Banchero

One of the first players in the 2021 class to land a UK scholarship offer, Banchero is a prospect who should remain in the discussion for the top ranking in the group over the remainder of the cycle. He was named the Nike EYBL underclassman of the year and the most valuable player of the 2019 NBPA Top 100 Camp — despite being a year younger than most of the top competition there — and it’s looking like he’ll have his pick of colleges when the time for that decision comes. West Coast prospects are often a little more complicated to pull for Kentucky, but Banchero told the Herald-Leader this summer that he’s very interested in the Cats and geography will not play a major part in his decision. Still, hometown Washington has made him a major priority, and the Huskies should also remain in the mix until the end.

Position: Power forward
Height: 6-9
Weight: 235
Hometown: Seattle, Wash.
High school: O’Dea
Travel team: Seattle Rotary (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 4
ESPN ranking: No. 5
247 ranking: No. 5
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Randy Brady

Brady took a tumble in the latest batch of 2021 rankings — falling all the way out of the Top 100 on 247Sports’ list — but there’s obviously still plenty of time for him to make up ground. He’s an athletic scorer with high upside on the defensive end and is likely to end up as a coveted recruit within the Southeastern Conference. Brady took an unofficial visit to UK for a game during the 2018-19 season.

Position: Shooting guard
Height: 6-5
Weight: 190
Hometown: Nashville, Tenn.
High school: Brentwood Academy
Travel team: We All Can Go (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 49
ESPN ranking: Not ranked
247 ranking: No. 111
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Kennedy Chandler

247Sports pegged Chandler as the best ball handler among top recruits in the 2021 class, and — despite his smaller stature — he’s considered to be one of the best point guard prospects in that group. The Memphis-area standout was one of the biggest movers up the 2021 rankings after a stellar spring, and Kentucky hosted him for an unofficial visit late in the 2018-19 season. The point guard spot is an all-important position for Calipari, and Chandler should be one to keep an eye on as this recruiting cycle continues.

Position: Point guard
Height: 6-0
Weight: 165
Hometown: Memphis, Tenn.
High school: Briarcrest Christian
Travel team: Mokan Elite (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 28
ESPN ranking: No. 38
247 ranking: No. 28
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Terrence Clarke

The only player in the 2021 class to land a UK scholarship offer before Clarke was Jonathan Kuminga, and the Wildcats have made it clear they see Clarke as a major priority moving forward. The New England native has great size and athleticism for the wing position, and he’s even mentioned the possibility of playing some point guard at the next level, though he’s open to whatever spot on the floor his college coach thinks fits him and the team best. Calipari has closely followed him over the past several months, and Clarke has been very open about a possible move to the 2020 class, something that is widely expected to happen before the start of the next high school season.

Position: Shooting guard
Height: 6-6
Weight: 190
Hometown: Boston, Mass.
High school: Brewster Academy (N.H.)
Travel team: Expressions Elite (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 2
ESPN ranking: No. 3
247 ranking: No. 3
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Moussa Diabate

The native of France has a highly versatile game that blends a high motor around the basket with the ability to step outside and make shots from the mid-range and perimeter. He’s still a little raw, but few in the 2021 class possess more upside than Diabate, who impressed Kentucky’s coaches in the spring and should be a player the Wildcats will be watching closely moving forward. He plays alongside early Kentucky targets Scottie Barnes and Isaiah Todd on the Nike circuit.

Position: Power forward
Height: 6-9
Weight: 190
Home country: France
High school: DME Academy (Fla.)
Travel team: Nightrydas Elite (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 12
ESPN ranking: No. 9
247 ranking: No. 15
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Michael Foster

Foster is already plenty talented and effective on the court, but his versatile game coupled with a 6-9 frame put him in that “high upside” category of players that could possibly contend for the No. 1 ranking in the class as this cycle progresses. UK is keeping tabs on the Milwaukee native, who will be a major priority for schools in Big Ten territory and already has scholarship offers from top programs all over the country.

Position: Power forward
Height: 6-9
Weight: 220
Hometown: Milwaukee, Wis.
High school: Hillcrest Prep (Ariz.)
Travel team: Mac Irvin Fire (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 8
ESPN ranking: No. 6
247 ranking: No. 7
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AJ Griffin

June 15 is the annual date that college coaches are permitted to start directly contacting rising high school juniors, and that was a busy day for Griffin, who ended up getting scholarship offers from Duke, UCLA, Michigan and Villanova. He’s an athletic wing with good size and tremendous length (a 7-foot wingspan) — typically the kind of player Calipari likes to look for at the position. Joel Justus scouted him in Brazil with the USA Basketball U16 team, and Kentucky will likely become a major player in his recruitment. There is some early Duke buzz around Griffin, but there’s still a ways to go in the process.

Position: Small forward
Height: 6-6
Weight: 195
Hometown: White Plains, N.Y.
High school: Stepinac
Travel team: PSA Cardinals (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 10
ESPN ranking: No. 11
247 ranking: No. 9
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Jaden Hardy

One of the top prospects out West in this 2021 class, Hardy already has the attention of Kentucky and several other major programs around the country. He has great length and athleticism for the combo guard position and is improving greatly as a scorer. Hardy was named to the Nike EYBL all-underclassmen team after averaging 20.6 points and making 41 threes in 13 games (at a 37.6-percent clip) during the spring.

Position: Combo guard
Height: 6-4
Weight: 185
Hometown: Henderson, Nev.
High school: Coronado
Travel team: Vegas Elite (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 6
ESPN ranking: No. 4
247 ranking: No. 6
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Chet Holmgren

Following a great spring on the Under Armour and camp circuit, Holmgren was one of the biggest risers in the summer rankings — jumping 18 spots on Rivals.com’s list and moving all the way to the No. 4 overall position in the 247Sports rankings. The tall, slender Minnesota native is a shot-blocking force in the paint, a formidable defender away from the basket, and a versatile scorer with shooting skills that extend all the way beyond the perimeter. Kentucky is paying close attention to the unique talent.

Position: Center
Height: 7-0
Weight: 190
Hometown: Minneapolis, Minn.
High school: Minnehaha Academy
Travel team: Grassroots Sizzle (Under Armour)
Rivals ranking: No. 7
ESPN ranking: No. 7
247 ranking: No. 4
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Jonathan Kuminga

The dynamic prospect from Africa made his way to Rupp Arena for a game late in the 2018-19 season and left Lexington as the first player from the 2021 class with a Kentucky scholarship offer. His game has only continued to improve since, moving all the way to the No. 1 spot in the Rivals.com and 247Sports rankings with his high-energy, productive play on the Nike circuit during the spring. Kuminga attends high school in New York and plays for the same travel team that once featured Hamidou Diallo, and he has the “positionless” style that Calipari always looks for. He can do a little bit of everything on the court, and the early offer and continued interest shows that Kuminga will be at the very top of Kentucky’s wish list for the 2021 class. His older brother plays for Texas Tech, but that is not expected to greatly impact Kuminga’s recruitment.

Position: Small forward
Height: 6-8
Weight: 210
Home country: Congo
High school: Our Savior New American (N.Y.)
Travel team: New York Rens (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 1
ESPN ranking: No. 2
247 ranking: No. 1
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Khristian Lander

Lander was one of the first 2021 recruits linked to possible Kentucky interest, and though he hasn’t been mentioned as much in connection with the Wildcats in recent months, his standing as one of the top point guards in the class makes him worth watching. Indiana and Louisville have been making him a priority, though he did visit UK early in the 2018-19 season. North Carolina, Michigan, Kansas and UCLA are among the many other programs on his trail in what is shaping up as a national recruitment.

Position: Point guard
Height: 6-1
Weight: 165
Hometown: Evansville, Ind.
High school: F.J. Reitz High
Travel team: Indiana Elite (Adidas)
Rivals ranking: No. 26
ESPN ranking: No. 17
247 ranking: No. 18
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Bretner Mutombo

He’s no relation to former NBA great Dikembe Mutombo, but this prospect is also a great rim-protector and rebounder who is still coming into his own as an all-around basketball player. His national ranking is well below that of a typical Calipari recruit, but Kentucky did host Mutombo for an unofficial visit in June after watching him play earlier in the year. His size and upside make him an intriguing talent in the 2021 class.

Position: Center
Height: 6-10
Weight: 210
Home country: Congo
High school: Lincoln Academy (Ga.)
Travel team: Georgia Stars (Nike)
Rivals ranking: No. 86
ESPN ranking: Not ranked
247 ranking: No. 112
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Jabari Smith

No player made a bigger jump in the five-star range of the Rivals.com summer rankings than Smith, who moved from No. 33 overall to the No. 5 spot in the 2021 class. The son of a former LSU star and NBA Draft pick is getting plenty of recruiting attention after a great spring and strong showing with the USA Basketball U16 team. Kentucky has been in recent contact, and Smith told the Herald-Leader in June that he would love to get some serious interest from the Wildcats. He also compared his style of play to recent Kentucky star PJ Washington.

Position: Power forward
Height: 6-8
Weight: 190
Hometown: Tyrone, Ga.
High school: Sandy Creek
Travel team: Atlanta Celtics (Adidas)
Rivals ranking: No. 5
ESPN ranking: No. 10
247 ranking: No. 10
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JT Thor

A product of nearby Huntington Prep (W.Va.), Thor has taken advantage of that proximity to Lexington by visiting UK multiple times over the past year or so. The well-traveled power forward was born in Omaha, Neb., and grew up primarily in Alaska before moving to Huntington, and he’s established himself as one of the top prospects in the 2021 class since. Thor has enjoyed his early time with Calipari and seems to fit with his style. “I want a coach that pushes me to get to the next level — a coach who’s going to be tough on me,” he said in June. There have been rumblings that he could ultimately move to the 2020 class.

Position: Power forward
Height: 6-9
Weight: 195
Hometown: Huntington, W.Va.
High school: Huntington Prep
Travel team: TBA
Rivals ranking: No. 11
ESPN ranking: No. 14
247 ranking: No. 13
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