October 9, 2012

First Look: Who might UK target in 2015?

The future of Kentucky basketball almost in view as head coach John Calipari drives the bus over the top of the hill into college basketball's valley of legends. With the 2013 recruiting class starting to shape up nicely with three commitments, and a pretty good feel for who else will join the party, fans have a good idea of who will be on the roster for next season. After that, the class of 2014 targets have all been identified, profiled and evaluated as Kentucky targets. The 2014 recruiting class figures to be just as good as the 2013 class (and previous Calipari signing groups) with the Wildcats in early on some of the top talent in the country.

With all of that information out in the public, Cats Illustrated wants to take a look at the sophomore class and give an early indication as to who the top Kentucky targets might be as that class develops.

Bigger and Bigger
Scouts have proclaimed the class of 2014 to be the year of the big man. But in the world of scouting, where everyone is always looking for the next big thing, the class of 2015 might quickly take that title away from their elders.

The sophomore class already has four interior players who are consistently being raved about by national media in Wisconsin center Diamond Stone, Oakland PF/C Ivan Rabb, Atlanta center Daniel Giddens and Las Vegas center Stephen Zimmerman.

Despite all being young post players, these four prospects have very different games.

Zimmerman currently has the most height at a legit 6-foot-11. With that height he is able to control the paint on both ends, but scouts also love his skill-set on the block as a scorer and passer to cutters.

Giddens is the most raw offensively, but at 6-foot-10 with great athleticism he has near unlimited potential; and is arguably the best shot-blocker in high school basketball as just a sophomore.

With as much potential as likely five-stars Zimmerman and Giddens have, Rabb and Stone are thought to be the gems of this class.

Stone is a 6-foot-10 back to the basket player who Rivals Eric Bossi said has a throw-back and hard-working game in the Kevin Love mold. Stone might not be the best athlete, but he's skilled, strong and will not be out-worked on the court.

As good as Stone is, Rabb made national headlines at the LeBron James Skills Academy over the summer when he famously dominated Stone in a low post matchup on the last day of camp. The scary thing about Rabb is that he isn't even close to reaching his potential as a player. Rabb is 6-foot-9, can run and jump, and despite not being overly skilled yet is able to score with an uncanny consistency on the low post.

When it's all said and done, Rabb and Stone will probably battle several more times for the top post spot in Rivals 2015 rankings.

Multiple Positions Means Multiple Offers
Rivals hasn't released a list of five-star prospects yet in the class of 2015. However, it is safe to say that New Jersey forward Karl Towns and Texas forward Mickey Mitchell will be included in that list once it is released. When you have great size, the ability to play multiple positions, athleticism and a solid basketball skill-set the only thing missing is the experience that will come in time for these two prospects.

Towns has earned the distinguished honor of being the first, and so far the only, 2015 prospect to receive a verbal scholarship offer from Calipari. He will contend for the top spot in the 2015 rankings as he has a Dirk Nowitzki like inside-outside game with great sized at 6-foot-10. On top of all of his skill and potential, Towns is also one of the most experienced 2015 prospects as he has already played at the highest level of international basketball by making the Dominican Republic National Team; coached by none other than John Calipari.

Towns admittedly is a huge fan of former Florida post Al Horford, a current NBA all-star with the Atlanta Hawks, and lists Florida along with Kentucky as his top two schools at the moment.

Mitchell is not only an elite forward on the basketball court, he's also one of the nation's top quarterback prospects; watching him play on the AAU circuit you can see that by the way he leads his team and thinks the game.

At 6-foot-6, Mitchell can play any position besides center and while he doesn't have one particular skill that he shines at, he has relatively no weaknesses in his game. Also an accomplished player for his age, Mitchell has been listed among the top 2015 players since he was in the 7th grade; and made a splash at the national level by playing AAU alongside Kentucky target Julius Randle (who is also a high school teammate of Mitchell's) against players from the class of 2012, and showing that he was capable of hanging around against the older competition.

Putting the Ball in the Bucket
The position in 2015 that has seen the least amount of praise from scouts so far has been the wing guard spot. We can chalk that up to players still being in the developmental stages of their games, and many new names should emerge as the high school season gets underway.

Right now there are two prospects who we feel that Calipari will take a look at as they get older; those two are Mississippi shooting guard Malik Newman and California's Tyler Dorsey.

Newman has been on the radar for quite some time now, and has been profiled by Cats Illustrated as a guard whom Kentucky has shown early interest to. He's one of those "roll out of bed and score 30" type of guards who is dangerous as a scorer from anywhere on the court. With a mature physicality and athleticism to his game, Newman is probably the best 2015 guard in the class right now; and will contend for the number one guard spot over the next three seasons.

Dorsey was one of the more heralded players at last weekend's USA Basketball Mini-Camp for 2015/2016 prospects. He's an up-tempo style of guard who can play multiple positions, get to the basket at will and is a triple-threat as a scorer, passer or shooter.

Have to Have a Point Guard
If there is one thing that goes synonymously with Calipari, it is great point guard play. Whoever the Big Blue sign in 2015, they're sure to have one of the nation's most elite point guard prospects in that group.

To sign one of those elite point guards, Calipari might not have to travel too far; as two talented floor generals reside in the state of Indiana. Potential five-star prospects Jalen Coleman, out of Indianapolis, and Hyron Edwards, of East Chicago are about as good as it gets in the nation's sophomore class.

Coleman proved his worth as a freshman at Cathedral HS as he ran the show against top flight national competition, then dominated on the AAU circuit with Nike's Spiece Indy Heat. A very competitive guard with good size and quickness, Coleman is devastating off of the dribble and is equally skilled as a passer and a scorer.

Edwards is a pure point guard as well, but plays a more shifty and cerebral game. He doesn't have the size of Coleman but he excels in the pick and roll game, can shoot the ball and is good at finding passing lanes in traffic against bigger players.

If Calipari doesn't like the taste of Indiana with those two prospects his next stop could be to New Jersey to see heavily hyped lead guard Isaiah Briscoe. Known as a creative, must-watch, prospect in the New York City metro area, Briscoe is a highlight reel passer and slashing scorer with a bright future.

One diamond in the rough that Calipari could have an inside lead on is 6-foot-7 guard Luis Monteiro out of the Dominican Republic. Monteiro is considered to be a raw guard with tremendous upside who Calipari went to visit with this fall at the Wilbraham & Monson Academy (Mass.).

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