By LARRY VAUGHT
He may not be the potential point guard that many Kentucky fans thought John Calipari would add to his 2017 recruiting class, but 6-5 Shai Alexander seems to have the skill set to fit perfectly into Calipari’s system.
The Chattanooga senior picked Kentucky Monday and joined power forward P.J. Washington of Las Vegas and center Nick Richards of New Jersey in UK’s current recruiting class.
The four-star Alexander, who can play both guard spots, once verbally committed to Florida before changing his mind and picking UK over Syracuse, Texas and others. He’s a consensus top 50 players and ranked as high as the No. 2 combo guard in the country.
He likely will be ranked much higher when the season ends because he spent most of the summer playing with the Canadian Senior National Team. That gave him an opportunity to play against older NBA players like Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph, Tyler Ennis and Anthony Bennett in the Philipines during a pre-Olympic qualifying event instead of the summer AAU circuit in the United States where more recruiting analysts would have seen him play.
Kentucky had targeted Trae Young of Oklahoma and Quade Green of Philadelphia at point guard. Young has now said he will wait until the spring to make a college choice with UK and Oklahoma seen as the leaders. Green is expected to pick his school soon and most recruiting analysts favor Syracuse over UK.
Alexander was not one of UK’s early targets but once he got a Kentucky offer he made an official visit and did not need long to pick the Wildcats.
He has a 6-9 wingspan and one college assistant coach told me he could be a possible elite defender because of his quickness and length — and can defend both guard spots. He can handle the ball equally well with both hands.
He averaged 15.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and and 4.8 assists per game for Team Portis Wings Elite in the Nike EYBL last travel season and despite weighing only about 170 pounds can finish at the rim and doesn’t shy away from contact even though sometimes he can be overpowered.
“He’s not a great shooter but he could be,” the assistant coach told me. “He needs to get more of a mid-range game and sometimes his decision-making could be better. But he has a ton of potential.”
Recruiting analysts don’t yet see Alexander as a one-and-done type player like many Calipari point guards have been and De’Aaron Fox is expected to be this year. However, if Young and Green both choose other schools, Kentucky at least now has its first backcourt player in the 2017 recruiting class.