By LARRY VAUGHT
Because Charles Bassey plays at Aspire Academy in Louisville and not a public high school, he could not have been Kentucky’s 2019 Mr. Basketball. However, don’t doubt that the 6-11 Bassey was the best player in Kentucky in the 2019 recruiting class.
Or at least he was until he reclassified to the 2018 class and signed with Western Kentucky to play for coach Rick Stansbury.
“We’re happy to have Charles join our family,” Stansbury said in a release from Western Wednesday. “We’re excited about the talent of basketball player he is, but most importantly, the type of person and student he is. He’s a 3.9 GPA student with great character, and we look forward to having him in our program.”
Bassey played in Texas before transferring to Aspire Academy last season when it moved to Louisville. Stansbury had recruited him when he was an assistant coach at Texas A&M and Bassey had made no secret of his feelings about Stansbury and the Hilltoppers since getting to Kentucky.
“After discussing this opportunity with my parents, I feel that this is the best decision for me,” Bassey said in the WKU release. “Rick Stansbury was the first coach to offer me, and I’m comfortable here. I know coach Stansbury will push me and I want to be a part of rebuilding this program. I’m looking forward to the challenges that college brings and hope to help us win the conference.”
Bassey is a five-star prospect. He outplayed five-star Bol Bol at the Marshall County Hoop Fest last year and more than held his own against James Wiseman, one of the top players in the 2019 recruiting class and a major UK target.
He was ranked as the No. 3 prospect in the 2019 class by ESPN. He averaged 19.4 points, 12.8 rebounds, 3.4 blocks, 2.9 assists and 1.7 steals per game as a junior for Aspire and shot 56.5 percent from the field, including 42.1 percent from the 3-point range.
He broke the Nike Hoop Summit record for rebounds with 17 in a win over Team USA in April.
Yet Bassey was never on Kentucky’s recruiting radar despite playing numerous times in the state as a sophomore and then spending last season with Aspire.
“I think Charles is somebody that can do a little bit of everything. He can get down in the post and go back to the basket. Or he can face up. I think he is the best defender — and best rebounder for sure — in the country. That is where his edge is. He plays hard and with that motor all the time,” Aspire coach Jeremy Kipness told me during the season.
“We know plenty about Charles Bassey. He’s the real deal,” Memphis East staff member Chan Douglas said before facing Bassey in December.
Bassey had a list of major offers that included Kansas, Oklahoma, UCLA, Texas A&M and many others. He took an unofficial visit to Kentucky as a freshman but never got a scholarship offer.
“I have heard they are looking at me. I took a trip there my freshman year,” Bassey said in January. “I don’t know any more than that.”