By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky has only one verbal commitment in its 2014 recruiting class — New Jersey power forward/center Karl Towns.
Yet perhaps the best indicator that Kentucky coach John Calipari is convinced he can put together an elite recruiting class again is looking at who is not coming to UK, especially since several sources close to Calipari have indicated that UK will likely sign six players in 2014 because of anticipated departures to the NBA.
Start with Angel Delgado, a 6-8 power forward with multiple ties to Kentucky who has committed to Seton Hall. He is a consensus top 50 player. Dana Dingle, one of Calipari’s former players at Massachusetts, is Delgado’s AAU coach. Dingle was also a high school teammate of UK assistant coach Orlando Antigua.
He had offers from Louisville, Miami, Virginia and several others before committing to Seton Hall.
Next there is 6-8 power forward Craig Victor, who committed to Arizona over the weekend.
He’s a top 25 prospect from Louisiana and had UK in his final five even though the Wildcats had not offered a scholarship.
In case you may have forgot, Victor is the player who said during the summer that”Kentucky is America’s team for all high school players. That’s the dream to play at Kentucky.”
He said high school players respect the job Calipari has done developing players and putting them quickly into the NBA. However, he apparently figured out a UK offer was not coming despite his lofty recruiting ranking.
Colorado four-star point guard Josh Perkins, who will play at Huntington (W.Va.) Prep this season, has UK in his final five along with UCLA, Minnesota, Gonzaga and Connecticut. He’s set to make his college choice Sunday, but still has no Kentucky offer.
While ignoring players that good would be puzzling for most schools, it’s not for Calipari and Kentucky.
Most recruiting analysts believe 6-4 Dallas point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, ranked No. 1 in the 2014 recruiting class by one recruiting service, is leaning to UK. He’s athletic, finishes at the rim and has a good mid-range jump shot.
California wing forward Stanley Johnson is a superb shooter from 3-point range who also has a terrific inside game. He’s also a potent rebounder.
Mississippi guard Devin Booker is a shooter/scorer who could play either guard spot.Chicago center Jahlil Okafor, a top three player, continues to insist he is not a Duke lean and will visit UK in early September.Point guard Tyus Jones, who wants to play with Okafor and is ranked only slightly behind Mudiay, can get inside to dish and finish shots. He’ll visit UK, too.
Former Indiana commit Trey Lyles, a power forward and top 10 player, will visit UK and might even be a UK lean. Chicago center Cliff Alexnader continues to have UK high on his list. He was at Big Blue Madness last year and also came to the UK-Florida game.
Texas scorer Kelly Oubre got his scholarship offer in July. He’s not set a visit date.
Rashad Vaughn, a 6-6 wing player who will play at Findlay Prep in Las Vegas with Oubre, has unlimited shooting range and some think he’s much more interested in UK that he has let on since he has yet to narrow his college choices.
And now there is Indiana guard James Blackmon Jr., the son of former Kentucky player James Blackmon,. He originally committed to Indiana when he was a freshman but has decided to open his recruitment. He is a prolific shooter and made it known quickly he wanted the offer from UK that he got.
That list of prospects is why having Delgado, Victor and Perkins pick other schools is not seen a problem by Calipari because he believes he’s well positioned still to make another run at a No. 1 recruiting class.