KT Turner. Chin Coleman. Orlando Antigua. John Calipari. One of the best, if not the very best, recruiting staff in the country is already off a great start in the 2023 class and looks as motivated as ever to keep adding to it. A pair of guards, the recently committed 5-Star Rob Dillingham and local product 4-Star Reed Shepperd headline the class as of now. If you look at our most recent two recruiting classes, due to the newly implemented one time transfer rule, we have seen Cal be content with smaller three man groups. But with the number of targets we still have available, as well as the high level of pursuit we are putting towards these targets, this class can easily reach four, five or even six players. Based on all of the rumors and updates that have become public in recent weeks, we are starting to see who very well could make up that class.
Aaron Bradshaw (C)
The most likely next addition to our class is one of the top big men in the class of 2023, Aaron Bradshaw. At 7'0" 207 lbs, Bradshaw is ranked as the 11th player overall and the best center in his class (Rivals). Every prediction is currently coming in for him to come to Kentucky, and he has been very public that his decision might come sooner, rather than later.
Bradshaw reminds me a lot of Sophomore Nick Richards. He is not the freshman version of Nick and isn't as polished as the junior All SEC version of Nick. However, he will serve as a good rebounder and rim protector, while being a solid offensive option, as a face up big with an improving jump shot. If he does end up at Kentucky and earns a starting spot and good minutes, a borderline double-double with a couple blocks per game could be expected.
One common misconception about Bradshaw is that he is a package deal with his teammate at Camden High School, and top Kentucky target, DJ Wagner. While the two players have an obvious connection, it is important to note that Bradshaw is being recruited individually, not to get an edge in the Wagner recruitment. Kentucky would absolutely to have them both, but they are two separate recruitments.
DJ Wagner (G)
Speaking of the aforementioned DJ Wagner, Kentucky is still absolutely a player in this recruitment, despite all the recent predictions going in favor of our rival, Louisville. DJ Wagner has long been seen as a lock to Kentucky with his father, Dajuan Wagner Sr, having played for Calipari at Memphis, former high school teammate Lance Ware currently on roster, and half-brother Kareem Watkins also on the roster as a walk-on. Of course, Wagner also has a great connection with Louisville's head coach Kenny Payne, who had just hired Wagner's grandpa, Milt Wagner, to the staff. I wouldn't say he is a lock to Kentucky, nor Louisville, but he absolutely could still end up as a Cat.
Wagner is ranked as the third best player overall and the best point guard in his class (Rivals). While Wagner is listed as a point guard on many recruiting sites, he is more of a 2 guard, or a Calipari combo guard which we have seen the likes of Jamal Murray and Tyrese Maxey, among others, thrive in. He plays off the ball for his high school, but he is still a very effective playmaker with the ball in his hands. This is one reason I believe Kentucky might be a better fit for him: Louisville currently does not have a point guard on it's 2022-23 roster and is not in the lead for any in the class of 2023. If DJ were to go to Louisville, he would be forced to have the ball in his hands all the time, where at Kentucky, he could play alongside one of the best point guards in the country in Rob Dillingham, where he would be much more comfortable and effective.
Justin Edwards (F)
Justin Edwards was a player who initially seemed like Kentucky would have a great chance to get. But as of late, Tennessee has pushed much harder for him and offered him the one thing Kentucky cannot: to be the #1 option on the team. Due to this, the Vols appeared to take a lead in the recruitment of the top 10 prospect. However, similar to the DJ Wagner situation, do not count out the Cats as the momentum is once again swinging back more towards our favor. Also similar to DJ's situation, I do not think he is a lock to go to either team, but he is very much still able to end up in Lexington.
Edwards is a prototypical forward that Calipari loves. Uber athletic, high level defender, great size at 6'7" and can get to the rim with ease. Edwards also has a developing perimeter game, with a solid handling of the ball and a jump shot that has potential to make him a dangerous midrange and three point shooter shooter at the college level. He has the ability to create a shot for himself, a trait not too common in the class of 2023, and the ability to defend positions 1-4, making him arguably the best two-way player in high school.
Ugonna Kingsley (C)
Similar to Aaron Bradshaw, it appears it is only going to be a matter of time before Ugonna Kingsley commits to Kentucky. But unlike Bradshaw, there's a good chance we see him on campus even sooner, as there have been lots of rumors that he could reclassify to 2022, to play with this upcoming year's team.
If he does take that route, it is important to not expect a lot from him year one. He will likely play very few minutes, if any at all, and serve as a glorified redshirt. This is due to Kingsley having a very raw skill set that will take a ton of work to get him to the point where he is able to compete against SEC competition. But who better than Oscar Tshiebwe, the reigning National Player of the Year, to practice with Kingsley for a year to get him as conditioned as possible for the following season? If Kingsley commits to Kentucky, reclasses up a year, and stays the course of his development, he will be a great long term addition to our roster. He doesn't have the jump shot or rebounding ability of Bradshaw, but he has insane length and a shot blocking instinct we haven't seen in this program at center in some time.
Ron Holland (F)
Every time I talk about Ron Holland, I can't help but bring up how unique his recruitment has been. It is not very often that a player of his caliber has to beg the Kentucky staff to reach out to him more or to finally get a scholarship offer. But that is exactly what happened. This, of course, has allowed other schools, namely Arkansas, to be the perceived favorite at the moment. Yet, I wouldn't count out Kentucky, if John Calipari decides to go all out in this recruitment. It remains to be seen if he will do that.
Ron Holland has as much potential as anyone in this class. He is built like a modern day NBA forward, with a very athletic 6'8" frame. He has shown the potential to defend multiple positions, score at the rim and out on the perimeter, and be one of the highest energy guys on the court at all times. Unfortunately, sometimes that only seems like "potential". If I had to guess, I would say that is why John Calipari has been hesitant in this recruitment. Holland could easily be a top three player in this class if he puts everything together, but until he does so, Calipari may cautiously be watching this recruitment from the outside.
Ian Jackson (G)
Ian Jackson is easily my favorite player in high school basketball right now. He must be one of John Calipari's too because he offered the 2024 prospect on the first day that he was allowed to, something Coach Cal never does. Even though he is currently in the class of 2024, I would heavily expect a reclass to 2023, as he is too dominant for two more years of high school basketball, plus he is old enough to graduate this upcoming year (for example, he was born three months before DJ Wagner). It is not very often Calipari loses a recruit that he goes all in on from the jump, so I think we could expect Jackson to be joining our class of 2023.
Jackson has everything you would want in a scoring guard: he is extremely athletic and explosive, he can score on all levels, he can create shots for himself and also play off of the ball. His defense needs a little work and I would love to see him grow more as a playmaker, which he was plenty of time to work on still. However, if you can pair his scoring with the playmaking of Rob Dillingham and potentially DJ Wagner, then Calipari could very well have one of his best offenses of all time.
G Rob Dillingham
G DJ Wagner
G Ian Jackson (or F Justin Edwards)
G Reed Sheppard
C Aaron Bradshaw
C Ugonna Kingsley (with reclass to 2022)