Okay, so that's not how any of us expected this Friday to go. Kentucky's only Point Guard option for next year, Nolan Hickman, has officially decommitted from the program; the 4-Star McDonald's All-American announced it publicly on his Instagram story this afternoon.
Last season, Kentucky's biggest issue was clearly the play at the Point Guard position, which has been a staple during the Cal-era. While everything seems hectic and confusing right now, and while we'll never know the true reason behind Nolan's reason for deciding to choose elsewhere, DON'T PANIC! And let's take the time to rule-out some possibilities.
First off, I don't believe this decommitment is solely-based off TyTy Washington coming in -- which while it's not official yet, I think we can expect a commitment from him in the coming future. Hickman and TyTy are childhood friends, and earlier this year Hickman posted an IG Story (see above) in an attempt to lure Washington to Kentucky. TyTy is someone Nolan wanted to play alongside, so it just doesn't make sense that he would leave just because of that. I do think we've got TyTy, but that's not enough to scare off Nolan. Someone else, someone big, is coming in. But before we can get into those possibilities, let's rule some other guys and scenarios out.
The names I see everyone mentioning right now are CJ Frederick, Davion Mintz, and Adam Miller. None of those guys are enough to scare off Nolan, and here's why -- they are all two-guards; they were no threat to his minutes. Hickman was competing for the PG spot, and even if we do end up with both CJ and Mintz, that's just not enough to make Nolan feel like his playing-time is in jeopardy. And as for Miller, he is going to LSU -- so please just get that out of your heads.
Kyle Tucker from The Athletic brings up an interesting point about Hickman's relationship with former-assistant Tony Barbee as a possibility for his departure:
Barbee was Nolan Hickman's lead recruiter, and while it would make sense to insinuate Hickman's departure stems from his acceptance of the Central Michigan Head Coaching job, I can tell you with confidence (for now) that doesn't add up logically. Why? Because Barbee has known this was his last season with the Cats for a few months now. I'd heard from multiple people close to the program towards the end of last season that bringing back Orlando Antigua was in the works (which is a done-deal BTW), and Barbee had been shopping himself since a little before that time as well. It seems like BigBlueExpress had heard the same rumors as well, and couldn't wait to hint the news after last season ended against Mississippi State:
Unless Tony Barbee isn't the genuinely great person we all know him as, I think he would've mentioned to Nolan months ago, "Hey, just so you know I'm not going to be back next year". It just doesn't make sense that Nolan would decommit because of Barbee leaving when he's known about it for this long.
If we have TyTy locked-down, and just brought in someone else with him, who could that possibly be with all the guys above ruled-out? Here are my three predictions:
Look, I'll tell you right now that I've never really been high on Carr as an option. But at the moment we have absolutely nothing, so I'll take a Senior PG who averaged 19-5-4 in the Big 10. The main reason I am shakey on Carr is because he was Minnesota's only option last year, so obviously his stats are going to be more inflated. He also shot only 38% from the field which is a big concern for me. However, he does have the skills, and if he ends up in Lexington I'm sure Cal can get him where he needs to be efficiency wise.
Shortly after announcing he would be leaving Georgia and entering the portal, the Sophomore Point Guard picked up a plethora of offers, including one from Kentucky. Wheeler lead the SEC in assists last year and averaged a solid 14 PPG despite only standing at 5'10. Last season against UK, Wheeler struggled to find a scoring-rhythm, shooting 4-15 from the field. He did manage to dish out 10 assists in the win. Wheeler would be a great floor general, however I have to be brutally honest and say I don't see him as a Kentucky-caliber PG. He would be my last choice of the three.
Now the big one. The kid that every scout and analyst are calling the best scorer they've evaluated out of high school in the past decade. The 6'4 Combo-Guard from Nevada is currently the consensus #2 ranked player in the country according to 24/7 Sports, ESPN, and Rivals. Early in Hardy's recruitment, it seemed like UK was a lock. Then Rod Strickland came along and offered his $500K contract for the G-League, and it looked like seeing Jaden in a UK jersey was history. Has something changed? Has Orlando Antigua already been working his magic? For now, Hardy is still a pipe-dream. But with all the shakeup that's happened today (Emoni Bates!!) I wouldn't count Hardy out just yet.
Someone We Don't Know About Yet
Look, the portal has been insane this year. There could possibly be someone big, someone nobody knows about, that is about to enter it and has Kentucky at the top of their list. This off-season has been crazy -- I mean just last week we thought Keion was gone, now it looks like he'll be back. Everything changes rapidly. So let me just make this clear, if you think Cal doesn't have a plan in place, then you're delusional; if you don't think Hickman would decommit for anyone other than a HUGE name that would surely reduce his minutes, then again, you're delusional. Trust the process.
Let me know how you would feel about this being Kentucky's roster for next season:
PG: Marcus Carr (Sr, 6'2) / Sahvir Wheeler (Jr, 5'10) / Jaden Hardy (Fr, 6'4)
PG: TyTy Washington (Fr, 6’3)
G: Davion Mintz (6th-Yr Sr, 6’3)
SG: CJ Frederick (Jr, 6’1)
SG: Kellan Grady (5th-Yr Sr, 6’5)
SG: Dontaie Allen (RS-Soph, 6’6)
SF: Jacob Toppin (Jr, 6’7)
SF: Bryce Hopkins (Fr, 6’6)
PF: Keion Brooks (Jr, 6’10)
PF: Oscar Tshiebwe (Jr, 6’9)
PF: Lance Ware (Soph, 6’9)
PF: Daimion Collins (Fr, 6’9)
Follow me on Twitter!