College Sports

Who’s coming to Big Blue Madness? UK has another star-studded guest list.

Dontaie Allen averaged 31.8 points and 11.4 rebounds at Pendleton County as a junior. He has signed to play next year at the University of Kentucky.
Dontaie Allen averaged 31.8 points and 11.4 rebounds at Pendleton County as a junior. He has signed to play next year at the University of Kentucky. aslitz@herald-leader.com

There will be another group of recruiting VIPs in Rupp Arena for UK’s annual Big Blue Madness showcase Friday night. Here’s a closer look at the guest list heading into the big event:

Vernon Carey

The visiting recruit of most immediate concern is Carey, a 6-foot-10 power forward and the No. 1 overall player in Rivals.com’s rankings for the class of 2019.

Carey — from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. — will be on campus for his official visit this weekend and will follow that with official visits to Duke, Miami and North Carolina the following three weekends. He’s already taken an official visit to his other finalist, Michigan State.

The Herald-Leader asked several national recruiting experts to handicap Carey’s recruitment this week, and they came up with Duke as a slight favorite, though the biggest consensus was that just about every school on Carey’s list other than UNC still has a legitimate shot.

“The thing about Vernon’s recruitment is that he’s going to take all his visits, and — to me — he genuinely seems open to the schools he’s considering,” 247Sports national analyst Evan Daniels told the Herald-Leader on Wednesday. “I think they’ve each given him some different things to think about. Obviously, Miami is close to home, and he told me that he probably has the best relationship with those guys. I think at one time, Duke led. I think Kentucky has made a strong case. And I think at one time, Michigan State has led in that recruitment.

“So I think there’s a lot for Vernon Carey to think about and go through, and I think these official visits will matter a lot.”

Carey has said he would like to make a college decision before the end of the year — though he’s not completely committed to signing in November — and Daniels said he wouldn’t be surprised if Carey ultimately lands at UK, Duke, Miami or Michigan State.

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The early commitments

All three members of UK’s recruiting class of 2019 — Dontaie Allen, Tyrese Maxey and Kahlil Whitney — are expected to be back in Lexington for Big Blue Madness.

Allen, who committed to UK in August and was on campus last weekend, will be in town for his official visit. Maxey and Whitney have already taken their official visits to UK and are expected to be at Madness on unofficial visits.

The trio of early commitments will no doubt be spending the night trying to sell the other recruiting visitors — especially Carey — on joining them as Wildcats.

UK basketball commitment Tyrese Maxey talks about who he's recruiting to join him at Kentucky, and what he's telling other recruits in the 2019 class.

The 2020 guys

Madness is always an event that UK uses to bring in younger prospects, and the Cats will have several from the class of 2020 on hand Friday night.

Five-star combo guard RJ Hampton — the No. 6 overall playing in the national composite rankings — is scheduled to be in Rupp for the first time, just a couple weeks after landing a scholarship offer from Kentucky.

Fellow five-star prospects Jaemyn Brakefield — a Huntington Prep standout from Mississippi — and Jalen Johnson, a Milwaukee forward, are also expected to be there. Brakefield (No. 19 in the 2020 composite rankings) and Johnson (No. 5 overall) were both at Madness as sophomores last fall.

Huntington Prep point guard AJ Hoggard (No. 96 in the 247Sports rankings) will also be in Rupp as part of a large contingent from that nearby program, Coach Arkell Bruce told the Herald-Leader this week.

Camden (N.J.) power forward Lance Ware — the No. 47 player in the 247Sports composite rankings — will be at Madness following a school visit from Calipari a couple of weeks ago. Ware attends the same high school that once featured Dajuan Wagner, one of Calipari’s signature recruits from his days at Memphis.

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The underclassmen

UK often hosts sophomores — and even the occasional freshman — for unofficial visits on Madness weekend, and this one will be no different.

The nation’s No. 1-ranked player in the class of 2021 — Boston shooting guard Terrence Clarke — is expected to be in Lexington this weekend for an unofficial visit.

Other class of 2021 recruits invited to attend Friday night include Huntington Prep power forward JT Thor (No. 10 in the 247Sports rankings) and Huntington Prep guard Joshua Primo.

IMG Academy (Fla.) power forward Brandon Huntley-Hatfield (No. 20 in the Rivals.com rankings) and Indiana point guard Khristian Lander (No. 14 in the 247Sports rankings) were also invited but will not be able to attend Madness.

Anybody else?

There will probably be some surprise guests Friday night — there almost always are — but many of UK’s top class of 2019 targets will be otherwise occupied this weekend.

James Wiseman is scheduled to take his official visit to Vanderbilt, though it wouldn’t be a complete shocker to see him show up at Madness and start that Vandy trip — in his hometown of Nashville — on Saturday. Wiseman attended last year’s Big Blue Madness and has already taken his official visit to Kentucky.

Calipari visited with top-five prospect Jaden McDaniels again this week, but he’s scheduled to take the first official visit of his recruitment to San Diego State this weekend. His older brother, Jalen, is a star player for the Aztecs.

Five-star forward Matthew Hurt was rumored this fall to be visiting for Big Blue Madness, but he will not be in town this weekend and said at last week’s USA Basketball camp that he plans to take most of his visits during the season.

Highly touted forward Keion Brooks, who was at last year’s Madness, is scheduled to take his official visit to Kentucky next weekend.

Five-star centers Isaiah Stewart and Oscar Tshiebwe took official visits to UK on the same weekend last month. Stewart is not expected to return Friday night, and Tshiebwe is finished with his recruiting trips and is expected to make a decision between UK and West Virginia next weekend.

Cole Anthony — the No. 1 guard in the 2019 class — is scheduled to be at Oregon for an official visit next weekend, leaving this weekend open on his calendar. He’s already taken official visits to Notre Dame and North Carolina, and he has not yet scheduled a trip to Lexington.

Five-star point guard Cole Anthony talks about his recruitment and the possibility of teaming up with Tyrese Maxey at Kentucky.

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