Wildcats miss out on Bamba, but Calipari ‘ecstatic’ about three spring signees to complete class

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By Keith Taylor
KyForward Senior Sports Writer

John Calipari’s newest recruiting class is now complete.

Calipari and his coaching staff concluded the spring signing period with three additions to next year’s squad, considered one of the top classes assembled in the nation according to several national recruiting services.

Kentucky coach John Calipari was all smiles after Kentucky wrapped up the current recruiting class with three spring signees on Thursday (Keith Taylor Photo)

The Wildcats added guard Jermarl Baker and forwards Kevin Knox and Jarred Vanderbilt to a class, which already included heralded prospects Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Quade Green, Nick Richards and P.J. Washington, all of whom signed with Kentucky last fall. The three spring signees are four- and five-star prospects and ranked among the top 100 players in the current graduating class.

“To go along with who we have coming back, this group of young people – I’m ecstatic,” Calipari said. “I’m telling you, it’s going to be hard. We will be the youngest team and most inexperienced team in the country.

“This may be my youngest team ever, but you know what, I love the challenge of it because we have kids that will share, that are going to give it up for each other and that are comfortable in their own skin. They come from great homes. They understand they’re on a mission. They want to get better. Those are the kinds of kids that we want here at Kentucky.”

Baker a 6-foot-4 shooting guard from Roosevelt High School in Corona, California, is considered one of the top 3-point shooters in his class and averaged 17.1 points per game last season. He also shot 44 percent from long range last year.

Calipari said Baker is the “knockdown shooter” the Wildcats wanted to add to next year’s roster to help ease the departure of Malik Monk. The Kentucky coach said Baker also can “create his own shot.”

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“I want to be great,” Baker said. “I chose to go to the school where I’d get a chance to compete every day and play against the best of college basketball. Kentucky will challenge me to become the best I can possibly be.”

Knox, a 6-9 forward, gives the Wildcats some versatility in the post and also is considered a solid shooter. Knox averaged 25.4 points and 11.3 rebounds per game for Tampa Catholic last season and tallied 2,760 points during his high school career. Calipari said Knox is going to be “the youngest player in college basketball” but will be “similar to a Devin Booker (and) Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.”

“I’m anxious to see his growth, because I think it will be off the chain,” Calipari said.

Jarred Vanderbilt gives the Wildcats another post presence with his 6-9 frame and averaged 28.5 points and 13.4 rebounds per game last season at Victory Prep Academy. Vanderbilt, a left-handed shooter, played with former Kentucky guard De’Aaron Fox on the AAU circuit in Texas. For his size, Vanderbilt also is known to spread the wealth in the post and averaged 8.8 assists per game last year.

“You’re talking a long athlete, a playmaking player who can get to that rim,” Calipari said. “He can really pass it and handle it in transition. He can rebound and go. He’s another one I’m anxious to see the growth as a player, as a shooter and as a perimeter scorer, because he can do both (play inside and outside).”

Vanderbilt considers himself a team player.

“I’m all about the team,” Vanderbilt told the Louisville Courier-Journal. “I want to win. My main goal is to win (and) everything is good when you’re winning. There’s no sense in being productive by myself and losing. I want everybody to succeed. I’m that type of guy.”

Mohamed Bamba, one of the top uncommitted players in current class, announced Thursday that he would play at Texas next season. Bamba chose the Longhorns over Kentucky.

Keith Taylor is a senior sports writer for KyForward, where he primarily covers University of Kentucky sports. Reach him at keith.taylor@kyforward.com or @keithtaylor21 on Twitter

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