LEXINGTON, Ky. — The first domino has fallen in Kentucky basketball’s 2018 recruiting class, and it’s a big one: 5-star point guard Immanuel Quickley committed to the Wildcats during a ceremony at his high school in Maryland on Friday night.
With a drum beat from the band and a slow clap from the crowd to build whatever suspense there was for a guy who has been considered a Kentucky lean for months, Quickley removed his jacket and unbuttoned his dress shirt to reveal a UK uniform.
He became the ninth 5-star point guard to pick the Cats since coach John Calipari took over in 2009, following in the footsteps of (oldest to newest) John Wall, Brandon Knight, Marquis Teague, Andrew Harrison, Tyler Ulis, Isaiah Briscoe, De’Aaron Fox and Quade Green.
“That’s tough living up to such an unbelievable legacy that Calipari has built there,” said Andrew Slater, national recruiting analyst for 247Sports. “I don’t want to say names, but he’s certainly better than some of them. And he’s at least within the realm of the others. Let’s just say he’s not going to set the program back at all.”
In fact, Quickley jumping on board as the Wildcats’ first pledge in this class could help them land others — and soon. Rated the No. 8 overall prospect and No. 2 point guard nationally by the 247 Composite, he took his official visit to Kentucky last week with 5-star shooting guard Keldon Johnson. The two played pickup and worked out together and, sources tell SEC Country, really hit it off.
Bigger still: Quickley and 5-star small forward Zion Williamson — who began his official visit to UK on Friday night, coincidentally — are close friends who’ve openly discussed a desire to play together in college. And Williamson’s recruitment could be wrapping up sooner than later.
“Most college coaches would prefer to get a point guard first, because it sort of sets the tone,” Slater said. “They can point to him and say, ‘Look, this is the guy who is going to get you the ball.’ Point guards are usually very vocal and good leaders. Immanuel has a really good heart, which attracts people to him. He’s an excellent player, but he’s not egotistical. He’s able to let other guys shine. I think that may have attracted Zion to him.”
And what attracted Quickley to Kentucky? It helped that they spent three weeks together this summer at the under-19 FIBA World Cup in Egypt, where Quickley started for the Calipari-coached Team USA and averaged 14.7 points, 5.3 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.9 steals per 40 minutes. He shot 43 percent from 3-point range.
Quickley’s mentor and AAU director, Jide Sodipo, called him a gym rat: “Immanuel could go to the moon and find a basketball gym so he could work out.”
But what about his game? Slater has evaluated him at several events over the years and broke it down for SEC Country.
Strengths: “Immanuel brings very good size. He’s got excellent court vision. He’s an improved 3-point shooter. He’s a better defensive rebounder than he ever was, where he uses that length that he has to clog the passing lanes. He’s an improving penetrator. His perimeter shot overall has improved and that’s taken his game to another level now, turned him into that sort of top-10 type of player.
Room to grow: “He could tighten his handle up a little bit, his mid-range shot needs some work and he could add some upper-body strength because of that penetration. You’re going to get hit every time you go through the lane. I think he could also benefit from staying aggressive throughout the game — or from game to game. He could go for 30-plus one game and 13 the next. If he can maintain that level of excellence, he could ultimately end up a lottery pick.”
Three of Calipari’s previous UK point guards have gone in the lottery (seven total drafted), not to mention Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans at Memphis. The Wildcats hope he’s next.
Calipari’s 5-star Kentucky PGs
2018 — Immanuel Quickley
2017 — Quade Green
2016 — De’Aaron Fox
2015 — Isaiah Briscoe
2014 — Tyler Ulis
2013 — Andrew Harrison
2011 — Marquis Teague
2010 — Brandon Knight
2009 — John Wall
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