Kentucky entered July with at least one clear imperative in its recruiting strategy. After failing to land center Stephen Zimmerman and power forward Cheick Diallo as part of a disappointing spring signing period, watching four frontcourt players hear their names called in the NBA draft—and with two or three more possibly turning pro in less than a year—the Wildcats needed big men. As of Wednesday, they have added two this month.
Less than three weeks after Australian Isaac Humphries reportedly decided to reclassify into 2015, Kentucky added a highly regarded power forward to its next recruiting class. “I would like to thank all of those who have supported me, through this long recruiting process,” Sacha Killeya-Jones wrote in a message posted to his Instagram account. “But I am excited to announce that I have committed to the University of Kentucky.”
Killeya-Jones initially committed to Virginia in January, after a strong spring and summer with his grassroots program, North Carolina-based Team Felton, resulted in scholarship offers from several high-major programs. He reneged on his pledge in June, telling Scout.com that he felt like, “I may have rushed my decision. I still love Virginia but just want to reaffirm that’s the right choice for me and plan to take some other visits.”
Later that month, Killeya-Jones visited Kentucky and earned a scholarship offer. Still, other programs continued to pursue him, with Kansas, Maryland and North Carolina all extending offers in July as he finished the month with Team Loaded Virginia on the Adidas circuit. A native of Chapel Hill, N.C., Killeya-Jones can reach the Tar Heels’ campus with a “five-minute bus ride.” In the end, however, he turned down the nearby program in favor of joining a different blue-clad blueblood.
"I look at what coach [John] Calipari has done with players like myself, and I see the way he prepares them for the next level and it's impressive," Killeya-Jones told ESPN. "He is a really genuine person who is a demanding coach. I felt very comfortable with him and [I] trust him."
At 6’10,’’ 207 pounds, Killeya-Jones is renowned for his offensive versatility and ability to stretch the floor with his shooting ability. “Whether you want to call him a finesse guy or a face-up four man, Killeya-Jones certainly plays a skill-based game,” said Eric Bossi, a national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. “He has soft touch around the rim that he uses on jump hooks and he’s particularly deadly with a turnaround jumper from either baseline.”
Killeya-Jones, who attends the Virginia Episcopal School in Lynchburg, is expected to rise from his current spot, No. 51 in the 2016 Rivals150. He’s the second ‘16 player to pledge to the Wildcats, but power forward Tai Wynyard has indicated that he could enroll after the fall semester. Though it has already reeled in two frontcourt players in this class, Kentucky has been pursuing other big men, including top-30 recruits Marques Bolden and Udoka Azubuike.
Irrespective of who else the Wildcats add, Calipari’s strong track record of quickly turning big men into draft picks suggests Killeya-Jones will need to contribute right away. Skal Labissiere, the top player in the class of 2015, could leave next spring to become one of the top picks in 2016, while Alex Poythress and Marcus Lee also are expected to be selected if they declare.