Nearly a week after landing one of the nation’s top point guard recruits, Kentucky has added an elite big man. Edrice “Bam” Adebayo said on ESPN radio Show Mike & Mike Tuesday morning that he would join the Wildcats ahead of the 2016–17 season. He reportedly will sign his National Letter of Intent at 6:30 p.m. The early signing period for college basketball ends on Wednesday.
Adebayo’s announcement comes after he took visits to Auburn, NC State and Kentucky. The Wolfpack had been considered the favorite to land him, and the speculation over whether Adebayo would commit to the program intensified after it secured a pledge from point guard Dennis Smith Jr. in September. Adebayo and Smith are friends who played on the same adidas-sponsored grassroots program.
But Kentucky coach John Calipari continued to pursue Adebayo, who received a scholarship offer from the Wildcats in July and described his trip to Lexington last month as “sensational.” In the end, Adebayo elected to become the next potential one-and-done recruit to play under Calipari instead of teaming up to form a potent inside-out combination with five-star prospect Smith.
At 6'9" and 230 pounds, Adebayo is a hard-working post player who overwhelms opponents with his combination of athleticism and power. Though his offensive skill set is limited, Adebayo finishes effectively from close range. “Adebayo plays with a tremendous amount of energy each time he takes the floor and is a true intimidator on the interior,” Rivals.com analyst Eric Bossi wrote of Adebayo this year.
As a junior at Northside (N.C.) High last season, Adebayo averaged 32.2 points, 21.0 rebounds and 4.5 blocks, according to MaxPreps. He transferred to High Point Christian (N.C.) Academy in advance of his senior season. Adebayo is currently No. 8 in the Recruiting Services Consensus Index (RSCI), and the scouting website DraftExpress projects him as the 10th pick in the 2017 draft.
In a year in which Duke has landed the No. 1 (Harry Giles) and No. 3 (Jayson Tatum) prospects in the RSCI, Kentucky is compiling a strong class in its own right. The Wildcats had already added two power forward recruits as part of their 2016 recruiting class before Tuesday, yet neither Wenyen Gabriel (16) nor Sacha Killeya-Jones (25) are as highly regarded as Adebayo.
Earlier this week Kentucky also signed Tai Wynyard, a big man from New Zealand, as part of its 2015 recruiting class (he could join the program the second half of this season or possibly redshirt). In their 2016 class, the Wildcats have reeled in five-star point guard De’Aaron Fox, and there’s a possibility that he could be joined by top-flight shooting guard Malik Monk to fill out a group that would rival the Blue Devils’.
Adebayo could be a force in Kentucky’s frontcourt right away. Its three top projected frontcourt scorers, freshman Skal Labissiere, junior Marcus Lee and senior Alex Poythress, all could leave for the NBA after this season. Each projects as first-round picks in DraftExpress’s latest 2016 mock draft. Either way, Adebayo easily could operate effectively alongside any of them.
His work on the low blocks will serve Kentucky well no matter who else Calipari plays in the frontcourt.