- John Calipari has another star-studded freshman class in Lexington, including point guard Immanuel Quickley. What will his impact on the Wildcats be?
In the one-and-done era, college basketball fans have grown accustomed to having to get to know a slew of new, highly-touted names and faces each season, many of whom will spend just one year on campus before moving on to the NBA. Just look at the 2018 draft, where it took 10 picks before Mikal Bridges became the first non-freshman (or international) to be selected. Not all elite freshmen will pan out, but history dictates that many of them will help headline the sport for the next year—and, for some, maybe even beyond.
With that in mind, SI.com will be introducing you to the top incoming freshmen in college basketball and breaking down the impact those players could have this season. The rankings are according to RSCI Hoops, a composite that averages from 25 different expert top-100 lists. We move to the No. 23 overall recruit, Kentucky's Immanuel Quickley.
What he means for Kentucky’s recruiting class
Devin Booker in 2015. Jamal Murray in 2016. De’Aaron Fox in 2017. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in 2018.
Five-star point guard Immanuel Quickley might be the next name added to the list of consecutive one-and-done Kentucky guards to go as one of the top NBA draft picks following his freshman season. The Havre de Grace, Md., native joins a No. 2 ranked recruiting class for the legendary John Calipari. He’s one of four top-25, five-star recruits to join the Wildcats roster, with power forward E.J. Montgomery (No. 10 in the RSCI rankings), point guard Ashton Hagans (No. 14) and small forward Keldon Johnson (No. 12) joining him. Four-star shooting guard Tyler Herro caps off the 2018 class, coming in at No. 35. Kentucky has had either a No. 1 or No. 2 ranked recruiting class every season since Calipari came to Lexington in 2009, this year losing the No. 1 spot to Mike Krzyzewski and Duke. Quickley was Kentucky’s first commit in the class, having previously trained and played under Calipari in the U.S. U-19 World Cup team. Calipari knows what he’s getting with this guard, and he’s getting quite a lot.
How he fits
Calipari is unmatched when it comes to cranking out nationally pedigreed point guards in barely any time at all. The Kentucky coach is used to having to constantly rebuild his team, recruiting the best of each class knowing he will likely lose most of them come the next NBA draft. Quickley fits right in with this Calipari model with his top-tier talent and off the charts basketball IQ. He’s an above-average ball handler and a smart decision-maker, especially in crunch time. He’s also a leader, something Calipari’s young 2018 team needs; 10 of his 13 active players are underclassmen. Quickley is also a high-percentage shooter; he’s quick but accurate, oozing the kind of offensive efficiency that the Wildcats live for.
Kentucky lost four freshmen to the draft after last season, including starting forward Kevin Knox and guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander early in the first round. One of the least heralded players of Kentucky's 2017 signing class, Gilgeous-Alexander moved into the starting lineup by January and evolved into one of the most valuable players on the team. He averaged 14.4 points and 4.1 rebounds per game while shooting 48.5% from the floor and proved to be an adept passer and defender, leading the team with 5.1 assists per game and 1.6 steals per game. The Wildcats also lost redshirt freshman guard Hamidou Diallo, who averaged 10.0 points and 3.6 rebounds per game while starting all 37 games for the Wildcats. Calipari will likely trust sophomore Quade Green with the starting position after a solid freshman campaign, but both Quickley and fellow freshman Hagans will be expected to contribute early on. Hagans is more likely to see a start than Quickley, but no matter how it shakes out, the competition in the backcourt should only make the Wildcats better.
Importance to Kentucky's success/outlook
Calipari is one of the NCAA’s best when it comes to helping point guards reach their full potential and live out their NBA dreams, which is promising for Quickley and the rest of his recruiting class. The talented group comes to the Wildcats after a season in which Kentucky’s star-studded roster struggled to find a rhythm despite their talent. They finished the season with just 195 made three-pointers, the second-lowest in the Calipari era. This season, expect the pieces of the puzzle to fit together much more cohesively and mesh well with the remaining veteran talent on the team. The program will see a positive upswing with the addition of the 2018 recruits.