The Cats are currently the favorites to land Lively.
As many expected, both Emoni Bates and Jalen Duren made the jump from the 2022 class to 2021 with Duren deciding to commit to Memphis, and Bates yet to make an official decision.
Following those two moves, 247 Sports updated their rankings for the 2022 class and Kentucky target Dereck Lively II now sits as the No. 1 player in the class.
Shaedon Sharpe now sits at No. 6 overall however, since the live recruiting period has now passed, I would expect Sharpe to move well into the top five when the next complete update occurs.
As of right now, the Kentucky Wildcats are viewed as the favorite to land both Lively and Sharpe which would be massive pickups for John Calipari and his revamped staff.
Aside from recruiting rankings, a big thing for Kentucky is the fact that players can now make money by taking the college route.
In recent years, some of the top players have been opting to take the G-League or other professional routes because they could make money in doing so.
Many believed that the 2022 class would be the first that could jump straight to the NBA, that is not the case, but the view was still that most of the top players would still jump to the G-League.
With NIL rules being changed, the appeal of college basketball could be back at the front for the top recruits.
Ben Roberts of the Herald-Leader caught up with some of the top recruits in 2022 to discuss just that.
Chris Livingston is currently ranked as the No. 4 overall player in the class and was seen as a player destined for the pros. However, in June he took official visits to Kentucky and Kansas, and he has trips planned for Memphis and Georgetown.
Livingston noted that the G-League has reached out as well as the Australian-based NBL, but he doesn’t want to play overseas.
“I think it kind of evens it up for colleges,” Livingston said. “I think it plays a big role.”
While NIL is certainly going to help the Cats when it comes to battling players for the G-League, the advantage might not be as significant when it comes to battling other colleges.
Roberts notes that while players that end up in Lexington are going to make a lot of money, those same opportunities will be present elsewhere as well.
“Yes, star recruits who end up at Kentucky will have the opportunity to make major money — perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars, or even more — in endorsement deals. But those elite-of-the-elite players — the ones Calipari recruits the hardest — are likely to have similar opportunities at just about any school with a real chance of landing their commitment.”
The area where Kentucky is going to have a big advantage is with the in-state recruits. We have seen Dontaie Allen become the first player on Kentucky’s roster to announce an NIL deal.
This could also play a role in the recruitment of North Laurel guard Reed Sheppard who still has two years of high school to play.
A player that is already as popular in this state as Sheppard could find himself in a great NIL situation if he decides to play at Kentucky.
However, the Sheppard’s haven’t given any indication that NIL will be a major factor in his recruitment. But Jeff Sheppard did note Kentucky basketball’s likely power in the NIL era.
“I think everybody’s trying to get their arms around it, but I think it could be very special,” Jeff Sheppard said. “The Kentucky fans love Kentucky basketball, they love the players, they love the coaches. So exactly what does it look like? I think everybody is trying to figure it out. But I think there are only a few programs in the country that can package up (something) that competes with what Kentucky can do, from the aspect of exposure and opportunity. We’ll see what it looks like.”
NIL is a complete change for college basketball, and it will be interesting to see how it all plays out in the coming years. I would expect Kentucky to be at the forefront of the new landscape.
You can check out everything Roberts had to say here.