Kentucky is down to just two high school signees in the class of 2021, as five-star guard Nolan Hickman Jr. has decommitted from the program. Five-star forward Daimion Collins and four-star Bryce Hopkins remain as the lone signees in Kentucky’s upcoming recruiting class.
More specifically, Kentucky has zero point guards signed on for 2021-22 at the high school or collegiate level via the transfer portal.
What does this news mean for the program?
UK loses a talented prospect
At the time of his commitment, Hickman was listed as the No. 76 player overall and No. 13 point guard in the class by Rivals, but was widely seen as one of the fastest rising prospects in the senior class. With impressive court vision, pace, patience, and driving ability, he drew early comparisons to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, another underrated prospect who saw his stock rise throughout his senior campaign leading up to his time at Kentucky.
Today, Hickman is the No. 29 overall prospect in the 247Sports Composite and is ranked no lower than No. 39 overall by Rivals. ESPN actually moved him up to No. 22 overall and No. 5 among point guards in their latest rankings, pushing him up to five-star status.
UK found one of the underrated gems of the class and got him to sign on the dotted line last fall, but unfortunately, he won’t be making it to Lexington.
Tony Barbee’s departure made an impact
Both Hickman and his father, Nolan Hickman Sr. told KSR numerous times after committing and signing with the program that Barbee was one of the key reasons they liked Kentucky so much. The former assistant coach, who is now the head coach at Central Michigan, was one of the first to express serious interest and believe in the then-four-star guard, and that meant a lot to the Hickman family.
As soon as Barbee’s departure was confirmed, whispers of a potential decommitment crept in. And then on Friday, those rumblings turned into reality.
Back to square one at point guard
When you have zero point guards signed on for the following season going into May, it’s undoubtedly a serious issue. With Hickman exploring his other options and Devin Askew transferring to Texas, UK is back to square one at the lead guard position with no legitimate possibilities remaining at the high school level. Could UK push for a reclass from 2022 five-star guard commitment Skyy Clark? It’s doubtful, as there have been decommitment rumblings with him since his lead recruiter, Joel Justus, left the program to take an assistant coaching job at Arizona State last week. Jaden Bradley likes UK, but Justus was also his lead recruiter.
And are we really comfortable pushing for another reclassified freshman point guard to run the show after seeing how this past season went? Not sure John Calipari is in a rush to try that again anytime soon.
The transfer portal feels like UK’s one and only option to find not just one, but numerous point guards to fill the roster.
Calipari has to have something up his sleeve
The biggest takeaway of all of this? Calipari has to have something brewing if he’s comfortable losing a player of Hickman’s caliber this late in the process. Hickman’s father recently told KSR that UK planned on bringing freshmen to campus starting June 1, with the family hoping to head to Lexington at the end of May to start the move-in process and get familiar with the area. That’s exactly one month from now.
Did Minnesota’s Marcus Carr and/or Georgia’s Sahvir Wheeler make it clear they wanted to transfer to Kentucky? Maybe Calipari caught wind that Creighton’s Marcus Zegarowski and/or Vanderbilt’s Scotty Pippen Jr. were entering the portal and wanted to continue their standout careers in Lexington? Did Jaden Hardy express interest in playing college basketball again after heavily considering the professional route?
Calipari isn’t letting a player of Hickman’s caliber go unless he has a trick or two up his sleeve. And Hickman, previously the only point guard signed on for next season, isn’t asking out of his letter of intent unless he felt there wasn’t room for him on the roster.
Something’s got to give here.