Kentucky Basketball: Shabazz Muhammad and UK's Top Unsigned 2012 Targets

Nick Nafpliotis@@NickNafster79Correspondent IFebruary 13, 2012

Kentucky Basketball: Shabazz Muhammad and UK's Top Unsigned 2012 Targets

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    While John Calipari and the University of Kentucky Wildcats chase after their 8th national title, another battle rages on behind the scenes: The fight for the best prospects in the 2012 recruiting class.

    Due to Calipari's heavy reliance on so-called "one and done" players, Kentucky must reload every year with a new class of phenomenal freshmen to replace most of the class from the year before.  

    The following is a list of the top unsigned targets for Kentucky that John Calipari hopes to convince to wear blue and white next season. 

5. Devonta Pollard, SF

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    High School

    Kemper County High School in De Kalb, Mississippi

    Junior Year Statistics (Senior Year Unavailable)

    24.2 PPG, 13.8 RPG, 5.3 BPG Ranking

    4-star recruit

    No. 8 Small Forward Prospect

    No. 9 Southeast Region Prospect

    No. 1 Prospect in the state of Mississippi

    Other Schools Offering

    Georgetown, Missouri, Ole Miss, NC State, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi State


    At 6'7" and 200 lbs., Pollard is a lean and athletic scorer that moves up and down the court with incredible fluidity (as seen here).  He is a force on both ends of the court and constantly cleans up under the basket.

    His ability to drive and shoot quickly and accurately (and his good ball handling skills) make him an ideal small forward prospect.

    Where does Kentucky stand?

    Things are very unclear at this point.  It looked like Pollard had cut UK from his list a few months ago, but now it seems he may have cut his list down to two school...Texas and Kentucky

    Whatever the case may be, a lot of schools (including Kentucky) will just have to wait until April to find out where they stand with this recruit.

4. Tony Parker, C

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    High School

    Miller Grove High School in Lithonia, Georgia

    Senior Year Statistics (as of January 12)

    17.7 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 3.2 BPG Ranking

    4-star recruit

    No. 7 Center Prospect

    No. 4 Southeast Region Prospect

    No. 1 Prospect in the state of Georgia

    Other Schools Offering

    UCLA, Duke, Ohio State, Georgetown, Memphis, Kansas, Connecticut


    As you can see from this highlight reel, Tony Parker has a great nose for the ball, very nice moves in the post and a knack for pulling down offensive rebounds.  

    The only knocks on him (minor condition issues and running the floor) are things that John Calipari would most likely have fixed by the end of the first week of practice. 

    Where does Kentucky stand?

    One of Kentucky's current commits, Alex Poythress, is good friends with Parker.  Poythress has been calling Parker daily and urging him to join the Wildcats.  Hopefully this (along with Calipari's recruiting mojo) is enough to make him a Cat; especially if UK doesn't land Nerlens Noel.

3. Anthony Bennett, PF

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    High School

    Findlay College Prep in Brampton, Ontario, Canada

    Senior Year Statistics

    Unavailable Ranking

    5-star recruit

    No. 1 Power Forward Prospect

    No. 1 Canadian Prospect

    Other Schools Offering

    Florida, Washington, Oregon, UNLV


    At 6'8" and 230 lbs., Anthony Bennett has incredible power and great post moves underneath the basket (which you can gawk at here).  

    He also has a nice shooting touch from the outside (even from 3-point range), making him an incredibly unenviable assignment for opposing players in the post.

    Where does Kentucky stand?

    Bennett is still unfamiliar with the craziness that is American college basketball recruiting.  This makes it a bit difficult to read where he is leaning towards, but as of today his list has been trimmed to five schools, Kentucky still being one of them.

2. Nerlens Noel, C

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    High School

    The Tilton School in Everett, Massachusetts

    Senior Year Statistics (as of February 1)

    12.6 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 3.9 BPG Ranking

    5-star recruit

    No.1 Center Prospect

    No.1 East Region Prospect

    No.1 Prospect in the state of Massachusetts

    Other Schools Offering

    Connecticut, Georgetown, Florida, UNC, Syracuse, Providence


    Nerlens Noel stole a little bit of the spotlight from football's national signing day when he decided to reclassify from the class of 2013 to the class of 2012.  While Noel's scoring numbers may not jump out at you, his incredible defensive abilities (which you can marvel at here), definitely will.  

    What really stands out about this player is his incredible combination of awareness and timing.  He constantly puts himself in the right place at the right time on defense and in transition.  What the videos don't necessarily show is how is quickness and length repeatedly alter opponents' shots and ability to get into the lane.

    If Kentucky fans are worried about replacing Anthony Davis, the answer might very well be Noel. 

    Where does Kentucky stand?

    With Kentucky limited on how many scholarships they have left to give and already filling a center spot with Willie Cauley, Noel moving up his classification actually hurts the Wildcats a bit.  Fortunately, Calipari had already offered him the first class of 2013 scholarship, so UK already had their foot in the door.

    Calipari is now making a full push to get him to be a Wildcat.  If there's one thing UK fans have learned, it's that when it comes to recruiting, Calipari is always a good bet.

1. Shabazz Muhammed, SF

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    High School

    Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, Nevada

    Senior Year Statistics (as of January 31)

    24.4 PPG, 7 RPG Ranking

    5-star recruit

    No. 1 Small Forward Prospect

    No. 1 West Region Prospect

    No.1 Prospect in the state of Nevada

    Other Schools Offering

    UCLA, USC, Duke, Kansas, UNLV, Memphis, Texas A&M


    Despite Nerlens Noel's late entry into the 2012 class, I still think that Shabazz Muhammad is the No. 1 target for Calapari's next group of phenomenal freshmen.  He is just too complete of a scorer and too mature for his age to not get the top spot.

    This highlight video (and this one) clearly demonstrates Muhammad's amazing talents:  He can drive the lane and finish with authority, while also showing incredibly good ball handling skills and a great shooting touch from outside.  At 6'6" and 215 lbs, Muhammad's combination of size and agility are a nightmare for any opposing small forward to guard.

    What the highlight reels don't show you, however, is his high basketball IQ.  While most players his age will constantly try to impose themselves on the defense with reckless abandon, Muhammad has no qualms about quickly passing out of a double team and moves incredibly well without the ball.

    Calipari doesn't treat his freshmen like babies; he expects and demands a lot out of them from the start.  Shabazz Muhammad's talent and maturity level should make Kentucky a perfect fit for him should he chose to become a Wildcat. 

    Where does Kentucky stand?

    Everyday there is a new hot lead on who is getting Shabazz.  One day, reports from the ever mysterious and exciting "reliable sources" will having him leaning towards Kentucky, then another report says he will end up at UNLV.

    The truth is, no one will know for sure until he announces his decision in April.  But Kentucky fans should probably take it as a good sign that he refers to the Wildcats on his twitter account as "my UK boys."