Kentucky Basketball: 5 Early Storylines from Wildcats' 2015 Recruiting Trail

Bobby ReaganFeatured ColumnistApril 28, 2014

Kentucky Basketball: 5 Early Storylines from Wildcats' 2015 Recruiting Trail

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    Tony Gutierrez

    Don't expect much to change with John Calipari and Kentucky's recruiting effort in 2015, as it has been during his first five years in Lexington. 

    The Wildcats already have a commitment from Charles Matthews, who is a 5-star recruit and ranked No. 12 in the country, according to ESPN. Don't be surprised to see Calipari and staff add more than a couple of other 5-star players to join Matthews.

    We recently took a look at a wish list of players who would help make the class of 2015 another great one for Calipari, so this slideshow will address other issues. More specifically, what storylines to keep an eye on during the recruiting trail this offseason.

What Happens to Kenny Payne?

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Kentucky already lost a key member of its staff when Orlando Antigua decided to become head coach at South Florida. Now, could another top assistant leave for a head coaching job? 

    Kenny Payne's name has been rumored to be a candidate for the position at Southern Miss, which became open when Donnie Tyndall decided to take the Tennessee job. Losing Payne could be a pivotal blow to Kentucky on the recruiting side. 

    Antigua and Payne are both known for being great recruiters and have been a main part in the Wildcats consistently getting the top recruits year in and year out. While it's true players don't declare what college to go to based on an assistant coach, it's usually an assistant who secures the commitment and gauges the interest throughout the recruiting season.

Charles Matthews

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    Charles Matthews didn't put up stats that will leave you wide-eyed, but he was very balanced. During his sophomore year at St. Rita's in Chicago, he averaged 12 points per game, seven rebounds per game and five assists. 

    Matthews is a 6'5" guard who is an excellent defender and an explosive scorer who finishes at the rim with great ease. However, he can struggle shooting the ball at times and doesn't have the best-looking jump shot when pulling up off the dribble. 

    While he's currently ranked No. 12 by ESPN, Kentucky fans should keep an eye on his development during his senior year. Playing in Chicago should draw a lot of attention, but much like Anthony Davis, Matthews doesn't play for a powerhouse in the city. 

    He's not a top-10 player just yet depending on what rankings you look at, but if he can continue to develop his jump shot and put on some muscle, don't be surprised if he's a consensus top-10 player in the class of 2015. 

Stephen Zimmerman

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    Stephen Zimmerman is a true 7'0" dominant player who has been drawing the attention of the blue bloods of college basketball for a couple of years now. Joining Kentucky in the recruiting of Zimmerman are programs like Arizona, Kansas, Duke and North Carolina. 

    While most of it has to do with his size, Zimmerman's ability to step outside and hit a jumper only increases his game. The Nevada native also is extremely coordinated for his size, and that allows him to use a variety of moves in the post.

    247Sports has numerous schools with warm interest, but has Arizona as the favorites to land Zimmerman. The crystal ball gives Arizona a 59 percent chance to land him, while Kentucky is at nine percent. With an entire year to work on recruiting the big man, can Calipari and staff convince him to come to Lexington? 

Malik Newman

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    While Kentucky has an outside chance to land Zimmerman according to 247Sports, the Wildcats are the clear favorites to land arguably the best player in the class, Malik Newman. 

    The storyline here is to see how quick Kentucky can get a commitment from Newman and if they can stay the favorite during the summer recruiting circuit. With the possibility of new assistant coaches coming into Lexington, it will be key for Calipari to take the reins as the main recruiter when it comes to Newman. 

    Newman is a 6'3" shooting guard who is a dynamic scorer and quite possibly the best at filling up the scoresheet in the class of 2015. Joining Kentucky as the main players in the recruitment of Newman are Kansas, Mississippi State, N.C. State and Ole Miss. 

    It will be intriguing to see if his interest in other schools changes if he continues to improve his game. Otherwise, it'll be a race to see how quick Calipari can pick up his second commitment in the class of 2015. 

Do Recruits Become Gun Shy?

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    Eric Gay

    The story of Kentucky basketball over the past couple of years is bringing in loaded recruiting classes to reload because a plethora of players leave for the NBA. Well, something different has happened lately. 

    After a subpar 2012-13 season, the Wildcats only lost Archie Goodwin and Nerlens Noel to the NBA and Kyle Wiltjer to transfer. Then, after a season that saw Kentucky make the national championship game, the Wildcats only lost Julius Randle and James Young.

    Now, instead of bringing in a recruiting class that will be looked at to play right away, Kentucky could have the deepest team in recent history. With an astounding nine McDonald's All-American's on the roster and a two-year starter in Willie Cauley-Stein, the freshmen will have time to develop and not have to worry about the pressure.

    If this becomes the trend, will there be a change in the recruiting classes that Kentucky gets? Most likely not, but where I believe the difference will come is when recruits start committing. Players will begin to wait until the spring period to sign their letters of intent to see which players decide to come back with Kentucky.

    Obviously, this all could change if the one-and-done rule goes away, but for the time being, this is a trend to keep an eye on, starting this year.