Kentucky Basketball Recruiting: Prioritizing Wildcats' Top 2015 Targets

Bobby ReaganFeatured ColumnistJuly 8, 2014

Kentucky Basketball Recruiting: Prioritizing Wildcats' Top 2015 Targets

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Whether you're on the coaching staff or a fan of Kentucky basketball, there is no offseason. With the summer session of AAU basketball and camps in full swing, there's no doubt that the biggest buzz word in college basketball is recruiting.

    Kentucky head coach John Calipari stands next to no one when it comes to recruiting, as he's regarded as the best recruiter at the head coaching level. His recruiting classes at Kentucky have included four No. 1 classes and a No. 2 class according to 247Sports

    One of the reasons that he's so good at compiling talent like those classes is his ability to prioritize the players he needs to go after and that he has a backup plan if that falls through. Does it help that these players are often ranked toward the top 20 in their respective classes? Absolutely. But, regardless, Calipari always has a plan of attack when it comes to recruiting.

    This slideshow will attempt to go inside Calipari's mind and rank the five most important players the Wildcats are targeting in the class of 2015. This doesn't have as much to do with talent as it does with fitting the team culture in Lexington. 

5. Stephen Zimmerman

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    The class of 2015 is loaded with talented big men. One of these post players is Stephen Zimmerman, a true 7-footer from Las Vegas who can play both inside and out.

    With soft hands and a jumper that can stretch to 18 feet, Zimmerman fits in well with Calipari's motion offense. His pick-and-pop game would excel in Lexington, due to Calipari's tendency to run a high pick-and-roll offense with his point guard and center.

    His ability to run the floor, but lack of strength, would make him a nice complement if a player like Trey Lyles or Dakari Johnson returns for another year. However, with a deep class of centers, Zimmerman only reaches as high as the fifth-most important recruit for the Wildcats. 

4. Cheick Diallo

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    If you're going to play at Kentucky, you better be ready to compete defensively and work hard at all times. Luckily for Cheick Diallo, he does both of those extremely well.

    In fact, he recently drew the praise from Evan Daniels, who called Diallo the hardest worker in the class of 2015. 

    Diallo is an important recruit to land because of his ability to become the next defensive anchor in Lexington. While it wouldn't surprise anyone to see Willie Cauley-Stein leave for the NBA after his junior year, the Wildcats will need someone to fill that void.

    Diallo is a star defender in the paint and can be next in the line of great shot-blockers to play at Kentucky, following the likes of Anthony Davis, Nerlens Noel and Cauley-Stein. 


3. Carlton Bragg

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    Carlton Bragg is the type of post player that Kentucky basketball seems to get every year. The uber-athletic freak has the athleticism of a wing with the size and strength of a post player.

    The Cleveland native can jump out of the building and has the quickness you often see in a wing player. Due to this, he's a match made in heaven for Kentucky's offensive and, more importantly, defensive philosophy. 

    Bragg can draw some comparisons to former Wildcat Terrence Jones. He is 6'9" with the ability to stretch the floor—thanks in part to his range from 20 feet—and can send the house down with a thunderous dunk. He's also tremendous at crashing the offensive glass.

    Bragg's versatility could allow him to play multiple positions, much like how the Wildcats used Jones and currently use Alex Poythress. 

    Defensively, Bragg is able to switch on any screen—something Calipari has shown in the past he likes his players to do—while also being able to protect the rim with his jumping ability. Don't be surprised to see Bragg used in a press-trap situation if he commits to Kentucky, either. 

1a. and 1b. Diamond Stone and Malik Newman

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    It doesn't matter in what order you put these two since they are a packaged deal. While two players couldn't be more different, they have decided to play together at the collegiate level, something we are seeing more of each year. 

    Malik Newman, a high-scoring combo guard from Mississippi, is often regarded as the best player in the class. Standing only 6'3", he's considered small for a shooting guard but doesn't really have the type of game to be classified as a point. It doesn't matter, though, as college coaches are drooling over his game, due to his ability to finish at the rim or pull up from almost anywhere in the gym.

    While he isn't regarded as a point guard, Newman has a quick first step and a vastly underrated basketball IQ. He's not afraid to make the extra pass or even a difficult pass, it's just his nature to put the ball in the hoop. When you think of someone to run Calipari's dribble-drive offense, this is exactly the type of player you want in that role.

    Diamond Stone, on the other hand, is a 6'10" center from Milwaukee, who is more of a new-generation-type player in the sense that he has range like Karl-Anthony Towns and is known for his face-up game. 

    With the expectation that at least one player from a crowded frontcourt in 2014-15 will return to Lexington for another year, Stone's game can complement them perfectly. With the dribble-drive offense usually playing just one guy in the post, Stone can step away and draw his defender away from the basket as well. 

    There's no doubt that these two players, especially if they continue to be a packaged deal, will be the most important recruits on numerous teams' boards. Especially at Kentucky.