Calipari to have eight new Wildcats
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP)
Kentucky has added three more pieces to what's considered its greatest recruiting class with the signings of Julius Randle, Dominique Hawkins and Dakari Johnson.
Highlighting this group — ranked No. 1 by Scout.com even before Thursday's additions — are McDonald's All-Americans Randle and Johnson, both of whom are expected to improve the Wildcats' frontcourt.
Randle, a 6-foot-9 forward from Plano, Texas, is considered a top-five prospect and was co-MVP of the Jordan Classic all-star game. Johnson, a 6-10 center, is listed by Rivals.com as the nation's No. 9 overall prospect after leading Montverde (Fla.) Academy to the National High School Invitational championship.
Hawkins, from Richmond, Ky., led Madison Central High School to the state title and is the state's Mr. Basketball. The 6-1 guard averaged 20.4 points and 5.6 rebounds during the Sweet Sixteen tournament and was most valuable player.
Hawkins, Randle and Johnson join twins Aaron and Andrew Harrison, Marcus Lee, Derek Willis and James Young in what's considered Kentucky's best recruiting class ever. The other five players committed to the Wildcats during the fall signing period.
Kentucky coach John Calipari saw Hawkins several times this spring, including his first Sweet Sixteen game at Rupp Arena. He ended up landing the program's 17th Kentucky Mr. Basketball, the first since Darius Miller to win that award and a state title the same year.
Calipari said in a release that he hopes Hawkins has the same success at Kentucky as Miller, who helped the Wildcats win last year's NCAA championship and is now in the NBA. The coach definitely believes Hawkins has the drive.
''When I watched him play, lead his team, and play with a will to win and fight, I was totally sold,'' Calipari said. ''At the Sweet Sixteen, he made sure he got his teammates involved and was always happy with their success, but when it was time to take over the game — when it was winning time — everyone in the building knew they were going to play through Dominique, which they did, and they won.''
In Randle, Calipari sees a player with a similar will to win and a potential leader for a team that lacked it for the most part last season. Calipari views Johnson as an important low-post addition for the Wildcats, who lose 6-10 Nerlens Noel to the NBA but retain 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress.