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Losing versatile D.J. Jeffries unexpected loss for Calipari and not a good omen for what lies ahead with James Wiseman

D.J. Jeffries with UK coach John Calipari and assistant Tony Barbee.

By LARRY VAUGHT

He’s had a superb summer that convinced college basketball recruiting analysts he could be a big contributor at Kentucky. However, ESPN five-star forward D.J. Jeffries shocked many Monday when he de-committed from the Wildcats despite saying numerous times in recent months that he was firmly committed to UK.

Jeffries played on an AAU team coached by Penny Hardaway, who was named head coach at Memphis about one week after Jeffries announced he was going to UK. One of Jeffries’ AAU teammates has been James Wiseman, perhaps the No. 1 player in the 2019 recruiting class who is basically deciding between Memphis and Kentucky.
“After careful consideration prayer and countless hours of consulting with my family I decided to reopen recruitment it was a hard decision but I am confident that taking my time to choose the right school for me to better myself educationally and athletically is the right choice,” Jeffries posted on Twitter.

Jeffries plays for Olive Branch, Miss. He played in the Marshall County Hoopfest last year — as did Wiseman. Both are also scheduled to be back with their teams this year and Jeffries had figured to be a major draw since he would be going to UK.

Sporting News college basketball columnist Mike DeCourcy watched Jeffries play in the recent Peach Jam against the nation’s best players and came away impressed with the 6-7, four-star player.

“I really like him a lot. He’s a very dynamic and versatile forward,” DeCourcy said said. “One thing I really love is his ability to finish below the rim. He can play above the rim but he does not need to.

“He is crafty about his finishes at the basket. If he is in traffic, he will read your move and bank it off the board before you can do anything about it. That’s not something a lot of people understand. Reading the defense around the rim is important. Why go up strong and maybe eat the ball at the basket. He reads the defender and can go another way or just release the ball quickly. He’s really good at that.

“I think his ability to do that is a rare gift and will serve him well in college and in the NBA beyond that.”

The 6-8 Jeffries averaged 15.3 points per game in Nike EYBL play for the Bluff City Legends — a team that included UK’s top 2019 target, James Wiseman — and shot 48.8 percent from the field, 32.4 percent from 3-point range and 76 percent at the foul line. He also averaged 7.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.0 steals per game. For comparison, Wiseman averaged 15.2 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game.

ESPN recruiting director Paul Biancardi also got to see Jeffries play and “loves” his versatility much like DeCourcy does.

“That versatility is what Cal and his staff love,” Biancardi said when he still thought Jeffries was UK-bound. “Length, wingspan, athleticism. He has all that. He’s so fluid and smooth and can be a combination guy. He can be a small ball 4 (power forward) or you can go bigger with him at the 3 (small forward).

“I just like a lot about his game. There’s nothing definite that just jumps out at you other than the versatility, and that really jumps out. He still has a long way to go in terms of development but he has plenty of time to do it. He also has some defensive versatility that I really like.”

That versatility is what makes losing him a blow to Kentucky because from what I’ve been told, this de-commitment was not one UK knew was coming and certainly has to make one believe that UK’s chances of landing Wiseman took a hit when his friend and AAU teammate bailed on the Cats.

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  1. As panic sets in, Penny Hardaway is the next coming of John Wooden. He is the best recruiter and bench coach that has never coached a division one college game. He will win ten consecutive NCAA titles and have a five year undefeated streak. All this will be accomplished with a four star and five star recruit that have not committed to him yet. I have not seen optimism like this since Billy G. agreed to coach Kentucky and we all know how that turned out!

    This is what happens in the middle of the summer and something unusual happens.

  2. Life goes on as our BBN will survive without him. Good luck to him whomever he chooses and we can pretty well guess were that’s going to be.

  3. Does any one here really believe Cal won’t field an excellent team without DJ? I’m guessing the reason he bolted is because UK was recruiting better players at his position. Nothing wrong with him seeking a better situation but some of the things his father said were uncalled for. He did leave UK in the lurch to an extent. Did he discuss his concerns with Cal? Was he recruited illegally by Penny? Lots of questions remain. But the bottom line is that UK is not for everyone. It’s just that most players realize that even a bench seat for the Cats is better than almost anything else you could look at. How many teams have ever had non-starters go as lottery picks? The answer is ONE and it has happened more than once there. Booker is the obvious choice. Neither Trey Lyles or SGA started the year as members of UK’s first team. Both became lottery picks.

    Jefferies is taking a huge risk if he goes with Penny and Memphis. Great players rarely make great coaches. There are a few exceptions but players generally ask too much of others when they become coaches. That’s just true. How many top college coaches were great players? I can’t think of any.

  4. No big deal. UK will be fine without him. I am more concerned with a few future 5 star football players being signed by the Stoops train. It is football’s turn in the spotlight from my view anyway. Much to do about nothing because Calipari just reloads with or without whomever. Go Cats!!!!

  5. Now we got the real story why he de -committed, His father got sore because Cal wasn”t watching him at his last peach game. If that’s type of father he is we don’t need him began with.

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