By LARRY VAUGHT
Even COVID-19 cannot stop Kentucky basketball from making national headlines.
Just consider some of the story lines in the last 24 hours:
— Perhaps the most important immediately was the worry that a reported $500,000 from the G-League might convince Terrence Clarke, UK’s highest rated recruit, to turn professional rather than joining John Calipari’s 2020-21 team.
Calipari even had to take to Twitter over the “craziness” he saw from UK fans on social media
Clarke was reportedly getting a large contract offer to play in the NBA G-League, which was led by former UK assistant Rod Strickland, who now works for the G-League in recruiting prospects like Clarke to join them.
Speaking of, head coach John Calipari weighed in on the G-league talks, Strickland, and his team next season:
“I’m feeling really good about my team. #BBN, let’s focus on this great group we have for next season,” Calipari tweeted.
But I think it took a follow-up message on Twitter from Clarke to ease the Big Blue panic.
“BBN, don’t worry, my loyalty never changed. I’m here to stay. Can’t wait to get on campus and get to work and chase #9 with my brothers!” Clark posted.
— Not sure what to make of the report by Jon Rothstein of CBSSports that Rhode Island transfer Jacob Toppin — brother of National Player of the Year Obi Toppin of Dayton — has cut his list of new schools to UK, Oregon and Iowa State.
The 6-8 forward averaged 5.1 points and 3.9 rebounds per game as a freshman at Rhode Island in 30 games. He was a lightly-recruited three-star player in the 2019 recruiting class with Rhode Island easily being his best offer.
Kentucky could definitely use front-court help next year but unless there is a hardship waiver granted or the NCAA suddenly allows transfers to play without sitting out a year — a move most think will now be in effect for the 2021-22 season — then Toppin will not be eligible at UK next season if he does pick the Cats.
Maybe Calipari is just looking for future depth but this is a potential transfer I would not understand.
— Five-star sophomore guard Skyy Clark, a huge UK priority, is moving from California to attend Brentwood Academy in Tennessee. He averaged 25.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.5 assists per game last season while shooting almost 40 percent from 3-point range.
He has offers from Tennessee, Oregon, Gonzaga, Kansas, Florida State, UCLA, Auburn and others.
It would seem having him playing next year — or the next two years — in Tennessee would certainly make it easier for him to get on the UK campus more or for UK coaches to see him more.
— With EJ Montgomery opting to leave UK for the NBA draft despite not being projected as a draft pick in any mock draft I’ve seen, there’s an obvious huge need for 7-3 Purdue transfer Matt Haarms.
He’s a proven rim protector and could help a young Kentucky team’s defense immediately from day one. From what I’ve been told, Kentucky feels really good about its position with Haarms and he could be a piece UK really needs unlike Toppin who might help one day but not next year like Haarms could.