By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky coach John Calipari has been busy trying to finish recruiting not only for this season, but also getting a head start on 2019 recruiting.
He’s had contact with junior KyKy Tandy of University Heights and recently UK coaches have been in contact with Pendleton County’s Dontaie Allen, one of the state’s top scorers. Neither has been offered a scholarship.
However, I wonder even more why Kentucky has not yet extended a scholarship offer to Adair County freshman Zion Harmon, one of the top-rated players in the 2021 recruiting class who has plans to reclassify to the 2020 class. He averaged 32.7 points per game this season and scored 1,014 points in 31 games. He shot 49 percent overall from the field and was 115 of 310 — 37.1 percent — from 3-point range.
In 31 games, he got to the foul line 234 times — and made 213. That’s 91 percent.
He already has scholarship offers from Creighton, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Stephen Austin and Southern Methodist. He’s made an unofficial visit to Kansas. He was the first freshman player invited to attend UK’s Big Blue Madness.
He’s also now going to be playing on the same AAU team this summer with 2019 UK commit D.J. Jeffries and top 2019 UK target James Wiseman. Harmon played on a Boo Williams AAU team before but will be with Bluff City, formerly known as Team Penny because it was built by Penny Hardaway. He’s the former Memphis and NBA star who is now the new head coach at Memphis.
Wiseman and Jeffries both played for Hardaway’s AAU team last year and Wiseman obviously will be one of Hardaway’s major recruiting targets — as will Jeffries despite his commitment to Kentucky. Hardaway was at the Marshall County Hoopfest in December when Jeffries played against Harmon and Adair County.
Harmon is no stranger to the big stage. He has played on the 17 and under EBYL league since he was in seventh grade. He was on the 2017 USA under 16 national team that won the gold medal at the FIBA under 16 Americas Championship. He started at point guard for Bowling Green as an eighth grader and in 37 games averaged 16.8 points per game to help the team win its first state title. He transferred to Adair County as a freshman.
The 5-11, 160-pound Harmon is a rare in-state talent that would seem to be the kind of player that would already have a scholarship offer from Kentucky.
“I like the Kentucky program a whole, whole lot,” Harmon told me earlier this year. “I don’t want to speak too much about any colleges right now, but I do have certain ones I am leaning towards. I like what my uncle said, the Kentucky program gives their kids the most opportunity to get to the league. They put so many kids in the league. I feel like it is a great program.”
He doesn’t mind comparisons to former UK standout Tyler Ulis, who now plays for the Phoenix Suns, because of their similar size
“Heart over height. That is just mental and physical. If you are a smart enough player you can get the advantage,” Harmon said. “If you are in the classroom, just because someone is 7-feet tall doesn’t mean they are going to get a better grade on a test than me.
“I know people who are 5-foot tall and get straight A’s and skip grades. Height doesn’t really mean as much to me, especially when I am on the court. I just play with my heart.”
New Louisville coach Chris Mack could be one to reach out to Harmon soon, especially if no scholarship offer comes from Kentucky. Mack is a proven recruiter and convincing a talent like Harmon to join his program would be a huge move by him.
Harmon seems like such a natural fit for Kentucky’s system that it would be understandable if he wonders why there is no scholarship offer from Kentucky because with his unique talent, it certainly seems this would be a player Calipari would offer knowing he will be one of the top players in the 2020 class and has made it clear he has a huge interest in UK.
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