Kentucky has the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class. Will the Wildcats hold on to it?

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The addition of five-star wing Chris Livingston on Wednesday night gave Kentucky the No. 1-ranked basketball recruiting class for the 2022 cycle.

Obviously, there’s a long way to go until the regular signing period next spring, but can anyone realistically catch the Wildcats?

It’ll be an uphill climb for the opposition.

Livingston is the No. 5 overall player in the 2022 class, according to the updated 247Sports rankings that were posted Wednesday. Star shooting guard Shaedon Sharpe, who committed to Kentucky last week, is No. 1 on that list. UK’s other early commitment — five-star point guard Skyy Clark — came in at No. 18 nationally, despite missing the summer with a torn ACL.

The Wildcats are also the overwhelming favorite for star combo guard Cason Wallace, who is now ranked No. 7 overall. Wallace is also considering Tennessee and Texas. He’s scheduled to announce his college decision Nov. 7, but a commitment could come before that date, and it will be a surprise if he doesn’t pick the Wildcats.

That would give UK a total of four top-20 players, three of them ranked in the top 10. That’s some early John Calipari era stuff on the recruiting trail, and the Cats likely won’t be finished.

Kentucky is still in hot pursuit of an instant-impact frontcourt player for next season, and centers Dereck Lively II and Adem Bona both have scholarship offers from Calipari.

Lively is the No. 2-ranked player on 247Sports’ list and Sharpe’s top competition for the No. 1 spot going into the season. Bona is ranked No. 10 overall by the recruiting service.

“I would say they’re going to get one of the two,” 247Sports analyst Travis Branham told the Herald-Leader this week.

If it happens — and whichever player they were to land — that would be quite a haul for UK, which has signed four top-10 recruits just once, in 2013, the year that Calipari landed six McDonald’s All-Americans in a class led by Julius Randle.

The Cats might need to add Bona or Lively to take the top spot in the team rankings.

Duke appears to be Kentucky’s only realistic competition for that honor. The Blue Devils already have commitments from Dariq Whitehead (No. 4 in the new 247Sports rankings), Kyle Filipowski (No. 12), and Jaden Schutt (No. 54), while they’re the favorites for Mark Mitchell (No. 11). Duke should also be considered the co-favorite — along with Kentucky — for Lively.

“Given the position that Kentucky has put themselves in with their targets, I would say they are the favorites to have the No. 1 class for 2022,” Branham said. “Now, Duke, I think, is also in a great position to not be too far behind them. Dereck Lively is going to be the top player to continue watching. There hasn’t been much movement on his recruitment over the past couple of months. It’s been very quiet, but Duke and Kentucky are definitely battling it out.”

Bona or Lively? Or both?

Even if Kentucky loses out on Lively — and even if he picks Duke — it looks like the Cats would still have the No. 1 class ... if they can land Bona.

As of now, Bona and Lively are the only two 2022 frontcourt players with UK scholarship offers.

No other program has a realistic path to a class that would be ranked higher than Clark, Wallace, Sharpe, Livingston and Bona. And Duke, according to the current rankings, wouldn’t pass that up even with Lively and Mitchell. (If the Cats land Lively, no one is catching them).

There’s also the possibility, of course, that the Wildcats could get commitments from both of the five-star centers. Kentucky’s coaches are meeting with both players during the fall recruiting period. Lively, a Pennsylvania native, got a visit from Calipari late last week and took an official visit to Lexington in June. Bona, who was born in Nigeria and plays for a high school team in California, is expected to meet with Calipari this weekend and travel to Lexington for his official visit next month.

“I think there’s a chance they could do it,” Branham said of UK possibly landing both centers. “That’s going to come down to the individual players at the end of the day. Obviously, Kentucky would love to have both. But that’s two ‘5’ men, along with Oscar Tshiebwe expected to come back. So that’s a lot of talent at the ‘5’ spot. How do you share those minutes? How do you split that time and still put players on the floor that give you that ample spacing?

“There is a chance. But, personally, I don’t think it’s likely that they get both.”

It is possible that Tshiebwe, who is presumed to be UK’s starting center this winter, could move on to the pros after this season. But such a decision probably wouldn’t be known until next spring.

Neither Bona nor Lively has a specific timetable for a college announcement, though both could be ready to make that call before the end of the early signing period on Nov. 17.

Either would be another dynamic addition to Kentucky’s 2022-23 roster.

Lively — a 7-footer with intriguing defensive skills and a versatile offensive game — is viewed as possessing a higher talent ceiling, hence the No. 2 ranking. Bona — listed at around 6-11, with a 7-4 wingspan — is physically ready to play college basketball right now, according to Branham, who described a high-energy player with a wiry, strong frame.

“An elite athlete for a big man who runs the floor extremely well. And he’s explosive,” Branham said of Bona. “He plays with an extremely high motor, so he’s a great rim-runner. He’s a great defender, rim-protector, rebounder.”

Branham called Bona an impressive lob-catcher but a player who is still raw offensively, though he’s made great strides since moving to the United States from Turkey a year ago. The offensive ability is the primary separator between the two players at this stage in their development.

“Because Lively is much more polished on the offensive end,” Branham said. “He’s got better hands. He’s got better touch. He can score with a variety of moves around the basket, and he can stretch it out to the three. But Bona does have that ability that he can come in right away and do the things that you want a big man to do at the base level of rim-run, defense, protect the rim, rebound. And then go from there.”

For a Kentucky team looking for frontcourt help in the 2022 class, it sounds like either player would be a valuable addition. If the Cats could somehow land both, this might go down — on paper, at least — as Calipari’s best recruiting class yet.

Star recruit Chris Livingston picks Kentucky. Here’s what he’ll bring to the Cats.

New basketball rankings are in. Kentucky recruits are all over the top 10.

We asked recruiting analysts to assess Reed Sheppard’s summer. Here’s what they said.

No. 1 recruit Shaedon Sharpe commits to Kentucky. ‘It’s an absolutely huge pickup.’

Why major Kentucky basketball target Shaedon Sharpe earned the No. 1 ranking for 2022

Does NIL reform really make that big a difference for Kentucky basketball recruiting?

Dereck Lively II’s interesting Calipari connection (and more UK recruiting notes)