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Always a fascinating exercise for followers of college basketball recruiting, the initial RSCI rankings for the class of 2022 were posted this week.
Since 1998, the RSCI (Recruiting Services Consensus Index) has taken all of the rankings from the nation’s top recruiting services and combined them into one single ranking to get a composite of the top players in each class.
With all of the national rankings for the 2022 class now updated to reflect the summer recruiting periods, the initial RSCI list is in. And Kentucky recruits are well-represented at the top of the rankings.
Battle for No. 1
Sitting at the very top of the post-summer 2022 rankings is Shaedon Sharpe, a star shooting guard from Canada who committed to Kentucky this month.
Sharpe is ranked No. 1 nationally by 247Sports, Rivals.com, ESPN and On3.com, four of the five recruiting services used for this cycle’s RSCI rankings. Longtime recruiting analyst Van Coleman, whose rankings represent the remaining piece of the RSCI pie, has Sharpe pegged as the nation’s No. 3 recruit.
Obviously, there are still several months — and a full basketball season — to go before these rankings are finalized, but Sharpe appears within reach of a possible unanimous No. 1 ranking. That’s happened only three times in the past 15 recruiting cycles: Gonzaga commitment Chet Holmgren earlier this year, Duke’s RJ Barrett in 2018 and Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins in 2013.
Kentucky has not signed the RSCI’s No. 1 recruit since 2012, when Nerlens Noel tied Shabazz Muhammad for that honor. Anthony Davis was ranked No. 1 the previous year.
Sharpe’s top competition for that No. 1 ranking appears to be Duke commitment Dereck Lively II, who is ranked in the No. 2 spot by four of the five recruiting services featured. Rivals.com ranks Lively as the No. 3 player in the 2022 class.
UCLA commitment Amari Bailey is No. 3 in the composite and earned the No. 1 ranking from Coleman, but he’s ranked as low as No. 6 overall (by both 247Sports and On3.com). Recruiting analysts have told the Herald-Leader in recent weeks that Bailey is also in the mix for the top spot, but he declined to play on the grassroots circuit this summer, so talent scouts have seen very little of him on the court in recent months.
Kentucky’s other recruits
It appears that Sharpe, Livingston and Wallace are all pretty well-established as top 10 national recruits. If the Cats do indeed land a commitment from Wallace — and those three players stay in the top 10 at the end of the cycle — it would be the first time since 2016 that Kentucky has picked up three such recruits in the same class. That year, De’Aaron Fox was No. 6 nationally, followed by Bam Adebayo at No. 8 and Malik Monk at No. 9.
Duke is the only program since then to land three top 10 players in the same class, and the Blue Devils have done it three times in that span: 2022 with Lively, Whitehead and Kyle Filipowski, 2018 with Barrett, Cam Reddish and Zion Williamson, and 2017 with Marvin Bagley, Trevon Duval and Wendell Carter.
Adem Bona’s ranking
Other than Wallace, the only major Kentucky target left in the 2022 class, for now, is five-star center Adem Bona, who is No. 16 in the RSCI rankings.
There’s a major outlier in Bona’s ranking, however. Four of the five recruiting services used here rank Bona from No. 10 to No. 17 nationally. Rivals.com has him at No. 33 in the class.
The Herald-Leader asked Rivals national analyst Rob Cassidy about that ranking Thursday.
“We think he’s good, obviously,” he said. “He’s a little raw still — especially offensively. And we saw that a little bit at NBA Top 100 Camp. He’s got the motor. He’s obviously physically gifted. He’s a strong kid. He’s going to impact the game on the boards and impact the game defensively. The jumper is not as consistent as you’d like.”
It’s clearly Bona’s offensive ability that is keeping him from a higher ranking from Rivals, and Cassidy said if he can show more in that aspect of his game in the coming months, he could slide way up that site’s list.
“My philosophy on rankings has always been: I would rather go short on a kid with high upside and be able to move him up later than rocket him to No. 5 in the country and then have to drop him,” he said. “And I do think the potential is there.”
Cassidy mentioned Lively, who Kentucky was recruiting heavily until his commitment to Duke on Monday night, as an example of ranking players on potential and the nuance involved there. “I don’t think Dereck Lively is completely where he needs to be yet, but you can see it,” he said, adding that you can see the upside when watching Bona, too, it just doesn’t seem to be quite as high as with Lively, who is also already much more accomplished and versatile as an offensive player.
All it would take for Bona to reach top-10 status in the RSCI would be for Rivals to bump him up from No. 33 to No. 17 (which is where ESPN has him, his lowest ranking otherwise). Such a move would give Bona enough points to be No. 10 overall on the RSCI list.
UK has had four consensus top-10 recruits just once: in 2013, when Julius Randle, Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, Dakari Johnson and James Young were all ranked that highly.
Bona took an official visit to Kansas last weekend and has trips planned to Kentucky and UCLA next month. He could take additional official visits before making a college decision, but Cassidy said Thursday that Bona’s recruitment is likely to come down to the Wildcats and the Bruins.
“I think those are the only two schools right now that I would say really have a chance.”
UK vs. Duke
The race for the No. 1 recruiting class in 2022 is clearly going to be a Kentucky vs. Duke battle.
The current outlook would say that the Blue Devils have the upper hand, if everything goes according to plan.
To judge the nation’s top recruiting classes, the RSCI awards a point total to each Top 100 recruit, with the nation’s No. 1 player receiving 100 points, the No. 2 player getting 99 points, and so on, all the way down to one point for the No. 100 prospect on the list.
If Kentucky can land Wallace and Bona — the Wildcats’ best-case scenario at the moment — UK’s class would have a total of 458 points, as the player rankings currently stand.
Duke has commitments from Lively, Whitehead, Filipowski and Jaden Schutt (No. 65). If the Blue Devils can also land Mark Mitchell (No. 13) and JJ Starling (No. 34) — seemingly their best-case scenario to close out the class — they would have a total of 479 points.
That would give Duke the nation’s No. 1 class for 2022.
UK would still have an unprecedented recruiting haul, however.
That 458-point total would be higher than every recruiting class except for Duke’s in this cycle and two others since the RSCI rankings were launched in 1998. Those two would be UK’s classes in 2017 and 2013, both of which featured a total of eight players. (The RSCI formula inherently gives the opportunity for more total points to classes with a larger number of Top 100 players).
This 2022 Kentucky class — if the Cats do indeed land Bona and Wallace — would be the highest-ranked five-player class in the history of the RSCI.
Not a bad stat for what might not even be the “best” recruiting class in the cycle.