Kentucky basketball recruiting: Q&A with Evan Daniels on E.J. Montgomery, James Wiseman

Five-star power forward E.J. Montgomery will take an unofficial visit to Kentucky on Feb. 24. The former Auburn commit is John Calipari’s top, and perhaps only, remaining target in the 2018 class.

We caught up with 247Sports recruiting analyst Evan Daniels on a recent Wildcat Country podcast for the latest on Montgomery, as well as top 2019 prospect James Wiseman.

Montgomery is the highest-ranked uncommitted post player in the class. Kentucky’s class is comprised of a point guard (Immanuel Quickley) and two shooting guards (Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro).

Montgomery has a final list of 11 schools, but Duke, North Carolina and Kentucky might be the favorites. He took unofficial visits to Duke and North Carolina this week ahead of his unofficial visit to Kentucky next Saturday when the Wildcats play Missouri.

The 6-foot-10, 210-pound power forward from Marietta, Ga., is the 12th-ranked prospect in the 2018 class, according to the 247Sports composite.

“This is a kid that Kentucky’s jumping in with and going full after,” Daniels said.

Here’s our complete Q&A with Daniels:

Q: Where is Montgomery at in the recruiting process?

Daniels: “He has a list of 11, but obviously Duke, North Carolina and Kentucky are tough to compete with. He’s taken visits to Clemson. He’s been over to Georgia. He was an early commit to Auburn and backed off that pledge after the FBI investigation and now he’s going through the process again. Obviously to set up his first three unofficial visits — cause he hasn’t taken any officials, and I’m not quite sure why he’s not doing officials — but he’s doing unofficials to those three schools. I would say it bodes well for them. Duke was really the first school to get a visit set up and I feel like they prioritized him a little earlier than some, but for those three schools to jump in and get visits is a good sign for them.”

Q: You rank him higher than the 247Sports composite does. Why?

Daniels: “The composite ranking has him at No. 12, and then the 247Sports rankings, we have him at No. 6. He’s always been really talented, but when I saw him in late November at the Holiday Hoopsgiving event in Atlanta, I was really impressed with his improvement. He’s 6-foot-10, he’s mobile, he’s athletic, and he’s always had the physical tools but now he’s learning to play hard. He was effective inside.

“He had this tendency earlier in his career when he would fade out to the perimeter and get married to jump shots. What he was doing when I saw him was being extremely active on the glass, scoring around the basket, playing hard. He’s been really productive throughout his senior season. Sometimes these guys develop at different times. He’s always been a top-25 prospect, but I feel like he took this major jump during his senior season. He made the McDonald’s All-American game and I think he earned it.”

Q: If Montgomery doesn’t pick Kentucky, who’s left?

Daniels: “There’s a couple Kentucky hasn’t done anything with yet. Anfernee Simons would be a name but Kentucky hasn’t really recruited him. He’s an elite prospect but he’s also considering going to the NBA draft cause he’s in his post-graduate season and is gonna be 19. N.C. State, South Carolina and Tennessee are kind of the main schools for him. He’s obviously a former Louisville commit. He’s a top-10 prospect and I think he’d be good enough. Now is Kentucky gonna recruit him? They haven’t yet so it’s looking toward not.

“Right now E.J. Montgomery is the only guy that’s a 2018 high school recruit that they’re really serious about. He’s the only one with a scholarship offer. And the thing about this class is there’s not much left. You’re gonna have to get creative whether you wait till recruits come open during coaching changes or for fifth-year transfers.”

Q: The talk of James Wiseman potentially reclassifying to 2018 is still being spread. Is there anything to that?

Daniels: “Yeah I don’t really know why it has internet buzz because he’s shot it down every step of the way. I think it was your interview that he first did it. I have no reason to believe that he’s going to. I guess you never know, but I haven’t been given any indication that that’s something he’s considering. Recruiting changes every day but that’s where it stands.”

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