clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Antonio Blakeney's recruiting decision leaves major ramifications around college basketball

Blakeney is choosing between LSU, Kentucky and Missouri.

Update: Antonio Blakeney commits to LSU

Antonio Blakeney turned the weird world of college basketball recruiting on its head this summer when the shooting guard de-committed from Louisville 10 days after making a verbal commitment. On Friday, Blakeney will end months of speculation when he chooses between Kentucky, LSU and Missouri. It's a recruitment with ramifications that extend beyond the court.

While Blakeney never publicly acknowledged why he chose to ditch his commitment to Louisville so quickly, those who follow recruiting saw obvious warning signs. Most notably: Louisville is an adidas school, and Blakeney had been with a Nike team on the grassroots circuit for the last several seasons.

Blakeney, an Orlando native, played on Each 1 Teach 1 this season along with consensus No. 1 recruit Ben Simmons on Nike's EYBL circuit. If you believe the rumors, Nike did not want Blakeney committing to an adidas school like Louisville on his first official visit.

It sounds like a ludicrous way of pressuring a 17-year-old. From Nike's perspective, though, the company had certainly done plenty for Blakeney to get him to where he is today, as a blue chip prospect and a consensus top-20 recruit in the country. Had Blakeney stuck with Louisville, there's a chance Nike could have shunned him from big-time events like the Jordan Brand All-Star Game and Nike Hoops Summit. Those events are a big deal for a player with pro aspirations like Blakeney.

Louisville still might have the No. 2 recruiting in the country in 2015 with wing Deng Adel, guard Donovan Mitchell and big man Raymond Spalding. Blakeney would have been the icing, but that chance has been out the window for months at this point. Now, Blakeney is either going to be a Wildcat, a Tiger or -- well, a Tiger.

What's on the line when he makes his decision? Let's break it down.

Kentucky

Could you imagine? It doesn't seem like the Louisville vs. Kentucky rivalry can be escalated any higher, but here we are. Louisville fans are not going to be pleased if Blakeney is in Lexington next season, and that's putting it lightly.

While Kentucky is the talk of college basketball this year with a very real chance at an undefeated season, next season is far from certain. Kentucky is almost certainly going to Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein to the NBA, and who knows how many of their teammates will follow. Trey Lyles, Dakari Johnson, Andrew and Aaron Harrison could all be first-round picks if they turn pro after this season. Same goes for the currently injured Alex Poythress and freshman shooter Devin Booker.

At the moment, it looks like there's a spot at Kentucky for a perimeter scorer, and it's likely to either go to Blakeney or Mississippi native Malik Newman. Newman is more highly-touted, but Kentucky will likely take whatever it can get at this point. Both are going to be terrific players at the college level.

Even UK's class of 2015 is on shaky ground with the status of Skal Labissiere. There's no telling if the Memphis native will ever play for Kentucky after a controversial year of high school ball in Tennessee that is certain to draw the attention of the NCAA. The Wildcats have two other players lined up in point guard Isaiah Briscoe and wing Charles Matthews, though the latter is expected to be more of a four-year contributor than the type of one-and-done NBA talent Kentucky is used to getting.

As soon as Blakeney de-commited from Louisville, everyone assumed he would end up at Kentucky. This would be madness.

LSU

Ben Simmons is the No. 1 player in the class of 2015, and he's been recruiting his grassroots teammate Blakeney to Baton Rouge. With a few breaks, the Tigers could be absolutely loaded next year and form a very real rivalry with Kentucky in the SEC.

Simmons is going to be a difference-maker in what's likely to be his only year of college. If the Tigers can return their starting front court of Jordan Mickey and Jarell Martin while adding a scorer like Blakeney, there won't be many teams in America more talented than LSU.

Mickey and Martin could both potentially turn pro. Martin is a 6'10 sophomore big man averaging 17.5 points and nine rebounds per game this season. Mickey is a 6'8 sophomore forward averaging 15.6 points and 9.9 rebounds. It's already one of the better front courts in America this season, but with a shooter like Blakeney and a play maker like Simmons around, LSU would suddenly have extremely high expectations.

Recent talk is that LSU is the favorite. Stay tuned.

Missouri

Kim Anderson has a done a nice job to get in the mix for some of the biggest prospects left on the market, but he hasn't closed on one yet. After pulling two top-100 prospects in the class of 2014, Missouri could go a long way towards accelerating its rebuilding with a talent like Blakeney on board.

Haven't seen the 6'4 Blakeney play yet? Check out some of his best highlights from the first half of this season: