In John Calipari’s illustrious Hall of Fame coaching career, he has been idolized for his recruiting. Undeniably, he single-handedly revolutionized the entire landscape of college basketball with his one-and-done style. In recent years, everyone has followed in his footsteps of prioritizing young talent over experience, and not just in college. Even in the NBA, as their recent focus honed in on bringing high school standouts to their G League Ignite team. The competition for top high school talent has grown exponentially in the past few years as teams try to mimic Calipari’s philosophy. During his time at Kentucky, Cal has recorded six number-one overall recruiting classes: the class of 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2015, and 2020. As legendary as all of those classes were, he may have just outdone himself by bringing in the greatest recruiting class in the history of college basketball.
John Calipari’s UNREAL 2023 Recruiting Class 🔥
🔹 #1 CG / #1 OVR – DJ Wagner
🔹 #1 SF / #3 OVR – Justin Edwards
🔹 #1 C / #4 OVR – Aaron Bradshaw
🔹 #1 PG / #6 OVR – Rob Dillingham
🔹 #4 SG / #22 OVR – Reed Sheppard
All 5 locked down & signed in the early signing period ✍️ pic.twitter.com/clik1q9LSw
— Blue Chips (@UKBlueChips) November 14, 2022
Let’s take an extensive look at everyone in the 2023 Super Class and what to expect from them next season.
1. DJ Wagner: #1 Overall Player – #1 Combo-Guard
Wagner’s recruitment is arguably the most monitored in Kentucky Basketball history and for good reason. Ever since DJ got to high school he has been the consensus #1 player in the country and never dropped off. For the past three years, he was considered an overwhelming lock to play for Coach Cal as his father did at Memphis. When former UK Assistant Kenny Payne took the UL HC job this summer, DJ’s recruitment started to get murky – especially after KP hired his grandfather, Milt Wagner to a position in the basketball front office. For a period, it appeared the tides had changed, and DJ would be a Cardinal in 2023-24. However, Cal never wavered and ultimately was able to lock down DJ. It’s no secret that DJ is beyond his years with his scoring and offensive ability. Bleacher Report’s Johnathan Wasserman had this to say about the 6’3 combo guard after scouting him during his junior season at Camden High School.
“Playmaking is another key area for scouts to monitor. His identity is still built around scoring but not necessarily creating for others. Last season, he averaged 22.0 points and 3.8 assists per game,” He said, adding, “But he does show encouraging passing IQ as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, and I’d expect him to develop enough teammate creation skill to look like a full-time point guard by his draft year in 2024.”
DJ will certainly have the opportunity to display his teammate creation skill with his extremely talented counterparts next season.
2. Justin Edwards: #2 Overall Player – #1 Small Forward
Another massive recruiting W for Coach Cal and his staff – the superbly-talented Justin Edwards appeared to be heading to our rivals down south in Knoxville, with Tennessee leading the way for the majority of this past spring’s AAU session and an early portion of the summer. Cal was able to work his magic and flip Edwards, who many scouts believe has a true shot at being the No.1 overall pick in the 2024 NBA Draft.
On Edwards, Travis Branham of 24/7 Sports said, “He’s very advanced when it comes to his skill set and his feel for the game. This is a kid that scores it from all three levels. He’s got a good jumper. He can create his own shot. But he plays the game the right way. He’s a really good passer. He just kind of takes what the defense gives him. So if he’s given an opportunity to go score the ball, he’s going to go score the ball. If the defense collapses on him and there’s an opportunity for him to spread the ball out and get it to his teammates for open shots, he’s going to do that. He’s a good defender. He has a mature approach to the game. He’s competitive. Just a very high floor.”
Seeing Edwards take over Rupp Arena in 2023-24 will be a show that no one in the BBN can afford to miss.
3. Aaron Bradshaw: #4 Overall Player – #1 Center
Being high school and AAU teammates with DJ Wagner, Aaron Bradshaw has always been considered a package deal with the No.1 overall recruit in the country. So, when the DJ-to- Louisville scare seemed like a real possibility this summer, the same was applying to the No.1 ranked big man in the country as well. However, Cal was able to bring both of the Camden boys home and lock in a commitment from the 7’1” five-star on the day of Big Blue Madness. Adam Finkelstein of 24/7 Sports described Bradshaw as having elite tools beyond his size, such as mobility, fluidity, multiple bounces, good hands, use of his left, signs of a budding jump hook, a high release in the lane, and “a very soft touch that extends out to the arc.”
Finkelstein goes on to claim that Bradshaw is also one of the best rim protectors in the country. “His motor, which was a concern as an underclassman, has made consistent strides over the years. Physically, he has high and narrow shoulders on a frame that needs to bulk up in order to hold his position on both ends of the floor,” adding, “ Long-term, his upside is as a 7-footer who can stretch the floor vertically and to the arc, be a rim-runner, and versatile defender who both protects the rim and can move his feet on the perimeter. While that’s a best scenario, it isn’t in the range of possible outcomes for most bigs in the class.”
Bradshaw certainly has the tools to be the next elite big-man of the Cal Era, and join the likes of many to come through Lexington, including Demarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Bam Adebayo.
4. Rob Dillingham: #6 Overall Player – #1 Point Guard
After initially losing out to North Carolina State on Dilly’s recruitment in late 2021, Cal was finally able to flip and lockdown the nation’s Top PG this past summer after his decommitment to the Wolfpack and re-opening of his recruitment. Rob has really brought himself into the limelight this past year with his entertaining scoring ability and high octane offense, going viral on social media on numerous occasions with mind-boggling highlights. Including this insane clip of his first game in the Overtime Elite League this past fall:
He’s got next.
RT if you can’t wait to see Rob Dillingham in 🔵 & ⚪️ next seasonpic.twitter.com/LFthYSBbLV
— Kentucky Men’s Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) November 10, 2022
Dilly is the definition of must-see TV, and he will get to flaunt that on the biggest stage in college basketball during his time in Lexington next season. Jack Pilgrim of On3 Sports & KSR said it best:
“In terms of offensive production and entertainment value, you won’t find a better guard than the Wildcat signee. He’s a living, breathing, highlight reel who becomes must-see TV every time he steps on the floor. Whether it be a 3-point jumper with a hand in his face, an ankle-breaking dribble move that leads to a flashy finish at the rim or a mid-range pull-up, Dillingham is a professional bucket-getter. Though erratic at times, he’ll step in and provide immediate offense in Lexington.”
A back-court duo of DJ and Dilly will certainly find its way onto the list of great tandems to showcase the Cal Era.
5. Reed Sheppard: #22 Overall Player – #4 Shooting Guard
Last but certainly not least, the final piece of the 2023 superclass is none other than Kentucky Basketball Legacy and hometown hero Reed Sheppard. Sheppard was the first commitment of 2023 and the building block for this historic class. His father is none other than Kentucky Legend Jeff Sheppard, who won two national championships at Kentucky and took home the Final Four Most Outstanding Player Award in 1998. Since his commitment, Reed has absolutely torched the national scene and rose up the national recruiting rankings, reaching as high as the No.18 player in the entire country at one point. On ESPN this past summer, he balled out in front of the entire country against a super-team that consisted of fellow commit Rob Dillingham, Bronny James, and others.
Reed Sheppard is going to be a STAR at Kentucky 😼
He put on an absolute show last night on ESPN 🔥
🔹 16 Points
🔹 9 Rebounds
🔹 4 Assists
🔹 2 Steals
— Blue Chips (@UKBlueChips) July 27, 2022
Sheppard is already a fan favorite and will certainly go down as one of the most beloved UK players in its storied history.
Kentucky is bringing home one of the most talented recruiting classes in history. From scoring to defense, to size, etc., this 2023 class has it all and then some. With four of the top six players in the country, another top 20 prospect, and the potentials who will return from this year’s team – the 2023-24 team next season will be one for the ages.