Twitter Photo of Kentucky five-star recruits Cason Wallace and Chris Livingston from Jordan Brand Classic
By LARRY VAUGHT
Rather than focusing on who Kentucky may have staying on the roster or transferring to join the roster, let’s not forget about two five-star players that John Calipari is definitely adding for next season.
Guard Cason Wallace and wing Chris Livingston are both top 10 players in the 2022 recruiting class and both anxious to be part of John Calipari’s program.
The 6-7 Livingston says his role will be “just a wing, playing off the ball.” He says he can play guard or forward and that Calipari has shown him film of how Devin Booker and Hamidou Diallo were used at Kentucky, especially Booker coming off screens to get shots.
“Just me being an athlete and being a knockdown shooter off the ball,” Livingston said about his role at UK. “Of course, you have to play defense. That’s high school, college or the next level after that. That’s a given.”
Wallace is a capable guard with or without the ball in his hands. He can be a terrific defender and even though he’s a pass-first guard, he can score from all three levels.
“Coach just wants me to go be a player. Numbers don’t matter. Just go out there and be myself is what he (Calipari) wants me to do,” Wallace said.
Wallace had 15 points on 6-for-11 shooting, four rebounds, two assists and two blocks and Livingston scored 21 points on 8-for-16 shooting and also had eight rebounds and three steals in the Jordan Brand Classic last Friday. Livingston had 13 points, six rebounds and five assists in the McDonald’s All-American Game when he was 5-for-9 from the field while Wallace had seven points, six assists, five rebounds and one steal in the same game.
“I thought Cason looked extremely comfortable with the ball in his hands,” Krysten Peek, basketball writer for Rivals.com and Yahoo.com, said after the McDonald’s All-American Game, said. “He also kept guys in front of him on the defensive end. He just seemed comfortable with everything he did.”
Peek said guards always have a little harder time adjusting to college basketball than other positions, but she likes what Wallace should be able to do.
“He is such a good playmaker, so that bodes really well for Kentucky,” Peek said. “He likes to create for others and make them better. He can put up 30 points but he’s not about scoring. He’s just a really good all-around player who does a lot of things.”
Sahvir Wheeler, the Georgia transfer who was UK’s starting point guard last season, has not announced if he will stay at Kentucky for his senior year or not.
“If he is back, it changes the perspective some,” Peek said. “That could help Cason adjust easier if the pressure is not on him to create the offense. It could give him more time to just let the game come to him instead of having to run the offense.”
What about Livingston, who transferred to Oak Hill Academy to play for legendary coach Steve Smith his senior season?
“Chris is a pure athlete who gets better and better every time I see him,” Peek said. “He has developed an outside jump shot. Out of all the McDonald’s All-Americans, he has the most college ready body. He is so strong and athletic.
“He will probably have the least amount of trouble adjusting to the speed and pace of play at the collegiate level of all the McDonald’s All-Americans.”
Wallace seems to have the speed and athleticism that elite Calipari guards have had. He can beat defenders to create his own shot or set up a teammate. Livingston has the strength and tenacity to get to the rim and finish to create matchup issues, especially if used at the four.
Livingston said Calipari has talked to him about players that might be leaving via the NBA draft or transfer as well as the decommitment of Skyy Clark.
“I think I will be able to impact Kentucky positively with whoever Coach brings in. I don’t think that is a big concern for me,” Livingston said.