After landing his priority prospect in each of the previous two classes, Shaka Smart failed to replicate such success on Saturday, as elite Oak Hill Academy wing Keldon Johnson committed to the Kentucky Wildcats over the Texas Longhorns, Maryland Terrapins and North Carolina State Wolfpack.
The highest-ranked recruit on Smart’s big board, Johnson’s recruitment as it pertains to Texas followed a pattern quite replicable to that of former Oak Hill guard and current Longhorn freshman, Matt Coleman.
Much like Coleman, Johnson has held a Texas offer since before Smart’s first season on the Forty Acres got underway and his relationship with the ‘Horns head coach dates back even further to his time at VCU. The Virginia pipeline and well-cultivated relationship were the backbone of the five-star guard’s ties to Texas. Unlike with Coleman’s recruitment though, which saw Duke surge late, Smart and the ‘Horns weren’t able to fend off a similar pursuit from Kentucky this time around after the Wildcats emerged as a legitimate option in August.
Following an Aug. 22 unofficial visit, John Calipari and Kentucky extended an offer and then essentially assumed pole position from that point forward. Maryland and N.C. State each had a case, but Johnson’s recruitment largely became a two-horse race between Texas and Kentucky.
Ironically, the place known for its horse racing proved to be the thoroughbred down the stretch.
With Johnson now headed to the Bluegrass State, five-star College Park combo guard Quentin Grimes appears to be the only realistic remaining option for Texas, and the top player in the state is widely expected to side with the Kansas Jayhawks in the near future.
If that proves true, Smart’s 2018 class will essentially stand signed, sealed and delivered in full after all four commits signed their National Letter of Intent throughout the week.
Texas’ 2018 class currently ranks No. 9 nationally and No. 2 in the Big 12, per the 247Sports Composite rankings. Finishing as such would mark Smart’s third top-10 haul in as many years, as each of his first two full recruiting classes finished at No. 6 in the nation.