Pair of top recruits, Kanter choose Cats

Day 2 of Vince Carter Skills Academy

They say the best teams don’t rebuild, they reload.

UK head coach John Calipari and the Cats got two verbal commitments and a National Letter of Intent on Wednesday that should go a long way in proving that mantra true.’s No. 1 recruits in the 2010 and 2011 classes, Brandon Knight and Michael Gilchrist, committed to UK on Wednesday afternoon, the first day of the spring signing period, and Enes Kanter, a star forward from Turkey, signed a National Letter of Intent to play for the Cats.

Brandon Knight, the top-ranked player in the 2010 class, gave Calipari a verbal commitment shortly after 4 p.m. Wednesday on ESPNU, and Michael Gilchrist, the top-ranked player in the 2011 class, gave the Cats another verbal commitment almost two hours later on the same show.

Knight, a 6-foot-3, 185-pound point guard from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., will attempt to become the latest point guard to flourish under the tutelage of Calipari.

In the 2007-08 season Derrick Rose guided Calipari and the Memphis Tigers to within seconds of winning the National Championship as a freshman. Rose went on to become the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft after leaving following his freshman season and won the NBA’s Rookie of the Year Award.

Tyreke Evans committed to Calipari the next season, was drafted fourth overall in the NBA Draft after leaving after his freshman season and is now the favorite to win the NBA Rookie of the Year award. Evans is just the fourth player in NBA history to average 20 points, five rebounds and five assists in his rookie season.

John Wall took over the Big Blue Nation, earning SEC Player of the Year honors and being named a first-team All-American by the Associated Press. Many analysts are projecting Wall as the top pick in this summer’s draft.

Knight averaged 32.5 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game in his senior season at Pine Crest School.

Gilchrist, a 6-foot-6, 190-pound forward from Elizabeth, N.J., is considered by many analysts to be the best high school basketball player in any class.

Gilchrist, the first player from the 2011 class to verbally commit to UK, won’t be able to sign a National Letter of Intent with the Cats until November during the early signing period.

He credited Calipari’s attitude toward the game of basketball, his staff and the Big Blue Nation as his reasons for committing to the Cats. He also said he committed Wednesday because it is his father’s birthday, who passed away when he was 2 years old.

“It’s his birthday today,” Gilchrist said. “It’s not for me. It’s for him. ”

Kanter, a big bodied 6-foot-10 forward from Turkey, will be looked on to help fill the void left by the departure of DeMarcus Cousins to the NBA.

Kanter is rated as a five-star prospect by and broke Dirk Nowitzki’s individual scoring record for the World Team in the Nike Hoop Summit game on Saturday by scoring 34 points to go along with 13 rebounds. His performance was against the world’s best high school prospects, including Knight.

“Enes has the body and potential to be special,” Calipari said in a news release. “I look forward to working with all the incoming players and our returnees as we build on the foundation we set with our 35-3, Elite Eight team.”

Kanter played for the Turkish under-18 national team in 2009 and was named the MVP at the European Championships in France after averaging 18.6 points and a tournament best 16.4 rebounds a game.

Currently, the Cats have three commitments for their 2010 class with 6-foot-5 wing player Stacey Poole Jr., Knight and Kanter. Many other players are also expected to commit to UK in the coming weeks.