Could Minnesota's Marcus Carr be the answer to Kentucky basketball's point guard search?

Jon Hale
Louisville Courier Journal

LEXINGTON – Kentucky basketball’s search for a point guard transfer might linger into the summer.

Minnesota point guard Marcus Carr is considered the top point guard available in the transfer portal, but he is testing the NBA draft waters before deciding whether to return to college. If Carr does elect to play college basketball, Kentucky is likely to be one of the leading contenders for his services.

“They told me they’re going to consider three schools, and I think Kentucky would become definitely one of those three that’s going to be in heavy consideration,” 247Sports basketball analyst Travis Branham told the Courier Journal this week. “Given Kentucky’s current point guard scenario and the fact that they are wanting to get older, I think they’ll definitely make him a top priority going into the summer.”

Players who have declared for the draft will likely begin receiving feedback from the NBA’s advisory committee in the next few weeks, but Carr is likely to wait to make his decision until working for teams. If he receives an invitation to the NBA’s scouting combine, that event is not scheduled until June 21-27.

The NCAA’s deadline for players to remove their names from the draft and still retain college eligibility is July 7.

“It seems like they’re going to take their time with this,” Branham said. “If he does opt to come back to college, I think Kentucky is going to have a really good chance at pulling him down to Lexington.”

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Carr is not projected as a likely pick in the 2021 NBA draft. ESPN ranks him as the No. 93 prospect in the draft class, and there are only 60 picks in the two-round draft.

The 6-foot-2, 195-pound first-team All-Big Ten selection from Toronto, Ontario fits the mold of the type of point guard that has thrived in John Calipari’s system at Kentucky.

He averaged 19.4 points and 4.9 assists per game this season while shooting 31.7% (60 for 189) from 3-point range. Carr would give the Wildcats the type of guard that can drive by defenders to the rim -- something that the team lacked last season.

“He is a dynamic playmaker and explosive getting downhill, but he was also a great scorer at times,” said Branham, who previously worked as a student manager for UK. “His aggressiveness off the bounce, just like those aggressive guys that can score and facilitate. He’s definitely the type that Kentucky has had success with.”

The question becomes whether Calipari and Kentucky should wait for Carr to decide he wants to play college basketball next season, knowing there is no guarantee he would pick Kentucky even in that scenario.

The transfer portal is already inundated with players in anticipation that the NCAA will pass reforms later this spring that allow all players to transfer at least once without sitting out a season. More are likely to enter in the coming weeks, and Kentucky’s coaches must examine all options.

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Kentucky has signed four-star point guard Nolan Hickman, the No. 31 recruit in the class of 2021. Senior guard Davion Mintz, who totaled 23 assists and just three turnovers in the final three games after taking over primary point guard duties, might use the extra year of eligibility provided all players due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While it would be a risky proposition to rely on Hickman as the primary point guard next season, the presence of both would at least provide a security blanket if Calipari decides to wait on Carr’s decision.

“I think they will be calculated in how they attack them in order to give themselves the best chance,” Branham said. “So, I don’t think they would take his scholarship and just give it to somebody else. I think there’s going to be definite consideration in how they operate and make sure they get a guy like Marcus Carr.”

Email Jon Hale at jahale@courier-journal.com; Follow him on Twitter at @JonHale_CJ