McDonald's All-American point guard Nolan Hickman decommits from Kentucky
LEXINGTON - Kentucky basketball's search for a point guard just got a little more complicated.
McDonald's All-American signee Nolan Hickman has decommitted from the Wildcats' 2021 class. The four-star prospect confirmed the news on his social media accounts, and a Kentucky spokesman confirmed the school granted Hickman a full release from his National Letter of Intent, which was signed in November.
"I got nothing but all love for BBN ... Coach Cal ... and the entire Kentucky coaching staff," Hickman wrote in a note posted to his Instagram story. "Thank you."
Hickman is just the second recruit to back out of a commitment to Kentucky in the Calipari era, following class of 2019 recruit D.J. Jeffries.
The Seattle, Washington native averaged 16 points and 3.3 assists per game for Wasatch Academy in Utah as a senior. He was one of two McDonald's All-Americans in UK's 2021 class and was the only point guard confirmed for the 2021-22 roster before his decommitment.
The 247Sports Composite ranks Hickman as the No. 31 recruit in the 2021 class.
Despite Hickman's recruiting hype, Kentucky coaches had been actively pursuing other point guards in recent weeks to join next season's roster.
Kentucky has been linked with several point guard transfers, including Minnesota's Marcus Carr and Georgia's Sahvir Wheeler. Both Carr and Weaver have entered the transfer portal while also testing the NBA draft waters, meaning their decisions about another school could linger as late as the first week of July.
UK is still waiting on a decision from senior guard Davion Mintz, who thrived as the team's primary point guard in the final three games of last season, as to whether he will use the NCAA’s extra year of eligibility to return to Lexington. Even if Mintz is back, Kentucky will need his 3-point shooting ability off the ball alongside a point guard who can consistently drive to the rim and create open shots for teammates.
More:Could Minnesota's Marcus Carr be the answer to Kentucky basketball's point guard search?
Calipari recently extended a scholarship offer to five-star 2021 point guard TyTy Washington, one of the breakout stars of the 2020-21 season. Washington lists Kentucky, Arizona, Baylor, Kansas, LSU and Oregon in his final six schools under consideration.
The 247Sports Composite ranks Washington as the No. 26 prospect and No. 3 point guard in the 2021 class. He has has not specified a firm date for his final decision but has said in interviews he would like to make a choice in the near future.
Kentucky's search for another point guard came after Devin Askew, who was ranked in a similar spot as Hickman in the 2020 class, struggled to carry the load as the team's primary point guard as a freshman. Askew transferred to Texas after the season.
"The expectations need to just be he’s not going to be a one-and-done by any means,” 247Sports national basketball analyst Travis Branham said of Hickman in a recent interview with The Courier Journal. “He’s not going to be this special point guard that people are used to seeing with Cal, but his skillset, his ability are going to be able to have an impact at Kentucky, especially with their current guard situation.”
Background:Why UK is looking for another point guard to pair with Nolan Hickman
When Hickman committed to Kentucky in August, he was ranked as the No. 51 prospect in the 247Sports Composite.
UK coaches were confident behind the scenes that Hickman would have been ranked much higher had the COVID-19 pandemic not canceled the 2020 spring and summer shoe circuit leagues. Those predictions were supported by his subsequent rise in the rankings, but he is still ranked behind three other point guards in the class.
Hickman's primary recruiter to UK was former Wildcat assistant coach Tony Barbee, who was recently named head coach at Central Michigan.
UK has signed Davidson transfer Kellan Grady for next season, but the 3-point sharpshooter is not considered a point guard. Kentucky has also been linked to transfer guards C.J. Fredrick (Iowa), Adam Miller (Illinois) and Bryce Hamilton (UNLV), but neither player is a pure point guard.
The Wildcats remain in the running for five-star combo guard Jaden Hardy, the No. 2 recruit in the class of 2021, but recruiting insiders have long predicted he will most likely skip college to start a professional career either in the NBA's G League or overseas.
Email Jon Hale at firstname.lastname@example.org; Follow him on Twitter at @JonHale_CJ.