LEXINGTON, Ky. – Shaun Kirk was on N.C. State’s campus Monday afternoon and couldn’t help himself. After a big showing in an AAU event in Indianapolis over the weekend, the 6-foot-7 small forward from Whiteville, N.C., had just gotten his highest-profile scholarship offer from the Wolfpack and he accepted it on the spot. I’m coming, he told them.
“But then here comes something bigger and better,” Whiteville High School coach Jerry Singletary said. “The timing couldn’t be worse, really. I wish he would’ve just thought a little bit more before he said that, and then it would be a lot easier for him today. Now he’s really torn.”
That’s because by the time Kirk got home Monday night, University of Kentucky coach John Calipari was calling to extend a scholarship offer. The Wildcats, who watched Kirk put on a show in Indianapolis, need a small forward in this recruiting class and the late interest might reflect their confidence (or lack thereof) in landing five-star prospect Jaylen Brown.
Kirk, a three-star recruit, is not a typical UK target. But this is an unusual class for the Cats after seven players declared for the NBA draft, and Kirk’s stock is on the rise after several strong performances on the AAU circuit. Singleton said West Virginia, Missouri, Marquette, Ole Miss, VCU and Rutgers have all shown interest recently. But Kentucky stands out.
“You say the grass ain’t always greener on the other side, but could it be?” Singletary said. “I think he’s very interested in what Kentucky has going on out there. He’s just overwhelmed a little bit, because when you talk to a person like Calipari on the phone, he was like, ‘Wow, Coach, I didn’t know this could happen.’ I love N.C. State, but when you go home and – from a business aspect – Kentucky calls you, I know what I would do.”
He said Kirk won’t take the decision lightly, though, and appreciates the value of sticking to his word. Singletary wants to speak directly to Calipari and hear how the Cats want to use him. Whether he changes his commitment or not, the coach is just happy his star is finally getting the attention he believes he’s deserved all along.
“Shaun’s not been on the radar like he should have been. But I guess good things come to those who wait,” the coach said. If he goes to UK, “they’re going to get a kid that can shoot it from the outside and is just an uncanny athlete. He can get up and get it, and he can finish it. He’s 6-7 ½ and he’s still growing. He’s a player that can come in and make a difference.
“He’s not all the way polished yet – I’ll be the first to say that – but he can play.”
Kyle Tucker can be reached at (502) 582-4361. Follow him on Twitter @KyleTucker_CJ.