INDIANAPOLIS – It came as something of a surprise in recruiting circles when Kentucky and Duke both offered a scholarship to 5-foot-11, 160-pound point guard Tremont Waters last week.
There’s the issue of size, of course, although 5-9 star Tyler Ulis no doubt helped Wildcats coach John Calipari get over that the last two seasons. But Waters also entered the spring AAU circuit ranked between seventh and 14th nationally at his position – and as low as 70th overall in the Class of 2017.
“Maybe he’s gotten a whole lot better since I saw him last year,” said 247Sports recruiting analyst Jerry Meyer, who admitted some surprise over the two bluebloods offering Waters. “Maybe he’s a backup plan. Maybe he’s being recruited as a backup.”
Or maybe elite programs are noticing the way Waters plays with a bit of a chip on his shoulder, especially on the defensive end.
Considering Calipari has signed a top-three point guard in seven of his first eight recruiting classes at Kentucky, it’s true that Waters is hardly his typical target. But in what some analysts believe is a down year for the position, the little guy from South Kent, Conn., saw an opportunity.
“I just kept my mind free, stayed focused and worked on coming into (Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League) and taking over as a lead guard,” said Waters, who dazzled in New York on the circuit’s first stop of the spring and drew even more attention from coaches this weekend in Indianapolis. “For Duke and Kentucky to offer, it’s just motivation for me to keep playing, keep leading my team, keep trying to win.”
He averaged 14 points, 4.9 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 2.9 steals through his first seven EYBL games of the season. He’s shooting 37.1 percent from 3-point range and has hit an impressive 21 of 22 free throws so far.
Waters said Calipari mentioned Ulis to him while extending the scholarship offer, which “felt amazing, because being a small-city kid, I just dreamed of going to college and getting a free education.” But Kentucky has some stiff competition for this fast-rising point guard.
“I used to always watch Duke – a lot,” Waters said. “For my dream school, pretty much, to offer me, it’s a dream come true. But also Kentucky’s up there now, too, so it’s going to be a tough choice.”
He isn’t ready to name any early favorites and said Michigan, Virginia, Stanford, Kansas, Indiana and Connecticut are also in the mix, but he does plan to visit UK at some point in the fall. To Meyer’s point about a backup plan, Waters is not the only point guard the Cats are after.
Until last week, five-star Trae Young – a more typical Kentucky prospect – was the only player at the position with an offer from Calipari. The coach made sure to talk with Young about offering Waters.
“I mean, I’m looking at other schools, too, so if there’s a possibility of me going somewhere else and I’m the only point guard he’s looking at, that’s not good,” Young said. “So I kind of figured he’d offer another point guard, but that doesn’t change my thoughts on Coach Calipari. We have a really good relationship – really good. We talk quite a bit and I still feel the same about Kentucky.”
Young and Waters squared off Sunday in Indianapolis, with Calipari and two assistants watching, but neither played particularly well. Young shot 4 of 14 and had nine points with four assists in victory. Waters shot 3 of 11 and had seven points, six assists, four turnovers and three steals.
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Kyle Tucker can be reached at (502) 582-4361. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org .