Kentucky has been one of basketball scandal’s biggest winners

Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari during a news conference on May 11, 2016, in Lexington, Ky. (Mark Cornelison/Lexington Herald-Leader/TNS)
Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari during a news conference on May 11, 2016, in Lexington, Ky. (Mark Cornelison/Lexington Herald-Leader/TNS)

Credit: Mark Cornelison

Credit: Mark Cornelison

Nearly seven months after federal authorities made their investigation into corruption in college basketball public, the game's recruiting landscape has changed.

Perhaps lost amid the various reports of wrongdoing that have trickled out in the aftermath of the federal probe — and as the Commission on College Basketball report released Wednesday points more attention toward the future of the sport — are the many recruiting causalities that occurred soon after details of the initial federal findings were revealed.

Kentucky, it's easy to forget now, has so far been one of the biggest winners to emerge from this national recruiting scandal.

Almost immediately after federal authorities announced charges of corruption in the sport last September, a wave of highly touted high school prospects started to distance themselves from the programs implicated in the probe.

The first to do so was five-star power forward EJ Montgomery, who had been committed to Auburn for a little more than a year when the Tigers' lead assistant coach, Chuck Person, was charged with corruption in relation to the federal investigation.

Person was suspended indefinitely, and Montgomery was quick to sever ties with Auburn's program.

Earlier this month, Montgomery — the No. 6 overall prospect in the 2018 class — announced his commitment to Kentucky, and he has since signed with the Wildcats, giving the program another talented post presence for next season's team and its highest-ranked player in this recruiting cycle.

Auburn, meanwhile, has no signees for its 2018 class.

That's been the story at several other schools around the country.

Those mentioned in connection with the federal investigation have, for the most part, struggled mightily on the trail, while others have swooped in to pick up the pieces from those programs' previous recruiting hauls.

UK's in-state rival, Louisville, was on the verge of its best recruiting class in years, possibly decades. The Cardinals already had commitments from five-star guard Anfernee Simons and top 50 national recruit Courtney Ramey, and they were seen as the leaders for top-five prospect Romeo Langford, as well as some other talented prep stars.

Simons and Ramey decommitted soon after the scandal broke (and coach Rick Pitino lost his job), and junior David Johnson also backed off a commitment to the program. Langford and others cut Louisville from their recruiting lists.

Louisville currently has zero commitments for next season, though the Cards do have a new coach, Chris Mack, who is already generating positive buzz and could have the program back in the thick of high-profile recruiting battles very soon.

Simons, a post-graduate high school player this past season, has entered this year's NBA draft, but Ramey and Johnson are both still considering Louisville, and Mack has the Cardinals well-positioned for more top players in the 2019 class.

Another program hit hard by the federal investigation has been Arizona, which also saw its once-promising recruiting class blow up in a matter of months.

Arizona assistant coach Emanuel Richardson was one of the four college coaches arrested as a result of the probe, and — at the time — the Wildcats had commitments from top-50 recruits Jahvon Quinerly, Shareef O'Neal and Brandon Williams.

Fast forward seven months, and Quinerly — a McDonald's All-American — is headed to Villanova, O'Neal has signed with UCLA and Williams — though still listing Arizona — is expected to end up at Oregon.

The Wildcats had also been among the top schools for No. 1 recruit R.J. Barrett, top-five national prospects Bol Bol and Nassir Little, and top-10 senior Simi Shittu, and all four cut Arizona from their lists as a result of the scandal.

Barrett ultimately signed with Duke (he was widely expected to pick the Blue Devils all along), but Arizona appeared to have a legitimate shot at Bol, Little and Shittu. Bol will play for Oregon next season, Little will be at North Carolina, and Shittu has signed with Vanderbilt.

Arizona will lose several top players from this past season's team, including possible No. 1 draft pick DeAndre Ayton, and coach Sean Miller's long-term future with the program is uncertain.

The Wildcats have two commitments for next season: four-star guard Devonaire Doutrive, and Belgian forward Omar Thielemans.

Other schools directly impacted by the scandal: 

Southern Cal: Assistant coach Tony Bland was arrested, and top recruit Bol Bol cut the Trojans — seen as possible co-favorites with Arizona — from his list. Still, they're doing OK for next season. Top 25 recruit Kevin Porter stuck with his commitment, top 100 recruit J'Raan Brooks initially backed off but has since re-committed to USC, and the program picked up a commitment from top 50 recruit Elijah Weaver. USC did lose a commitment from top 50 recruit Taeshon Cherry, who is now with Arizona State.

Oklahoma State: Assistant coach Lamont Evans was the fourth college coach arrested as a result of the scandal, and the Cowboys lost the commitment of four-star recruit Anwann Jones, who has signed with Penny Hardaway at Memphis. Oklahoma State has two commitments for next season, but neither is ranked among the top 250 nationally.

Miami: No one on the Hurricanes' staff was implicated in the scandal, but the school's name has appeared in federal documents related to the case, and that hasn't helped recruiting. Miami was seen as a possibility for Nassir Little — now the No. 2 recruit nationally, according to 247Sports — and he restarted his recruiting process last fall and has since signed with North Carolina. Miami has zero commitments for 2018.