Kentucky Basketball: N’Faly Dante the Wildcats missing piece for 2019-20?

Kentucky Basketball already has a top recruiting class for 2019. But could they make one last addition in big man N’Faly Dante?

N’Faly Dante is one of the top players in the 2020 recruiting class. Ranked as a five-star top-15 overall prospect, the 6’11 center is a dominant frontcourt presence down low both offensively and on the boards. Dante’s name has been circulating among the NCAA Basketball world concerning the possibility of him reclassifying to play next season. That’s great news for the three primary teams fighting for his services – Oregon, LSU and Kentucky Basketball.

All three of them can use Dante of course but he would make the ultimate difference for the Wildcats. They are already a consensus preseason top-10 team for the 2019-20 season thanks to the return of sophomore point guard Ashton Hagans along with the No. 2 incoming recruiting class.

But there are still holes on the roster, particularly in the frontcourt after the departures of PJ Washington and Reid Travis. Former five-star big men Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery are returning for another year but they serve more as depth rather than featured players. Kentucky did land Bucknell grad transfer Nate Sestina, who averaged 15.8 ppg and 8.5 rpg on 38% three-point shooting. But mid-major grad transfers who jump to the highest level of NCAA Basketball at best are 50/50 in terms of whether they’ll even be an effective role player.

If none of these three players can become a double-digit scorer down low to balance out the offense, that leaves the Wildcats with few options. One of them is going small-ball with undersized forwards Kelon Brooks and Kahlil Whitney but that could leave them vulnerable both on the boards and on the defensive end. And after missing out on Kerry Blackshear, there aren’t any available frontcourt players with D-I experience who Coach John Calipari add at this point.

Dante could be the last hope to add some more frontcourt depth. But it’s not rare for a late summer addition involving a top-tier NCAA Basketball recruit. Two years ago, former No. 1 overall recruit Marvin Bagley III committed to Duke in the middle of August. He went on to smash a number of ACC freshmen records in his lone year in college.

Dante likely won’t have the same impact as Bagley did but he can still a vital piece on a potential Final Four and beyond team. But is it the right move for him to move up? Only he knows if he’s ready or not but it doesn’t always go as planned for players to reclassify. Even Kentucky’s own Hagans had to find that out the hard way at times last season after moving up a class.

There’s no telling which team or year we’ll see Dante play in NCAA Basketball. But anything involving Kentucky Basketball is always an intriguing note. The Wildcats are still a national title contender with the roster they currently have but it’ll be much more perimeter oriented. There’s talk of Hagans having an All-American kind of sophomore campaign. That may have to be the case for the team to truly reach it’s potential if another big doesn’t come.