LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky men’s basketball head coach John Calipari announced the signing of five standout student-athletes to the program’s 2023 signing class on Monday. Aaron Bradshaw, Robert Dillingham, Justin Edwards, Reed Sheppard and D.J. Wagner each inked national letters of intent with UK during the fall signing period.
“I couldn’t be more excited about this class,” Calipari said. “We have five talented and dynamic players who have the drive and commitment it takes to succeed at Kentucky. They all know this isn’t for everyone, and they have welcomed that challenge and want to be pushed not only by our coaching staff, but by other really good players every day. Their potential to be great is there, now it is up to them to embrace this stage and come in every day ready to work. All five of these guys are winners. They’ve won at the highest levels and know how to impact winning in a number of ways. This is a group that the Big Blue Nation is going to want to cheer for.”
In every season but one of the Calipari era, the Wildcats have signed a top-three recruiting class according to the Recruiting Services Consensus Index, which tallies major recruiting rankings and plugs them into a formula to calculate a consensus ranking. With the additions, Kentucky has signed 72 top-50 recruits, 57 top-25 players and 33 top-10 players (according to Rivals) in what will now be Calipari’s 15 recruiting classes at Kentucky.
Measurables: 7-0, 210 pounds
School: Camden High School
Hometown: Roselle, N.J.
Rivals ranking: No. 8 overall | Five-star prospect | No. 1 at C
247Sports ranking: No. 4 overall | Five-star prospect | No. 1 at C
ESPN ranking: No. 5 overall | Five-star prospect | No. 2 at C
Stats: Averaged 8.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game as a junior while helping Camden to the NJSIAA Group 2 state championship
Notable: Played for NJ Scholars on the EYBL circuit last summer, averaging 12.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocks | Tallied three double-doubles during Peach Jam in July
Why Kentucky: “I chose Kentucky because of the history and the family environment. I felt like I was going to a family reunion.”
Coach Cal: “The most impactful trait we can have on the defensive end is the ability to block shots, and Aaron is elite at that. He also has all of the tools that a versatile big in today’s game needs. Aaron’s motor continues to improve, he has great size and mobility. As a 7-footer, he can change the game on both ends of the court. He has a high ceiling and has only begun to scratch the surface of the kind of player he can be.”
Measurables: 6-2, 160 pounds
School: Overtime Elite
Hometown: Hickory, N.C.
Rivals ranking: No. 6 overall | Five-star prospect | No. 3 at PG
247Sports ranking: No. 13 overall | Five-star prospect | No. 3 at PG
ESPN ranking: No. 8 overall | Five-star prospect | No. 1 at SG
Stats: Averaged 21.2 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game as a sophomore at Combine Academy, leading the team to a 29-3 record and a non-association state title
Notable: Joined Overtime Elite in November | Charlotte Observer High School Basketball Player of the Year in 2020-21 | 2021 FIBA Americas U16 Championship MVP, averaging 15.7 points and 6.2 assists in more than 20 minutes per game
Why Kentucky: “I chose UK because I love everything about the environment, how it’s really a family and Coach Cal cares for his players more than just basketball.”
Coach Cal: “Our best teams have had really good guards and this class has that. Rob has the ability to make good decisions, can create for others or get his own shot. He can make contested layups, which opens the court for him offensively. He is an extremely efficient scorer, but I’m excited about the fact that Rob wants to be pushed by other really good guards on our roster and continue to develop his versatility by playing with or without the ball in his hands.”
Measurables: 6-8, 190 pounds
School: Philadelphia Imhotep Institute Charter High School
Rivals ranking: No. 2 overall | Five-star prospect | No. 1 at SF
247Sports ranking: No. 3 overall | Five-star prospect | No. 1 at SF
ESPN ranking: No. 2 overall | Five-star prospect | No. 1 at SF
Stats: Led Imhotep Charter to the Class 5A state title as a junior last season, averaging 18.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game
Notable: Helped Team Final advance to Peach Jam quarterfinals after shooting 39.5% from deep while averaging 15.3 points and 7.0 rebounds per game
Why Kentucky: “I chose Kentucky because it has always been a dream of mine.”
Coach Cal: “Justin has the ability to impact the game in a variety of ways. He has terrific size, can play multiple positions and can score the ball at all three levels. I really like how active he is defensively and his desire to rebound every ball. He already has a great understanding that he can positively impact winning without scoring. That isn’t something you can teach, and I know Justin is going to demand the same of his teammates.”
Measurables: 6-3, 180 pounds
School: North Laurel High School
Hometown: London, Ky.
Rivals ranking: No. 22 overall | Five-star prospect | No. 4 at SG
247Sports ranking: No. 44 overall | Four-star prospect | No. 11 at CG
ESPN ranking: No. 26 overall | Four-star prospect | No. 4 at SG
Stats: Led North Laurel to the state Sweet 16, averaging 25.2 points, 7.6 assists, 6.8 rebounds and 4.4 steals per game as a junior
Notable: 2022 Kentucky Gatorade Player of the Year | Both parents, Jeff and Stacey, played basketball at Kentucky | Jeff was a member of 1996 and 1998 national championship teams, earning Final Four MVP in 1998, while Stacey still sits as the Wildcats’ No. 14 all-time scorer
Why Kentucky: “As a little boy from Kentucky, it’s always been a dream of mine to play at UK.”
Coach Cal: “I know playing for Kentucky has been a dream of Reed’s ever since he was a child. But, Reed isn’t here because he wanted to be here. He’s here because he’s a really good player who can help this team win. He has terrific fundamentals and is the kind of player who can excel on or off the ball. I love his work ethic and the fact that he wants to be pushed on the biggest of stages to reach his full potential.”
Measurables: 6-3, 175 pounds
School: Camden High School
Hometown: Camden, N.J.
Rivals ranking: No. 3 overall | Five-star prospect | No. 1 at PG
247Sports ranking: No. 2 overall | Five-star prospect | No. 1 at CG
ESPN ranking: No. 1 overall | Five-star prospect | No. 1 at PG
Stats: Averaged 19.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 3.1 steals per contest as a junior, helping Camden to the NJSIAA Group 2 state championship
Notable: Named 2021 and 2022 New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year | Son of former Memphis and NBA guard Dajuan Wagner and grandson of former Louisville and professional guard Milt Wagner
Why Kentucky (in his ESPN announcement): “Coach John Calipari was always straightforward and honest with me. He said he would be with me until the wheels fall off the car either way. And that meant so much to me. I’m coming there to win. Winning comes first with me and I want to help Kentucky win as much as possible.”
Coach Cal: “I have known D.J. his entire life and I’ve always wanted to coach him. Above all he is a competitor. He attacks the offensive end and is a versatile scorer, but he is equally as tough on defense. I love the spirit he’ll bring to practice every day, and I love that he wanted to be at Kentucky. He knows that to get the best of himself, he needs to be surrounded by other talented players who are going to match his competitive energy.”
For the latest on the Kentucky men’s basketball team, follow @KentuckyMBB on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, and on the web at UKathletics.com.