Two weeks ago, 5-star guard Zion Cruz competed in the New York Invitational. There, the Class of ’22 star said there are three schools he’s definitely targeting for official visits: Auburn, Georgia and Florida State. Bad news for such schools as Syracuse, Ohio State and Indiana, all of which have offered Cruz as well. But there’s a sliver lining. Cruz told Rivals that does not mean those three are the only schools he’s considering. He reiterated he hasn’t even narrowed his final list yet.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm talking to everybody and keeping my options open right now. I‚Äôm not too worried about [picking a school] right now. I‚Äôm just waiting to take visits.‚Äù – Zion Cruz
Which brings us to the news out of Kentucky this week that John Calipari is making sweeping changes to his staff. Some of the change is natural as assistants were hired for head coaching jobs. Other changes appear forced after UK missed the tournament and suffered its worst season under Cal. Cruz is the 16th best player in his class according to Rivals, and a top 5 guard. The Wildcats have thrived under Coach Cal producing NBA lottery talent in the backcourt. Immanuel Quickley, Tyler Herro, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, De’Aron Fox, Malik Monk, and Devin Booker were all first-round picks in the last decade.
Kentucky has certainly shown significant interest, and Cal has personally gone to watch Cruz. But it does not appear the Wildcats have offered him yet. Kentucky is in contact with Cruz, but in November he said UK still hadn’t offered. Recruiting sites still report the same. But Cruz told 247 Sports he would be “honored” to get an offer from UK.
‚ÄúKentucky texts me here and there but they haven’t offered its just interests. They came to one of my games last year and the crazy part was that I didn’t even know they were coming. It was an honor to have coach Calipari come and see me play. I got to showcase my talent and I had a good game that game. It would mean a lot and be an honor for me to eventually receive an offer from Kentucky.‚Äù – Zion Cruz in Nov. ’20
When Cal did watch him in person, Cruz put on a show. He earned MVP honors at the New Year’s Jump Off event. UK was also targeting Brandon Huntley-Hatfield in the Class of ’22, another 5-star prospect. But BHH decided on Tennessee 10 days ago. Does that put more attention on Cruz? Despite the rough season which was the catalyst behind the staff changes, Kentucky is always a lurking giant on the recruiting trail. Indiana might be one of the beneficiaries of the UK shakeup. Mike Woodson is the new head coach after a reported “Godfather offer” to Brad Stevens. The Celtics coach turned down a possible $70M deal from the Hoosiers, so the pressure is on Woodson to deliver results. The expectations are real in Bloomington. The Fizz wrote about Woodson’s hiring and the potential impact on Cruz’s recruitment earlier this month. Does UK’s changes help push Indiana higher?
If the new Wildcats staff is able to reinforce the same relationship with Cruz, it’s not an issue for UK. The Hoosiers are hungry though, and need a play-making guard like Cruz to set the table. He’s also a culture creator. Director of the PSA Cardinals Munch Williams says he’s all basketball, all the time. Cruz isn’t caught up in his own hype.
‚ÄúThe thing about Zion is that he’s always in the gym so he’s not somebody who’s going to spend a ton of time with recruitment… A lot of kids at his level are enamored with all the schools calling all the time but that’s not him… All these schools are contacting him but it’s not like he has something he’s in love with because most of the time he’s spending time working on his craft.‚Äù – Munch Williams,, PSA Cardinals
Cruz is also a proven crunch time player. While he hasn’t specifically named finalists, it stands to reason the UK changes are of note to him. Obviously he has interest in the Wildcats at the very least offering him. IU needs a major boost to its program after frustrating years under Archie Miller. Cruz would be the perfect foundational piece. His recruitment is fascinating because of the number of big schools looking at him, his mature attitude in handling the attention, and his potential at the next level. Now we have to see if the Hoosiers, the Orange, or any other school can take advantage of the situation.