Top-five rookie Robert Dillingham committed to Kentucky on Friday, giving the Wildcats their second top-30 guard in the 2023 class.
Dillingham originally signed to NC State last December but reopened his recruiting in March. He picked Kentucky from the bottom four which also included Auburn, Louisville and USC.
John Calipari has now recruited 15 five-star point guards since taking over at Kentucky in 2009. He has landed a five-star position in all but two recruiting classes during that span, and has also landed two five-star point guards in 2018. .
“If you work at Kentucky and Coach Cal thinks you’re good enough to make it happen, then it will happen for you,” Dillingham told ESPN. “When I visited Kentucky it was amazing. They explained everything. Basketball, colleges, strength and conditioning, NIL.”
On the name, image and likeness, Dillingham said: “Coach Cal explained how it works and said, ‘That’s not why you come here, but it’s definitely a advantage. I know TyTy Washington and Oscar Tshiebwe have done very well.”
Kentucky had been involved with Dillingham for much of its recruiting, and the five-star guard made an official visit to Lexington last October. When Dillingham pulled out of NC State, the Wildcats came into the picture again.
“Coach Cal and his team came to see me when I was at Combine Academy,” he said of a home visit to Calipari earlier in his signing. “They flew privately to Lincolnton, NC. It meant a lot. Coach Cal is down to earth. He told my mom and me his whole story growing up. My mom is an energetic, positive person. She felt great with Coach Cal and Kentucky.”
Dillingham was blown away by the fan support he received while visiting Lexington.
“They are crazy, I’m not going to lie. I haven’t experienced anything like that,” he said. “They’re so passionate. I really didn’t take many photos with fans – when I visited, I did. You could feel the love.”
A 6-foot-1 guard from North Carolina who transferred to Donda Academy (California) last fall, Dillingham is ranked No. 5 overall on the ESPN 100 for 2023. He is considered the second best guard in the class behind the top-ranked prospect. DJ Wagner.
Dillingham is averaging 19.5 points and 3.3 assists for CP3 All-Stars so far on the Nike EYBL Tour, while shooting 64.9% from inside the arc and 40.3% from the 3 point range.
He is one of the most dynamic players in the class of 2023. His greatest impact comes from his basketball instincts, his advanced skills with the ball and his knowledge of the court, which allows him to be a shot-maker and a playmaker. Dillingham is one of the best shooters and space-makers in the high school game. Whether in transition or against set defense, Dillingham finds open pockets of space to score or distribute to the open man.
He reads the ground exceptionally well, throwing defenders off balance by constantly changing speed and direction. Hesitant moves, cross-dribbling, fake shots and jab steps are all part of Dillingham’s arsenal, and he has great range on his jumper. He is also a very good defender off the ball due to his vision and ability to anticipate.
Calipari now has two ESPN 100 guards in its 2023 class, with Dillingham joining in-state prospect Reed Sheppard (No. 29).
“I’ve known him since we were younger,” Dillingham said. “He has a sneaky rebound and is a knockdown shooter.”
Kentucky is still in the mix for five-star prospects Wagner, Ron Holland, Justin Edwards, Aaron Bradshaw and others. Wagner is the priority, but it’s an uphill battle against rival Louisville, which recently hired Wagner’s grandfather – Milt Wagner, who played on the Cardinals’ national championship team in 1986 – as manager. player development program and alumni relations.
“I really think we could feed each other by scoring and assisting,” Dillingham said of Wagner. “We could easily play together and learn from each other. DJ is a good madman. He’s one of the toughest players I’ve seen. A shooter and a scorer.”
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