Jayden Quaintance, 5-star big, becomes 4th commitment for Kentucky basketball's 2024 class

LEXINGTON — Kentucky basketball's 2024 recruiting class has doubled in size over the last few days.

And Tuesday brought the biggest prize thus far.

Jayden Quaintance, a consensus five-star center from Word of God Christian Academy in North Carolina, committed to the Wildcats. He chose UK over his other finalist, Missouri.

Kentucky announced Quaintance's signing shortly after his commitment to the Wildcats.

The four major recruiting services — Rivals, 247SportsESPN and On3 — ranked the 6-foot-10, 230-pound Quaintance among the top 15 players in the country in the 2024 cycle, led by On3, where he's No. 4. 247Sports placed him ninth, followed by Rivals (No. 11) and ESPN (14). Per the 247Sports Composite rankings, he's the No. 8 prospect nationally in 2024, and the No. 2 player at his position (behind Flory Bidunga, a Kansas commit).

Quaintance's announcement came two days after four-star guard Travis Perry, the all-time leading scorer in Kentucky high school basketball history, committed to UK's 2024 class.

Much like Perry, whose decision was a surprise given how little buzz Kentucky had entering Sunday, Quaintance becoming a Wildcat was far from a certainty. Leading up to Quaintance's announcement, many national recruiting analysts dubbed the race to land him "too close to call" between UK and Missouri.

He took official visits to both schools the past two months; Kentucky coach John Calipari also made an in-person visit with Quaintance the week prior to his official visit. Recruiting Quaintance, the Wildcats touted their view of him as a future lottery pick in the NBA draft — and highlighted Calipari's track record of helping his players do just that. The Tigers reportedly told Quaintance many of the same things he heard from the Wildcats' coaching staff.

The biggest difference: Mizzou also had a familial connection UK couldn't match.

Oklahoma assistant coach Armon Gates, the brother of Missouri coach Dennis Gates, was roommates with Quaintance's father, Haminn Quaintance, when they played together at Kent State.

Even that bond couldn't sway the younger Quaintance from selecting the Wildcats, though.

Along with Perry and Quaintance, Kentucky has two other commits in its 2024 class, both of whom already have signed with the school during the early signing period: four-star center Somto Cyril and five-star point guard Boogie Fland.

With Quaintance's commitment, UK's class gained four spots in the 247Sports Composite team rankings, rising from No. 6 to No. 2. In the process, it helped Kentucky surpass Missouri as the SEC's top-ranked class in 2024; the Tigers' five-member class had been No. 2 nationally prior to Quaintance's commit. Only Duke's class, which features the top-ranked prospect in 2024 in Cooper Flagg, is ranked ahead of Kentucky's haul.

In-state addition: Lyon County basketball star Travis Perry, state's leading scorer, commits to UK

What Jayden Quaintance's commitment means for Kentucky basketball roster

Kentucky’s John Calipari coaches against Georgetown in Rupp Arena.
Oct 27, 2023
Kentucky’s John Calipari coaches against Georgetown in Rupp Arena. Oct 27, 2023

As is the norm with Calipari's teams — and becoming increasingly common at other schools, too — there likely will be plenty of roster churn between now and when Quaintance enrolls.

UK has three 7-footers on its 2023-24 roster: freshmen Aaron Bradshaw and Zvonimir Ivišić and sophomore Ugonna Onyenso.

Should they play well enough this season, all three likely will be in the 2024 NBA Draft. Even if one returns, there still will be room for Quaintance on the court. The same goes for Cyril, the Wildcats' other center signee in the 2024 class.

During a news conference Monday, Calipari pointed out Cyril is an old-school big man: a rim-runner, focused on rebounding, blocking shots and scoring points close to the basket.

Quaintance is not that.

He's more in the mold of Bradshaw and Ivišić, a modern big man who's as comfortable in the paint as he is on the perimeter.

"You can look at the way Somto plays and the way Jayden plays," Haminn told The Courier Journal in September, "Jayden can do some of those things, but he also can do a lot of other things. Jayden is not a center,  but he can play center if he has to. ... They can definitely play together. They're two different players."

Along with the three other members of the signing class — and anyone else UK adds from the high school ranks or transfer portal — Quaintance likely will be part of a 2024-25 roster with at least four returning players, all listed as guards on the team's official website: Jordan BurksJoey HartReed Sheppard and Adou Thiero.

Regardless of what other big men populate next season's roster, Quaintance gives the Wildcats a key piece to build around for years to come. Because he won't turn 17 until next July, 2026 is the earliest Quaintance would be eligible for the NBA draft. (Per the league's collective bargaining agreement, all prospects must be at least 19 years old during the calendar year of the draft they enter.) So in essence, Kentucky got a two-year commitment from Quaintance when he pledged to the program, instead of the parade of one-and-done players the Wildcats have featured under Calipari. The only way Quaintance isn't a two-year member of the Wildcats is if he elects to transfer after one season, or decides to join the NBA G League (or play professionally for a year overseas) before declaring for the draft.

NBA teams can't wait. He's already considered one of the best players in the U.S. not already in the NBA. Earlier this year, SB Nation named Quaintance the No. 5 NBA prospect — regardless of class — in high school basketball.

For good reason: as a 15-year-old last season, competing against older and more experienced players, Quaintance was among the best the Overtime Elite league had to offer.

He averaged 15. 4 points, 10.9 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game in 15 outings for the Holy Rams squad last season. His rebound average ranked second in OTE during the 2022-23 regular season, while his blocks average ranked second (to Cyril).

"I think, when his time comes, he's going to be the No. 1 (overall) draft pick, because his ceiling is so high," Word of God Christian Academy coach Byron Williams said in September. "He's the ultimate stretch four. At his size now, at 6-10, he doesn't even have to get any bigger. But he's gonna get bigger and stronger."

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Reach Kentucky men’s basketball and football reporter Ryan Black at and follow him on X at @RyanABlack.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Kentucky basketball recruiting: Jayden Quaintance picks John Calipari