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The basketball recruiting dead period is now over, and high school players across the country will be flocking to campuses starting this week, their first opportunity to see colleges up close and meet with coaches face-to-face in more than a year.

Many of the top prospects in the rising senior class are already making plans.

One such player is five-star point guard Jaden Bradley, who made his busy June visit schedule public over the weekend. There was a notable omission.

Kentucky wasn’t on the list.

Bradley — a 6-foot-2 prospect from the Charlotte area — has long been considered one of the top point guards in the 2022 class, and he’s the No. 9 overall player in that group, according to the current 247Sports composite rankings. He was one of UK’s earliest 2022 targets and earned a coveted scholarship offer from the Wildcats several months ago.

Yet, UK was missing from Bradley’s list of initial college visits to begin the new recruiting period, which started Tuesday to finally end the NCAA’s nearly-15-month ban on travel due to COVID-19.

What gives?

Nathan Bradley, the star recruit’s father, told the Herald-Leader on Tuesday that the family simply wanted to go places they hadn’t visited before, and the trips they have planned for this month will give them an opportunity to see some schools that have made Bradley a major priority over the past year.

UK’s absence from the list might have come as a surprise to Wildcats fans and others who follow recruiting, but it apparently didn’t faze the Kentucky coaches themselves.

“We had talked to the (UK) coaching staff about that weeks in advance. And they understood that,” Bradley’s father said. “Kentucky wasn’t one of the schools calling us upset, I’ll put it to you that way. Kentucky was fully aware of what we were doing.”

Bradley added that he had spoken to UK coaches Tuesday morning and that the family is planning to be in Lexington this fall for an official visit, a trip that will come closer to Bradley’s actual college decision. They also visited Lexington in the fall of 2019, and both Jaden and his father have been in regular contact with UK’s coaches over the past few months.

In the meantime, the star point guard and his family will get to see some other schools.

They’ll spend the next three weekends on official visits to Michigan, Alabama and Arizona, and the Bradleys will work in an additional official visit to North Carolina on June 15-17.

The Tar Heels represent a local option for Bradley, who grew up in Rochester, N.Y., before his family moved to the Charlotte area a few years ago. UNC has undergone a coaching change since Bradley last visited in early 2020 — with longtime assistant Hubert Davis replacing the retired Roy Williams — and the close proximity to Chapel Hill will make it easier for the family to squeeze in a visit to that campus during the week, ahead of a busy July on the Nike circuit.

Bradley’s father didn’t say anything about any current favorites in his son’s recruitment, but the speculation over the past several months has centered on a possible Kentucky vs. North Carolina battle for the five-star playmaker. Those two schools represent all of the predictions on his 247Sports Crystal Ball and FutureCast pages.

247Sports analyst Travis Branham, who logged a Crystal Ball pick in UK’s favor right after the Cats offered in January, told the Herald-Leader that Bradley has been a tough recruit to get a solid read on this spring.

“I do think Kentucky is in a pretty good spot and will have a good chance,” he said. “Right now, I would say that North Carolina is probably on him the hardest of anybody.”

Jaden Bradley and Kentucky

The Wildcats likely already have a pair of point guards lined up for the 2022-23 season, with five-star recruit Skyy Clark committed to UK for the 2022 class and transfer Sahvir Wheeler coming in with three seasons of eligibility and expected to be a multi-year player in Lexington.

As it stands, that’s not enough to deter Bradley from seriously considering the Cats.

Bradley just wrapped up his first season at star-studded IMG Academy in Florida, where he averaged 10.1 points, 6.1 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game and shot 55 percent from three-point range, earning second-team junior All-American honors from

“What separates Jaden from a lot of guys in high school is his ability to run a team. He makes the right plays, makes the right decisions,” Branham said. “He has a very high IQ and feel for the game. He’s a good passer and decision-maker. He just knows how to run a team.

“He can play with anybody out on the floor — it doesn’t matter their talent level — he’s going to be able to make other guys better and let other guys shine. He isn’t a selfish player. He likes to get other guys involved and lead his team in an old-school point guard kind of way that we don’t really see hardly at all anymore. He’s that pass-first point guard.”

Bradley is playing his final summer of AAU ball for Nike-affiliated Team CP3 — future Hall of Famer Chris Paul’s program — and his path crossed this past weekend with Skyy Clark. Both players were standout performers in the head-to-head battle, which saw Bradley go for 13 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists, leading his squad to a 71-70 victory. The two star point guards could meet again next month on the Nike circuit.

Bradley’s father said he watched three games with Clark’s father over the course of the weekend, and their sons — who have known each other since their early middle school days — also sat in the stands together during the event.

Like with Clark, the Wildcats’ lead recruiter for Bradley had been Joel Justus, who left the program this spring for the top assistant job at Arizona State. Bradley’s father said John Calipari took over recruiting duties himself in the immediate aftermath of Justus’ departure and that assistant coach Jai Lucas is now Bradley’s lead recruiter at UK, with Calipari also in regular contact. The family was already familiar with Lucas through his work at father John Lucas’ youth basketball camps, and Nathan Bradley said that has made the recruiting transition an easy one.

The next few months will be spent coming to a final recruiting decision, which will be made in the fall so Bradley can enjoy his final high school season at IMG Academy without the college process hanging over his head. The campus visits in the fall will obviously be crucial.

Bradley’s father implied that Kentucky adding yet another point guard between now and then might change things in the recruitment, though there’s clearly a spot for him in Lexington right now, and UK’s early inclusion as one of Bradley’s confirmed visit destinations for the fall proves the Cats’ status as a top contender.

“We just want the opportunity to compete. And they’re saying that they’re definitely going to give that opportunity,” Nathan Bradley said. “… We’ve had great conversations with Kentucky. We still feel good about Kentucky.”

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