John Calipari Not Re-Upping In-State Recruits Seems to Be in Line with UK Precedent

Jacob Lanier, JJ Andrews, Aidan Chronister, Arkansas basketball, John Calipari
photo credit: Nick Wenger / Twitter/JJ Andrews / Twitter/Aidan Chronister

Arkansas has quietly become one of the more underrated basketball states in the country over the last decade or so.

Nine players from the Natural State suited up in the NBA this past season and at least one Arkansas native has been selected in the last five NBA Drafts — a streak that will likely extend to six with Kel’el Ware (North Little Rock) projected to be picked this year.

Those numbers are impressive for a state that ranks 33rd in total population with only about 3 million residents.

It doesn’t look like the pipeline is slowing down any time soon, either, as there are seven top-60 recruits coming up through the high school ranks in the 2024, 2025 and 2026 classes.

Little Rock Central’s Annor Boateng (Missouri) and Little Rock Parkview’s Dallas Thomas (Clemson) are headed out of state, but the five in the next two classes are still on the board.

The 2025 class features Benton’s Terrion Burgess and Springdale’s Isaiah Sealy, while the 2026 crop includes Little Rock Christian’s JJ Andrews, Maumelle’s Jacob Lanier and Rogers’ Aidan Chronister, the latter of whom recently transferred to Sunrise Academy in Kansas.

The question, though, is how many of those five will end up joining the Arkansas basketball program.

“It’s the first place you look,” John Calipari said at his introductory press conference when asked about in-state recruiting. “Are they good kids and are they good enough? If they are, we’ll recruit them.”

During his tenure at Kentuck spanning 16 total recruiting cycles, Calipari signed only six scholarship players from the Bluegrass State. That includes  the Class of 2024, with three of them ranked inside the top 100 of the 247Sports Composite.

According to our research, Kentucky produced 12 such players over that span, meaning the Wildcats signed just one-quarter of them. Furthermore, of the nine they didn’t land, only one was even recruited by Calipari.

So, what does that mean for the talented in-state players in Arkansas? To try to find out, Best of Arkansas Sports spoke to Chronister and the fathers of both Lanier and Sealy.

Varying Levels of Interest from Arkansas

Based on the feedback we received and other reports, the in-state player Arkansas appears to be recruiting the hardest is JJ Andrews at Little Rock Christian.

That isn’t particularly surprising because he is the most heralded of the bunch, checking in at No. 18 in the 247Sports Composite for the 2026 class. That makes him the lone five-star.

According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Richard Davenport, Andrews heard from three UA coaches, including John Calipari, on the first day college coaches could contact rising juniors. Assistants Chin Coleman and Ronnie Brewer also reached out last Saturday.

That was not the case for the other two standout 2026 recruits in the state.

Jacob Lanier’s father, Jason, and Aidan Chronister both told Best of Arkansas that their communication with the Razorbacks came in the form of text messages from Brewer.

“It was primarily through texts,” Lanier said. “They love Jacob. Ronnie’s been recruiting Jacob for a couple years now and reassured us that he was going to be around and of course we love that. It was exciting to hear from him and to know that we’re on the radar.”

Chronister said he received a similar message from Brewer, who told him he’d like to “talk soon” and just wanted to let him know they were interested. He added that he’s still working on setting up a time to call the Arkansas coaches.

Lanier and Chronister were both offered by the previous staff, but said they hadn’t been re-offered since Calipari took over in April.

It’s a similar story for 2025 prospect Isaiah Sealy, whose father, Oscar, said his son had received a text message from Brewer, but “there hasn’t been much communication with the U of A.”

Of those three prospects, only Chronister said he had any previous contact with Kentucky before Calipari took the Arkansas job. He said he talked to Chuck Martin, an assistant who has followed Calipari to Fayetteville.

It doesn’t sound like that lack of communication is frustrating, though. The fathers of Sealy and Lanier both mentioned that they understood Calipari faced quite a big challenge with building his 2024-25 roster, so he couldn’t put a lot of time and effort into the future classes initially.

“Coach Cal got the team with zero players, so the No. 1 thing is winning next year,” Lanier said. “I understand that. The main thing is recruiting the team for now because Arkansas fans are excited and want to see a productive show, productive team this year, so I completely get it. I think once he solidifies now, I think he’ll move on to the ’25 and ’26 (classes) with a lot more depth.”

Importance of Ronnie Brewer

A lot has been made of that roster rebuild, as the only holdover for a while was walk-on Lawson Blake. The Razorbacks ended up getting Trevon Brazile to return, but he is the lone scholarship returnee from last season.

It hasn’t received as much attention, but Arkansas also has a drastically different coaching staff. John Calipari has hired four new on-court assistants, highlighted by former Louisville head coach Kenny Payne. He brought Chin Coleman and Chuck Martin to Fayetteville from Lexington with him, plus hired his son, Brad, who had been at Vanderbilt.

Nothing has been officially announced, but it appears Calipari will retain Ronnie Brewer as the fifth and final assistant coach. The former Arkansas standout is still listed on the UA’s official website, has been actively recruiting for the Razorbacks and helped run a Calipari camp on campus this week.

Brewer is the son of an Arkansas basketball legend and then became one himself, earning first-team All-SEC honors and getting drafted in the lottery. After his playing days, he was active on the AAU and high school scene in the Natural State, so he’s been important in keeping those in-state connections alive.

“It’s a familiar face,” Jason Lanier said. “Ronnie’s an Arkansas guy. We’ve been talking to Ronnie for a number of years. … Relationships matter, especially with the climate today, the way people move around.”

If Calipari does eventually decide to offer any of these in-state kids, he’ll have to make up some ground on other schools that have prioritized them, but he wouldn’t be starting completely from scratch because they at least have a connection with Brewer.

Another relationship that both Lanier and Oscar Sealy brought up was with Ronnie Hamilton, who is now at Louisville on Pat Kelsey’s staff after serving the last two years as an assistant at LSU.

Hamilton was recruiting both of their sons for the Tigers and has continued to do so since joining the Cardinals’ staff.

“(He) was at LSU before and they were contacting a lot,” Sealy said. “Once he moved to Louisville, he wasted no time to contact and keep in touch.”

He acknowledged that he couldn’t speak for his son, but that kind of thing means a lot to Oscar Sealy because it shows he saw something in him before others.

Does it Matter for Arkansas Basketball?

In-state recruiting has been a hot topic on the football side of things this week, as Marion’s Carius Curne – the No. 1 player in Arkansas – announced his commitment to LSU this week. It was a significant blow to the Razorbacks, who traditionally struggle to bring in recruits of that caliber.

On the hardwood, though, Arkansas is led by one of the best recruiters in college basketball history. John Calipari routinely signs multiple five-star prospects and regularly pumps out NBA lottery picks.

That was on display in his first couple months on the job, as Calipari managed to convince three of his five-star commitments to follow him to Fayetteville. He’s also already hard at work on some of the top 2025 prospects in the country.

Arkansas has already hosted Darius Acuff Jr. (No. 8 in 247Sports Composite) and Meleek Thomas (No. 6) is set to make an official visit next week. The Razorbacks are also recruiting AJ Dybantsa (No. 1), Cameron Boozer (No. 2), Darryn Peterson (No. 3), Caleb Wilson (No. 4), Koa Peat (No. 5) and Jasper Johnson (No. 10) — not to mention numerous others.

Yes, we just listed the entire top six and eight of the top 10 players in the 247Sports Composite rankings for the Class of 2025. Calipari obviously won’t land all of those players, but it’s more likely than not he lands at least one or two of them. He does it seemingly every year.

In the past, Calipari has filled out his typically large signing classes with players further down the rankings, such as in-state players like Derek Willis (No. 123) in 2013, Dontaie Allen (No. 109) in 2019, Reed Sheppard (No. 43) in 2023 and Travis Perry (No. 76) in 2024.

However, it sounds like Calipari is tweaking his recruiting philosophy with the Razorbacks. He mentioned on the Dan Patrick Show this week that he’s not going to sign seven freshmen from a single class any more.

He’ll still pursue three or four high-caliber recruits, like the trio of Karter Knox, Boogie Fland and Billy Richmond whom he signed in his first class at Arkansas. The rest of the class, though, will consist of older players via the transfer portal, in addition to ideally retaining some players from the previous year.

That means Calipari will go after the likes of JJ Andrews, Nick Smith Jr., Malik Monk and Archie Goodwin, but it may make it harder for those on that next tier to break through and earn an offer from the Razorbacks.

Of course, in today’s era, just because a player leaves the state out of high school doesn’t mean he can’t ever suit up in an Arkansas basketball uniform. It’s always possible to land such Arkansas basketball expatriots out of the transfer portal.

That’s how players like Dusty Hannahs, Alandise Harris, Fred Gulley Jr. and Connor Vanover returned home to play for the Razorbacks after initially heading elsewhere.

Recruiting Updates

Here are a couple of updates on the in-state recruits Best of Arkansas Sports got in contact with for this story:

  • Isaiah Sealy (Springdale | 2025 | No. 60): No dates have been set, but Oscar Sealy told us they were planning to make visits to Ole Miss, Louisville and Oklahoma. Those are the three schools where they have “the biggest relationship with coaching staff.”
  • Aidan Chronister (Rogers* | 2026 | No. 45): Since the contact period opened up Saturday, Chronister has heard from 14 schools. Texas called him at midnight, followed by Missouri and Iowa, the latter of which also extended a scholarship. Other schools to reach out include Kentucky, Oklahoma, Indiana, Missouri, Texas Tech, UCLA and Virginia. Chronister was born and raised in Rogers, but he will play his final two years of high school ball at Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas (Layden Blocker’s alma mater).
  • Jacob Lanier (Maumelle | 2026 | No. 41): Lanier heard from 11 schools when the contact period opened, with LSU being the first. Others include Arkansas, Oklahoma, Clemson, Louisville, West Virginia and Ole Miss. He was actually staying at Petit Jean State Park that night, though, and had spotty cell phone service, so his father said he’s hopeful they didn’t miss any other phone calls.
  • Terrion Burgess (Benton | 2025 | No. 63): We weren’t able to get in touch with Burgess, but in an interview on May 17, he said he had already heard from Arkansas assistant coach Chuck Martin. He also noticed John Calipari sitting courtside for one of his AAU games. Burgess plans to commit sometime close to the start of his upcoming senior year.

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For more on the top 2025 recruits in the country, including Darius Acuff, Meleek Thomas and more, check out this video:

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More coverage of Arkansas recruiting and Arkansas basketball from BoAS… 

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