Robert Dillingham, No. 5 recruit in 2023 basketball class, commits to Kentucky Wildcats

Top-5 recruit Robert Dillingham committed to Kentucky on Friday, giving the Wildcats their second top-30 guard of the 2023 class.

Dillingham originally committed to NC State last December but reopened his enlistment in March. He picked Kentucky over the back four, which also included Auburn, Louisville and USC.

John Calipari has now hired 15 five-star point guards since taking over in Kentucky in 2009. During that span, he has earned a five-star finish at the position in all but two recruit classes, and also landed two five-star point guards in 2018.

“If you work in Kentucky and Coach Cal thinks you’re good enough to make it, it’s going to happen for you,” Dillingham told ESPN. “When I visited Kentucky it was amazing. They explained everything to me. Basketball, academics, strength and conditioning, NIL.”

On the subject of 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 an advantage.’ I know TyTy Washington and Oscar Tshiebwe did very well.”

Kentucky had been linked to Dillingham for much of its recruiting, and the Five Star Guard paid an official visit to Lexington last October. When Dillingham was eliminated from NC State, the Wildcats came back into play.

“Coach Cal and his staff visited me when I was at Combine Academy,” he said of a Calipari home visit early in his recruitment. “They flew privately to Lincolnton, North Carolina. That meant a lot to me. Coach Cal is down to earth. He told me and my mother his whole story when he was growing up. My mom is an energetic and positive Kentucky person.”

Dillingham was blown away by the fan support he received during his visit to Lexington.

“You’re crazy, I won’t lie. I’ve never experienced anything like it,” he said. “You are so passionate. I really didn’t take a lot of photos with fans – when I visited, I did. You could feel the love.”

Dillingham, a 6-foot-1 North Carolina guard who transferred to Donda Academy (California) last fall, is ranked 5th overall on the ESPN 100 for 2023. He is considered the second-best Warden in the class behind high-ranking contestant DJ Wagner.

Dillingham has averaged 19.5 points and 3.3 assists for the CP3 All-Stars on the Nike EYBL circuit while shooting 64.9% from the arc and 40.3% from 3-pointers.

He is one of the most dynamic players in the class of 2023. His greatest impact comes from his basketball instincts, advanced ball skills and awareness of the court, which allows him to be a shot creator and playmaker. Dillingham is one of the best shotmakers and space creators in the high school game. Whether in the transition phase or against a set defense, Dillingham finds open pockets to score or distribute to the open man.

He reads the ground exceptionally well and keeps defenders off balance by constantly changing speed and direction. Hesitant moves, crossover dribbles, fake shots and jab steps are all part of Dillingham’s arsenal, and he has great reach on his jumper. He is also a very good off-ball defender because of his vision and anticipation skills.

Calipari now has two ESPN 100 guards in his 2023 class, with Dillingham joining potential Reed Sheppard (No. 29) in the state.

“I’ve known him since we were younger,” Dillingham said. “He has a sneaky jump and is a knock-down shooter.”

Kentucky is still in the mix for five-star prospects like Wagner, Ron Holland, Justin Edwards, Aaron Bradshaw, and others. Wagner is a priority, but it’s a heated battle against rival Louisville, who recently hired Wagner’s grandfather — Milt Wagner, who played on the Cardinals’ national championship team in 1986 — as program director for player development and alumni relations.

“I really feel like we could strengthen each other with goals and assists,” Dillingham said of Wagner. “We could easily play together and learn from each other. DJ is amazing. He’s one of the toughest players I’ve ever seen. A shotmaker and a goalscorer.” Robert Dillingham, No. 5 recruit in 2023 basketball class, commits to Kentucky Wildcats

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