Kentucky coach John Calipari visits Imani Christian to see 6-10 freshman phenom

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Tuesday, October 12, 2021 | 11:13 PM


Imani Christian is a small school in East Hills, yet Saints basketball coach Khayree Wilson welcomed one of college basketball’s biggest names Tuesday.

Kentucky coach John Calipari was there to see Alier Maluk, a 6-foot-10 freshman who already has offers from Pitt, LSU, Seton Hall and Texas A&M. The 15-year-old has yet to make his high school basketball debut, but his recruiting journey is promising to be one of the hottest the WPIAL has seen in years.

“I expected it to be crazy at some point,” Wilson said. “I just didn’t know it would be this soon. But it’s exciting to bring this kind of excitement to Western Pennsylvania and to little Imani Christian Academy.”

Kentucky assistant Orlando Antigua called Wilson on Monday to see when Calipari could visit. Wilson and Antigua became acquainted during Wilson’s time coaching at First Love Christian Academy in Washington County.

“He called me back late last night and said, ‘I’ve got him locked in. He’ll be at the gym about 3 o’clock,’” Wilson said. “Lo and behold, Coach Cal walked in at about 2:55.”

Maluk doesn’t have a Kentucky offer yet, but Wilson feels confident he will eventually.

“Kentucky isn’t one of those schools that offers that young, but they’re definitely going to heavily recruit him,” Wilson said. “Is he going to have a Kentucky offer? Absolutely. I don’t know if it’s going to be his freshman year, but officially he’s going to have that offer. He’s that type of player.”

Maluk, whose family is from South Sudan, lives in Bethel Park and previously played basketball there. He enrolled at Imani Christian in the summer. He’s already playing basketball with the Saints in three fall leagues including Wednesday night at Greensburg Central Catholic.

Varsity season is only about a month away. WPIAL teams start practice Nov. 19.

The sudden attention hasn’t been a distraction, said Wilson, who’s in his first year at Imani.

“He’s very, very even-keeled,” Wilson said. “The more that he gets recruited and the more attention he gets, that locks him in more and more, because he understands more is at stake now.”

This isn’t the first Division I recruit Wilson has coached. One of his former First Love players, D.J. Gordon, now plays at Penn State. Another, David Collins, is at Clemson after first attending South Florida.

“D.J. Gordon was highly recruited. David Collins was highly recruited,” Wilson said. “But what Alier is about to do, I think, is going to far surpass that.”

What has recruiters interested in Maluk isn’t just his size. Wilson praises his athleticism and says his basketball IQ is much higher than most kids his age.

“Alier is very skilled to be 6-10,” Wilson said. “When I see a 6-10 kid, especially when they’re this young, they’re usually lacking a lot of skill. With him, you can just continue to work on what he can already do, because he’s really a skilled player.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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