Head coach Tad Boyle would have been content taking the open 2021-22 scholarship at his disposal into the next recruiting cycle, barring a situation too enticing to pass up.
Kenneth “KJ” Simpson Jr. certainly fit that bill.
On Wednesday, Boyle and the Buffs completed their already-impressive 2021 recruiting class by signing the highly-touted Simpson, a 6-foot-2 guard who previously had signed with Arizona but was released from that commitment following the departure of former Wildcats head coach Sean Miller.
Simpson is the latest gem of a CU recruiting class that already was ranked as the tops in the Pac-12 Conference, and 14th overall in the nation, by 247Sports.com. That Buffs’ recruiting class moved up to No. 9 nationally after Simpson’s signing was updated into the equation. Simpson is the third four-star recruit in CU’s 2021 class, alongside Wyoming 7-footer Lawson Lovering and Washington DC-area wing Quincy Allen.
The two other pieces of the Buffs’ latest recruiting class, Javon Ruffin and Cherry Creek multi-sport star Julian Hammond, are ranked as three-star recruits by 247Sports.com. Simpson is ranked 87th overall in the 2021 recruiting class by 247Sports and is the sixth-ranked combo guard.
Much like the spring signing of McKinley Wright IV four years ago, personnel moves by the Miller coaching family has become a boon for the Buffs. Wright, who had signed with Dayton, was available after Sean Miller’s brother, Archie Miller, left the Flyers for Indiana. Unlike that situation, when Boyle and his staff essentially got to know Wright on the fly in the spring of 2017, CU was one of Simpson’s final choices before originally committing to the Wildcats.
“We talked about it to KJ and his family about how we did get McKinley after Archie Miller moved on,” Boyle said. “(Wright) signed to play for Archie, and KJ was the same way in that he signed to play for Sean Miller. We didn’t know what we were getting with McKinley, but we feel like we know what we’re getting with KJ.”
With Arizona in the midst of an NCAA investigation stemming from the nearly four-year old FBI recruiting corruption probe, Simpson was released from his letter of intent with the Wildcats after Miller was fired following 12 seasons in Tucson. Colorado was in the mix during the initial recruitment of Simpson, who is from West Hills, Calif., and attends Chaminade High School.
Simpson received his NLI release from Arizona early last week and soon thereafter participated in a Zoom meeting with CU’s staff.
Simpson’s acquisition leaves Boyle with a good problem to have due to the glut of guards that will vie for time in the rotation. In addition to Simpson and new classmates Ruffin and Hammond, incumbent starter Eli Parquet, Western Carolina transfer Mason Faulkner, 2020-21 backup point guard Keeshawn Barthelemy, and current freshman Nique Clifford also figure to be in the competition for backcourt minutes.
Barring any unexpected departures through the remainder of the spring and summer, the addition of Simpson closes the book on CU’s 2021 recruiting class, leaving Boyle and his staff to focus on the 2022 class when the NCAA’s COVID recruiting restrictions expire June 1. As it stands currently, the Buffs will have three spots to fill from projected 2021-22 seniors Faulkner, Parquet, and Evan Battey. One of those slots has been filled with a verbal commitment from 6-foot-10, four-star forward Joe Hurlburt.
“When he came on the market, we had to look into it,” Boyle said. “We already had a relationship with him and his parents and his high school coach, so we kind of picked up where we left off in the recruiting. I keep going back to we lost three of our top four scorers. Mason Faulkner can score the ball. We feel Keeshawn Barthelemy is going to be a capable scorer and be a distributor as well. But KJ can score the ball and can play in transition. We like to run and he’s very dynamic in the open floor.
“We’re going to have the ability to play three guards a lot next year. And KJ’s ability to defend as a high school kid is pretty special, we feel like. We want to have a great team next year, and when you have an opportunity to sign great players, you have to do it. KJ is definitely in that situation.”