- Jared Shanker, ESPN Staff Writer
Jaleel Hytchye says being 18 is all about making big life decisions. So the Cincinnati LaSalle cornerback will celebrate his 18th birthday with the biggest decision he has had to make to date.
The four-star cornerback will make his decision public at 7 p.m. Saturday during the pregame show before a high school basketball game.
“It’s been lingering in my mind the last couple of days and I was going to make it the 17th of January but wanted to push it up,” he said. “My birthday is Friday and being 18 is all about making decisions.”
The finalists for Hytchye are Kentucky, Tennessee and Pittsburgh.
The Panthers are the only team to secure an official visit from Hytchye, although he said that is not an issue. He visited Kentucky unofficially with the old staff roughly five times and knows everything he needs to know about the Volunteers.
Hytchye’s mother’s favorite is the Pitt, however.
“My mom really loves Pitt,” he said. “That’s her choice of where she wanted me to go.”
For Hytchye, it is the coaching staff which has the Panthers among his final three.
“They made me feel at home and you can tell they’re doing special things,” Hytchye said.
The Wildcats were among the favorites for Hytchye until the coaching change in November. The No. 24 cornerback nationally dropped the Wildcats for a few weeks, but they jumped back toward the top of his list when they hired Mark Stoops away from Florida State. Hytchye was waiting to hear from Stoops, and once he did, the Wildcats became a viable option.
The proximity to his Cincinnati home always had Hytchye high on Kentucky, and the new coaches have made up the remaining ground on Hytchye.
“I always liked Kentucky’s campus and always felt at home,” he said. “The new staff I’m starting to like more and more there. I can see great things happening with that program. It’s a chance to start a tradition and be a part of that tradition.”
Tennessee was a program Hytchye hoped to hear from, but that did not happen under the old staff. New Vols coach Butch Jones was after Hytchye while at Cincinnati, but the No. 20 player in Ohio was not interested in attending the nearby program.
Shortly after becoming coach at Tennessee, Hytchye heard from Jones and added an offer from the Volunteers.
“I haven’t been to Tennessee, but I’ve seen enough,” he said. “That’s one of the schools going in I really liked from researching them a lot. I necessarily didn’t have to visit to see what I have to see.”
Despite its rich history, the Volunteers have struggled since Phil Fulmer was fired following the 2008 season. Hytchye believes Tennessee is not far from becoming a national contender again, though.
“In my opinion Tennessee will always have the players to be an elite team,” Hytchye said.