It is almost time to start another week in the life of KSR (this one focused on UK Media Days with Tyler Thompson live in Birmingham for the event), but before we move on, a little closure on the Peach Jam. Tomlin will be along tomorrow for his take on the scene as an outsider who had never been to a recruiting event, but I thought I would give 20 quick hitters on what I learned at College Basketball’s biggest recruiting event:
1. Kentucky has expanded its net on the 2014 class. The last couple of years have seen UK fans become a bit spoiled, as the Cats have focused almost exclusively on top 15-20 players, and have ended up getting almost all of them. The 2014 class may be different. While there is still a scenario in which UK gets an exclusively top 10 class (more on that in the night post), it looks more and more like UK is going after some new targets. At the Peach Jam, Angel Delgado, Kelly Oubre and Abdul Malik Abu, all emerged as potential new UK offers in the coming weeks. UK is having to go slightly deeper this year, in part due to some battles for the top 5-7 guys in the class.
2. Jahlil Okafor (pictured above) is the real deal and the clear #1 player in the 2014 class. One NBA executive told Yahoo Sports that he was the most skilled offensive post big man of the last 20 years. That is high praise, but it might be justified as he is able to score around the basket as well as anyone I can remember. His defense needs some work and one could complain about his rebounding, but all of that is just nitpicking. He is a star that I would love UK to get…although I am afraid he is headed to Duke, Michigan State or Kansas.
3. John Calipari is one of two rockstars in the coaching ranks. Wherever he or Coach K go, whispers follow. Every other coach might get a “oh there is Jim Boeheim” or “Roy Williams looks nice in that tweed,” but when Calipari or Coach K walk in, everyone knows. They have the star power and you can see players shift when they appear. It is fascinating to watch.
4. Every year I have attended the Peach Jam, Roy Williams has worn pink. No other coach is not wearing their school colors, but Roy is always wearing pink, flanked by two 80 year old men. It is clearly intentional, as three years in a row a coincidence does not make. Pink Roy does things differently I presume.
5. It was hard to evaluate Stanley Johnson, one of the players that most presume UK could end up with as part of the class. He is looking at Kentucky, Arizona, USC, Kansas and others and there is a lot to like about his game. He gets to the rim, is quick to the ball and is explosive. But like Archie Goodwin, finishing is a problem and his team was so awful that it was hard to evaluate him against the best of the best. I can see why Calipari likes him, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see his ranking drop.
6. Sometimes it pains me to say such things, but there is no friendlier coach than Billy Donovan. Every year I see him, he always speaks to me and asks about the site and he has a genuine conversation in a way that almost no other coach would. When I read him poetry that former Cat Carlos Toomer had written about former UK players (you may remember that from KSR’s earliest days, he laughed loudly and asked me for more the next day. I know he coaches our rival and has turned us down at least once at UK…but I can’t help but like him.
7.: Part of what makes the Peach Jam great, but also odd, is the proximity you have to the coaches. As the picture above with me and Washington coach Lorenzo Romar showcases, you are literally rubbing legs with top coaches in sometimes uncomfortable ways. It never gets normal to turn around and have Coach K making jokes about fat AAU coaches 6 inches from your face (as happened this year), but I have to say that it is very cool.
8.: I was very proud of the Kentucky Travelers team and their performance in Augusta. They went 2-3, but two losses were very close and their blowout loss was to the team that ended up runner-up of the whole event. The 10 Kentucky kids making up the team can play and Perry Central’s Justin Johnson exploded on the national scene with a performance that will lead to many BCS offers. They were fun to watch and had Calipari checking them out and commenting to those around them about how well they were playing. Kudos on a great performance and representing the state tremendously well.
9.: The battle between UK and UL for Trey Lyles was the talk of much of the camp. Most are suggesting these two teams will be the final two choices and depending on who you talk to, either could lead. The buzz going into the Peach Jam was that UL had overtaken UK, but everyone around Augusta said Lyles was still a UK lean. Jerry Meyer of 24/7 Sports even switched his pick from UL to UK. I am not sure who will take him, but UK/UL coaches were at every game Lyles played and it will be a battle between the schools similar to Marquis Teague three years ago.
10. They say that Presidents age five years for every year in office, mostly showcased by the greyness of their hair. If that is true, then Gary Parrish must have served two terms as Commander in Chief since the last Peach Jam. He was however the only media member ballsy enough to rock the grey hair and painter’s cap combo. #MediaHipster
11. Texas wing Kelly Oubre (pictured above with his Fishbone lead singer-like hair) is clearly a rising star that is picking up offers left and right. He told Adam Zagoria that he expects a UK offer after the Peach Jam and he already has tons of interest from UCONN, Arizona, Syracuse and others. I watched two of his games and saw real talent, but he was on a great team that had many prospects and so he often blended in a bit more than you would expect from a star. His length makes it clear why Calipari would be interested, but I have to think he is a second-tier recruit right now for UK.
12. While I liked what I saw from Tyus Jones, the PG that is considered to be one of the two best in the class, I do think Emmanuel Mudiay is more of a Calipari point guard. Jones is short, quick and a good passer, but he won’t necessarily be a great finisher in college and is more of a distributor than a “beat you off the dribble” type that Calipari loves. If it wasn’t for the Okafor-Jones package deal (which looks to be legit), I would favor Mudiay for UK. So if the Cats can’t get Okafor (and I dont think they can right now), the Mudiay is the best option for Calipari. He will be a star in Lexington.
13. I was amazed at how many UK fans were at the event. Drew, Tomlin and I met a ton of you guys and blue shirts were literally in every gym for every game. No other fanbase showed up anywhere close to UK and I would say there may have been more UK shirts than all other teams combined. I am sure recruits notice this and it is part of why they continue to mention the BBN in interviews.
14 Two things I saw way too much of this week were Doug Shows’ thighs. He was there evaluating referees (even though I was hoping he might be getting tips), and he continually wore short khaki shorts that brought new meaning to the “skies out, thighs out” mantra. Calipari even was with him for a while, showcasing that in terms of burying disagreements, the Peach Jam is a place of unity and hope….at least until Shows gives Calipari a technical again next year.
15. I do think Calipari will likely end up offering Angel Delgado, a player that had a great Peach Jam. He has a ton of connections to UK, his AAU coach played for Calipari and he will be playing for the Dominican team with Orlando Antigua, and his game continues to improve. I never saw him in person (he seemed to always be playing in the game next to the court I was on), but I heard nothing but raves and by the end, Kenny Payne was at all of his games. He is a name that could end up in Blue.
16. KSR’s two favorite coaches of the event? Frank Haith and Greg Paulus. We spent a good deal of time talking to both, and I found both very funny. Our Haith conversation started out awkwardly when my intro to him was “that game last year in Rupp with you guys was great” and he responded, “well of course you would think so, we pissed it away.” But we recovered and ended up becoming a fan of Frank and his large sports coats. As for Paulus, he remembered two interviews we had done with him during his playing days and was aware (and not upset) of Tomlin posing next to his ass on day one (pictured above). Both gave us their phone numbers, said they would come on KSR and are now our BFFs. We are so cheap and easy to please.
17. The best player I saw all weekend was 2015 recruit Malik Newman. He is an unstoppable scorer from Mississippi and a guy who has NBA written all over him. If he were in the 2014 class, he would probably be ranked #2 overall and his ability to get to the rim is unmatched by anyone in high school basketball. The consensus seems to be that he is UK’s to lose as he grew up a Cats/Calipari fan. I hope that is true because he is the next great one.
18. They really do love peaches in the parts of South Carolina/Georgia where we were. Not only did they serve them at the event (and coaches literally lined up for them…Jamie Dixon stayed outside a room for 30 minutes waiting for the new batch), but every 200 feet on the side of the road is another peaches’ stand. It is almost as if 25% of the states’ economies are peach-related. With that said, if you get the right batch, put in sugar, etc, they can be scrumtrulescent heaven.
19. The trend for virtually everyone in high school basketball is to wear the loudest colored shoes imaginable. Last year the trend was neon and this year the trend was to have shoes that looked like someone spilled an easel on them. There is no rhyme or reason to the color pattern, so long as they are loud. To me, the shoes seem to get uglier, but that is why I am old and not a street agent for the next generation of superstars.
20 A big shout out to Calipari and Kenny Payne who were there from sun up to sun down all three days. These guys always work hard recruiting, but this year they may be doing even more than usual. Along with Antigua (who was in Indianapolis for most of the time), they realize that this class is going to require a bit more leg work than some in the past. And thus, these guys didn’t miss a game, watching all the key kids multiple times…and you can tell the kids noticed. Some coaches mail it in over the years (you can guess who), Calipari is not one of them.
We had a great time in Augusta and look forward to it again next year. Thanks to Drew and Tomlin for all their work and the great fans we met along the way. You guys/gals were awesome and made for one of the more fun weeks we have ever had on the job. I don’t know when I have laughed harder than I did these three days and now lets hope the events of the week translate into another top UK class.