College basketball season may have ended a few weeks ago, but for the diehards out there (meaning, “everyone reading this post”) you’ll be in for a treat if you’re willing to stay up late Friday night (or at least willing to set your DVR). That’s because Friday marks the 21st Nike Hoops Summit, an annual All-Star game featuring the top high school players in college basketball against the best players from across the world. The game tips off at 10:00 p.m. ET, with Kentucky signees (Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson) slated to play in the game.
As KSR’s on-the-ground reporter here in Portland at the game, here is what you need to know heading into tonight’s action:
1. All eyes will be on Tyler Herro
For Kentucky fans, most of the intrigue here lies with Herro. The Wisconsin native and future Wildcat was snubbed by the McDonald’s All-American game, but showed just how badly those voters got things wrong with a monster game at the Jordan Brand Classic. He finished with 13 points and showed off a complete, all-around game that left just about everyone impressed. That included Zion Williamson, who told KSR’s Jack Pilgrim that Herro is “the most underrated player” in the entire 2018 class.
In terms of this week in Portland, well, things have been a little slow for Herro. His shot wasn’t quite falling in practice on Thursday, although in his defense, the practice was more defensive-oriented and there really weren’t many players at all who did look good.
So that’s the good news, and the other good news is that it’s clear that even though the shots aren’t falling, Herro has all the tools to be successful offensively at the next level. In watching him in practice on Thursday he seemed to be able to just about anything he wanted on offense, mainly get into the lane and get anywhere he wanted to on the court. Again, the shots simply weren’t falling.
But when those shots do fall, watch out. He’ll be a problem for a lot of teams in the SEC next season.
And it’ll be interesting to see if he’s a problem for the World Team on Friday night.
2. Don’t expect to see Keldon Johnson play Friday night
Johnson was kept out of action at the Jordan Brand Classic last week with an ankle injury and it has limited him again this week in Portland. On Thursday he worked out on his own, testing the ankle with a series of drills on a side basket. He later told KSR that he didn’t feel as though the ankle was necessarily “injured.” But more that it was weak from inactivity these past few weeks.
Still, even though Johnson later said Thursday that he was “50/50” for tonight’s game, it seems much more likely that he will sit out altogether. NBA scouts know enough about him and so too do fans, and to be blunt, in a meaningless exhibition game there really isn’t all that much to play for.
Johnson will do big things in Lexington next year. It would be shocking if he did anything in Portland on Friday however.
3. Johnson won’t be the only one sitting
One of the more disappointing things at Hoops Summit this week is that in addition to Johnson, quite a few stars are out with injuries. Zion Williamson sat out of practice on Thursday and isn’t expected to play on Friday night. It’s the same with the top uncommitted player in the country, Romeo Langford, who has dealt with a concussion. Louis King, an Oregon commit who played for John Calipari with Team USA isn’t expected to play either.
Like Johnson, it makes no sense for any of these players to try to rush themselves back and risk further injury. Still, in a game that is supposed to feature the top players in the country, it’s disappointing that three of the Top 10 players in the country won’t be in action.
4.Know who will be in action though? The Duke guys
One of the more fascinating elements of this week to me is to take a closer look at all the superstars Duke is bringing in and try to figure out how they’ll all fit together next year. Williamson is obviously out, but watching R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish and Tre Jones there are two things that are immediately clear:
One, all three (plus Williamson) are INSANELY talented players.
Two, as I’ve said from the day Williamson committed to Duke, I’m not sure how they’ll all play together.
Putting aside Jones for a second, Barrett and Reddish (as well as Williamson) have both shown the exact same skill-set this week in Portland that they’ve shown their entire high school careers: They are big, physical, powerful wings that… essentially have the exact same game. Both can get to the hole at will and both are crazy athletic. But neither is a particularly skilled three-point shooter. Williamson is a very similar player as well.
(For what it’s worth, the most impressive future Duke player to me has actually been their point guard Jones, who is a stud floor general, that controls the pace of the game and gets everyone else involved)
Therefore despite all the hype coming into next year I’m selling my Duke stock. If anything, this feels a lot like two years ago, when the Blue Devils were the overwhelming favorites going into the year and totally fizzled out with a lineup that had a bunch of guys like Jayson Tatum, Luke Kennard and Grayson Allen who all played the same way.
Barrett, Reddish and Williamson are all insane talents. I’d never take that away from them. But I’m just not sure how they fit together.
5. Keep an eye on a couple 2019 recruits that Kentucky could get in the mix with
Here is something to keep an eye on tonight: How about a couple 2019 kids who could eventually come onto Kentucky’s radar. The first, Charles Bassey seems unlikely. Despite playing down the road at Aspire Academy in Louisville, the Wildcats don’t seem to be interested.
But the second guy? Well, I’m going to give you a name to watch out for. He hasn’t been linked to Kentucky yet, but my guess is that he will be by the end of the summer. And since we’re friends, I’m going to let you know before anyone else does.
— SLAM HS Hoops (@SLAM_HS) April 9, 2018
His name is Josh Green, and he is a 6’6 wing player from Australia who is playing for the World Team this week. He is currently ranked somewhere in the Top 20 prospects nationally (he played at IMG last year) but I’m telling you, give it until the end of the summer and he will be one of the Top 10 prospects in America. He has been absolutely fantastic in two showcase events (Basketball Without Borders in February and this event) and is about to take the summer circuit by storm. He plays for a local AAU team out in Los Angeles where I live, and believe me, the kid is the buzz of the West Coast right now.
Looking ahead, he’s a kid that already has some big-time offers, including UCLA, Kansas and Arizona and I would expect that Kentucky gets involved before the end of the summer. To Green’s credit when I asked him about it specifically, he played it cool, said that he’s grateful for all the schools that are into him right now.
But I’m telling you, look out. You’ll be hearing more about this kid all summer long.
In the meantime, enjoy the hype video of Green above.
And enjoy the game, and I’ll be back with a recap and post-game coverage tonight!