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Basketball Recruiting News
After the loss in Texas, plane delays and a long road home, I really wasn’t sure whether Calipari and his staff would be able to make it to the icy roads of Marshall County. But that’s exactly what he wants you to think. Always one for the grand entrance, Calipari didn’t disappoint last night.
Twas moments before Booker’s game in Marshall Co’s house, not a sharpie-wielding child was stirring, quiet as a mouse. The programs, water bottles and big blue table cloth were hung with care, in hopes that Calipari soon would be there.
I was dumb enough to exit the media area (and accidentally leave my pass, you know, just for extra fun of it) precisely as Calipari and his staff made their grand entrance. There was an announcement and I’m pretty sure I heard trumpets. Before I could turn back the autograph mob was forming and children were already going into spasms (cute side story: the most precious little junior Miss Marshall County Hoopfest ya ever did see had her orange and blue cowboy boot signed by Cal. Awww.)
Trey Lyles watched the mob from a distance, with a huge smile on his face, the same huge smile Booker would have later during Trey’s game (more on this later). Calipari would only get to see Booker and the Gill-Caesar vs Lyles games, but there was plenty other action, including a few guys the UK staff will probably keep tabs on as they progress. Let’s look at the games first, then individual players.
Arsenal Tech 54 Huntington Prep 51 (MVP: Trey Lyles)
Two things stuck out in this game: (1) Huntington Prep is very talented but are not yet playing with a sense of cohesiveness and (2) when Trey Lyles wants to rebound, he rebounds and when he wants to win, he wins. Lyles made a huge 3-pointer and made the clutch free throw his team needed to win, on his way to a manly 22 pt, 14 rebound (3 offensive) stat-line. Gill-Caesar wasn’t a factor in this one, while Jaquan Lyle and Josh Perkins put up 17 and 15, respectively, for Prep. With 14 turnovers and only 3 assists total though, Prep’s guard play was very unimpressive from a team perspective.
Ballard 92 Moss Point 71 (MVP: Kelan Martin)
The game belonged to Ballard but the show belonged to Devin Booker and Kelan Martin. The previous record for most free throws made at the MCHF was 15, Booker hit 20 of 24. I honestly believe that somewhere around 98% of the fouls called on Ballard were while defending Booker. Booker finished with 40 points (the MCHF record is 46), 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block and 1 steal but Ballard’s team play and skill level were just too much for the one-Devin-mensional Moss Point. Kelan Martin (Butler) was very impressive putting up a 30 pt, 12 reb line for Ballard (He’s gonna be a player for Butler). Quentin Snider (UL) was fun to watch as well, showing he can score with relative ease but can also distribute in a highly efficient manner, finishing with 18 points, 9 assists and 0 turnovers.
Dallas Prime Prep 67 Quality Education Academy 50 (MVP: Emmanuel Mudiay)
If you came to the MCHF hoping that Emmanuel Mudiay would somehow be cursed by returning to the Bluegrass he shunned for Larry Brown U., you left disappointed. Scoring a scorching, athletic, electric 17 pts while pulling down 11 rebs was expected at 6’5” with his athleticism, but the reason he’ll be the best NBA guard to come out of this class is his court vision and IQ. He performed a beautiful NBA-level pick and roll with Paul Washington Jr (more on him later) and generally just found the open man and put his team in a position to score. Quality Education hung around but was ultimately outmatched by Prime Prep, Mudiay and the spark provided by freshman Paul “PJ” Washington. Terrance Ferguson, a USA U-16 member last year, didn’t involve himself too much. He’s a pogo stick and has tons of raw gifts but his game was very one-dimensional in this game, relying on 3 pointers that weren’t falling instead of using that speed and athleticism to his advantage.
Other Final Scores:
Arsenal Tech 87 Ballard 84 OT (Trey Lyles had 30 pts, 19 rebs, 2 blks, 2 stls, MVP honors)
Huntington Prep 72 Atlanta Sports Academy 46 (Gill-Caesar 19 pts, MVP honors)
Trey Lyles (UK) – Lyles averaged 26 pts and 16.5 rebs per game during his two games. He also played 35 and 30 minutes, impressive stamina considering he involves himself in every play, whether rebounding or scoring. Lyles doesn’t rely on a post game, instead getting his points from transition and methodical face-up play that will usually end in a high % jumper or baseline drive, where he can finish through contact. He runs the floor very well for his size and has nice hands to receive the pass and finish on the run. He can hit from 3 point range in and is a monster utilizing his strong frame on drives and around the basket. Most impressive, next to his shoes, his rebounding. Not only does he have the size, strength and vert to box out and go get the ball, but he has an uncanny knack for great positioning and anticipation of missed shots. He may not be Randle-beastly (who is really?) but still, get ready for another double-double machine.
Check out his highlights and see what you think:
Devin Booker (UK) – Booker gave a nice performance for Kentucky fans, mostly because he showed he isn’t just the shooter that he’s been billed as. The stroke was there, smooth as butter, and the rotation on his shot is a thing of beauty. However, they just didn’t seem to be falling, rattling out to start the game. Booker adjusted to try to score other ways and did (to the tune of 40 pts). He showed he can use both hands in transition and to get into the lane. When they threw doubles at him, his basketball IQ and poise shined through as he stayed composed and found the open the man. The 2nd half saw Moss Point use him as an inbounder who would immediately get the ball back and bring it up. This led to spacing for Booker, which he turned into drives and foul shots (20-24 from the line). Booker may not be the most athletic (still, check out the put back dunk in these highlights, hops) but he is solid as a rock, with above-average height for his position, which should help him even the playing field with more athletic guards. His IQ shows that, despite the fact he is “the man” for his team, he’ll adjust well to team play and will make the most of the new found open looks he gets at the next level.
Also wanted to throw in here that both Booker and Lyles seemed to really enjoy their celebrity status. Booker was all smiles interacting with fans and signing autographs (he and Cal chatted for awhile as well). Lyles even had an importu signing session, on his own accord, for fans in attendance and watched with an ear-to-ear grin as Calipari’s mob formed around him. Booker and Lyles talked briefly between games and Booker told us that Townes, Lyles, Ulis and himself have a group text going where they usually talk about stuff other than basketball, although a big theme, he said, was watching other programs and getting each other amped up and prepared for next season. An early effort at forming chemistry, an important factor that UK fans took a crash course on last year.
Montaque Gill-Caesar (2015) – MGC is a rock just like Booker but may not be as tall as listed (6’6” looks more like 6’4”). The skills are there. He has a nice looking jumper and can get himself free when working off the ball. He can also catch the ball outside of the elbow and back down smaller guards (which he did on more than one occasion). I came away believing that he could reclassify with his size, strength and athleticism but he’ll have to completely tuned into his college coach if he’s going to pick up the how-to and sustained effort it’ll take to keep himself consistently involved. He would disappear for times but when he wanted to be the focus, he could really pour it on in bunches, scoring most of his 19 in about one and a half quarters of play. A coach that keeps him involved will have a great scoring guard on their hands. So while the skill set is definitely there for him to succeed at the next level, this isn’t the same sure thing that Wiggins reclassifying was (but, again, who else really is?). The Buzz: Gill-Caesar has offers from basically all the schools recruiting him hard except for two: UK and Duke. Gill-Caesar said that Duke had recently stepped up their pursuit, not yet extending an offer, and he wasn’t quite 100% on whether UK had officially extended the offer but did say that he was told “If I saw myself there, [Kentucky’s coaching staff] would love to have the opportunity to recruit me.” Both Lyles and Booker specifically mentioned Gill-Caesar when discussing options for the class, with Booker also mentioning Myles Turner. I personally believe UK has the edge in this one, but I’m just not quite sure whether that’ll be next year or the year after.
Miles Bridges (2016) – Miles is only a sophomore so you can expect some rough edges, especially in terms of his form on his jump shot. However, his physical gifts and what progress he has made in his game are deserving of his early 5-star rankings (he’s smart, gets himself involved and you can see he’s worked on ball handling). Bridges will not shy from contact and can finish through the contact with his strength. This should only get better as he matures. He’s going to annoy other players with his physicality, he’s going to box out, he’s going to get rebounds and he’s going to get garbage points. That’s his role right now for Huntington Prep and he does it well. He already utilizes both hands comfortably on drives and finishes. The potential is definitely there. The Buzz: Told multiple reporters that Kentucky and Michigan State were his dream schools. No offer yet.
Paul “PJ” Washington (2017) – He we have a 6’7” 200+ lb freshman. Congratulations, collect your D-1 offers. Son of a basketball coach? Here have some more. You’ll want to remember this name because he has the potential to be a star. He logged 14 minutes for a top ten high school program, turning that into 11 points, 2 rebounds and 2 blocks. He repeatedly found himself in great position to involve himself in the play, whether in transition, getting rebounds and put backs or on the defensive end. He can face up and has a nice looking stroke already. The big key will be whether he continues to grow into a big man or stays in more of the wing range. Keep an eye on this kid because I’m sure UK and every other D-1 school is.
Well it was a fun weekend of basketball. I want to thank Matt for letting me be nostalgic for a weekend. I plan on doing some more trips to see UK prospects in the coming months which hopefully will lead to some writing, so you should see me around in some form or another later. Thanks for following along. I’ll get to the questions and comments asap (the weather schedule threw me off). Follow me on twitter and I’ll keep you updated on who I’ll be watching and where they stand with UK.
Image courtesy of Chicago Sun-Times and Patrick Gleason
Tyler Ulis may not be as heralded a PG prospect as the John Wall’s, Brandon Knight’s, and Andrew Harrison’s of the world, but earlier today he proved himself worthy of his Top 40 ranking, albeit in a losing effort from his Marian Catholic squad.
Marian Catholic is playing in the Chicago Elite Classic and today took on California power Etiwanda, who is ranked #6 in the country by USA Today and proved themselves worthy in the school’s firsy ever appearance in a National Showcase. Ulis dropped a cool 30 points, 8 assists, and 5 rebounds in the 74-68 loss.
“We lost, so there isn’t anything good about it,” Ulis said. A less competitive observer could see many upsides for the Spartans. They proved they could play with the top teams in the country. Ulis himself showed a crowd of national talent evaluators that he should be a McDonald’s All-American, finishing with 30 points and eight assists against USA Today’s No. 6 ranked team.
(Video via Anthony Wireman)
Future Cat Trey Lyles’ Arsenal Tech Titans battled Ballard High School, and after opening up a monstrous 24-2 lead through 1st quarter, the Bruins slowly chipped away to make it a game after the 3rd, trailing just 59-52. Early in the 4th quarter the game was tied at 61, but Ballard kept the pedal to the metal and extended a five-point lead late into the final frame.
Those in attendance say Lyles put the reeling team on his back and helped close the gap in the final two minutes. Some costly mistakes and a big shot helped tie the game at 78 by the final horn. Then Tech then pulled away in overtime to win 87-84.
Lyles scored 27 points and was named MVP.
The Marshall County Hoopfest was postponed a day thanks to mother nature, but the games must go on! Trey Lyles and his Arsenal Tech squad will battle Louisville commit Quentin Snider’s Ballard in the first game of the day. You can watch on iHigh, tip off is at 1 o’clock eastern.
Lyles became Tech’s all-time leading rebounder last week and is just three points away from become the school’s all-time leading scorer, breaking the record of 1,269 points.
Later in the evening, Ballard will play Devin Booker and his Moss Point Tigers at 5 p.m. Booker dropped 21 points and hauled in 21 rebounds Friday night in Mississippi in a 60-51 win over Pascagoula. His team boarded a bus and drove through the icy night to make it to the Bluegrass for tonight’s contest.
Rumors are John Calipari, Rick Pitino, and Bob Huggins will be in attendance tonight.
Coach O’s old crew would’ve just put on a helmet and some skates and tipped off.
Marshall County High School Athletic Director Jeff Stokes sent an email out to media just moments ago cancelling tonight’s Marshall County Hoop Fest games. Tomorrow’s games are up in the air pending whatever mother nature drops on the Bluegrass tonight.
The cancellations shouldn’t create too much of a problem for UK fans wanting to see future players and prospects, especially considering most would have stayed home for the UK-Baylor game anyways. If the show goes on tomorrow, Devin Booker, Trey Lyles, Montaque Gill-Caesar, Miles Bridges, Dallas Prime Prep, Christ Presbyterian and Ballard all have games later in the afternoon on Saturday. Fingers crossed.
At least I’ll be traveling away from the storm as I head back to my nice warm house (sorry Benton Inn, rain check). Braving ice storms in the name of UK basketball? I’m reminded of Calipari’s famous words: “[Covering] Kentucky basketball isn’t for everyone.” I’m pretty sure that’s what he meant.
*900 hundred mile ice cold fist bump to the boys in Dallas*
UPDATE: Marshall County has released the revised schedule for tomorrow. Here it is:
12:00 pm Ballard vs Arsenal Tech (Trey Lyles)
1:30 pm Hunting Prep vs Atlanta Sports Academy (Gill-Caesar)
3:00 pm Marshall County vs Hopkinsville
5:00 pm Ballard vs Moss Point (Devin Booker)
6:30 pm Huntington Prep vs Arsenal Tech (Gill-Caesar and Trey Lyles)
8:00 pm Oak Hill vs Atlanta Sports Academy
9:30 pm Dallas Prime Prep vs Quality Education
It’s Throwback Thursday!! Guess who’s bizzack? That’s right, it’s the Kentucky basketball recruiting writer you all love to tolerate! I’ve spent the last couple years paying off that Pizza and Hard Liquor Mortgage I took out in college. Only 25 more years to go! Everyone needs a break from the real world now and then though and this is mine. So while Matt and Drew zig-zag through tornado alley and ice storms to bring you the news on your current Cats, I’ll be in Marshall County keeping you up to date on the future of Big Blue basketball.
(Quick shout out and thanks to Matt for allowing me to do this, Drew for the map of every Taco Bell on my way down there, and Mama TT for helping this old man figure out this dang blasted new blog format)
Walking into the KSR writers’ lounge made me realize just how much things have changed in the past couple years.
Where’s the national media writers dartboard? Oh, we’re friends with them now?!
Do I smell Pine-Sol? We clean now?
Mrs. Thompson really does just make us all sandwiches and BTI ghost-writes her posts? Love the spicy mayo by the way.
Where’s the picture of Kige in the Santa hat we used have hanging over there? Replaced by a flat screen and an Xbox 360 for Drew Barker?! (don’t worry trolls, the Coaching staff pushes the buttons for him, no violation here)
The times, they are a changin’.
Let’s get to the preview. Mrs. Thompson put up the schedule, so if you’re looking for specific games and times, check there. The following will be a preview of each team, the matchups you’ll want to see, who to watch for and any UK buzz surrounding certain players.
First off, the out of state teams listed by their national MaxPreps ranking:
#3 Huntington Prep
Coach: Rob Fulford
Friday @ 5:30 pm vs Atlanta Sports Academy
Saturday @ 6:30 pm vs Arsenal Tech (Trey Lyles, UK staff should attend this game)
Notable Players (by class)
Class of ’14:
Jaquan Lyle (#4 PG, former UL commit, strong IU interest); Josh Perkins (Gonzaga commit); Angel Delgado (UK showed interest before sudden Seton Hall commit); Jalen Lindsey (Providence commit, UL & UF offered).
Class of ’15:
*Montaque Gill-Caesar (5-star #4 SF in class, UK offer, may reclassify to ’14); Thomas Bryant (#4 PF, Cuse, Nova and WVU offers); Levi Cook (C, WVU commit)
Class of ’16:
*Miles Bridges (high 4-star, 6-5, 190lbs, Michigan, OSU, MSU early interest, UK will most likely “kick tires” at some point)
#4 Oak Hill Academy
Coach: Steve Smith
Saturday @ 8:00 vs Christ Presbyterian (Braxton Blackwell)
Caleb & Cody Martin (SR, NC State commits); Shelton Mitchell (SR, Wake Forest commit); Trevor Manuel (4 star, Jr, PF, MSU and NC State offers)
#7 Dallas Prime Prep
Coach: Ray Forsett
Friday @ 10 vs Quality Education (#15 nationally)
Saturday @ 9:30 vs Memphis White Station (#16 nationally, Leron Black and Chris Chiozza)
SMU’s golden ticket….Emmanuel Mudiay (#1 PG, possibly overall, in class)
*Terrance Ferguson (USA U-16 member, 6’5” Soph G, high 4-star, plenty of offers, KU and UNC interest already)
*Paul “PJ” Washington (6’7, 210 as a FRESHMAN, Rising star that UK will keep tabs on)
#15 Quality Education
*Previously unranked, moved up after beating Oak Hill & the Rock earlier in the season
Coach: Isaac Pitts
Friday @ 10 vs Dallas Prime Prep
#16 White Station (Memphis)
Coach: Jesus Patino
Saturday @ 9:30 vs Dallas Prime Prep
Notable Players: Leron Black (IL commit, Sr.) and Chris Chiozza (Florida commit, Sr.)
Arsenal Tech (IN)
Coach: Jason Delaney
Friday @ 8:30 vs Ballard
Saturday @ 6:30 vs Huntington Prep
Trey Lyles, ’14 UK Commit
Moss Point (MS)
Coach: Micoe Cotton
Friday @ 5 vs Ballard
Devin Booker, ’14 UK Commit
Evangelical Christian (TN)
Coach: Terry Triplett
Friday @ 4 vs Chicago Currie (Skal vs. Jayhawk Cliff Alexander and your only opportunity to see Skal, don’t miss this one)
Skal Labissiere (5-star, #3 C in ’15 class, UK offer along with many others)
Christ Presbyterian (TN)
Coach: Drew Maddux
Saturday @ 8:00 vs Oak Hill
Braxton Blackwell (6-7, 200lb, Soph., high 4-star, UK could kick tires, Florida, Memphis and Tennessee showing early interest)
Braxton Bonds and Jake Allsmiller should get high D-1 offers in the future
Coach: Michael Oliver
Notable Players: Cliff Alexander (Kansas commit–will not play due to suspension)
Coach: Lawrence Myers
Notable Players: CJ Anderson (UMass commit); Marcanuis Hymon (Ole Miss commit)
Now for your local boys listed by State Ranking first (plenty of D-1 talent):
There were some major recruiting developments this week, with Kentucky picking back up on their recruitment of Rashad Vaughn, a 2014 wing player from Las Vegas. While in Vegas to see Stephen Zimmerman, Orlando Antigua stopped by to see Vaughn, 24/7 Composite’s 12th best player in the 2014 class. Vaughn has offers from UNC, Kansas, UNLV, Iowa State, and Baylor, but told ESPN’s Paul Biancardi that he plans to visit Kentucky. He hasn’t set anything up yet, but UK is trying to get him to come to campus for an official visit. To read more, go on over to ESPN Insider.
That’s huge news for what could now be a pretty great 2014 class.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©12:00 pm
Not going to Dallas this weekend? Head on over to Marshall County to see some future Cats play in the Marshall County Hoop Fest. Two of UK’s 2014 signees, Devin Booker and Trey Lyles, will play in the event on Friday and Saturday, along with several other UK recruits, including Montague Gill-Caesar, a 2015 recruit considering reclassifying to 2014; Thomas Bryant, a 2015 power forward; Miles Bridges, a 2016 small forward; and Braxton Blackwell, another 2016 small forward. Here’s the entire schedule (all times central):
Thursday: Session 1
4 p.m.: Marshall Co. vs. Massac Co. (girls)
5:30 p.m.: Graves Co. vs. Massac Co.
7 p.m.: Marshall Co. vs. Dyersburg
8:30 p.m.: Henderson Co. vs. St. Mary
Friday: Session 2
4 p.m.: Curie vs. Evangelical Christian
5:30 p.m.: Huntington Prep (Montaque Gill-Caesar, Thomas Bryant, Miles Bridges) vs. Atlanta Sports Academy
7 p.m.: Oak Hill Academy vs. Whitehaven
8:30 p.m.: Ballard vs. Arsenal Tech (Trey Lyles)
10 p.m.: Prime Prep vs. Quality Education
Saturday: Session 3
9 a.m.: Warren Central vs. Wilson Central
10:30 a.m.: Marshall Co. vs. Mount Carmel (Girls)
Noon: Hopkinsville vs. Evansville Bosse
1:30 p.m.: McCracken Co. vs. South Fulton
5 p.m.: Ballard vs. Moss Point (Devin Booker)
6:30 p.m.: Huntington Prep (Montaque Gill-Caesar, Thomas Bryant, Miles Bridges) vs. Arsenal Tech (Trey Lyles)
8 p.m.: Oak Hill Academy vs. Christ Presbyterian (Braxton Blackwell)
9:30 p.m.: Prime Prep vs. White Station
Saturday’s game between Huntington Prep and Arsenal Tech could be huge. Other non-UK recruits participating include Emmanuel Mudiay (Prime Prep), JaQuan Lyle (Huntington Prep), Jalen Lindsey (Huntington Prep), Josh perkins (Huntington Prep), and Quentin Snider (Ballard).
Tickets are still available for $35-$45 for all sessions or $10 a session on gameday by calling (270) 527-6714. For more information, visit marshallcountyhoopfest.com. If you go, get the BBQ nachos. They’re delicious.
Rashad Vaughn may be back in play for Kentucky’s 2014 basketball recruiting class. Scout.com’s Evan Daniels is reporting that UK stopped by Findlay Prep to see Vaughn today and the staff has been in contact “quite a bit recently.”
Vaughn, ranked ninth overall by 247, cut UK from his list earlier this year, but Coach Cal and the staff aren’t giving up as they search for a wing. Vaughn already has an offer and the pursuit is back on.
According to the Herald-Leader’s Ben Roberts, Orlando Antigua is in Las Vegas today to check out 2015 center Stephen Zimmerman. While in Vegas, Antigua will also watch Zimmerman’s teammate, 2015 power forward Chase Jeter.
Zimmerman got a scholarship offer from the Cats back in June and now has offers from several schools, including Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, North Carolina, and UCLA. Cal visited him back in September. He’s considered the third best player in the 2015 class by 247 Composite, and the best center.
Watch him work:
Devin Booker is one of Kentucky’s four signees in the 2014 class, and opened up about his decision to be a Cat in his latest USA Today High School Sports blog. Booker said that in the end, Kentucky was where he wanted to be, even after waiting a little bit to “see if the feeling would wear off.” Thankfully, “it never did.”
I never had any second thoughts because I took so much time to do it the right way. I was locked in all the way.
Coach Cal was really excited when I told him. He told me that we were gonna have another special class, and he told me that he wanted people to say “I knew Booker was good, but I didn’t know he was that good!” I really liked that because I knew that meant I would be getting better and better. That’s what I wanted.
Last week, we found out that Devin’s working on a research paper about the history of UK basketball. How’s that going?
School is great. It’s getting easier since it’s my senior year. I finished my College Algebra class last week and I’ve got all A’s. I wrote a research paper in my English class on the history of Kentucky basketball! I turned that in last week so I’m definitely expecting a good grade on that one! It’s only right.
Lots more where that came from, so go check out his blog in full:
By Ally Tucker on ©12:01 pm
One of the remaining targets on the board for Kentucky in the 2014 recruiting basketball recruiting class is Huntington Prep’s Montaque Gill-Caesar. Gill-Caesar is still currently a part of the 2015 class, but rumor has it that he may be considering reclassifying to 2014. Either way, he is a Kentucky target and a player John Calipari has shown interest in as of late. Last night, Gill-Caesar had a monster game for Huntington Prep, finishing with 56 points and 9 rebounds. The 56 points came on 11-20 three point shooting. Not a bad night. Not a bad night at all.
For Kentucky fans who want to see Gill-Caesar up close and personal, and perhaps show him some love, Huntington Prep will be playing in the Marshall County Hoop Fest next weekend on Friday at 6:30 ET. If fans are looking for a double-dip, Kentucky commit Trey Lyles will be playing AGAINST Gill-Caesar’s team on Saturday at 7:30 ET.
Tyler Ulis is learning how to score on his own in his senior season, and that challenge was put to the test more than ever yesterday in the title game of the Chicago Heights Classic. Tyler Ulis has played the last 2 years alongside his fellow mini-guard Ki-Jana Crawford. KJ Crawford was out with an ankle injury, and Ulis was forced to take matters into his own hands for most of the game offensively. The extra load of scoring responsibility led to a ridiculous stat line for Ulis, 35 points 5 rebounds 5 assists 2 steals. Marian won the game in a much closer than expected 79-73 tilt.
To be honest, Ulis should have had about 12 assists and the game should have been a blowout. His teammates missed open shot after open shot created by passes from Ulis. After recognizing that his team was having a cold night from the field, Ulis started to press the issue and create his own shots. If you had walked in late, you would think Ulis was being a bit of a ball hog, but it was more of a matter of being the only player hitting his shots. Along with his team being cold, the refs were fully enforcing the new freedom of movement rules and calling fouls left and right. This led to Ulis going 14 of 17 from the charity stripe. The good free throw shooting will be a breath of fresh air for Kentucky next season.
Even though Ulis put up his best scoring output of the season, I felt his previous games were better played. He felt the pressure of having Crawford out of the lineup and second leading scorer TJ Parham in foul trouble. Here’s a breakdown of what he did well and struggled with:
- Took advantage of tightly contested game and attacked defenders. More importantly, he was extremely successful from the FT line once he got fouled.
- Looked better than ever at creating his own shot from all over the field. He made contact lay ups, floaters, and pull up jumpers.
- His basketball IQ really shined bright late in the game. After being the only scoring option for most of the second half, Ulis used the final few minutes to expose the opposing team’s help defense and find the open man for easy buckets. He had sucked Bloom Township into committing two defenders to his drives by the end of the game, and that helped put the game away with two impressive assists to open men.
- Leadership. Ulis knows he’s the best player on the floor and took control of the game whenever Bloom threatened. He had an answer whenever Bloom took momentum.
- Although he had extra duties offensively as stated before, he pressed the issue too much in some situations. There were times when he dribbled too much and led to a turnover or took ill advised drives to the basket against well positioned defenders. While pressing the issue was understandable given the shooting woes of the rest of the team, there were situations where open shots by cold shooters were better than the heavily contested ones he took.
- There were a few instances where Ulis got turned around on defense. Notably, Ulis was turned around against his man as he hustled the ball up the court for an easy basket late in the game. Ulis has to keep his body in front of ball handlers because he lacks the length to make up for mistakes.
As a whole, Ulis had another strong performance. He is naturally a pass-first point guard, but this team is teaching him how to create his own shot which is a valuable asset to learn. He will be able to be the pass-first guard he desires next season with multiple scorers on the floor at all times. However, he will have the ability to score on his after this season, which will be extremely valuable to add another wrinkle for Coach Cal to utilize.
Trey Lyles’ senior season tipped off on Wednesday as his Arsenal Tech team began the season with a win over non-conference foe Warren Central, 67-65. I decided to make the 30 minute trek down the road to take in the action and see what UK’s newest member of the 2014 class is all about, and overall I was pretty pleased with what I saw. By my count (note: these stats are totally unofficial), Lyles finished the game with 19 points, nine rebounds and three blocks. Those stats may not particularly jump out at you, but the 6’10″ forward showed an impressive skill-set, scoring in a variety of ways and looking completely comfortable while doing it.
You may remember on Wednesday, the UK game started at 4:00, so I watched the game in its entirety and immediately left in order to make it to Tech for the 7:30 tip. You know how Cal preaches about sustaining effort and changing habits? Well, it was amazing to see how much effort is required at the college level compared to the high school level. Lyles seemed to play the entire game at half-speed, moving up and down the floor effortlessly and scoring with ease when the opportunities presented themselves. All I could think about was how many times Cal would have immediately pulled him out of the game for not sprinting the floor. His heart rate had to have been ridiculously low. None of this is to knock the kid in any way, it was just the perfect illustration of what Cal preaches to his players and the Big Blue Nation everyday: these kids don’t even have to try to succeed at the high school level.
With that being said, we should all be excited about the future for young T. Lyles. He scored his first basket by posting up the smaller defender and used his size and strength to score through two or three defenders. A couple of possessions later, he brought the ball up the court and rose up and drilled a three-pointer from the top of the key. He seemed to be most effective in the post, but showed great ball-handling skills and a nice shooting touch that will make it difficult for defenders at the next level to guard him.
Again, my biggest concern for Lyles is effort. He’s not particularly athletic, and Warren Central was able to offset his size by simply playing harder. I can remember one sequence where Warren Central isolated one of their big guys in the post and proceeded to score over Lyles with ease on consecutive trips down the court (one of the moments where I could envision Coach Cal telling him to come take a seat on the bench). He didn’t sprint the floor; he wasn’t aggressive on the boards; and he wasn’t explosive off the floor, all things that a player with his ability can get by with at this level. I don’t mean to be a Negative Nancy, but these were all things that stood out like a sore thumb.
Regardless, the talent that Lyles possesses is obvious. The game of basketball simply comes easy to him right now. I can’t wait to see him blossom when Cal and his staff gets a hold of him next year. He seems like a great kid that wants to be great, and I’m predicting that he will be.
Note: As I mentioned, I live about 30 minutes down the road from Lyles’ high school, so I plan to take in as many of his games as possible and give the Big Blue Nation the details in his development throughout the season.
According to the Herald-Leader’s Ben Roberts, 2015 shooting guard Luke Kennard attended the UK/Eastern Michigan game, making this his fifth unofficial visit to Kentucky this year. Kennard and his family sat behind UK’s bench. He was most recently in town for UK’s win over Robert Morris ten days ago.
Kennard is currently considered the 16th best player in the 2015 class by Rivals, and has offers from the Cats, Louisville, Duke, Michigan State, North Carolina, Indiana, and others.
Keep coming to see us, big guy.