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Five-star forward Zion Williamson is a freak of nature, and Calipari needs to do whatever it takes to reel him in.

Five-star forward Zion Williamson is a freak of nature, and Calipari needs to do whatever it takes to reel him in.

Let’s cut to the chase: Five-star forward Zion Williamson is absolutely the real deal, and John Calipari needs to do anything his power to get this kid to Lexington.

I’ll admit it, I wasn’t sold in the past. All of Williamson’s highlight tapes looked like he just bullied on kids half his size, and though the athleticism was always impressive, I was worried how he’d perform against top-level competition. Needless to say, I was anxious for the adidas Uprising Gauntlet event in Spartanburg, SC, where we’d see his play against some of the top players in America.

On day one of the adidas Gauntlet, Williamson dropped 31 points, nine rebounds, two assists, four blocks, and two steals in 31 minutes of play. Williamson was everything he was hyped up to be. The athleticism, defensive presence, ball handling, shooting ability, and sheer size. But I wanted to see more than one game at the event before I was all aboard the Zion hype train.

And then he went for 32 and nine. And then 24 and 19. And then 28 and 16 against star point guard Calipari’s likely first commitment in Immanuel Quickley. And then 33 and nine.

Williamson proved he was the best player at the event by a country mile, and I may go as far as to say he’s the best player in the country.

Let me break down some of the film, discuss the strengths and weaknesses in Williamson’s game, and touch on the prized recruit’s recruitment:

Strengths

…Strength

It may sound cliche, but you notice his size from a mile away: Williamson has the most NBA-ready body in the nation. We saw it with Julius Randle and Bam Adebayo, and now Williamson will follow a similar path.

There wasn’t a player on the court Williamson couldn’t bully, and you better believe he did just that. With the ability to barrel his way to the basket, initiate contact to go to the line, and create space around the basket, this kid has the ability to absolutely dominate the game.

One of the biggest knocks on his game has always been that he’s a bit undersized, but don’t tell him that. He’s a bowling ball with zero mercy for defenders:

Athleticism

This has always been Williamson’s bread and butter, but seeing it in person was fascinating. Whether it was grabbing a rebound over three defenders, pinning someone on the backboard with his shoulders above the rim, or throwing down a ridiculous slam, the top-five prospect put on a show.

His athleticism is second to none in this country, and it was evident this weekend.

You can see it on this block:

And this one:

And this dunk.

I could post hundreds of videos I took showing off his ridiculous athleticism, but we’ll save that for another time. There’s a lot more to his game than just jumping out of the gym.

Versatility

At 6’8, 250 lbs., Williamson does things you shouldn’t be able to do at his size. While dribbling through defenders, making full court touchdown passes for easy layups, and bringing the ball up court, you’d think he was just a freak of nature guard.

And then two possessions later he posts up the biggest player on the opposing team and babies him to the basket, either dunking on him or pulling off a beautiful post move.

You’re left both speechless and with your jaw wide open more often than not.

On defense, the Spartanburg native can defend all five positions on the floor. Throughout the weekend, Williamson chose the opposing team’s best player and guarded him for the majority of the game. He will play mostly at the three and four, but he absolutely will not be a liability on defense when switched onto guards or massive centers.

Calipari lives and breathes versatility, and Williamson is the prototype of just that.

This kid can do it all.

Shooting ability

A knee injury sidelined Williamson for several weeks earlier this year, and many spectators were worried about how he would respond when he got back onto the court. Not only did he come back stronger than ever, his shot dramatically improved.

While injured, the five-star prospect told reporters he was able to really focus on his shooting touch, working at the free throw line, his mid-range game, and his shot behind the arc.

Within minutes at the event, you were able to see a fine example of the improvement:

Williamson would go on to shoot extremely well from three, even going four-for-four from deep in one matchup. He also made several pull-ups from midrange and a few floaters for good measure.

Though his shot has certainly improved, there are still some things Williamson needs to work on before we start considering him a knockdown shooter in college. We’ll discuss those later.

Weaknesses

Well… there weren’t many. The few weaknesses to his game seemed to revolve around working a little too hard and/or being so tired from putting the team on his back and playing nearly all of the 32 total minutes in each game. But we’ll give it a shot.

A bit out of control

When Williamson builds up too much momentum, he tends to get a little carried away and loses his handles or bulldozes defenders for charges. There were several times his teammates’ shots weren’t falling and he’d have to single-handedly take over a game, but turn the ball over in the process when double-teamed.

The Kentucky recruit loves having the ball in his hands, and most of the time, he does some pretty fascinating things with it. Other times, however, his big-game gene will force him to make some silly mistakes when better opportunities were available.

When he gathers speed and puts his head down in the lane, trouble (sometimes) follows.

Giving up on plays

Williamson got a little lazy on defense throughout the weekend, failing to get back on fast breaks, giving up offensive rebounds, etc.

Late in games, he doesn’t close out well on defenders, giving up big shots that let the opposing team right back in the game. There were a few times that each impressive basket Williamson managed on the offensive end would turn into a bucket given up on the other.

Again, five games in three days at 30+ minutes a game will do that to you, but it is worth noting.

Free throws/shooting ability

As I mentioned earlier, both good and bad comes from Williamson shooting the ball. Inconsistency is the name of the game with Williamson, and it might take a while before that gets fixed completely.

When he gets hot, he’s the most dominant player in the world and can score from all three levels of the floor. It’s a scary sight.

When he’s struggling, however, it’s rough to watch. And he can struggle from beyond the arc just as much as he can get hot.

Similar to Julius Randle, he’s going to take jumpers at the college level, and he’s probably going to frustrate fans with it at times. They’ll go in at a fair rate, but he’ll miss enough of them to make you yell at the television.

Williamson has to work on his consistency from both the line and beyond the arc during his senior year before getting to college.

Recruitment

It’s obvious every school in the country wants him; he’s the most entertaining high school prospect this country has to offer. Williamson told KSR he’s still open to all schools and won’t be putting together any formal “list” before making a decision.

The main schools in the running, however, seem to be UK, Kansas, Duke, UNC, South Carolina, and Clemson.

On Friday evening, five-star PG Immanuel Quickley told KSR he and Williamson had a package deal in the works, and both parties would talk to their respective families about taking the proper steps to make it happen. Williamson followed it up by telling KSR there was “a lot of truth” to the package deal and that Quickley was the exact type of point guard he wants to play with.

Yesterday, Williamson told Kyle Tucker of SEC Country things are heating up on the package deal front:

“That’s the real deal. I want to play with Immanuel Quickley when I go to college,” he said. “If he goes to Kentucky, then I’m going to look into Kentucky really hard.

(Another tidbit of information for you all reading all the way to this point: I talked to someone with Quickley’s AAU team at the event that said “Quickley is going to have a hard time saying no to Kentucky. A lot of the local people want him to go to Maryland, but that’s not happening. I’d put it at about 98% he ends up at Kentucky.”)

With Quickley likely making his college decision in the next month or so and Kentucky being the odds-on favorite in his recruitment, you put the puzzle pieces together.

This Zion Williamson-to-Kentucky thing is absolutely real, and the BBN needs to prepare accordingly. He’s one of the best basketball players I’ve seen in person in the last decade.

Wow.


WATCH: Five-star forward Zion Williamson destroys the competition at adidas Uprising Gauntlet Finale

We’ve been keeping you updated on Zion Williamson’s ridiculous weekend at the adidas Uprising Gauntlet Finale, and now we have your highlights from the event.

Williamson averaged 27.1 points, 11.3 rebounds, and four assists a game in front of Coach Cal, Coach K, Bill Self, Tom Izzo, and just about every assistant coach in America.

Clutch plays, ferocious dunks, beautiful post moves, and absolutely disgusting blocks. What more could you want from a potential future Wildcat?

See for yourself how incredible this kid is with KSR’s highlights:

If that wasn’t enough, catch up on some of the other videos from the weekend:

We’ve got to get this kid to Lexington at all costs…


Where in the World is Coach Cal?

Photo via @AdamZagoria

Fresh home from Egypt, Coach Cal has been back on the recruiting trail this week. Pictured above, you can spot Calipari at the Peach Jam watching 2019 recruit Wendell Moore. Cal has made appearances at both the Peach Jam and Adidas Gauntlet event in Spartanburg, SC.

Cal is also taking some time to see some of his “familia” as he calls it.

The classic dad selfie with Melvin Booker is too much for me to handle.


Five Words to Describe Bol Bol

Jeff Lefkowitz | Getty

Tall

Standing close to seven feet three inches tall, the first thing you notice is Bol’s striking height.  It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve come across a seven-footer, Bol puts them all to shame.  To make Bol appear taller, his wingspan can cover the entire lane.  Even though he’s stretched out higher than almost anyone I’ve ever seen, he still fits the cliche, “He can scratch his knees standing straight up.”

Runner

Bol’s height appears uncommon, but he’s not the only seven-foot African on the AAU circuit.  I once played against two of them on the same team (that also featured Vinny Zollo) and am not ashamed to say I was dunked on.  Players like Bol fail to get to the top of the rankings because they can’t move.  Bol can.  He runs the floor with the best of them in break and can finish lobs with ease.

Shooter

Bol is a threat all over the floor.  If he can’t run in the break because he got the rebound, as a trailer he’s lethal from outside.  At one point Thursday night, a pump fake from behind the three-point line, got not one, but three opponents to bite for the fake, leaving more than one option wide open.

Bol does not make his money hitting threes, but he hits open ones, about 50 percent on the EYBL circuit.  He’s most deadly from midrange.  A shot that cannot be blocked, his smooth stroke is fundamentally sound.

Smooth

To add to the previous two points, Bol doesn’t waste movement.  It’s all one smooth, fluid motion.  When double teams come, he drops off perfect passes.  There’s a nice touch to each pass, making it catchable for teammates half his size.  It can be difficult to describe.  Simply put: watching Bol play basketball is beautiful.

Impactful

Naturally, when he’s in the game against inferior opponents, he draws double and triple teams almost every time down the court.  If he’s in the right position near the rim, he’ll finish.  If they can’t get it to him, he’s still making a positive impact by drawing fouls and forcing opposing defenses to constantly keep an eye on him.

When Anthony Davis finished his successful one-year career at Kentucky, many said we’ll never see another player like him ever again.  Bol Bol disproves that notion.  Davis was a better shot-blocker and more powerful near the rim, but not as nearly skilled offensively as Bol.  Like Davis, he’s a late-riser who’s improved exponentially since the start of his junior season.  His ceiling is higher than his extreme height.

Now that Marvin Bagley is apparently considering other options, Calipari’s primary focus in the post for the 2018 class is Bol.  There’s a long way to go, but you better believe John Calipari will be there until the very end.


WATCH: Immanuel Quickley and Zion Williamson combine for 48 points, 26 rebounds, and 11 assists at adidas Uprising Gauntlet Finale

WATCH: Immanuel Quickley and Zion Williamson combine for 48 points, 26 rebounds, and 11 assists at adidas Uprising Gauntlet Finale

Two of John Calipari’s biggest targets went head to head this afternoon, and it was about as exciting as you’d expect.

Five-star prospects Immanuel Quickley and Zion Williamson, two of the top ten recruits in the class of 2018, faced off at the adidas Uprising Gauntlet Finale in front of Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, and Michigan State, among countless other coaches.

Quickley finished just short of a triple-double with 20 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists in Team BBC’s 68-64 victory over SC Supreme.

Williamson, however, finished with 28 points, 16 rebounds, two assists, two blocks, and two steals in the loss.

Here are just a few of the incredible plays from the duo:

KSR put together a highlight tape of the potential future Wildcats putting on a show:

If only they were planning on putting together a package deal… And Quickley was all but locked up for Kentucky… That’d be special…


Calipari shows off his Nike self-lacing shoes at the Peach Jam

It’s Friday night of a busy recruiting weekend, and John Calipari’s feeling good. Cal is courtside at the Peach Jam, and before Marvin Bagley’s game, decided to take a moment to brag about his new Nike HyperAdapt self-lacing shoes on Twitter:

As we noted last week, Cal also sported these shoes at the FIBA World Cup in Egypt. They retail for $720 and yes, they really do “tie” themselves:

See that, young basketball stars of tomorrow??


Immanuel Quickley, Zion Williamson Discuss Package Deal after Duel

Adidas

The duel between Immanuel Quickley and Zion Williamson lived up the hype.  Two of the ten best players in the class of 2018 put on a show at the Adidas Final.  When the dust settled, Quickley emerged on top and the two friends talked about playing college basketball together.

“We actually just talked about it after the game,” Quickley said after I mentioned every college recruiter’s favorite term ‘package deal.’   “He’s going to talk to his mom.  I’m going to talk to my people and we’re going to try to get it done.”

Before playing against each other on the Adidas circuit, they have a history of playing with each other at other Adidas events.

“I played with him at the Path, for Adidas.  He’s usually my roommate when we go to those events, so I know him pretty well,” Quickley said.

Zion took it one step further when asked if there was any truth to a potential package deal.

“There’s a lot of truth to that,” Zion said.  “Me and Immanuel are good friends.  We bonded over the Adidas Path and I just love the way he plays point guard.  That’s the type of point guard I want to play with.”

But wait, there’s more.

After watching the two today, they might be the most powerful package deal mentioned to date.

Quickley connected on an alley-oop from half-court.  Williamson had so many tip-slams, I lost count.  In the end, the talented point guard prevailed.  Quickley was one assist away from a triple-double in a 68-64 win; 20 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists.  Williamson finished 28 points and 16 rebounds.

UK assistant coach Joel Justus watched the game courtside.  There were dozens of other coaches from Duke, Kansas and everyone in-between.

“I enjoy it,” Quickley said after the game.  “That’s the most fun for me.  A packed gym, all the coaches, I think that’s the best part of the AAU circuit.”

Quickley has somehow continued to play at a high level throughout the tournament, even though he’s only had one day off in the last month.  The most rewarding experience throughout his basketball travels from around the world was playing for Coach Cal in Egypt.

“It was really cool.  Just him being hands on with me, I think that was really important.”  Quickley said their conversations haven’t ended since the trip.  “I keep in touch with him a lot.”

Williamson talks to the Kentucky coaches just as much.  “Coach Cal and Coach Joel text almost every two days.”

Quickley is very close to making a decision.  Many already consider him to be a Kentucky commit, but he has yet to officially pull the trigger.  He plans on doing just that before his senior season of high school basketball.  Zion is taking it slower.  He will just start visiting schools before his senior season.

“I’m just looking at every opportunity because I only get one chance to pick a school and I got to make sure it’s the right school.”

If the right point guard is at the right school, it could be an easy decision for the five-star phenom.


Hurt and Bassey (right, via San Antonio Express-News)

Cats are Keeping a Close Eye on Two of the Top Three in 2019

Hurt and Bassey (right, via San Antonio Express-News)

John Calipari and his Kentucky coaching staff are keeping a keen eye on two of the best in the class of 2019; yesterday, he and Joel Justus sat courtside to see Matthew Hurt and Charles Bassey.

The second-ranked player in the 2019 class behind R.J. Barrett, Charles Bassey is a 6’10” power forward that is built like Bam Adebayo.  He’s not built like high school Bam; he looks like Bam right now.  It’s not Calipari’s style to extend a scholarship offer this early, but he is making his presence known to who could be Bam 2.0.

“They’re looking at me,”Bassey said of his personal interaction with the Kentucky coaches. “Right now they don’t talk to me.  They talk to my parents and they let me know what they’re saying.”

His parents have heard from UK, but they’re currently more focused on finding a school for his junior and senior high school seasons than on a college choice.

This morning, Bassey struggled with foul trouble, playing just 14 minutes, yet he still had a 10-point 10-rebound double-double.  An imposing figure in the pick-and-roll, when he didn’t get double-teamed, his teammate’s had easy offensive opportunities.  In the full court, if Bassey does not start the break with a rebound, he’s off and running.  On one occasion, he took it himself and dumped it off to a teammate who finished the assist.

 

The No. 3 player in 2019 is an atypical AAU star.

Matthew Hurt from Minnesota is a 6’8″ small forward that is basically an elite role player.  He does just about everything well and he doesn’t do much wrong.  He defends the post despite his thin frame.  He can knock down threes, but that doesn’t make him effective.  He’s skilled offensively in a variety of ways, but none that necessarily WOW you.  Yet, few compare in overall skill.

Like Bassey and most juniors-to-be, Hurt’s recruitment is wide open with a long way to go.  “I’m open for anything right now,” Hurt said today.

Currently Indiana, Duke, Kansas, Louisville and his home state of Minnesota are making the biggest recruiting push.  His brother Michael just finished his freshman season for the Golden Gophers.  Hurt has a trip planned to unofficially visit UCLA when his family vacations to California later this summer.

With that many schools involved, Calipari had to throw his name into the mix after watching him play yesterday.

“Their assistant coach has been texting me a lot.  Coach Calipari texted me after the game yesterday,” Hurt said.  “I’m not really doing anything serious right now.  I’m open for anything. ”

Bassey and Hurt will not play college basketball for a long time, but it’s never too early to get to know the bets of the best.  That applies to Kentucky fans and their head coach, John Calipari.


Zion Williamson drops 24 points and 19 rebounds at adidas Uprising in front of Joel Justus, Coach K, and Self

Zion Williamson drops 24 points and 19 rebounds at adidas Uprising in front of Joel Justus, Coach K, and Self

After scoring 31 and 32 points in two games to open up the adidas Uprising Gauntlet Finale yesterday, five-star stud Zion Williamson put on yet another show this morning.

In 31 minutes (of 32 possible minutes) of action, Williamson managed 24 points (9-12 shooting), 19 rebounds, four assists, two steals, and a block. He also went 1-1 from behind the arc and 5-8 from the free throw line.

Following the massive performance, the top player in America spoke to reporters again on his recruitment, his game, and what he’s hoping for out of his senior year.

When asked which schools remain in contact with him, Williamson narrowed it down to the blue bloods and the local South Carolina schools.

Kansas, Duke, Kentucky, Clemson, South Carolina, UCLA, Arizona, and a couple more schools,” he said.

Coach K, Bill Self, Tom Izzo, Joel Justus, and Frank Martin were all in to see Williamson play this morning, along with countless assistants from top-tier programs.

When asked about Coach K and the Duke staff, Williamson was fond of the Devils’ persistence.

“Duke’s whole coaching staff usually texts me every two days, they’re always communicating. They want me to come to Duke and play positions one through four.”

When asked again about Kentucky, it was much of the same: NBA, NBA, NBA.

“Coach Cal and some of the other assistants text every two days. Coach Cal has just said if my dream is to make it to the NBA, he can help me do that. That’s very important to me, because that’s the ultimate dream.

Though making it to the NBA is the goal, just being known as a “one-and-done” going into it isn’t a priority of his.

Kentucky, that’s what they’re known for is their one-and-dones, but I’m not necessarily looking for just that. I’m just looking for the situation that fits me best,” said Williamson.

When it comes to intensity and never letting up on their players, the Spartanburg, SC native said Calipari, Self, and Coach K are second to none.

With Coach Cal, Coach Self, and Coach K, they are always on their players,” he said. “If they take a play off, they’re going to be on the bench realizing they should’ve played harder on defense or whatever.

Despite Clemson, South Carolina, Duke, and North Carolina all having high interest in the five-star forward, Williamson said location will not play a factor in his final decision.

No sir, location will not play a factor,” he said.

Williamson will take on Immanuel Quickley’s Team BBC at 2:20, where we’ll give you all the footage, quotes, and statistics you can handle.

Until then, we’ll leave you with KSR’s highlights of Williamson’s first game of the day:

 


Three Observations from a Morning at the Adidas Uprising

Immanuel Quickley is Too Good

The point guard is such a good passer, half the time his teammates don’t know he’s passing it to them.  When they are prepared, they rarely finish.  Quickley could have 12 assists a game on a team filled with comparable talent.

The most likely candidate to be UK’s first commit and next point guard, the prospect of playing with Quickley could be a vital asset for Calipari in the 2018 class.  He can fill up the points column in the box score, but he’s a pass-first point guard.

Today he had to take matters into his own hands.  Quickley scored 32 of his team’s 72 points in a five-point victory that he put out of reach.  A couple of late threes extended the lead just enough for him to finish them at the free throw line.  He also added 7 rebounds and 3 assists.  For a kid that’s only spent one day at home in the last month, it’s amazing that he’s still playing excellent basketball.

Zion is a Bully

Zion Williamson picks on his opponents.  When you watch him, it feels as though he can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants.  Known for his powerful dunks, the lefty is surprisingly agile around the rim.  He displayed finesse when finishing with finger-rolls below the rim and by sneaking around opponents for offensive rebounds.  That’s one part of his game, but the powerful finisher is much more entertaining.

Quickley and Zion will meet each other this afternoon at 2:20. We’ll have plenty of updates @RoushKSR and @JackPilgrimKSR.

Two of the Best in 2019

The No. 2 and No. 3 players in the Class of 2019 started their day by posting double-doubles.  You’ll hear from Charles Bassey and Matthew Hurt later on this afternoon.  Also stay tuned for more on 2018 guard Quentin Grimes.  Considered a top five point guard, if Quickley is to Wall, Grimes is to Bledsoe.  Stay tuned.


Report: Top 2018 player may reclassify to 2017

Report: Top 2018 player may reclassify to 2017

Marvin Bagley is the No. 1 player in the 2018 class, but this morning, there’s a report that he could reclassify and play college basketball next season. 247 Sports recruiting guru Jerry Meyer dropped this little rumor in his Peach Jam roundup, hinting that Bagley could move up to the 2017 class and join USC this season:

An interesting note in Bagley’s recruitment is some intel that has come to 247Sports of the possibility of him reclassifying up to the 2017 class. Bagley is scheduled to visit Duke and Coach K and staff have been doggedly tracking him. But the buzz is that hometown USC could be his desired destination as a potential 2017 recruit. Andy Enfield has been a familiar face at his games, but so have John Calipari and Sean Miller. In the end, though, Bagley’s recruitment has the feel of a Duke and USC showdown.

Calipari and Kenny Payne watched Bagley last night and the 6-11 power forward told reporters that he wants to make a trip to Lexington at some point. Considering Meyer’s report and the fact that he’s visiting Duke immediately following the Peach Jam, it may seem like the Blue Devils and the Trojans have the momentum, but never count out Calipari.

Read more of Meyer’s observations here. And then check out Bagley’s highlights from yesterday, along with his interview with reporters via Nick Roush:

 


Good News and Bad News from the Peach Jam

Good News and Bad News from the Peach Jam

Good News: Calipari watched Bol Bol and Marvin Bagley last night.

Bad News: Bagley didn’t have a lot of good things to say about Kentucky.  In fact, all he had to say about UK was, “Eventually, we’ll get to Kentucky.”  Entering the tournament we thought the Cats were in a good spot to land the nation’s best player, but that’s not the case.

Good News: Bol Bol will visit UK, maybe for Big Blue Madness.  If you can’t get Bagley, Bol is an exceptional alternative.  One of the largest human beings I have ever seen can score from wherever he pleases.  That could eventually be Lexington.

Bad News: 247 thinks Bol will not play in Lexington.  Even though Bol said he isn’t upset about not getting picked to Team USA, Jerry Meyer told Ben Roberts he believes Bol will remain on the West Coast and play at USC.  Pulling Bagley and Bol away from the West will be a challenge, but I believe  Cal is in a good place right now with Manute’s son.

Good News: Cam Reddish scored 44 points.

Bad News:  Reddish’s performance was in the Peach Jam play-in game, and his team lost.  Now playing the minor league Peach Jam tournament for all those who didn’t qualify, he’s resting after a long week with Calipari in Egypt.  I was excited to see him play alongside Louis King, a guy who made Team USA and is searching for a UK offer, but instead it’s just a big bunch of crap.

Bad News: The talent here is WAY down.  I’d like to balance this out with more good news, but I can’t when I can’t see any good players play basketball.  Last year there approximately 12 players with UK offers at the event; five that eventually committed (Washington, Richards, Green, Knox & Diallo).  This year there are only two players with UK offers playing in the Peach Jam.

To make matters worse, the two guys with offers do not play on good teams.  Bagley’s team needed an exemption just to qualify.  His frontcourt partner can hardly walk and chew gum.  I was not the most coordinated basketball player, but even I reserve the right to call out this kid’s coordination.  Somehow, Bagley has carried them to two wins, equaling their regular season total, but it can’t last forever.

Good News: Malik Monk showed up.

Bad News:  Kevin Durant showed up.  The entire event is covered with KD’s face.  In the middle of Bagley’s game, he gave Coach K dap as he went to another court.  That impressionable statement is something you’d rather not see.

I could write more bad news, but I don’t want to be salty on a fantastic Friday morning.  

 

 


Friday’s Top 10: Winter is coming

Friday’s Top 10: Winter is coming

Winter is coming on Sunday in the form of the “Game of Thrones” Season 7 premiere, and what better way to get ready than this picture of Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, aka Gregor Clegane, aka “The Mountain,” throwing up three goggles with Michael, a diehard UK and KSR fan? For those who don’t watch the show, here’s what The Mountain looks like in costume:

Also, don’t worry; if you stop your life right now and start binge watching, you’ll be ready for Sunday night. Or, you can just catch up with Nick and TJ Walker’s Kentucky Thrones Radio podcast, a new episode of which you can expect later today, I hear.

In the meantime, here’s what’s going on in the world of UK sports….

1. Zion Williamson wants to decide before his senior season

John Calipari started his recruiting marathon by watching Zion Williamson at the adidas Gauntlet Finale in Spartanburg, and the five-star forward definitely put on a show, scoring 31 points to lead SC Supreme to the comeback win:

Williamson told our own Jack Pilgrim that he’d like to make his college decision before the start of his senior season, and that his relationship with Calipari is “really good.”

“We have a really good relationship,” Williamson said. “He tells me if my dream is to go to the NBA, he can help me achieve that.”

Here’s hoping that really good relationship and NBA pitch is enough to get Zion out of the Carolinas. Read more of his comments here.

2. Cal finished the day watching Marvin Bagley and Bol Bol

How big is the hype around the No. 1 player in the 2018 class? Kevin Durant came to watch him play (and sat next to Kenny Payne) and Calipari fired up the private jet for the 115-mile trip between Spartanburg and North Augusta to see him in the night session, where he was joined by Malik Monk. The 6’11” power forward has lived up to the hype so far, averaging 25 points and 13 rebounds through three games. Here are his highlights from the early game:

Where does Kentucky stand in the race for what some are calling a once-in-a-generation type player? He’ll take an official visit to Duke following the Peach Jam, but said he plans to make it to Kentucky eventually.

3. Bol Bol says he has no hard feelings over being cut from Calipari’s U19 Team

The question on everyone’s mind after 7’3″ Bol Bol was cut from the U19 Team was what effect it would have on Kentucky’s chances in his recruitment. Bol told reporters yesterday that he has no hard feelings about the decision, which he knows wasn’t just Calipari’s.

“It wasn’t just his fault,” Bol said via Kyle Tucker. “It was a coaching staff and a USA Basketball staff, so I don’t really blame him for not putting me on the team, because he can’t, like, officially decide everyone who’s on the team.”

4. Romeo Langford re-aggravated his back injury

Langford battled back spasms throughout the FIBA World Cup, and yesterday, they flared up again during his first game at the adidas Gauntlet Finale. No word yet on if he’ll be able to go today. Despite a report from Evan Daniels that Kentucky is fading in the race for the New Albany native, that didn’t stop Calipari and Joel Justus from being front and center for his first game.

5. More good vibes from Immanuel Quickley

Quickley continues to give off vibes that he could be the first 2018 recruit to commit to Kentucky, telling Jack Pilgrim and other reporters that he was very impressed with Calipari during the FIBA World Cup.

“It was good. We wanted to win the gold but obviously came up a little short. It was a good experience overall on and off the floor. (Calipari) is a great coach on and off the floor. I think it was really cool to get to learn from him. When you spend time for three or four weeks, almost a month with one person you get to know them pretty well.”

Well enough to want to spend a whole year with him? We’ll see soon.

6. Today’s schedule

Peach Jam

  • 9:00 AM: Nike Phamily (Marvin Bagley) vs. Howard Pulley
  • 10:30 AM: Cal Supreme (Bol Bol) vs. Oakland Soldiers
  • 6:00 PM: New York Lightning vs. Nike Phamily (Marvin Bagley)
  • 9:00 PM: Bradley Beal Elite vs. Cal Supreme (Bol Bol)

adidas Gauntlet Finale

  • 10:20 AM: SC Supreme (Zion Williamson) vs. Garner Road
  • 10:20 AM: Team BBC (Immanuel Quickley) vs. Gamepoint Pump N Run
  • 1:00 PM: Rytes Warriors vs. Twenty Two Vision (Romeo Langford)
  • 1:00 PM: Team Arsenal vs. Basketball University (Quentin Grimes)

Want to watch? Peach Jam games are being streamed on Facebook via FloHoops and adidas games via BallisLife.

7. All-SEC Preseason Teams will be announced today

Media Days is over, but this morning, the media’s choices for the All-SEC Preseason Teams and conference standings will be released. Did they pick Kentucky or South Carolina third in the East? Or, did old habits die hard and the Cats didn’t get any respect?

Speaking of football…

8. The 2017 Schedule posters are available at Kroger starting tomorrow

Starting tomorrow morning at 8 a.m., all seven posters will be available at Kroger stores statewide, so go get yours. And if you go to the Euclid one, say hi to John Short.

9. You all have a lot of french fry opinions

Yesterday was National French Fry Day — one of the least annoying of the “Why is this a holiday?” holidays — and to celebrate, I ran a Twitter poll asking people to pick their favorite fries between McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Arby’s, and Chick-fil-A. Naturally, McDonald’s won, but people went after me for not including Rally’s. In the interest of a fair and complete evaluation, I’m including Rally’s (or, as it is called in Tennessee, Checkers) in a new poll below:


10. Today on KSR: Laura Rutledge

The SEC Network reporter will take over the mics today to talk Media Days, UK Football, and whatever else is on her mind. That starts in one hour.


Immanuel Quickley hopes to make decision soon, turns heads in front of Coach Cal and Joel Justus at adidas Uprising Gauntlet

Immanuel Quickley hopes to make decision soon, turns heads in front of Coach Cal and Joel Justus at adidas Uprising Gauntlet

Immanuel Quickley finished with 15 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists in his first game of the adidas Uprising Gauntlet Finale, proving to Coach Cal that he deserved the most attention at the point guard spot in the 2017 recruiting class.

Even though Quickley filled up the stat sheet, he was not extremely impressed with his play.

“(I was) not that good,” he said. “I’d probably give myself a D or a C. But we just have to come out and compete tomorrow.”

Quickley’s Team BBC squad lost 71-60, and will start in the loser’s bracket tomorrow morning. The five-star guard just returned from his trip to Egypt playing for Coach Cal’s U19 team, so a bit of fatigue is to be expected. In his eyes, however, it’s not an excuse.

“No. Even if it was that’s never an excuse for playing and taking an L,” he said. “That’s an L and that’s on me as a point guard. I’ll come back and be ready tomorrow. I’m really competitive. I don’t like losing at all.”

When asked about his experience playing for Calipari in Egypt, Quickley said he was extremely impressed with Coach Cal both on and off the floor.

“It was good. We wanted to win the gold but obviously came up a little short. It was a good experience overall on and off the floor. (Calipari) is a great coach on and off the floor. I think it was really cool to get to learn from him. When you spend time for three or four weeks, almost a month with one person you get to know them pretty well,” said Quickley.

Quickley channels his inner Coach Cal, recruiting star guard Romeo Langford at the event.

When it came to Calipari’s coaching in Egypt, Quickley said he loved the way he runs his point guards.

“I love the pace of play. I see all his point guards playing a similar role of getting up-and-down the floor and that’s a big part of what he does. They all play fast and that was the biggest takeaway for me,” he said.

Both Calipari and assistant coach Joel Justus were in attendance at the first game at adidas Uprising, something that resonated well with Quickley.

“I think that’s a major pro. Any coach that’s coming around should keep coming and showing love and as a player I really appreciated that” he said.

Rumors have spread that Quickley and elite prospect Cameron Reddish have discussed playing together in college, but he said he’s not ready to say they are a package deal.

“I won’t go that far but me and Cam were roommates in Egypt,” said Quickley. “We talked a lot and he’s a great person to get to know.”

Like Zion Williamson, a college decision may come for Quickley sooner rather than later. Though no date is set, many recruiting analysts expect a decision to come in August.

I don’t have a date but it will be before the basketball year I’m sure,” Quickley said. “I do plan on visiting each school one more time before I do make my decision.”

Check out Quickley’s highlights from the game:

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR


Romeo Langford re-aggravates back, sits out remainder of 2017 adidas Uprising debut

Romeo Langford re-aggravates back, sits out remainder of 2017 adidas Uprising debut

Though the adidas Uprising Gauntlet Finale is filled with some of the top talent in the country, the majority of interest is centered around five-star prospects Zion Williamson, Romeo Langford, and Immanuel Quickley.

Both Williamson and Quickley impressed in their first games of the event, but after three quick buckets, Langford re-aggravated his back and sat out the remainder of Twenty Two Vision’s first round loss.

Langford started the game by posterizing a defender on the baseline, and followed it up with a fast break layup and a pull-up jumper at the top of the key. Just six minutes into the game, the New Albany, IN native subbed out of the game and a trainer began working out his back on the sideline.

Langford has been bothered by back spasms for the past month or so, leading to limited playing time in Egypt for Coach Cal’s U19 Team USA squad.

In a recent interview with SEC Country, Scout.com recruiting insider Evan Daniels says the Wildcats may be “fading” in Langford’s recruitment, with Indiana and Louisville seen as the likely destinations (for now.)

Both John Calipari and Joel Justus were in attendance to watch Langford, proving they still have major interest in the five-star prospect.

There is no word on if Langford will participate in the loser’s bracket tomorrow afternoon, but we’ll update you on what we hear.