The second session of the Nike EYBL kicked off in Indianapolis this weekend and the eight-court gym ran by the Indiana Pacers was maxed out with the top talent across the country.
I got the opportunity to speak with a few of Kentucky’s top prospects and gauge their interest in the Wildcats along with some other interesting tidbits about themselves. Here’s what we learned from the early morning games on Saturday.
Sharife Cooper says Kentucky is showing “a lot of interest”
Starting with the 2020 point guard from Georgia, Sharife Cooper, who has been torching the EYBL circuit through six played games.
Cooper said that Kentucky is showing “a lot of interest” in the five-star guard. He also references that he and his EYBL teammate, B.J. Boston, have been talking about teaming up together at the next level.
You can read more on Cooper here.
Terrence Clarke wants to play like R.J. Barrett
Terrence Clarke had some high praise for Kentucky following his offer but also snuck in some kinds words for Duke.
“Getting a Kentucky offer is a really big thing,” Clarke said. “Just showing that my work is obviously paying off. Ever since I was younger… Duke and Kentucky, all those schools, you know, I always looked up to because of the top talent. So getting that offer is huge.”
Clarke is currently the No. 3 overall rated prospect in the class of 2021 and a bonafide five-star recruit. At 6-foot-6, he’s following a common trend among taller wing players where they shift to the lead guard role.
“I don’t wanna be known as a wing,” Clarke said. “I wanna be known as a guard.”
He later said that he wants to play similarly to how R.J. Barrett played at Duke last season. Barrett is slightly taller and heavier than Clarke, but they both have similar play styles.
The Boston, Massachusets native said that Kentucky, specifically assistant coach Tony Barbee, have stayed on him.
“Tony Barbee has been to a lot of my games. Coach Cal is there, too,” Clarke said. “Those guys are always there talking to my coaches. Talking about me. Trying to stay on me.”
Scottie Barnes wants to be a 6-foot-8 point guard
Scottie Barnes is the epitome of positionless basketball.
Standing at 6-foot-8 and weighing around 210 pounds, he has the body of a prototypical small-ball four. However, he has the mind of a guard.
“I’m a point guard,” Barnes said at the EYBL.
He said that college coaches have discussed playing him at the point and moving him around to other spots, such as the four, when necessary.
Unlike most players at this event, who will openly state who they model their game after, Barnes is different. He says he doesn’t follow the mold of any current or former player.
While guys will often mimic the style of future Hall-of-Famers such as LeBron James or Giannis Antetokounmpo, Barnes is his own type of player.
He said it’s his passion that drives him to make plays and win games.
“My passion just comes to the game when I’m on the floor,” Barnes said. “When I’m talking and getting people involved that’s really my game. If I’m not doing that I know I played bad. I have to come to the court energized and ready to go.”
He truly is an interesting basketball specimen. He already has an NBA-ready body as a junior in high school. Think Keldon Johnson type of frame.
Cade Cunningham’s recruitment is picking up fast
Cade Cunningham has been a hot commodity ever since he was named the MVP at the Nike EYBL in Atlanta two weeks ago.
“After Atlanta, it [his recuitment] just completely blew up,” Cunningham said.
However, Kentucky still remains determined to get him.
“I’ve been talking to them [Kentucky] a lot, especially after Atlanta,” Cunningham said. “It started to pick up a lot. They texted me right before the weekend. But I’ve been on the phone with them a lot, talked to Coach Cal a lot.”
Cunningham said that following his appearance in Atlanta, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski paid him a visit at his high school. He even had a phone call conversation with North Carolina head coach Roy Williams before this weekend’s event on Friday.
That being said, Cunningham stressed that he isn’t trying to rush things.
He said that he is comfortable with where he is right now with his recruiting process and doesn’t plan on taking visits to any schools until the fall. His recruitment is wide open, he said.
Cunningham is another player who has the size of a wing but plays like a point guard.
He’s a couple of inches shorter than Barnes (6-foot-6 compared to 6-foot-8), but they both have the ball handling skills required to command the ball at their size. Cunningham said he tries to model his game after LeBron James because “you can’t go wrong”.
Speaking of LeBron…
LeBron James was in Indy to watch his son, LeBron “Bronny” James Jr., take a crack at the EYBL.
And it was a spectacle.
Bronny is only 14 (although roughly 6-feet in height) and had an entire arena filled with over 1,000 people focusing all of their attention on his court.
What’s crazy (and understandable) about the EYBL is that almost everyone participating in the games stands over 6-feet tall. But not by an inch or two. I’ve never seen more people that were at least 6-foot-10 in one place in my entire life. Add on the fact that most of their parents are also massive human beings and you’ll understand why I was on the tip of my toes trying to sneak even a glimpse of the action.
I’m a bit over 6-feet tall myself, but you would have thought I was a middle schooler. And honestly, I felt like one. I managed to find a couple of “secret” spots (bleachers) where I could stand tall enough to watch this game go down.
None of this has anything to do with Kentucky, but I just wanted to let you all know how shook I was as a first timer attending this event. When you’re casually walking past guys such as Bradley Beal and Juwan Howard, who you’ve watched on TV for years, it’s easy to get spaced out with awe. Then throw in LeBron James – the best to ever do it – and I’m the literal image of Ricky Bobby trying to figure out what to do with his hands.