This summer, we introduced to you a myriad of 2014 recruits, including Stanley Johnson and Trey Lyles. With the fall recruiting period well underway, let’s refocus and take a look at the player many feel may be Kentucky’s next commitment: James Blackmon, Jr.
JAMES BLACKMON, JR.
Mario, Indiana (Marion High)
6’3″, 170 lbs.
The Final Five: Kentucky, Michigan, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan State
Buzz: The Cats appear to be the frontrunner for Blackmon, despite some last ditch efforts by Indiana. Blackmon, a former IU commit, was prepared to make his college announcement today, but after an in-home visit with Tom Crean, he decided to cancel that announcement and schedule another visit to Bloomington. However, his visit to UK for Big Blue Madness reportedly went very well, and now Blackmon isn’t so sure he wants to visit Indiana again.
Blackmon told Cats Illustrated’s Corey Albertson that his visit to UK this past weekend was his best one to Lexington yet, and he talked to the other 2014 players in attendance (buddy Trey Lyles, Stanley Johnson, and commits Karl Towns and Tyler Ulis) about the possibility of playing together at Kentucky next season. Before Blackmon had his in-home visit with Crean a few weeks ago, all signs pointed to UK. With glowing reviews of Big Blue Madness and that last trip to Bloomington not necessarily happening, the Cats seem to be back in the drivers seat.
The announcement: “Very soon,” will sign in the fall
— Excellent shooter, most likely the best in the 2014 class
— Great range
— Good guard skills, can shift over and play point, something he and Cal have discussed
— Plays with confidence and control
— Has the speed and strength to take it to the basket
— Interesting hair
— Needs to work on defensive skills
— Needs to work on getting open and creating opportunities
Bonus footage with Trey Lyles:
What They’re Saying About James:
Scout.com: “Blackmon gets the vote here as the No. 1 shooter in the senior class. His jump shot is so devastatingly effective it doesn’t merit the words to describe it. There’s nothing he needs to improve, he just needs to continue working on getting open and creating opportunities to get as many clean looks as possible. That’s all there is to it. He also has shown reasonably good quickness. Not great, but pretty good.”
Evan Daniels to the Herald-Leader: “He is an elite-level shooter in the 2014 class — arguably the best shooter in that class. He can make shots from well beyond the three-point stripe. He’s got a pretty quick release. And he’s consistent. He’s a flat-out shot maker. I think, especially nowadays, there are not a lot of knock-down shooters. And I know when I’m evaluating kids — and I think coaches do as well — is they’re starting to place a higher premium on the ability to shoot. You can always find room on the floor for a guy who can shoot the basketball. So, yes, I do think he is the type of guy who could make an impact at a high-level school early on.”
ESPN’s Paul Biancardi: “Blackmon is, I believe, the best shooter in the class when it comes to range and accuracy. He can also play some point guard in a pinch, as he has good knowledge of the game.”
Rivals’ Eric Bossi: “When Marion (Ind.) High shooting guard James Blackmon was elevated to five-star status and No. 23 overall in the 2014 Rivals150, some raised their eyebrows and wondered if he is really that good. The answer is yes, Blackmon is that good.
The 6-foot-2 senior was a flat-out assassin with his jumper in Colorado Springs, and he showed that he can do plenty of other things as well. He drove to the rim for finishes more athletic than some have thought he was capable of making. He made plays for others off the dribble while showing some combo guard skills, and he did it all while being incredibly efficient.
That efficiency is what really stands out about Blackmon. He never seems rushed, he always seems ready to shoot, and he rarely seems to make a mistake by forcing the issue. He should be a serious candidate for the McDonald’s All-American Game.”
What He’s Saying About Kentucky:
On his visit to Big Blue Madness: “It went real well; we had a good time. The fans were probably the craziest thing. I just can’t believe how big basketball is to them.”
What Cal told him during his visit: “Coach Calipari talked to me about what my role would be and what the plan for me would be if I come to UK. The visit helped Kentucky and gave me a clearer view of their program and how Coach Calipari runs it. I like them even more now.”
On Kentucky: “I like that it’s one of the biggest places in college basketball. Coach [John] Calipari gets players better and where they need to go, where they want to be, so that’s always appealing.”
On Calipari: “He said he can prepare me for the NBA and that if I come in there and work hard and do what I’m supposed to do, I’ll be looking in the Green Room. But he also says that it’s going to be real tough and going to Kentucky is probably one of the hardest things I will do.”
Former Calipari Player Comparison:
Like Lamb, Blackmon is a silky smooth shooter you can rely on in clutch situations. Both have impressive range and are capable of penetrating the lane as well. If he comes to Kentucky, Blackmon will probably play more point than Doron, since Cal told him he’d slide him over to share duties with Tyler Ulis. No word yet on his sock collection.
Reasons to think Kentucky has a good chance:
After reading his comments about Big Blue Madness, it’s pretty clear that James Blackmon wants to come to Kentucky. Whether or not he agrees to visit Indiana one last time remains to be seen, but even if he does, they’re going to have to raise a banner with his name on it to get some of the Big Blue stars out of his eyes. (I wouldn’t put it past them…) The fact that he’d be following is his dad’s footsteps and his friend Trey Lyles is also very high on the Cats could be double icing on the cake.
Reading the Tweet Leaves/Tweet Beat Potential:
Had a great visit to UK this weekend S/O to #BBN for showing love
— James Blackmon Jr. (@JBlackmon2) October 20, 2013
He had a good time at Big Blue Madness, and isn’t afraid to say it.
He posted a picture “with his bros” (Karl Towns, Trey Lyles and Stanley Johnson) on the visit, and isn’t afraid to post it. He also may be suppressing a three goggle, but didn’t want to be totally obvious about wanting to be a Cat.
Like father, like son? James Blackmon, Sr. also played for the Cats back in the day, and apparently is pushing his son to follow in his footsteps.
Marquis Teague talks to him on Twitter:
— Marquis Teague (@marquisteague25) September 7, 2013
Mirror selfies at the gym:
— James Blackmon Jr. (@JBlackmon2) May 17, 2013
(Actually, I’ll forgive that.)
Final Judgement/How bad do we want him?:
Blackmon is the best shooter in the class. If forced to choose between him and Devin Booker, another 2014 SG prospect, I would go with Blackmon because he’s faster, more athletic, and more versatile. (Although, who says we can’t have both?) Also, for those of you worried about Tyler Ulis’ small stature at point guard, Cal has told Blackmon he’ll shift him over at times to give the Cats a different look. Based on Blackmon’s comments about Kentucky this week and his eagerness to get the recruiting process over with, you have to feel great about Kentucky’s chances.