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T.J. Takes: Scouting James Wiseman, Vernon Carey Jr., D.J. Jeffries, Scottie Barnes


Similar to Tyrese Maxey and Cole Anthony’s game, the James Wiseman vs. Vernon Carey Jr. showdown didn’t disappoint.

This game also went down to the wire and was back-and-forth in the final minute before a D.J. Jeffries layup and James Wiseman block sealed it. Vernon Carey Jr. was a stud and I saw enough from Scottie Barnes to feel confident about him being the best player in the class of 2020, maybe even a top five or 10 player in 2019 if he were ever to make the jump.

The notes on Wiseman and Carey proved true on Wednesday. Wiseman’s skill set, versatility and athleticism were truly special for a rising senior, and Carey Jr. was a bruiser that was able to get anywhere he wanted on the floor.

But one of my biggest takeaways e was how good D.J. Jeffries is and could be for Kentucky.

D.J. Jeffries: Jeffries looks to have grown and put on more muscle in the last several months. Jeffries has a college ready body and it’s scary to think how big, strong and athletic he could be in 16 months when he plays his first game for Kentucky. He passes the eye test for a Kentucky player, but I was most surprised that his skill was right there, too.

Jeffries runs the floor like the ideal Calipari three or four. He would take rebounds and bring the ball up the floor. He would be out by the perimeter on defense and then take off, which would lead to an easy run-out layup. He was quick at getting back on defense and remained active on that end, even in the halfcourt.

I was also impressed with Jeffries ability to finish around the rim and his overall skill set. It still has a long ways to go, but it has already made significant jumps so there’s no reason he won’t continue to get better. Jeffries could put it on the floor out on the perimeter and attack the rim, and he did a solid job finishing in traffic. He was able to draw a few fouls and he has such a large frame that there was plenty of contact that wasn’t called.

If Jeffries continues this level of play this weekend he deserves a significant jump in the new rankings. Wiseman, Barnes and Carey were better, but Jeffries was probably the fourth best player on a floor that likely had three future top 10 picks.

James Wiseman: Wiseman will be in the conversation for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. I’m not making the proclamation just from watching him tonight, but his skill set is so rare from someone his size. He was incredibly comfortable dribbling the ball, he was comfortable shooting from anywhere on the floor and not afraid of contact in the paint. Wiseman would even dribble out on the perimeter, make his move inside and pull-up at the elbow like a guard. He hit several outside shots on Wednesday.

Rivals.com Eric Bossi had Wiseman with 25 points and nine rebounds, with 17 and seven in the second half. Wiseman will obviously need to get stronger so he’s not pushed around defensively, but his ability to block shots helps neutralize his skinnier frame. He’s also an aggressive shot block, meaning he doesn’t just sit back and wait until he’s beaten to block a shot. He actively goes hunting for blocks.

Wiseman did get in a bit of foul trouble, but he won’t often go against someone as physical as Vernon Carey Jr.

Vernon Carey Jr. : UK had John Calipari, Joel Justus and Kenny Payne on hand to watch Carey and it’s clear the Cats desperately want to pair Carey and Wiseman together at UK for the 2019-2020 season. It would be one of Calipari’s best frontcourt duos if it comes to fruition, but there’s still plenty of time in both of those recruitments.

Tonight Carey Jr. showcased that when he needs a bucket he’s at least going to put himself in a position to score. He was able to move any player he wanted virtually anywhere on the floor. Bluff City’s size hurt Carey Jr. a bit on the glass, but he was still able to finish with 21 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks. Carey Jr. has certainly slimmed down a bit and he seems more comfortable playing outside. His bread and butter will always be in the interior, but Carey Jr. led a fast break or two and took defenders off the dribble. Obviously he needs to work on his handles a bit, but for his size it’s solid. Once he gets a head of steam he’s getting fouled. He reminded me more of a Julius Randle than he did a DeMarcus Cousins.

As a college player I think Carey Jr. may have a better one year than Wiseman. Being physical and dominating the interior goes a longer way in the college game than NBA. NBA is more about skill set and that’s why Wiseman gets the nod.

Scottie Barnes: Barnes is already a top three player in the class of 2020, but he’s going to be the next big thing for basketball This time next year he will be the “can’t miss” recruit and he will have as much hype surrounding his game as anyone else in the class of 2020.

He’s just the ideal wing. He was a great scorer tonight and looked as comfortable from five feet out as he did 25. He can put the ball on the floor and pull up from anywhere and he’s going to have a major size advantage at the college level. If a smaller defender is guarding him he will bully him to the rim or shoot over him, and if a big is guarding him he will be able to blow by.

My attention is on the class of 2019 but there’s a reason UK’s already offered Barnes (which is unusual at this time). He’s going to be the next big thing.

Stay tuned to KSR for Thursday’s Peach Jam coverage.

Article written by TJ Walker