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Kentucky Hoopfest Friday Morning Notes

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If you know me (and at least a couple of you do), you know that over the last few months I have become a little burned out on recruiting. The day-to-day drama of following kids who usually cant drive and can only occasionally complete full sentences is not necessarily all the joy for me that some might think. But then there are days like today. Today is an example of the good of doing this blog. I spent the late afternoon and evening at the Kentucky Hoopfest and had a great time. I watched some good players, got to talk to a few coaches and ended the night with a chance to see Harrison Barnes play once again. It was a great evening, with a couple of good stories. Here are a few notes:

— The highlight of the day was the last game of the night at Hoops where I saw Harrison Barnes in action. If you havent seen this 2010 kid in action, go to it quickly….you will be glad you did. Long, a strong scorer and a guy who can take the ball to the basket, Barnes is the real deal. One can easily see why the kid shot up the charts in the last couple of weeks and how he has become one of the top talents in his class. His game was widely attended by coaches from a variety of schools, including Billy Gillispie and Jeremy Cox. Both coaches were there the entire game and were joined by a contingent from schools like Iowa St, UCLA and Kansas. Barnes is exactly what Kentucky needs…an athletic scorer who is long and can take the ball to the basket. UK could use him this year and if early indications are correct that the Cats are on top with him, that is good news. Interesting news tidbit here….UK has a graduate assistant from Ames, Iowa who played on Barnes’ AAU team growing up and then played at Iowa State. He has been an early in on the kid and is a connection that UK has with him that has been unreported.

— Speaking of Coach Gillispie, he looked to be in good spirits….seemed to have lost a bit of weight and had his usual sense of humor. Upon seeing me dressed in my not exactly basketball camp-norm law work clothes (aka a suit), he smiled and said, “where you been today son? Preachin’?” I laughed pretty hard and tried to think of a witty comeback, to no avail.

— Also got to watch a game with Manual’s Jacob Jenkins. The reports of his summer exploits have been strong and he does look to have improved somewhat. But in my humble opinion, he is still not a high Division I prospect. Granted it is only one game, but Jacob looked as he did to me last year. A great, but somewhat inconsistent shooter, a decent athlete, but not quick enough to guard on the high D-1 level. A perfect player for mid-major schools….which seemed to be the schools that were watching Jacob the most. After seeing him again today, I think the lack of interest from UK is still understandable.

— Not a ton of top-flight coaches at the games I saw today. In fact, besides Gillispie, the only BCS coaches I saw were Travis Ford and Tom Izzo. Travis was very cordial when I said hello to him and even told me he had seen the blog. “Gotta keep up with what you boys are writing on there,” he said. When I asked him why, he smiled and said, “I really dont know.” I didnt speak to Izzo, but I was struck with how short he really is in person….he is tiny. Still though, I am a huge Izzo fan and he seemed in good spirits.

— Probably the most enlightening part of the day was watching a stellar game between a team from Grand Rapids and Ohio. Both teams were very solid and I found myself sitting next to a coach from the Missouri Valley Conference. When I introduced myself and told him that I knew little of the players in the game, he told me that the game featured “6 or 7” guys who could play at the mid-major level. What was interesting then was to watch these guys play and see the difference between them and the guys that the high majors recruit. All of these guys were solid, smart players and each could shoot from everywhere….in fact, they all looked like the players on mid-major teams that do so well each year. What they lacked was one or two Harrison Barnes types to take it to the next level…..which makes me wonder….if you are a school like South Carolina or Auburn, why not go and get a team of these guys? Get 10 solid players, throw in 2 or 3 athletes and go to work….you may not win a national championship, but you will get to the tournament. It is certainly better than throwing a team of athletes out there that are second tier and getting shelacked by better teams. Some team should try it….I bet they would find success (a la John Beilein at West Virginia).

The tournament today was not one of the nation’s best in terms of top talent, nor did it have a number of players who could knock your socks off….but it was an interesting look at recruiting as practiced by the VAST majority of schools around the nation. I was told that there were 350 coaches in attendance today and I saw shirts from schools as far ranging as Buffalo to San Diego. Most of these guys wont turn into stars, but for the guys in the middle and at the bottom, it is who they focus on.

Time to go to bed….got another day of “preachin'” tomorrow….

Article written by Matt Jones