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Jordan Brand Classic Practice/Scrimmage Report

Festivities at the annual Jordan Brand Classic tipped off today, with a competitive practice and scrimmage getting things rolling, followed by Media Day immediately afterward.

Three future Kentucky Wildcats, Tyrese Maxey, Kahlil Whitney, and Keion Brooks each took the floor for the Home team, with UK forward target Jaden McDaniels also teaming up with them.

After going through some drills, the Home and Away teams competed in an hour-long scrimmage, giving those in attendance a pretty solid opportunity to scout out the participants.

Here is what I saw from the Wildcats, along with some other specific players of interest.

Tyrese Maxey

Once again, Kentucky signee Tyrese Maxey proved to be one of the best players on the floor. With elite scoring skills, defensive intensity, and overall leadership skills, he’s a difference-maker on both ends of the floor.

When it comes to making decisions, he’s excellent at feeling out his teammates and thinking two steps ahead. He knows when his team knows a big bucket, but he also knows when it’s time to be unselfish and find the open man for an easy basket.

Oh yeah, and his jumper is still the silkiest in the class.

Seriously, I have never seen Maxey miss two jump shots in a row. Never. I told you guys back at the McDonald’s Game that I felt he can be a 20-point-per-game scorer at Kentucky, and I really believe that.

Outside of pure basketball talent, Maxey has a contagious personality that rubs off on everyone he comes in contact with. Whether he’s celebrating with his teammates or smack-talking the competition, he always has a smile on his face, and everyone around him really seems to appreciate that.

One time this afternoon, the gym was too quiet for his liking, so he randomly started yelling, cheering, and clapping and wouldn’t stop until everyone else joined him. He likes everybody, and they all like him.

I usually try not to play favorites, but I can already tell you right now that he’s going to be the exception next season. It’s going to be fun watching him in blue and white.

Kahlil Whitney

For Whitney, like we saw at the McDAAG and the practices leading up to it, it’s really difficult to get a feel for his true game at events like this. The opportunities for true breakout moments are minimal for athletic small forwards because it’s a guard-heavy style of play, with big men feasting on cleanup baskets around the rim.

With Whitney not being a dominant shooter and not focusing on rim-running like the traditional forwards, he doesn’t get the ball in his hands too much. And when he does, it ends up being awkward isolation basket attempts against a clogged paint that rarely end well. As much as I love his game and believe it will translate well to the college game, this event just isn’t the right event to show that.

As far as what I did like, though, the 6-foot-7 small forward had several impressive fadeaway 12-foot jumpers fall, something he has been working on the past several months. That will be deadly at Kentucky next season. Beyond that, he was extremely aggressive on defense and really impressed on the glass. His timing and instincts are pretty strong, allowing for rebound opportunities on both ends.

His mechanics are there shooting, but the consistency is not. He also needs to tighten his handles just a bit. Those will be his two biggest flaws at Kentucky next season.

Keion Brooks Jr.

With Kentucky signee Keion Brooks Jr. missing the cut for the McDonald’s All-American Game back in March, this was my first time seeing the newest Wildcat in an All-Star Game setting against the best of the best in his class.

And the 6-foot-8 forward sure didn’t disappoint.

He shot extremely well both in warmups and drills, specifically in catch-and-shoot opportunities. His athleticism is there, he runs the floor well, and he has strong instincts while driving to the basket. In the scrimmage, he had just a few jump shot attempts, but he made his presence known in transition.

He tends to get a bit out of control at times, needs to tighten his handle, and he needs to hit the weight room a bit, but overall, I think Brooks proved he absolutely belonged on the floor today.

Jaden McDaniels

Kentucky target Jaden McDaniels is rated as one of the top 2019 prospects in the nation, but it’s apparent recruiting analysts are using that based on future expectations and potential, not how they’re expecting him to play at the college level.

As much as I love McDaniels as a future NBA prospect, I’m starting to get really worried about his instant-impact ability at the college level. He has a solid jump shot and his length allows him to contest shots on defense, but I genuinely feel that he disappears on the floor more often than he’s involved in the action and makes elite plays.

For every one play that I come away extremely impressed with the 6-foot-11 forward, there are three more that I hope for more. He had one phenomenal block in the post, and then followed it up just a few possessions later with a nasty alley-oop slam on the other end. It’s apparent he has all of the tools to be a future star in the NBA, but will things click for him in his likely one season in college? I just don’t know.

If you’re deciding between one season of potential graduate transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr. or one season of McDaniels, I think you’d have to go for the guarantee in Blackshear over potential in McDaniels.

Samuell Williamson

Kentucky fans may not like the sound of this, but I think Louisville got their hands on a stud in five-star small forward Samuell Williamson.

He didn’t shoot particularly well during warmups or drills, but when the scrimmage started, Williamson turned into one of the best players on the floor. He was able to find his shots with ease, making something out of nothing more often than not. At one point, the rest of players stepped to the side and let the future Cardinal put on a show in isolation on four straight possessions.

At 6-foot-7, Williamson is long and can make incredibly difficult shots over smaller defenders. After a few made jumpers, some of his teammates, including Tyrese Maxey, began comparing him to current Boston Celtic Jayson Tatum.

“J-Tatum ain’t missing that shot,” Maxey said after one baseline 15-footer.

He’ll be a great player for the Cards next year.

DJ Jeffries

For four months back in 2018, five-star small forward DJ Jeffries was set to sign with Kentucky. At the time

In my first time watching him since then, the 6-foot-7 forward really struggled. His shot was off, he wasn’t active on defense, and he really didn’t show off his tremendous athletic ability at all. When his shots weren’t falling, his body language left a lot to be desired, lightly jogging back down the court and letting up on the other end.

After talking to him at Media Day, he seems like a great kid, but I just didn’t like what I saw from him against elite competition. He very well might be a solid college player, but for today at least, the struggles were evident.


Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

16 Comments for Jordan Brand Classic Practice/Scrimmage Report

  1. JT55
    10:22 pm April 19, 2019 Permalink

    Hopefully we can land a couple more pieces for next season. Otherwise, it could be a rocky season.

  2. mashburnfan1
    10:43 pm April 19, 2019 Permalink

    Actually he walked on that shot. Back right foot was on ground when he catches it then he takes 2 steps, moving the pivot, before he shoots. Not called in NBA but usually is at college. Hope he turns out to be all that and more but will wait till late December to know what we really have in all the FR.

    • friendsofcoal
      12:16 am April 20, 2019 Permalink

      If anybody ever calls that a walk then they need their head checked.

    • runningunnin.454
      8:31 am April 20, 2019 Permalink

      That is NOT a travel, sheeeesh. Now we know, mash is actually TV Teddy Valentine. Sorry, Ted that the Big10 kicked you out of the conference…for just such BS calls.

    • makeitstop
      10:05 am April 20, 2019 Permalink

      Not a travel. Not even close. And he gets the jump, but the TV Teddy comment is hilarious.

    • ibescootch
      11:20 am April 20, 2019 Permalink

      What are you watching?! He catches the ball and each foot comes down immediately after, then he goes up to shoot. This wouldn’t be called a travel at any level. Not even wheelchair basketball leagues.

  3. VirginiaCat
    12:16 am April 20, 2019 Permalink

    While it may be that McDaniels was having an off day, Jack’s assessment suggests the possibility that McDaniels may not be the best fit for what we need. All the potential in the world is off no value if he doesn’t have an immediate impact at the college level.

    Thanks, Jack, for your objective and insightful analysis. It is very helpful.

    • Trueblue44
      9:50 am April 20, 2019 Permalink

      I disagree, we DO need a 2-3 player that can develop over time. But with his low key personality and quiet nature, this fan base would be horrible for him by not allowing him to just develop over time. Hope, for his sake, he either chooses Washington or he comes here and we, as a fan base, are patient enough with him.

    • nocode96
      1:35 pm April 20, 2019 Permalink

      Won’t happen with this fan base, see Nick Richards. He’s only going to be a junior, has shown improvement, but because he’s not some stud, some in our fan base hate him. Had he become a monster this year and played himself into the lottery, those exact same “fans” would complain about him leaving. We have some really dumb fans, like, some of the absolute worst in the country.

    • Ez21
      5:11 pm April 20, 2019 Permalink

      McDaniel’s won’t be anywhere 2-3 yrs regardless where he goes or how good he is because the NBA drafts on potential.

    • Luether
      4:04 pm April 20, 2019 Permalink

      Speak for yourself, nocode…

  4. Pensacola_Cat_Fan
    12:40 am April 20, 2019 Permalink

    I wouldn’t call Maxey’s shot “silky”. It’s actually kinda ugly since he shoots it from his chest. JMO. As long as it goes in, however, I could care less how it looks.

  5. mashman 93
    2:55 am April 20, 2019 Permalink

    What network is this game on today? I thought it was ESPN but I can’t find it.

    • Jack Pilgrim
      3:07 am April 20, 2019 Permalink

      It’s not being aired on television, only on Twitter

    • mashman 93
      3:39 am April 20, 2019 Permalink

      Thanks Jack

  6. Brad
    4:55 am April 20, 2019 Permalink

    What Jordan brand game not on ESPN. They dropping the ball