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10 Takeaways From Friday Night’s Nike Hoops Summit

Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News

While most of America was sleeping on Friday night, the high school All-Star game toured continued, when the Nike Hoops Summit tipped off at 10 p.m. ET. The game – which pits the best American players against the best from those across the globe – featured many of the names that high school basketball fans are familiar with. Guys like Cole Anthony, James Wiseman and Nico Mannion, not to mention Kentucky commit Tyrese Maxey.

And for those who weren’t able to stay up, well I’m sorry to tell you, but you missed an awesome matchup. That’s because after last year’s game was a total dud (in large part because some of the top American players like Zion Williamson and Romeo Langford sat out with injuries) this one was highly competitive as Team USA beat the World Team 93-87, in a game that came down to the final minutes.

Still, you don’t care about the final score. What you want to know is what we learned about the players who will come to dominate college basketball next year, which is what I’m about to do below. There was a lot to take away from the Nike Hoops Summit, so let’s get to it. I’d also add that in addition to the game, media had access to practices all week, so in addition to the game itself, below are some thoughts on what we saw at practice behind the scenes.

Here are 10 Takeaways from the Nike Hoops Summit

(Before we get started, one note: Unfortunately from the perspective of Kentucky coverage, there simply wasn’t all that much to report. Tyrese Maxey was at the event, and I shared thoughts below, as well as 2020 prospect N’Faly Dante. Unfortunately, they were the only two guys with Kentucky ties in this game.

So if you’re looking for strictly Kentucky coverage, make sure to hit bullet point 1 and 10 and skip the rest. However, if you want to learn about players who will play all over college basketball next year from Kentucky to Arizona, Duke and Memphis, read the entire post. Thanks!)

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You want veterans? You got veterans.

One of the biggest complaints of John Calipari’s time at Kentucky is that he has been too reliant on freshmen.

The One-and-Done Era, as it is known around here.

Many say it is impossible to win when your best players are not even a year removed from their senior prom; so far, they’re not wrong. Cal’s only championship team had two superstar freshmen in Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, plus a starting point guard, Marquis Teague, in his first and only season of college basketball. But they played with two great sophomores in Doron Lamb and Terrence Jones, as well as a senior leader in Darius Miller.

Kentucky’s 2019-20 roster will look more like that one than some of Calipari’s other teams in Lexington. With this week’s news that both Ashton Hagans and Immanuel Quickley will be back for a second year, he will have at least two experienced guards in the backcourt. Another one, Tyler Herro, is still undecided, although the likely scenario is he is gone to the NBA. And another one, Jemarl Baker, is expected to be back but could always pursue the transfer route. For now there is no reason not to include him.

On the inside, Kentucky will have a sophomore in EJ Montgomery, a junior in Nick Richards, and a grad transfer in Nate Sestina. Calipari will likely add another big man to that mix (hopefully Matthew Hurt, a freshman) to go along with the four other highly-rated incoming players from the high school ranks.

If the season started tomorrow, UK’s starting five would likely go sophomore, freshman, freshman, sophomore and junior, with a sophomore and a grad transfer as the first two players off the bench. If you’re one of the many who have grown tired of watching freshman mistakes early on each season (and even in the tournament), you have to like the experience Kentucky will have right out of the gate next fall.

This is how the projected rotation looks as of this very minute:

G – Ashton Hagans, Sophomore
G – Tyrese Maxey, Freshman
F – Khalil Whitney, Freshman
F – EJ Montgomery, Sophomore
C – Nick Richards, Junior

G – Immanuel Quickley, Sophomore
F – Nate Sestina, Senior
G – Jemarl Baker, Redshirt Sophomore
F – Keion Brooks, Freshman
F – Dontaie Allen, Freshman

Three experienced guards, three experienced bigs and four freshmen with a ton of potential.

You like your team?


Matthew Hurt Discusses Kentucky and Tyrese Maxey’s Final Recruiting Pitches

Matthew Hurt Discusses Kentucky and Tyrese Maxey’s Final Recruiting Pitches

Photo by adidas

One more week.

That is how long college basketball fans will have to wait to find out where Matthew Hurt, the top unsigned forward the country will attend college next season. While he officially has a handful of schools left on his list, 247 Sports Evan Daniels said yesterday on Kentucky Sports Radio that he is down to just Kentucky and Duke.

Duke is perceived to be the favorite for the five-star forward from Minnesota but to John Calipari’s credit, he isn’t going down without a fight. Calipari is set to meet with Hurt at his home this weekend for one final in-person pitch, after Hurt returns from the Nike Hoops Summit, which will be played on Friday night.

Speaking of the Hoops Summit, KSR sat down with Hurt to discuss his recruitment on Thursday in the lead-up to the game. We dove into a number of different topics, starting with this: When he does make his final decision, what will he be looking for in a school?

“I’m looking for how I fit with the coaches, teammate-wise, playing-wise,” Hurt said. “I think I can fit any style. It’s just how the culture is. Winning is a big thing for me. All I want to do is win.”

From there, Hurt not only discussed each school, but also how players who are committed to those schools are still trying to recruit him. Hurt went over Duke’s pitch from Wendell Moore and Vernon Carey, before discussing what Tyrese Maxey has said to him over the previous few days. And it sounds like Hurt really has created a bond with Maxey after the players both played at the McDonald’s All-American game a few weeks ago.

“We’ve had a great experience playing together,” Hurt said when discussing Maxey. “I think he’s a great player. I think he’s one of the best point guards, shooting guards in this class. I think highly of him.”

Hurt also thinks of highly of returning Kentucky guard Ashton Hagans, and the possibility of playing with him as well.

“I know him a little bit,” Hurt said. “He’s a lockdown defender. I watched him this year. He’s tough. He knows the right way to play basketball. He makes the right pass at the right time.”

Ultimately most recruiting experts (including Evan Daniels) believe that Duke remains the team to beat in Hurt’s recruitment. But with the way he spoke about Maxey and Hagans, does Kentucky have a better shot than we realized?

To listen to Hurt’s entire interview, watch the video below.


Skal Labissiere Discusses His Best Memories at Kentucky

(Photo via Bruce Ely / Trail Blazers)

One of the great things about Kentucky basketball is that no matter how long ago any individual played for the Wildcats, they are always part of the brotherhood that is Big Blue Nation. No matter how long they are away from campus, they will always be a “Cat.”

That is certainly the case for former Wildcat Skal Labissiere who is currently in his fourth season in the NBA, after spending one season, during the 2015-2016 campaign, at Kentucky. Skal is currently playing for the Portland Trailblazers (after being traded by the Sacramento Kings in February) and now that he’s back in Portland, it allowed him to re-live one of the best moments of his youth career on Thursday night, when he took in Nike Hoops Summit practices. Back in 2015 Skal played in the game, as his 21 points (and 30 points from future UK teammate Jamal Murray) helped the World Team seal a victory.

KSR caught up with Skal on Thursday night, and he was happy to reflect on his memories of the Hoops Summit. More importantly, he also shared his thoughts on this past season of Kentucky basketball, which ended in the Elite Eight against Auburn.

“They were very good,” Skal said, before he stopped to continue.

“I just wish PJ [Washington] was healthy the whole time. That’s my guy. I was very excited for him the whole season. The way he showcased his skills in the way that I knew he could. So I was just excited for the guys in general.”

Clearly Skal watched a lot of the 2019 Kentucky Wildcats. Later in the interview he also took a second to reflect back on his one season in Lexington. There, he discussed his most memorable moments, which didn’t include games or results, but the relationships he built.

“The best memory for me is the friendships I got to make there,” Skal said. “I still talk to some of my closest friends that I met while I was on campus. Dillon Pullium was a walk-on. He was like a brother to me.”

To listen to the full interview with Labissiere, listen below.


Travel delay forces Calipari to miss Maker’s Mark bottle signing

If you’re one of the many Kentucky fans lined up at Keeneland to get your Maker’s Mark 2012 National Championship team bottle signed this morning, I’ve got some bad news for you: John Calipari can’t make it. Late last night, Cal tweeted that plane issues will force him to miss this morning’s signing event, but he promised to make up for it with a second event at a later date.

“BBN, I’m really sorry to report that I’ve ran into plane issues and cannot get out of Chicago tonight. We looked at all options to get me back in time tomorrow for the Maker’s Mark bottle signing at Keeneland but unfortunately I won’t make it back.

“To make up for it we will set up something separate to make sure I personally sign every bottle for those who have a ticket for Friday’s signing. Darius Miller, Marquis Teague, Jon Hood, Jarrod Polson, Twany Beckham and Sam Malone will still be there and are excited to see the #BBN. We will also have the 2012 national championship trophy on display for everyone to get a photo with. I wish I could be there but we will turn this into two special events.”

The 2012 team is already hard at work:

If you didn’t get a ticket to this morning’s event, Marquis Teague, Jon Hood, Jarrod Polson, Twany Beckham and Sam Malone will also be at AllSports at Fayette Mall tonight from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. to meet fans and sign bottles.


Tyrese Maxey “Can’t Wait” To Compete with Ashton Hagans Next Season

It’s that time of year for Kentucky fans – the time where everyone is trying to figure out who will stay, who will go, and what next year’s Wildcats will look like. And this year is no different. At this point, we know that P.J. Washington and Reid Travis are gone, and we’re trying to figure out Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro’s will do next.

But there is one decision that has gone final, and that was the decision of Ashton Hagans, who shocked some by announcing this week that he will return to college next season. He won’t test the draft waters. He won’t gauge the NBA’s interest. He’s already focused on what’s needed to have success next season.

Of course with his return came a bit of concern: Would his return have any negative effect on Tyrese Maxey, the high school All-American guard who is headed to Kentucky next season?

KSR caught up with Tyrese Maxey at the Nike Hoops Summit on Thursday night, and Maxey couldn’t be more exited to team up with Hagans.

“Ashton is an elite defender, a great leader, and he’s going to bring great action to our team next year,” Maxey said when asked his thoughts on Maxey’s return. “And I can’t wait to go against him every day in practice.”

And that last part is what’s most important, and why it’s no surprise that Maxey isn’t worried about Hagans’ decision to return. Remember, the one thing that John Calipari never does in recruiting is promise a player anything – but instead, promise him that he’ll have to work once he gets to campus. The better player will play, and in a lot of cases both will. But no matter who plays what minutes, both players can get better because of it.

“It’s going to help me a lot,” Maxey said. “He’s an elite defender like I said. He’s going to push me, I’m going to push him and we’re going to get better together for the team.”

From there, Maxey touched on a number of other things with KSR, all of which can be seen in the video below. He shared his thoughts on how Kentucky’s season ended, the message John Calipari has given him recently and whether or not he’s recruiting anyone else that’s at the Hoops Summit.

However, Maxey did have one final message to UK fans before departing:

“Be ready,” he said. “We’re coming.”