Every summer, like clockwork, there are a handful of high school basketball players that see their stock spike, resulting in a jump in the recruiting rankings and a plethora of scholarship offers.
This year, one of those players is coming right out of Bardstown, KY.
JJ Traynor, a 6-foot-8 power forward at Bardstown High School, came into the summer as an unranked prospect. As early as last week, his 247Sports recruiting profile showed nothing more than a name, picture, height, weight, and hometown. In fact, he still doesn’t even have a recruiting profile on ESPN or Rivals.com.
This week, though, 247Sports bumped him all the way up to No. 77 overall, giving him a four-star rating in the process. After recruiting guru Evan Daniels called him the “biggest sleeper” of the spring and summer, Traynor is now considered the top overall prospect in the state of Kentucky.
As a junior, his only scholarship offer came from Georgetown College. Over the last few months, though, schools such as Cincinnati, DePaul, WKU, Northern Kentucky, and Murray State, among others have followed through with offers of their own. And after reaching out and expressing interest over the last few weeks, Traynor has now scheduled unofficial visits to both Kentucky and Louisville in the coming months.
A player who was once completely unknown in the state is now looking like the next big thing to keep a close eye on going into the winter.
This week, KSR caught up with Traynor’s head coach at Bardstown, former Louisville sharpshooter James “Boo” Brewer, about his star player’s impressive rise in the rankings and the chaotic recruitment we are set to see moving forward.
Take a look at the interview in its entirety below.
JP: Before we get into who JJ is as a player and his stock going crazy this summer, a lot of people don’t really know who he is as a person or what he’s like off the floor. So as his coach for the last several years, how would you describe him personality-wise? And how does that impact his on-court development and overall abilities?
BB: “JJ, he’s a young man that loves the game of basketball. He’s very coachable, he listens, and he’s a hard worker. A very, very hard worker. The thing is, from middle school, he’s always been blessed with that talent on the court. He’s really quiet, and I think that hindered his development for a while because he was a little laid back at first, but now over the last two years, he has really put in the work. I’ve seen a huge difference in him over the last three to five months, where he has developed his game. He’s always worked hard, but now he has realized his potential, and he’s putting in more and more work.”
JP: As far as his on-court abilities are concerned, when was the first time you had the thought process of, “Wow, this kid can be special”?
BB: “The thing is, it was probably when I first saw him in the seventh grade. He used to come to basketball camps, and you could just tell by his length and the fact that he was always taller than everybody, but his body hadn’t developed. He ended up playing varsity as a freshman, then you could definitely see his development then. The difference between now and what he was last year, it’s a complete 360. It’s not only his work ethic, but he’s coming into his own body. He’s developing a jump shot, his ball handling, his basketball IQ is getting better. He could always block shots, get rebounds, and dunk, but not that he has added other things to it, it’s opened a lot of people’s eyes. A lot of people don’t realize he is just 17, just turned 17 this summer.
JP: A few outlets have come out recently and kind of listed JJ as the breakout star of the summer. Evan Daniels of 247 Sports compared his massive stock jump to Jaxson Hayes, who went from unknown prospect, to four-star prospect, to eventually a lottery pick. Where do you think that jump for JJ came from?
BB: It came from his hard work. I just think that after the season last year, when we lost the first game in the regional, it left a bad taste in his mouth. He actually played well, but he knew he could do better. Ever since then, he has taken on the leadership. He knows he’s got to get better at some things to help his team and help himself, but that’s what he’s done. He’s put in tremendous hours of work. This summer, he was putting in two-a-days, he’s trying to gain weight, he’s eating right, getting his rest. He really had a great July in the AAU circuit and he had a good summer with his high school basketball team in June. He’s not just a back to the basket player anymore, now he can face up, he can take you off the dribble, he can take a bump. It has all really helped him a whole lot.
JP: After starting out as a no-name, unranked kid, he’s now considered four-star prospect and the No. 1 player in the state. How high do you think he could eventually get nationally?
BB: I think he can be a five-star kid by the time his senior season is over. And I’m not just saying that because he’s my player, I’m saying it because I know what he’s capable of doing. He hasn’t reached his full potential yet. He’s got a lot more he can give, and he’s determined to do that. To me, I think he can be the best player in the state, but he’s got to believe that, as well. I think he’s starting to believe that now and he’s putting in the work.
JP: Is there a player comparison that you see with him?
BB: He’s kind of his own guy, you know? His dad was a great player, but JJ has seen film of his dad play and wants to be better. He just wants to be JJ Traynor. When he goes out there, he’s going to play his game and play his game only. I love that they’re comparing him to Jaxson Hayes, and if he’s blessed enough to follow in Jaxson Hayes’ footsteps [career-wise], I think he’s definitely be happy about that. I don’t think he’d be complaining at all.
JP: He holds offers from Cincinnati, WKU, Murray State, and Northern Kentucky, among some other schools, but his recruitment has kind of gone crazy lately with several high-major schools reaching out. What has that been like?
BB: Over the last month, it has really taken off. Coming from a kid who only had one offer, Georgetown College, during his junior year, he now has so many different offers and so many opportunities to play at a really nice university. I think it’s overwhelming right now because it’s all hitting him at once, but he’s a really humble guy. He’s got a really nice background, his mom has him where she wants him to be, he’s great to coach, he’s just a great kid off the court. I think when he looks back at this, he’ll just say “WOW!” I mean, I’ve done a lot, those around him have done a lot, but at the end of the day, he’s the one that has put in all this work to earn all this attention right now.
JP: He recently scheduled three unofficial visits to Kentucky, Louisville, and Cincinnati, with his Cincinnati trip being his second. What went into his decision to visit those three schools in particular, and do you get the sense that is he leaning toward staying close to home?
BB: I don’t get the sense that he’s necessarily going to stay in-state. I mean, he loves all of those schools, but he hasn’t made his final cut or whatever. He’s still got the University of Texas, Maryland, Missouri, and Michigan, all of those schools are in the picture, as well. He’s going to have a lot of opportunities to play at a nice institution. Right now, he hasn’t narrowed anything down and I don’t think he has any real favorites, he’s just enjoying the process. I tell him that each day, he needs to enjoy it. I tell him to get to know these coaches, and then when he finds the best fit for him, that’s the university he needs to go to.
JP: In terms of Kentucky’s interest, I saw a report that Kenny Payne, I believe, reached out to you about him. How has that communication developed on Kentucky’s end of things, both with you and JJ?
BB: “Well I played at Louisville, but I love Kentucky. Kenny Payne is my old teammate, and he’s obviously an assistant there. So when we talk, Kenny is really honest with me, and I’m really honest with him. It’s like brothers talking. You got Kentucky, and you’ve got Louisville, but you can’t go wrong with either of those schools. Kentucky wants to see him play more, and I understand that. They saw him play in July, and they saw him play well, but at the same time, they want to see that continued effort and the consistency. They want to see the development. When you go to Kentucky, you’re a four star or a five star, but they turn four stars into five stars. I mean, they really turn them into six stars really, when you think about it with their draft stock. You really have to credit them for player development. Who would not want to send their kid to a program where their player development is extremely high? That’s the thing.
JP: What are his thoughts on the UK program overall?
BB: He really hasn’t said anything about it. When you talk to him, he’s just smiling the whole time. When I talked to him, I said, “Look, Kenny is very interested in you and they’re going to be calling you,” and he just said, “Yes sir!” and kept smiling. Same thing with Michigan, same thing with Louisville. That’s the kind of kid I like, you know? It’s not blowing his head up. This kid is very humble.
JP: Will JJ’s dad, Jason [Osbourne, former McDonald’s All-American and Louisville basketball player] have a major influence on his decision? How strong are the Louisville ties?
BB: I don’t think [Osbourne being a former Louisville player] will be a factor in his decision at all. Jason comes and watches him play. He was a great player, won all the awards, but he’s just a normal dad. Just tells him what needs to be corrected and leaves it at that. He doesn’t work him out, he just leaves it up to everyone else. That’s what I like about it, he’s just being a dad watching from the stands. It’s been great.
JP: Lastly, whatever college he decides to go to, what are they getting out of JJ Traynor? What is your best overall summary of who he is both on and off the floor?
BB: First of all, he’s a very good student, very good human being off the court, very polite young man. Just first class all around. On the court, they are going to get a player that loves the game. To me, he’s a program changer. He’s going to be one of those kids that will wow you with his athleticism and with his length. Overall, he’s going to be a great, great player.
Traynor will take an unofficial visit to Louisville on August 26, followed by an official visit to Cincinnati on August 29. The local prospect will then take an unofficial visit to Kentucky for Big Blue Madness on October 11.