Traditionally, Big Blue Madness is the symbolic start to the season, giving fans an opportunity to see their team together for the first time. Since John Calipari came to Kentucky, it’s grown, and slightly changed.
Fans still clamor to see the unique event, but it’s been refocused towards recruits. Calipari has brought in former players to praise their play, but also to show recruits how far Kentucky basketball can take them and how big the stage is at Kentucky. This year there will be ten elite prospects in attendance: five from the class of 2017, three top 15 players in the 2018 class and a pair of rising sophomores.
Point Guard | 6-1 | 170 lbs.
Norman, OK | Norman North
AAU: Mokan Elite
|ESPN||No. 15 | 2 PG||Top247||No. 22 | 3 PG|
|Rivals||No. 14 | 3 PG||Scout||No. 22 | 3 PG|
Recruiting Outlook: The first person Calipari offered in the class, Cal really, really, really wants Young to leave Norman for Lexington. Oklahoma is in contention, but Cal’s biggest competition is Kansas, where he’ll be taking an official visit next weekend. Young does not plan to announce anytime soon. He said he will wait till after the college basketball season to decide.
Style of Play: People say that Steph Curry’s style of play will develop a new type of athlete in the next generation of elite basketball players. Young is the first product of Curry’s play.
He will take two dribbles across half court and pull. There will be two and a half minute stretches where he’ll go on a 15-point run all by himself. It’s unbelievable to witness firsthand. Off the dribble he’s smooth, and plays with a little bit of bounce. Some of his assists look too easy when he’s throwing them to Michael Porter Jr., the No. 1 player i the class.
Center | 6-11 | 235 lbs.
Manhasset, NY | St. Patrick’s
AAU: Expressions Elite
|ESPN||No. 12 | 5 C||Top247||No. 15 | 2 C|
|Rivals||No. 19||Scout||No. 17 | 7 C|
Recruiting Outlook: Evan Daniels recently said that Richards is likely the first prospect to commit to Kentucky. Richards attends The Patrick School, the same high school as Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who called Richards last month to encourage him to go to Kentucky. Two weeks ago Richards took his official visit, but he is already back on campus. Arizona and Syracuse are in contention, but it may not be for much longer.
Style of Play: Richards plays well with his back to the basket, displaying exceptional footwork. He doesn’t move like a traditional center. He’s a great, explosive athlete with a soft touch near the rim.
Power Forward| 6-7 | 225 lbs.
Dallas, TX | Findlay Prep
AAU: Team Penny
|ESPN||No. 16 | 2 PF||Top247||No. 16 | 6 PF|
|Rivals||No. 17 | — PF||Scout||No. 14 | 1 PF|
Recruiting Outlook: Daniels originally said Washington would likely be the first to commit to Kentucky, only recently transferring that title to Richards. Washington will officially visit Arizona next weekend, followed by an official visit to Texas, but the Louisville-born power forward is considered a strong-lean to Kentucky.
Style of Play:You don’t see too many traditional power forwards in today’s game. Washington’s style of play refreshing. His best two attributes are my two favorite things about traditional power forwards — rebounding and trash-talking. Washington is tactical on the glass, then he’ll tell his opponent all about it. Offensively, he has exceptional ball skills, stepping outside, but rarely settling unless he’s near the paint. Washington is my favorite player in the class (with Young as 1A).
Small Forward| 6-8 | 205 lbs.
Tampa, FL | Tampa Catholic
|ESPN||No. 7 | 2 SF||Top247||No. 13 | 3 SF|
|Rivals||No. 9 | — SF||Scout||No. 7 | 2 SF|
Recruiting Outlook: It’s been a long time since Calipari was in good shape with a true small forward, but that’s the case with Knox. After Big Blue Madness, Knox is heading to Duke for an official visit. He also has official visits to Florida State and North Carolina planned, as well as a January official visit to Lexington. North Carolina is probably UK’s biggest threat right now, but things can change leading up to Knox’s decision, which probably won’t happen until the spring.
Style of Play: In a class that’s loaded with elite talent at small forward, Knox might be the best athlete of the bunch. The man is shredded, yet still thin, providing plenty of room for him to add muscle once he gets to the next level.
When I watched him at the Peach Jam, every time I came with a critique, he answered the call. Great in the open floor, I didn’t think he could handle the ball…then he went coast-to-coast. After he missed a mid-range jumper, I doubted his shot…then he hit a three. One thing I never questioned: his ability to finish in traffic.
Point Guard| 6-1 | 172 lbs.
Philadelphia, PA | Neumann Goretti
AAU: PSA Cardinals
|ESPN||No. 22 | 3 PG||Top247||No. 32 | 7 PG|
|Rivals||No. 25 | 4 PG||Scout||No. 20 | 3 PG|
Recruiting Outlook: Taking his official visit this weekend, Green is perceived by many as a Duke-lean in the 2017 triumvirate of point guards. Also considering Syracuse and Villanova, Green hasn’t ruled out playing with Young or Tremont Waters at the next level. A member of Team USA with Young, Green’s game did not explode. It will be interesting to see how the recruiting experts react after Green’s visit.
Style of Play: The most physical point guard in the class, he fits the “gamer” stereotype. On two, maybe three occasions at the Peach Jam he took over down the stretch, penetrating to get to the free throw line, or using the contact to knock down his signature step-back jumper. He has the attitude, demeanor, swagger, whatever you want to call it to be an impact player at the best level in basketball.
Shooting Guard (2018)| 6-5 | 190 lbs.
New Albany, IN | New Albany High School
AAU: Eric Gordon All-Stars
|ESPN||No. 2 | 1 SG||Top247||No. 5 | 1 SG|
|Rivals||No. 3 | — SG||Scout||No. 3 | 1 SG|
Recruiting Outlook: John Calipari’s top target in the 2018 class, it’s going to be a dogfight to get Langford to Kentucky. Rick Pitino and Tom Crean were the first to make a move, with Cal and Coach K not far behind. It will probably be a four horse race to the finish line to land Langford.
Style of Play: Normally shooting guards aren’t at the top of national rankings, but the Southern Indiana shooter is that good. Indiana always produces good shooters, but his ability to penetrate and use his length to disrupt on the defensive end sets him apart from others. If you ever see him play, one thing is certain: he will get buckets.
Point Guard (2018) | 6-3 | 175 lbs.
Bel Air, MD | John Carroll School
AAU: Baltimore Elite
|ESPN||No. 19 | 3 PG||Top247||No. 8 | 2 PG|
|Rivals||No. 19 | 4 PG||Scout||No. 11 | 2 PG|
Recruiting Outlook: Maryland was one of the first to recruit the in-state talent. Louisville, Kansas and Miami are also hot on the trail. Calipari offered Quickley a scholarship last week after an in-home visit, while he still awaits an offer from Coach K, who has been actively recruiting him in recent months.
Style of Play: Quickley fits the Calipari point guard prototype with one exception. Calipari loves the quick, lengthy slashers, but Quickly’s shooting range sets him apart from previous Calipari point guards. A Brandon Knight comparison would not be ridiculous.
Small Forward (2018) | 6-8 | 195 lbs.
Norristown, PA | Westtown School
AAU: Team Final
|ESPN||No. 4 | 1 SF||Top247||No. 3 | 1 SF|
|Rivals||No. 6 | — SF||Scout||No. 1 | 1 SF|
Recruiting Outlook: The last addition to the guest list, the rising junior is just beginning to see major offers. Arizona, Duke and UConn have offered, while Kentucky, Louisville and North Carolina are on the way. Although UK hasn’t been in the mix too much, UK’s been heavily pursuing his teammates in the 2017 class. Reddish is high school teammates with center Mohamed Bamba and AAU teammates with shooting guard Lonnie Walker.
Style of Play: Reddish is a wide body that plays on the perimeter. His release looks strange, but it goes in more times than not. While playing with Lonnie Walker at the Peach Jam, Reddish often out-performed his elder teammate.
Small Forward (2019) | 6-6 | 195 lbs.
Columbia, SC | A.C. Flora
AAU: Georgia Stars
|ESPN||No. 10 | 4 SF||Top247||No. 14 | 6 SF|
|Rivals||No. 14 | —||Scout||No. — | 9 SF|
Recruiting Outlook: Schools in the south have been recruiting Brown from the beginning, but Kentucky’s greatest threat is Bill Self. He does not have a UK offer yet, but the Jayhawks have already extended one to this member of the class of 2019.
Style of Play: Brown does not look like sophomore. “Physically gifted” is a mild description for the elite athlete. It will be interesting to see how his basketball skills develop over the next two years.
Point Guard (2019) | 6-2 | 180 lbs.
Covington, GA | Newton
AAU: Georgia Stars
|ESPN||— | —||Top247||No. 46 | 5 PG|
|Rivals||No. 32 | —||Scout||No. — | 5 PG|
Recruiting Outlook: You usually don’t see too many early offers for people that just finished their freshman year, especially point guards, but he already has 15, the most prestigious coming from the SEC — Florida, Georgia and Auburn.
Style of Play: Hagans seems small on the court, but he plays big. You don’t see too many 6’2″ point guards take contact and then dunk on someone, but Hagans does. His shot starts too low, but that can improve with time.