Kentucky assistant coach Kenny Payne was in to see 2020 four-star forward and Bardstown product JJ Traynor this morning.
Sources Say Podcast co-host and Cats Illustrated beat writer Travis Graf was the first to break the news on Twitter.
Kentucky’s Kenny Payne was in to see ‘20 Bardstown 4?? forward JJ Traynor this morning.
— Travis Graf (@Trav_Graf) September 19, 2019
Graf told KSR after the visit that Payne was in at 6:00 a.m. to see the No. 1 prospect in the state work out, with Cincinnati and Xavier also in attendance. After the workout wrapped up, Xavier officially extended an offer, joining Cincinnati, DePaul, WKU, Northern Kentucky, and Murray State as schools to do so.
Payne was teammates with Bardstown head coach Boo Brewer at Louisville and remain close friends, with both parties discussing Traynor’s game and Kentucky’s potential interest on a regular basis over the last several weeks. A source close to the Bardstown program told KSR that a member of the UK coaching staff was expected to be in last week, but the trip had to be pushed to this week due to a scheduling conflict.
Wanted to say Thanks to Coach Kenny Payne and The @KentuckyMBB for coming to watch 6am workout today
Keep grinding @JJTraynor20 #TigerPride #WEonAMISSION #WEareBardstown #BBN #Kentuckybasketball pic.twitter.com/UVIcqwDDLv
— James Boo Brewer (@coachboobrewer) September 19, 2019
Last Thursday, Graf and I made the trip to Bardstown to see Traynor work out in front of coaches from Virginia Tech and Ball State, with Louisville, Maryland, Cincinnati, DePaul, also coming out to see the 6-foot-8, 178-pound forward throughout the week.
After seeing 247Sports’ No. 77 overall prospect for the very first time in person, it was evident why he saw such a massive jump in the rankings this summer. While he has to add weight – he’s up to 178 pounds after starting the school year at 170 pounds, goal is to get up to 190 pounds by November – his potential is unlike anyone else in the state. Boasting a silky-smooth jump shot from 12 to 15 feet, solid handles, and incredibly fluid movements for a guy his size, he projects as a face-up four, though some schools are actually recruiting him to play the three. In fact, a New Mexico State assistant coach told an individual on the Bardstown coaching staff that he reminded him of Toronto Raptors star Pascal Siakam when they originally recruited him out of high school.
In to see 2020 four-star forward JJ Traynor (@JJTraynor20) In Bardstown this morning. Fluid player, phenomenal shot mechanics. One of the fastest-rising prospects in the nation. pic.twitter.com/PuVgAtbKuQ
— Jack Pilgrim (@JackPilgrimKSR) September 12, 2019
For a name that hits closer to home for Kentucky fans, Traynor’s game strongly resembles former Wildcat forward Skal Labissiere on both ends of the floor. While that comparison may spark groans throughout the Big Blue Nation, remember that Labissiere came in listed as the No. 1 prospect in the nation, and the sky-high fan expectations immediately followed. Had he been listed as a top-20 or 30 prospect overall without the pressure of being the next elite one-and-done to come through the Kentucky program, he could’ve had time to develop into a pretty solid two or three-year college player.
With Traynor being a four-star, top-100 prospect, the 6-foot-8 forward would have time to come in and develop at his own pace under big man guru Kenny Payne with little-to-no outside pressure weighing on him as a likely three or four-year player. He already has the muscle memory down to a science on his mid-range jumper, the guard skills are there, and he has a solid frame to put on weight to go with an impressive wingspan. Defensively and on the glass, his natural instincts are there to block shots and grab rebounds at a high rate. The potential is there, it’s just about filling out and transitioning from project player to high-impact talent.
In an interview with KSR back in August, Brewer said there is a chance that transition could happen sooner rather than later.
“I think he can be a five-star kid by the time his senior season is over,” he said. “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.”
Despite Brewer’s ties to the Louisville basketball program, the Bardstown head coach said he’d be thrilled to send Traynor to Kentucky to develop under Kenny Payne for the next few years.
“Well I played at Louisville, but I love Kentucky,” he said. “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?”
No matter where Traynor ends up playing at the next level, Brewer believes his four-star forward has the potential to be a program-changer.
“First of all, he’s a very good student, very good human being off the court, very polite young man,” he told KSR. “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.”
After making recent trips to Louisville and Cincinnati, Traynor is set to take an unofficial visit to Kentucky for Big Blue Madness on October 11.