My flight to Vegas was already booked. I was to fly out of Cincinnati on Tuesday, December 17 and fly back on Thursday, December 19. I had wanted to fly out for the weekend to watch Kentucky play Ohio State and UCLA play UNC in the CBS Sports Classic, but those flights were too expensive. So I settled on a mid-week trip to go see Kentucky play Utah. Las Vegas was on my bucket list so I decided this was too good of an opportunity to pass up and I even decided to try and make a little cash with some bets on FanDuel.
I was planning my Vegas sightseeing itinerary when I noticed that the Tarkanian Classic (one of the premier high school basketball events in the country) was going on in Vegas the same week. Sierra Canyon was playing two games and I had really been wanting to see them. One game was during the Utah game and the other was on Thursday afternoon during the same time as my return flight, so I decided that I HAD to extend my trip. Thankfully my sister, Ashley agreed that another day in Vegas would be a good thing, so I changed the return flight to Friday.
Tuesday and Wednesday we spent sightseeing. Wednesday night we watched the Cats fall behind early, claw back, have to deal with an odd charge/block call reversal, and miss some threes down the stretch. Ashley and I were deflated, but being in Las Vegas helped us get over it quickly. Thursday I headed out to Bishop Gorman High School to watch some high school games and she headed out to Red Rock Canyon to soak up the sun.
“It’s not often that I take someone from The Strip to a high school,” my Uber driver said.
Yes, I admit that I am one of the only people that would forgo a whole day on The Strip to watch high school basketball. Bishop Gorman is a powerhouse private school located in extreme west Las Vegas, and it has the most beautiful high school football field I have ever seen. The neighborhood is near where stars like Floyd Mayweather and Andre Agassi live.
First I watched 5-star recruit and UCLA commit Daishen Nix play. Nix is a 6’4 point guard and is rated the #13 player in the class on 2020. He is a good passer, gets to the line well, rebounds great for a guard, and has range. If you live in Western Kentucky I suggest watching his Trinity International team play at Marshall County on February 22. Marshall County is led by Kentucky’s top junior, Zion Harmon. Harmon, a 4-star point guard, won the state championship as an 8th grader at Bowling Green before transferring a couple of times and settling at Marshall County.
Then I saw UK target Jaden Hardy (ranked #6 in the class of 2021) play. The opposing team forced him to try to beat them from the outside and he did not, struggling with his jump shot all game, though he was impressive from the charity stripe. I watched Hardy play on TV a few weeks later and he took more tough shots and missed most of them. He is ultra-talented and I think I just saw him on a couple of his off nights. Coach Calipari had Kentucky practice at Hardy’s high school in Henderson, just south of Las Vegas.
Then I got a picture of University of Arizona coach Sean Miller and settled in to watch Sierra Canyon play.
Sierra Canyon, located about 45 minutes northwest of Los Angeles, is THE draw in high school basketball this year. Freshman Lebron “Bronny” James Jr is probably the main reason Sierra Canyon draws such as crowd, but they have other superstars as well. 7’3 junior Harold Yu stood out with his soft tough, good post moves and tremendous coordination for his size. Shooting guard Amari Bailey (#7 in class of 2022), was so smooth, quick, and smart. He is legit. If I were coach Cal I would certainly recruit him. Five-star senior Ziaire Williams (#7 in class of 2020) was sitting out due to transfer rules and D-Wade’s son, Zaire, was hurt.
But no doubt the star of the game was UK commit BJ Boston. People in the crowd came to see Bronny but left talking about Boston. Boston did not start but provided an instant spark. He had putback jams, great rebounds, a buzzer-beating 3-pointer, and made great defensive plays. I came away blown away by his athleticism. At the time, Boston was ranked in the teens, but he has since moved up to #4.
I stuck around to watch UK commit Devin Askew (rated #26 in class of 2020) play, but only for a few minutes. My sister and I had tickets to the Mat Franco magic show, so I only stayed one quarter. Askew looked good, even demanding the ball in the post. He would bang inside on smaller defenders and go around slower defenders, drawing fouls with ease. I came way impressed, even though Boston looked to be on another level.
The next day I headed to the airport. There was a whole plane full of UK fans coming in to Vegas, but we were on our way home. I was disappointed with the Utah game, but happy with knowing the Cats’ future is bright.