Our Friday at the Peach Jam has seen Calipari head back to Lexington to hang with Lebron and an influx of weekend-basketball fans into the Riverview Park Activities Center, and I’m sorry to say that if you’re a local here looking to get a quick bit of elliptical in before tomorrow, you’re likely out of luck. Instead, the place is flooded with coaches, assistants, fans and various youths hanging about — some of them here on official basketball business and some of them just hanging out. Regardless of what the motives of these young whippersnappers may be for being here, the action is everywhere.
As your credentialed chronicler of all things Peach-Jammy (and man, I’m really beginning to wish you guys would stop putting pressure on me to be your sole source of awesome recruiting information, because I’m a human being and not your personal, definitive fount of basketball news), I just walked out of a match-up between Boo Williams and Team SCAN Cardinals. Boo Williams, it should be noted, is both a real person and a team name here at the Peach Jam founded by the real person. Team SCAN Cardinals, which is both a basketball team and the name of a birdwatching interest group I host in the park on weekends (email me for details) is the home team of two of Kentucky’s sought-after recruits.
Mali-born power forward Cheick Diallo is a tall drink of water who attends Our Savior New American, a New York team which requires at least seventeen cheerleaders to spell its name out on cards at halftime if you forgo the exclamation point. His younger teammate Tyus Battle is a highly-ranked shooting guard out of Gill St. Bernard’s School, which sounds like just some guy’s homeschooling operation but is an actual institution in Gladstone, New Jersey. Both have gained a lot of eyes lately and both have offers from UK and we were here to check ’em out.
Several coaches showed up to watch the throwdown, including Jamie Dixon (man, that guy is everywhere), Slice, Orlando Antigua, Jay Wright and Michigan’s John Beilein, who I stood behind in the dinner line and discovered to be extremely polite with food service workers.
As per usual, take my critique as you will, bearing in mind I’m watching these guys play for the first time and relaying what I see to you, but both Diallo and Battle look like guys we could really potentially get behind in the next few years. Battle initially jumped out at me as the more dynamic of the two; physically he resembles Rajon Rondo and displays a real confidence on the court without coming off as self-important. He’s fast, moves the ball really well and controls things nicely. He went three of seven on three-pointers but has a nice shot but most impressive was that he really seemed to have his head in the game at all times. Occasionally you’ll see a player here who looks completely lost — maybe he’s not paying attention, maybe the gravity of the situation is distracting, maybe the fact that if you make one wrong move you could end up in Bob Huggins’ lap — but Battle looked focused and competent. He also, to harken back to my earlier post today about Greg Paulus’ tidbits on recruiting, appeared to be a cohesive teammate, supportive and chatty on the floor at all times, picking his team up and keeping momentum high. Kid even smiled from time to time — and that’s a level of comfort I can assure you hardly ever see out of these players. You wouldn’t guess him a junior, that’s for sure.
One of the top ten prospects for 2015, 6’9″ Diallo only saw twenty-one minutes of playing time and ended up with six points, six rebounds and no blocks. From my vantage point — and I heard he looked phenomenal earlier today — he looked kind of exasperated. Maybe he was being hard on himself, but he looked put out with some of the calls and once, upon missing a shot, slammed his fist into his hand in frustration. Still, he looks pretty ferocious at times on rebounding and definitely has a motor. He also gets down the floor quickly and has moments where he really attacks the ball. Perhaps Diallo is just an aggressive player both physically and emotionally, which isn’t a bad recipe if it can be harnessed for good.
Overall, I think we’re going to be happy with either of these guys. We’ll see. Back to the courts now.