John Calipari and the UK coaching staff have a busy week ahead of them.
Like just about every other coaching staff in the country, they’ll be in North Augusta, S.C., for the Peach Jam finals. And there will be plenty of prospects to hold their attention. James Young, Julius Randle and Andrew Wiggins are just a few of the top recruits who will be competing for the EYBL title.
This year’s event will feature nearly 20 major UK targets, and the 24-team field includes seven of the Top 10 AAU teams in the country, according to the latest Five-Star Basketball rankings.
Last year’s tournament was won by the Boston-based BABC, a squad led by future Wildcat Nerlens Noel. Randle and Wiggins are playing for favorites this year, but it looks to be a wide-open event. Below you’ll find out which players Calipari and his staff will most likely be watching, which pool-play games look the most intriguing, and which stars won’t be able to make the trip.
The action starts at 9 a.m. Thursday. Quarterfinal games will be played Saturday at 6 p.m., with the four winners returning Sunday morning for the semifinals at 9 and 10:30 a.m. The championship game is set for 3 p.m. Sunday. There is no TV information yet, but we’re expecting to link to live video streams for every contest throughout the week. Stay tuned to the homepage for details. Until then, the full schedule of play is posted on the EYBL’s website.
Five to watch
JAMES YOUNG, The Family (2013)
18.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 34.5 3PT% in EYBL play
It’s pretty safe to say Young has taken the role of “recruit most likely to be UK’s next commitment” from the Harrison twins. The 6-foot-6 wing became the breakout star of the EYBL early in the schedule, and he used that attention to lobby Calipari for a scholarship offer. He earned the offer, and his stellar play has continued into the summer. Young was named the American MVP of last weekend’s Nike Global Challenge, an event Calipari attended. Young said he noticed the UK coach in the crowd and appreciated his presence. He’s sure to see him again this week in South Carolina. Young is expected to visit UK and several others next month, but the Cats are the heavy favorites at this point.
JULIUS RANDLE, Team Texas Titans (2013)
17.8 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 58.7 FG%
Randle has been so dominant throughout the AAU season that 24/7 Sports analyst Jerry Meyer placed him above then-unanimous No. 1 Jabari Parker in his most recent class rankings. Though no other major service followed suit, most acknowledged that Randle is making up ground on Parker. It’s easy to see why. The 6-foot-9 power forward is second in the EYBL in rebounds per game and leads the circuit in free-throw attempts (an astounding 185 in 20 games). Calipari must be salivating at Randle’s ability to bull his way to the basket, which could be highlighted in his system at UK. The Cats will get one of Randle’s five official visits, but that’s one of the few guarantees in his recruitment. Cal will have to beat out North Carolina, Duke, Kansas, Ohio State and the other usual suspects to bring him to Lexington.
ANDREW WIGGINS, CIA Bounce (2014)
18.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 59.2 FG%
Probably the best high school basketball player in the country, Wiggins could also be the most-watched recruit at this week’s event. The Canadian superstar has been amazingly efficient for a wing player, making nearly 60 percent of his field-goal attempts and 38 percent of his three-point tries. He almost led Canada to its first title at the Nike Global Challenge over the weekend, advancing all the way to the championship game before losing to one of the U.S. teams. He told ZagsBlog at that event that UK and Florida State were recruiting him the hardest. The Cats are considered by many to be the favorite, but when Wiggins will attend college is still up in the air. There’s a possibility he could reclassify and be eligible for the 2013-14 season. He has said there hasn’t been much of a discussion about that yet, though perhaps more light will be shed on the situation this week.
KENNEDY MEEKS, Team United (2013)
9.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 1.7 bpg
Meeks emerged on the UK recruiting radar last week when he said the Cats had been expressing “a lot” of interest. But at 6-foot-9, 297 pounds, he doesn’t fit the mold of the typical Calipari big man. It will be interesting to see how much attention Calipari and his assistants pay Meeks over the next few days. If they’re a presence at most or all of his games, he could turn into a legit target for 2013. If not, last week’s comments may prove to be a bit overblown.
DAKARI JOHNSON, Each1Teach1 (2014)
15.9 ppg, 10.7 rpg
The class of 2014 is stacked with talented big men, and Johnson might be the most likely to end up a Wildcat. The former Sayre High School standout has been a beast during the summer circuit after missing his entire sophomore season due to Florida transfer rules. Despite playing against older players, Johnson leads the EYBL in rebounds per game and offensive rebounds (83 in 18 games). Expect someone from the UK coaching staff to be hanging around every time he’s on the court.
Other UK targets
Troy Williams, Boo Williams (2013)
11.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg
Williams has refocused himself after admittedly getting distracted by the recruiting process earlier in the spring. He made the all-tournament team at the Nike Global Challenge and earned kudos from at least one NBA scout in attendance. Williams nearly committed to UK in April but he seems to have distanced himself from the Cats with the emergence of James Young and his own expanded recruitment. Kentucky’s interest level could become more clear by the end of the week.
Aaron Gordon, Oakland Soldiers (2013)
11.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 63.6 FG%
One of the most exciting players in high school basketball will apparently be returning to action at the Peach Jam finals. Gordon, a top-five recruit, broke his foot in April and was expected to miss the remainder of the summer schedule after playing only five games on the EYBL slate. But he told 24/7 Sports on Monday that he’s healthy and ready to return. UK is the only school east of the Mississippi on Gordon’s list. The Californian is also considering Washington, Arizona, Oregon, Kansas, New Mexico and Stanford.
JaQuan Lyle, Indy Spiece (2014)
8.3 ppg, 3.9 apg
Lyle visited Kentucky last month and came away impressed. He already has offers from Louisville, Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue and several other big schools, but Calipari told him he was going to further evaluate the 2014 talent before extending offers. Lyle will likely be on UK’s watch list in South Carolina.
Johnathan Williams, Bluff City Legends (2013)
10.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 2.1 bpg
The Memphis power forward is being recruited by a who’s who of major schools, and he hasn’t started naming favorites. His game suits Calipari’s system and he’ll likely get some attention from the UK staff. Williams is expected to trim his list to a more manageable size in the next few weeks.
Jahlil Okafor, Mac Irvin Fire (2014)
11.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 69.2 FG%
Okafor came into the spring as the top post player in his class and hasn’t disappointed. He’s second in the EYBL with a 69.2-percent field-goal percentage. He also averaged 13.6 points and 8.2 rebounds per game to lead the U.S. under-17 team to a gold medal earlier this month in Lithuania. UK has yet to get seriously involved with his recruitment, and the 6-10, 280-pounder already claims offers from Duke, North Carolina, Michigan State, UConn, Ohio State, Louisville and several others.
Justise Winslow, Houston Hoops (2014)
9.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 3.5 apg
Winslow is a top-10 recruit and his all-around game seems built for Calipari’s offense. He made the all-tournament team at the U-17 world championships in Lithuania earlier this month, leading the Americans in rebounding despite his 6-foot-5 frame. He’s another recruit that has UK on a list that includes all of the best programs in college basketball.
Joel Berry, Each1Teach1 (2014)
12.4 ppg, 3.9 apg, 88.0 FT%
The first sophomore in Florida’s history to win Mr. Basketball honors is one of several elite point guards in the class of 2014. Florida could be tough to beat, but UK is in the mix early. Berry is also teammates with Dakari Johnson, so UK coaches could see more of him this week than they normally would.
Beejay Anya, Team Takeover (2013)
8.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.2 bpg
There hasn’t been much UK-related buzz on the Anya front lately. Regarded by many to be the best center in the class, Anya has consistently mentioned other schools at the top of his list. If the next few weeks yield more of the same, it might be time to scratch him off UK’s list.
Wayne Selden, BABC (2013)
13.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 39.6 3PT%
Selden seemed like a major UK target less than a year ago, but that has changed with recent circumstances. In the past few weeks he has reclassified out of the class of 2014, said he couldn’t envision himself playing on the same team as the Harrison twins, and acknowledged that he hasn’t had any contact with Calipari. Selden still wants to hear from the Cats, but there simply might not be any room next year in Lexington for the projected shooting guard.
Marcus Lee, California Supreme (2013)
8.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.1 bpg
A lanky shot-blocker, Lee is one of the few West Coast players thought to be on Calipari’s radar. He hasn’t taken steps to narrow his list, and Kentucky is there among many other national powers. In a year short on big men, ESPN’s 27th-ranked player could be one of UK’s top post options.
Stanley Johnson, Oakland Soldiers (2014)
16.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg
The California small forward told 24/7 Sports last month that UK was one of three schools on his must-visit list (Oregon and Arizona were the others). Rivals ranks him 17th overall in 2014, and Calipari will surely love his defensive mindset.
Xavier Rathan-Mayes, CIA Bounce (2013)
13.7 ppg, 40.3 3PT%
Andrew Wiggins’ high school and AAU teammate has proven himself to be one of the best three-point shooters among EYBL competitors. He’s already visited UK and has had some recent contact with the Cats, but his position would likely keep him from playing much early on in Lexington if UK lands the Harrison twins and James Young, as is expected.
Tyus Jones, Howard Pulley (2014)
18.0 ppg, 5.7 apg
Jones has probably been the most impressive point guard in the EYBL, which doesn’t include non-Nike competitors Andrew Harrison and Kasey Hill. UK recently started recruiting the Minnesota native but Duke is thought by many to be the favorite. Calipari will be fighting an uphill battle if he decides to seriously pursue Jones, and there are plenty of other elite point guards in the class who have expressed interest in UK.
Thursday, 9 a.m.: Team Takeover vs. Each1Teach1
The first session will start off with a big-time showdown in the paint: Beejay Anya vs. Dakari Johnson. The two UK targets arguably are the best centers in their respective classes, and this early matchup will likely draw at least one of the UK coaches.
Thursday, 10:30 a.m.: Spiece vs. Boo Williams
UK target JaQuan Lyle gets an early test from Anthony “Cat” Barber, one of the top point guards in the class of 2013. Barber and AAU teammate Troy Williams have openly talked about attending the same college, and if that happens the destination will likely be Louisville or Alabama.
Friday, noon: CIA Bounce vs. Mac Irvin Fire
This was supposed to be a dream matchup of Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, but that probably won’t happen (see below). Even if it doesn’t, it will still be a good one. The presence of Mac Irvin’s Jahlil Okafor means the top two players from the class of 2014 will be on the same court at the same time.
Friday, 7:30 p.m.: CIA Bounce vs. Team Texas Titans
It’ll be a busy day for Wiggins and company. After taking on Okafor in the morning session they get Julius Randle in the afternoon game. Randle and Wiggins faced off last week in Las Vegas, with Wiggins coming out on top. What will happen in Round 2?
Jabari Parker, the consensus No. 1 player in the class of 2013, is unlikely to play in the event due to a foot injury. Parker, who plays for Mac Irvin Fire, is expected to undergo an MRI this week in Chicago to determine the extent of the damage. He made the trip to Lithuania earlier this month with the U.S. under-17 team, but was not at 100 percent and saw limited action in the tournament.
Parker’s father, Sonny, told ESPN on Monday that he was not concerned about the possibility of Parker losing his No. 1 ranking by sitting out the July events. “He doesn’t have anything to prove,” the elder Parker said. “He’s the hunted; he’s not the hunter. His school season and health are more important.”
Parker trimmed his list last week to 10 schools, which included Kentucky.
UK target and top-five recruit Aaron Gordon will also miss the EYBL finals. The Oakland Soldiers power forward broke a bone in his foot in April.
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