McDonald's All-American notes: Epps is proud of Kentucky — and her accent

broberts@herald-leader.comApril 2, 2013 

  • McDonald's All-American Games

    When: Girls, 7 p.m. Wednesday (ESPNU); Boys, 9:30 p.m. Wednesday (ESPN)

CHICAGO — Before she had a chance to put her three-point skills on display Monday night, Makayla Epps showed off something else.

The big-city Chicago crowd got to hear her small-town Kentucky accent.

The Marion County standout and future Kentucky Wildcat was waiting for the McDonald's All-American skills competition to begin when an on-court DJ who had been pumping up the fans over the PA system danced over to where she was sitting and asked where she was from.

Before Epps even opened her mouth, she knew what kind of reaction she would get.

"Me being from Kentucky and the way I talk, I can't say nothing without somebody getting a good laugh out of it," she said. "You know, he had me talking at the beginning and picking a dunk winner. And I was like, 'Aw, they're gonna laugh at this and everything I say.'"

The DJ also asked her name, but for the rest of the night she was simply "Kentucky."

It wasn't anything new.

Epps, the daughter of former UK point guard Anthony Epps, says that every time she's gone to an AAU tournament over the past few years, they've called her not by her name, but by her state. Even her fellow McDonald's All-Americans were doing it this week.

"I've got a deep Kentucky accent," she said. "And I'm very proud of it."

And Coach Matthew Mitchell will be happy to have her next season. The Cats have one of the top recruiting classes in the country coming in with Epps, her high school teammate Kyvin Goodin-Rogers and her fellow McDonald's All-American Linnae Harper.

Epps is the fish out of water this week, but Harper is the hometown girl.

The Chicago native said she grew up hearing radio advertisements for the McDonald's Game that told listeners to come on down to the United Center before naming off that year's list of high school stars.

The list includes Harper this time — she's the No. 5 player in the nation according to ESPN — and that's a dream come true.

When she was introduced to the hometown fans before the skills competition Monday night, they reacted with a roar of approval.

"It just melted my heart," she said. "I was extremely proud and happy to know that the city of Chicago has my back."

Epps and Harper will have each other's back next season in Lexington. The two players — both point guards — had met at various AAU stops but never really got to know each other until last October's Big Blue Madness.

They've been spending a lot more time together this week in Harper's hometown. Monday's skills event conflicted with UK's Elite Eight clash against UConn, but the two UK signees were able to see some of the game before they took the court.

The result was disheartening, but it gives Epps and Harper a hard-and-set goal for their UK careers. That'll be leading the Cats to their first Final Four appearance.

"I think, with me and Makayla, we can bring the fire and toughness," Harper said. "Get through that brick wall, push it to the next step and we can become a better team."

Wiggins watch

There's still no timetable for the college decision of Andrew Wiggins, but the No. 1 high school player in the country was a little more forthcoming about his recruitment during McDonald's media day Tuesday.

Wiggins talked about his official visits to each of his four finalists: Kentucky, Florida State, North Carolina and Kansas. He said he liked them all, as did his parents, who were standout athletes at FSU.

The 6-foot-8 forward also talked about the possibility of teaming up with six of his fellow All-Americans next season at UK.

"It would be good," Wiggins said. "They'll all probably be superstars when they go to the next level. It's always good to surround yourselves with guys who you know are going to make it too."

When asked if too many stars and only one basketball would be a problem, Wiggins shook his head.

"They're all unselfish," he said. "They want to win."

Brown gets Frazier

Keith Frazier committed to Southern Methodist on Tuesday, making him the first McDonald's All-American that Larry Brown has successfully recruited since taking over the Mustangs program last year.

Frazier, a 6-foot-5 shooting guard, is ranked by Scout.com as the No. 35 overall player in the class of 2013. The Dallas native was also looking at Texas A&M and Texas Tech.

Showing their skills

Monday night's dunk contest was supposed to be a showdown between high-flyers Andrew Wiggins and Aaron Gordon. Instead, Florida signee Chris Walker walked away with the trophy.

Still, Wiggins had the best slam of the night — an around-the-back, between-the-legs dunk that got the University of Chicago crowd going and drew a perfect score from the judges. It was also the No. 2 play during that night's SportsCenter Top 10 segment.

Other winners were Washington's Nigel Williams-Goss (boys' three-pointers), Notre Dame's Demetrius Jackson (boys' skills), Georgia Tech's Kaela Davis (girls' three-pointers) and UNC's Jessica Washington (girls' skills).

UK signee Linnae Harper finished second in the girls' skills competition. Owensboro Catholic star Becca Greenwell, who will play for Duke, was second in the girls' three-point contest.

No UK men's commitments competed in any of the events.

Ben Roberts: (859) 231-3216 Twitter: @NextCats Blog: ukrecruiting.bloginky.com

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