Kentucky shows interest in Wiggins' former teammate

broberts@herald-leader.comNovember 16, 2013 

Montaque Gill-Caesar's goal is to bring multiple skills to the court.

  • Sunday

    Huntington Prep (W.Va.) vs. Ezell-Harding Christian School (Tenn.)

    When: 2 p.m. Tickets: $5

    Where: Frankfort High School

Fresh out of the shadow of Andrew Wiggins, former teammate Montaque Gill-Caesar is about to find himself in an all-too-familiar position.

Gill-Caesar — everybody calls him "Teki" — is starting his second season at national powerhouse Huntington Prep.

Like Wiggins, he came to the West Virginia school from his native Ontario, Canada.

Like Wiggins, he quickly established himself as one of the best high school basketball players in the country.

And, also like Wiggins, he's about to be faced with a couple of tough decisions.

Gill-Caesar — a 6-foot-6 small forward — is technically a member of the Class of 2015, which makes him a junior athletically. Because of his time in Canada, however, he has the proper credits to smoothly transition to the senior class and play college basketball next season.

That's what coaches at several top programs would like him to do, and Kentucky is one of them.

Gill-Caesar watched Wiggins, who he's known since the second grade, go through the exact same process last season. First, he reclassified. Then, he concentrated on his recruitment, which dragged on for months before he finally committed to Kansas in one of the most-hyped recruiting announcements in years.

While Wiggins contemplated, Gill-Caesar watched.

What did he learn?

"Just how to ignore it," he said.

The 17-year-old was smiling, but there was sincerity in his statement.

"Don't focus on it too much because it's not everything," Gill-Caesar continued. "It's important, but it's not the most important thing. The most important thing is developing your game and getting better."

Scout.com ranks Gill-Caesar — who will play a game at Frankfort High School on Sunday — as the No. 18 prospect in the Class of 2015.

He was never a focal point of Huntington Prep's offense last season while playing alongside Wiggins and senior guard Xavier Rathan Mayes, who was one of the best scorers in the country. Still, Gill-Caesar managed to score about 15 points per game, relying mostly on put-backs and open jump shots.

Scout national analyst Evan Daniels said he saw a "much more confident" Gill-Caesar over the summer.

"His scoring output has improved," Daniels said. "He has really improved his jump shot. He can make shots from mid range. He's turned into a solid three-point shooter. Throw that in with his athleticism and his ability to defend and you're looking at a high-major wing."

Daniels and Huntington Prep Coach Rob Fulford both pointed out the value of Gill-Caesar being matched up with Wiggins every day in practice last season.

Fulford said the added confidence in Gill-Caesar's game is natural. The coach called Wiggins "the best on-ball defender in college" and described the experience of playing against him every day as "invaluable" for Gill-Caesar's growth.

"Regardless of who we play, it's not Andrew," Fulford said. "So obviously his confidence is a little higher when he's playing someone else because he's used to going against Wiggins every day.

"It's huge. It's invaluable. I don't think you can put a tag on it, really — how important it was."

Seeing those matchups was apparently enough for John Calipari.

The UK coach expressed interest in Gill-Caesar early last season and invited him to attend last weekend's game against Northern Kentucky, which he did.

"It was cool," Gill-Caesar said. "I was comfortable there and I talked to Coach (Calipari) a little bit and heard what their philosophy was. I liked it."

Fulford, who also made the trip, said they didn't specifically ask whether Gill-Caesar has a UK scholarship offer, and Calipari didn't explicitly say that he did.

The UK coach did make it clear that he expects to lose the majority of his players after this season.

Calipari is also in need of at least one more wing player, and Daniels noted that he's not currently recruiting any of the available perimeter prospects in the Class of 2014.

It seems pretty clear.

"From my understanding, just in conversation, if Teki wanted to go to Kentucky, he can go to Kentucky," Fulford said.

Gill-Caesar said there's no timetable on when he'll make a decision on whether to reclassify, and he's even further away from a college announcement.

Kansas and Michigan State are also pursuing him, as are West Virginia, Ohio State, Illinois and several others.

His coach doesn't know where he'll end up, but he thinks he's ready to play — and play well — for one of those schools right now.

"He has no business being in 2015," Fulford said. "That's just my opinion. I hope he does what's best for him, but why stay an extra year when you don't need to?"


Sunday

Huntington Prep (W.Va.) vs. Ezell-Harding Christian School (Tenn.)

When: 2 p.m. Tickets: $5

Where: Frankfort High School

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

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