McDonald's All-American notes: Kentucky signees sad to see Antigua go

broberts@herald-leader.comApril 1, 2014 

McDonald's All American Games Basketball

McDonald's East All-American Karl Towns Jr., of Piscataway, N.J., competes in the slam dunk contest during the McDonald's All-American Jam Fest at the University of Chicago in Chicago, on Monday, March 31, 2014. (AP Photo/Andrew A. Nelles)


CHICAGO — The hiring of Kentucky assistant Orlando Antigua as the new head coach at South Florida was a bittersweet development for the Cats' top recruits.

There was the happiness that UK's future players shared with a guy who they'd come to know well over the past several months. There was also sadness that they won't get to play for him when they get to Lexington.

Perhaps no one was more proud — or disappointed — than Karl Towns Jr.

Towns — the UK signee who has been committed to the Cats the longest — had a special relationship with Antigua. The two bonded over their Dominican heritage, and Antigua has coached Towns the past three summers with the Dominican Republic National Team.

"I was surprised. I was real surprised," Towns said Tuesday. "It hurt me a little bit to know that, when I step on that campus, Orlando won't be there. But, you know, I wish him all the best. I can say that USF just got the best person in the business right now. I think they got one of the best coaches the country has to offer. ... USF did a great job of snagging him."

Turner's choice

Myles Turner is the only player at this year's McDonald's All-American Game who has not decided on his college destination.

The 7-footer from Bedford, Texas, has taken visits to Texas, Kansas, Duke, Oklahoma State, Ohio State, Southern Methodist and Texas A&M, and all of those schools remain under consideration.

Kentucky and Arizona are also still in the mix.

"After all of the all-star games, I'm going to sit down with my family and make sure we get that all worked out," Turner said. "At this point, I'm just focusing on everything I have at hand this month."

The next few weeks include Wednesday's McDonald's Game in Chicago, the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland, Ore., the following weekend, and the Jordan Brand Classic in Brooklyn the week after that.

It seems unlikely that UK or Arizona will land Turner, given the fact that he's so far into his recruitment and has yet to see either school. He wouldn't admit to any favorites Tuesday, though Kansas and Texas are thought to be at the top of his list.

Blind ambition

Karl Towns Jr. almost became the first Kentucky signee to win the McDonald's slam dunk contest with his performance Monday night.

His routine included one slam that required him to wear a blindfold. He needed a guide to help pace off the correct number of steps from the rim out to his starting point near the three-point line. Then, he turned around, ran toward the basket and delivered a powerful jam that earned a 69 out of 70 from the judges.

The crowd loved it, but John Calipari was probably popping Maalox back in Lexington at the sight of his future star running and jumping in the dark.

"I think Cal was in his seat getting even more gray hairs," Towns said. "I'm just glad I was able to come down with no injury, and Cal could take a big nice breath of relief."

Duke signee Grayson Allen edged Towns for the dunk contest trophy.

Bragging rights

Kentucky's Elite Eight victory over Michigan on Sunday was especially sweet for Devin Booker. The UK signee grew up in Michigan before moving to Mississippi to be with his father early in his high school career.

"All of my friends back home were giving me crap, talking about how they were going to beat us," Booker said. "But, obviously it didn't happen."

The taunting from the Wolverines fans tapered off once the game started. When it was over, Booker had some work to do.

"I got a lot of texts before the game," he said. "I waited until after the game to respond."

Girl to watch

Alyssa Rice is the lone UK women's signee in the girls' McDonald's All-American Game this year.

The 6-foot-3 post player from Ohio will wear No. 45 for the West squad.

Rice was active in Tuesday's open practice. She moved well away from the ball and always had her hands up in the post. Rice was also among the more vocal players on the court.

The girls' game will be shown live on ESPNU at 7 p.m. EDT

Alexander on the mend

Kansas signee Cliff Alexander missed Tuesday's media day festivities with a wrist contusion, but he is expected to play in Wednesday night's game.

Alexander — a 6-9 power forward — had a tremendous senior season at Curie High School in Chicago and was named the Naismith national player of the year last month.

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

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