Kentucky's four signees on display Friday in Jordan Classic

broberts@herald-leader.comApril 17, 2014 

  • FRIDAY

    Jordan Brand Classic

    Where: Barclays Center in Brooklyn

    When: 7 p.m.

    TV: ESPN2

Four high school basketball stars who have signed with Kentucky for next season will appear in one more nationally televised all-star event.

Karl-Anthony Towns, Trey Lyles, Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker have all been in Brooklyn this week for Friday night's Jordan Brand Classic.

247Sports national analyst Jerry Meyer has been tracking the quartet of future Cats all season, and he got an extensive look at them earlier this month during a series of practices and scrimmages leading up to the McDonald's All-American Game.

Meyer was especially impressed with Towns — the 7-footer from New Jersey who is the No. 10 overall prospect in the 247Sports rankings for the class of 2014.

That ranking is likely to change when Meyer finalizes his list next week.

"He has the most complete package for a post player in the class," Meyer said. "Of the top guys, he's the longest. He is the most skilled perimeter player. He can score inside, rebound, block shots. In baseball, they talk about a five-tool player. That's sort of what he is."

Towns was one of the most impressive competitors during McDonald's week, which also included fellow post players Jahlil Okafor (Duke), Cliff Alexander (Kansas) and Myles Turner, who has still not picked a college.

Those are clearly the four centers at the top of this recruiting class, and all four are ranked in the top 11 regardless of position by the major recruiting services.

Meyer has Towns slotted behind the other three. He expects that to be reversed in the final rankings.

"I'm leaning Towns as the top big guy," he said. "That's definitely the direction I'm leaning."

Meyer was also complimentary of Ulis and Booker — the two backcourt players who will join UK's program next season.

Booker — a 6-5 wing player — is No. 30 overall in Meyer's class rankings.

He acknowledged that Booker is not as strong or quick as other wings such as Stanley Johnson and Kelly Oubre — part of the reason those guys are ranked higher — but the UK signee is more than just a shooter, which is how some seem to view him.

"Some might have pigeonholed him as (a shooter), but he's always been a good all-around player," Meyer said. "Booker is a very, very smart player. He can really shoot, and he can make contested jump shots.

"He reminds me a little bit of Doron Lamb, just to give Kentucky fans a frame of reference. I think Booker probably shoots it from a little deeper than Doron, but he's crafty with the dribble and a pretty good ball handler. He's a better ball handler than the wings Kentucky had this past year."

Ulis is one of the best ball handlers in high school basketball. The 5-9 point guard was called a "pest" — in a good way — by one of his fellow McDonald's All-Americans and his exciting play on both ends of the court always ignites a crowd.

Meyer said his size could make it a little tough to transition to the college game, but he also noted Ulis' success against much bigger players in recent all-star events.

"He's really pesky and can really disrupt the primary ball handler. And disrupt the flow of the offense for the other team," Meyer said. "He has a great feel for distributing the basketball. He's one of those guys — when he has the ball in his hands, he's thinking about how he can make his teammates better.

"Ulis is going to be a good college player. He's going to be effective."

Meyer said UK fans should be excited about Booker and Ulis because both can be immediate contributors but neither is expected to be a one-and-done player. It's more likely that one or both sticks around in Lexington for three or four seasons.

"They both have a great feel for the game," he said. "They're skilled, and they're going to be fun to watch."

Meyer ranks Lyles as the No. 18 overall player in the class, while all of the other major recruiting services have him in the top 10.

The 247Sports analyst said Lyles' best attribute is his passing ability for a big man. He pointed out that he obviously likes him — "I have him in the top 20" — but there are aspects of his game that don't stack up against some of the other elite players in the class.

"He's not the most athletic player," Meyer said. "He struggles to score (against top competition). He's a very smart player, but it's more of a methodical — he just doesn't have that quick-twitch game.

"We're talking five-star caliber range here, so it's how you match up as a prospect against those guys."

Name change

Towns has been referred to as "Karl Towns" or "Karl Towns Jr." in past stories, but he has told multiple media outlets in recent weeks that he will go by "Karl-Anthony Towns" when he gets to Kentucky.

Karl-Anthony is his actual first name but it's been shortened in the past.

Derby Classic

Three Louisville signees will be among the players in Friday night's Derby Festival Classic in Freedom Hall.

Kentucky Mr. Basketball Quentin Snider, Jaylen Johnson and Chinanu Onuaku will all represent the Cardinals in the annual showcase, which features more than a dozen top-100 national prospects.

The game is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.

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

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