Often the most competitive of the high school all-star games that pepper the national TV landscape this time of year, the Nike Hoop Summit returns to Portland, Ore., on Friday night with plenty of players for UK fans to keep an eye on.
The game — which will be shown live at 10 p.m. on ESPN2 — features four future Kentucky Wildcats and two more five-star seniors who are still considering UK, as well as the No. 1 sophomore in the country, a player the Cats are already recruiting.
The two prospects UK is most interested in right now are Mohamed Bamba and Kevin Knox, both top-10 players in the class of 2017 who will represent the Team USA side in Friday’s game.
247Sports national analyst Jerry Meyer scouted Bamba in the lead-up to last week’s McDonald’s All-American Game, and he came away impressed with the 7-footer from Harlem, N.Y.
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Bamba, who has a 7-9 wingspan, is ranked behind Arizona signee DeAndre Ayton by all of the major recruiting services. That’s likely to change soon.
“His length is pretty extraordinary, and it makes a difference,” Meyer said. “I thought he consistently looked better than DeAndre Ayton. I expect that he’s going to end up — at least with me — as the No. 1 big man in the country.”
Meyer added that he would probably slot Bamba in the No. 2 spot behind only Missouri commitment Michael Porter Jr. , a 6-10 small forward who will also play in Friday’s game.
Bamba has narrowed his recruitment to UK, Duke, Michigan and Texas. Early on, Duke was seen as a possible favorite, but that has changed in recent months.
Kentucky is now the leader on Bamba’s 247Sports Crystal Ball page, and Meyer is among those picking the Cats.
“I think the Duke people, insiders — I don’t think they’ve felt great about Duke’s chances,” he said. “I like Kentucky’s chances.”
Knox — a 6-9 small forward from Tampa, Fla. — has had a tough recruitment to forecast. He cut his list to UK, Duke, North Carolina and Florida State several months ago, but he hasn’t been forthcoming about possible favorites within that group.
Porter has also started recruiting him to Missouri, selling the idea of two of the best wings in the country teaming up in Cuonzo Martin’s first season as head coach.
Meyer is currently predicting Duke for Knox, but there’s no clear favorite.
“Duke has been sort of the perceived leader over the long haul,” he said. “And I don’t have enough knowledge of anything to change my pick. So that’s kind of where I am on it. Duke’s my Crystal Ball pick. I don’t necessarily feel bad about it, but I don’t feel great about it, because it’s a tough read.
“And now with the Missouri stuff popping up. … That obviously stirs the pot and adds another ingredient.”
Knox is scheduled to catch a red-eye flight to Missouri immediately after Friday’s game for an official visit to Columbia this weekend. He’s expected to announce a college decision shortly after the Jordan Brand Classic, which will be played April 14. Bamba has not set an exact timetable for his college decision.
Joining Bamba and Knox on the Team USA squad will be Kentucky commitments Quade Green, the Cats’ likely starting point guard next season, and Jarred Vanderbilt, a versatile, 6-9 forward who showed off some new aspects to his game — including an improved jump shot — during McDonald’s week in Chicago. (Green suffered a concussion this week and might not play in Friday’s game).
The World Select Team will include UK signees Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a combo guard from Canada, and Nick Richards, a 7-footer who was born in Jamaica and played his high school ball in New Jersey.
The international squad will also include Montverde Academy (Fla.) shooting guard RJ Barrett — a native of Canada — who is ranked by all the major recruiting services as the No. 1 prospect in the class of 2019.
Nike Hoop Summit
When: 10 p.m. EDT
Where: Portland, Ore.