LOUISVILLE — He won't be playing college basketball at Kentucky or Louisville or Indiana, but Rusty Troutman will get a chance this week to show he can compete with the guys who will.
The Bullitt East guard was a late addition to Friday night's Derby Festival Classic, stepping in for McDonald's All-American Jabari Bird when the California-bound point guard had to drop out of the game for personal reasons.
When Bird couldn't make it, Derby Classic organizers called Troutman, who was a Mr. Basketball finalist after a stellar senior season with the Chargers.
"Yes, of course," was the answer they received.
Troutman said it was an honor to play in a game he was already well familiar with after growing up in the Louisville metro area.
The 6-foot-5 guard won't be going far from home for college.
Troutman signed with Division II Bellarmine in November, a surprise to some who thought he could have held out for a spot with a D-I program.
"Other Division I schools were recruiting me, but I felt like I knew where I wanted to go from the beginning and that wasn't going to change," he said. "I feel like I fit in there. It's close to home."
Bellarmine Coach Scott Davenport had been recruiting Troutman since his sophomore year, which was the same season the Knights won the D-II national title. They went to a Final Four the next year, and Troutman had seen enough to put his college career in Davenport's care.
"He's energetic and he's a heck of a coach," Troutman said. "They get up and down the floor, everybody plays on the perimeter. That's just how I like to play.
"And they're good, so I can have a chance to compete for a national championship every year."
Madison Central star Dominique Hawkins wasted no time getting his paperwork to Lexington.
Wednesday was the first day of the regular signing period, and Hawkins said he signed his letter of intent in the morning and sent it straight to UK.
Julius Randle and Dakari Johnson also committed to the Cats after the early signing period. A UK spokesman said the school would not confirm any signings until receiving paperwork from all three players.
No statement was released Wednesday, but Johnson and Randle are expected to make their commitments official soon. Randle is playing in the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland, Ore., this weekend.
Hawkins will be teammates with Troutman and Derek Willis at the Derby Classic. He's looking forward to a big crowd in Freedom Hall on Friday night.
"I expect it will be a good atmosphere," Hawkins said. "A lot of Kentucky fans are going to come and watch us."
U of L well represented
Two Louisville signees — four-star prospects Anton Gill and Akoy Agau — will participate in the Derby Classic
Gill, a 6-3 guard from North Carolina, played in Louisville earlier this season with Hargrave Military Academy (Va.).
He's ready for the return trip to his future home.
"The fans here are crazy," he said.
Agau, a 6-9 forward from Omaha, Neb., is the No. 76 overall senior in the country according to ESPN.
Lexington Catholic's Dillon Avare and North Oldham's David Levitch, who will both walk on at Louisville next season, will also play in the Derby Classic.
All four future Cardinals have been paired together on the White Team. The Black Team will include the two UK signees — Hawkins and Willis — as well as Rusty Troutman.
Another U of L signee, Terry Rozier, was the MVP of last year's Derby Classic.
Rozier just wrapped up a post-grad season at Hargrave Military Academy and is expected to contribute right away next season.