Two summers ago, a gangly kid who had just finished his freshman year of high school walked into a gym for an AAU basketball open tryout.
Team Felton Coach Fredrick Cannon remembers the youngster standing about 6-foot-7 or 6-8, weighing 170 pounds at the most, with a size 17 shoe and good motor skills, but very little basketball IQ.
"You could see the raw potential there," Cannon recalled Wednesday of his first meeting with Sacha Killeya-Jones, "but you couldn't tell that he was going to be a kid that — two years from now — Kentucky was going to offer a scholarship to."
Killeya-Jones received that scholarship offer two months ago and announced his commitment to the Wildcats on Wednesday morning.
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His path to that pledge has been atypical of a John Calipari recruit.
Killeya-Jones was recognized in middle school as a promising quarterback prospect, and he started his high school career at Woodberry Forest in Virginia, a program known for its success on the football field.
Then he grew about 5 inches over the course of a summer.
"That kind of ended his football career by default," Cannon said.
So Killeya-Jones turned his attention to the basketball court, and Cannon was there from the beginning to see him blossom into one of the best prospects in the country.
He proved to be a quick learner.
"Once he was shown something, he could apply it at a very rapid rate," Cannon said. "For him to be able to apply it against guys that had been playing since they were 8 or 9 years old on competitive AAU teams, and be able to hold his own and do it with little to no experience — that's what set him apart."
Killeya-Jones started out by going to local camps and playing in tournaments near his hometown of Chapel Hill, N.C. Then came a transfer to Virginia Episcopal School, a high school with a solid basketball program.
Over the next few months, the competition got better, and so did Killeya-Jones.
He committed to the University of Virginia in January but backed off of that pledge about five months later, wanting to see which other schools would show interest.
UK was one of the programs that reached out immediately, and in a matter of days Killeya-Jones had already made a recruiting visit to Lexington and picked up a scholarship offer from Calipari.
"Once you get that offer from Kentucky, it validates that you belong," Cannon said. "I think that's the main thing for him — it let him know that he's able to play on that level. ... It was a culmination of two years of hard work."
Killeya-Jones — now a 6-10, 210-pound power forward — chose the Wildcats over scholarship offers from North Carolina, Kansas, Florida, Maryland, Georgetown and several other top programs.
"We think it fits his skill set, fits players like him," Cannon said.
"Calipari obviously has a long lineage of guys that look just like Sacha — going all the way back to Marcus Camby. So the best opportunity for him to develop into the best player he can be, I feel like he's with the right staff to maximize what he wants to be as a basketball player."
Killeya-Jones has been complimentary of Calipari and UK assistant coaches Kenny Payne and John Robic over the past couple of months.
He and his family are also already acquainted with former North Carolina high school coach Joel Justus, who joined UK's staff last year and was recently promoted to the position of special assistant to the head coach.
"I think that this has been in the works for quite some time," Scout.com director of recruiting Evan Daniels told the Herald-Leader.
"I think Sacha Killeya-Jones was headed to Kentucky since his unofficial visit (in June). He wanted to go through July and think about everything, but this has been a done deal for Kentucky, in my opinion.
"They wanted a guy who was versatile. Once they got him on campus and Calipari saw him in July — they went full bore after him."
Few players had a better summer than Killeya-Jones, who played for Cannon on the Under Armour circuit and also spent time with an Adidas program.
Scout.com ranks Killeya-Jones as the No. 47 overall prospect in the class of 2016, though Daniels noted Wednesday that he's due for a bump in those rankings.
"He's mobile and runs the floor well," he said. "He's got very good hands. Offensively what I like about him is he has the ability to score — both facing the rim and with his back to it. He's a versatile scoring threat.
"He is just now putting it together. I thought July was the best he's ever played. He played more aggressive. He was more physical than I've seen him play. I think he's kind of turning it up a notch at just the right time."
The commitment is an important one for Calipari, who could be faced with a complete overhaul of his frontcourt following the upcoming 2015-16 season.
Skal Labissiere — an incoming freshman — is projected by DraftExpress.com as the No. 1 overall pick in next year's NBA Draft, and Marcus Lee and Alex Poythress are both viewed as possible first-round selections.
Those three players are expected to play the majority of UK's frontcourt minutes this season, so Calipari is looking for big bodies to help fill out the class of 2016.
Killeya-Jones joins New Zealand power forward Tai Wynyard as the Wildcats' second commitment for that class, though Wynyard is still exploring the possibility of enrolling at UK in January and playing the second half of the 2015-16 season.
The Cats are also in the mix for Australian center Isaac Humphries, who is currently a class of 2016 recruit but has been taking classes this summer and is still hoping to reclassify and enroll at UK for the fall semester.
Calipari also has offers out to other talented post players in the class of 2016, including No. 1 overall recruit Harry Giles and fellow five-star prospects Marques Bolden, Jarrett Allen, Udoka Azubuike and Edrice Adebayo.