Two of the top basketball prospects in the class of 2016 meet on the court next month in the Bluegrass Showcase, a new event that will bring some of the nation's best recruits to Lexington.
The high school teams featuring Josh Jackson and Thon Maker — two of the top five players in the junior class — will play two games each, including one contest against each other on the final night of the two-day showcase set for Nov. 28-29 at Paul Laurence Dunbar.
Jackson — a 6-foot-7 small forward — recently transferred to Prolific Prep in Northern California after playing his first two seasons of high school in Michigan, which has strict rules about its teams competing in games outside of the state.
Prolific Prep is entering its first season with a schedule that includes games at the Hoophall Classic in Massachusetts, the Tarkanian Classic in Las Vegas and several other national showcases.
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"It's our first year, so we're looking to get our name out there and play in as many different areas as possible," said Prolific Prep founder Jeremy Russotti. "And Kentucky sounded like a great one, obviously.
Jackson was the MaxPreps.com national sophomore of the year last season before helping lead the Team USA under-17 squad to a FIBA gold medal in Dubai.
"It's nice to get him all over the country, because that's why he came here: To play the best teams and to be able to travel outside his state," Russotti said. "And to be able to play in front of college coaches."
UK Coach John Calipari has already expressed interest in Jackson and Maker, a Sudan native who now plays for Orangeville Prep in Canada and has previously been ranked as the No. 1 overall prospect in the 2016 class.
Next month's showcase will give Calipari and his coaching staff an opportunity to see those two players — and several other highly touted recruits — without leaving the city. (The Cats are off both days before a home game against Providence on Nov. 30).
Caleb Swanigan is also coming to town for two games that weekend. Scout.com ranks the post player from Homestead High (Ind.) as the No. 8 overall prospect in the class of 2015, and he has become one of UK's most immediate recruiting targets.
"I know a big reason is to get Caleb down there and let the Kentucky people see him," said Homestead Coach Chris Johnson.
Swanigan, who visited Lexington over the weekend to check out Calipari's NBA "combine," has not yet cut his list of schools.
The full Bluegrass Showcase schedule — obtained Sunday by the Herald-Leader — also includes Huntington Prep (W.Va.), La Lumiere (Ind.), Arlington Country Day (Fla.) and Prime Prep (Texas) — all nationally ranked schools with top-50 recruits.
Swanigan will lead Homestead against Chicago's Curie High and White Station out of Memphis, two of the top programs in their respective cities.
"This will be my 21st year as a head coach, and this is the first time I've had a big-time player like Caleb," Johnson said. "It's a great opportunity for the kids. It's where a lot of kids can make a lot of memories, so why not take advantage to go out there and try to play the best?"
Tickets to the Bluegrass Showcase will be available at BluegrassSports.org.