When star basketball player Tyler Herro committed to the University of Wisconsin in September 2016, people in his hometown of Milwaukee were happy. Very happy.
So, when he decommitted from the Badgers and signed with Kentucky last fall, people around him were upset. Very upset.
“A lot of people didn’t like that. And they still don’t like that. And they don’t like me. Which is cool,” Herro said.
The Whitnall High School product said he receives a lot of hate on social media from those unhappy with his decommitment, but said discussions with his family and close friends guided his ultimate decision.
Part of Herro’s flip had to do with associate head coach Kenny Payne and the way he develops players, along with the status that Kentucky has as an elite basketball program. Of course, John Calipari also played a role.
“He’s a coach that looks out for his players, so he’s a players’ coach, and he’s going to do everything he can to get me to the next level,” Herro said of Calipari.
The No. 25 recruit in the class of 2018 according to ESPN, Herro will participate in the Nike Hoop Summit on Friday in Portland, Ore., an annual competition that pits the best United States prep basketball players against a World team.
UK signees Keldon Johnson and Herro are on the U.S. team along with some of the most hyped players in the country, including Duke recruits Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish and Tre Jones and uncommitted Romeo Langford.
Johnson, who is dealing with an ankle injury this week, said it’s been enjoyable to participate with a future Kentucky teammate.
“It’s good,” Johnson said of playing with Herro. “Building chemistry early. He’s a great person, on and off the court. I think we connect pretty well.”
The two were also part of last weekend’s Jordan Brand Classic high school showcase in Brooklyn, N.Y.
With 150 NBA scouts credentialed to attend the Nike Hoop Summit and its practices, the game carries the weight of high expectations.
Said Tre Jones: “A lot of people see it as the future of the NBA and the basketball world.”
But Herro is not ready to discuss if he will be the next one-and-done Wildcat.
“I don’t really think about that right now. I’m still in high school, just having fun with what I’ve got going on now,” he said.
Recently, Herro has drawn — and welcomed — comparisons to one former Kentucky one-and-done: Devin Booker. Similar to Booker, Herro is a 6-foot-5 shooter and scorer who was not considered a top-20 player in his class.
“That’s one player I try to model my game after, so I look up to him,” said Herro, who has been watching Booker since his days at Kentucky.
With potentially more returning players than is typical of a Calipari team, next year’s Kentucky roster could be loaded, but Herro believes he can fill a much-needed role.
“I think I can contribute right away, as all of us can. I think coming in as a shooter, scorer, that was something that they lacked this year,” he said.
But, he’s also adamant that, like Booker, he is more than just a spot-up threat from beyond the arc.
“Some people are excited because I’m a shooter, which I am, but I feel like I can do much more. I think they’ll see that come Big Blue Madness time,” he said.
The U.S. teammate who might know Herro and his game best is Jones, a Minnesota native and the consensus top point guard in the 2018 class. The two, from neighboring states, have played against each other since fifth grade.
“He’s a phenomenal player,” Jones said of Herro. “A lot of people think he’s just a shooter, but he’s a play maker, he’s a scorer. He plays at such a high level. I like his game a lot.”
Herro is one of four 2018 Kentucky commitments, with the others being Johnson, point guard Immanuel Quickley and recently committed EJ Montgomery. Five-star point guard Ashton Hagans, currently committed to UK for 2019, might join next year’s class, as well.
“I’m excited to play with everybody. Everybody brings their own attributes that they can contribute,” Herro said. “It’s almost gonna be like an NBA practice, so it’s gonna be fun.”
Nike Hoop Summit
What: High school all-star showcase featuring the USA Basketball Junior National Select Team vs. a World Select Team
When: 10 p.m. EDT
Where: Moda Center in Portland, Ore.
UK signees in the game: Tyler Herro (uniform No. 14), Keldon Johnson (No. 5)