UK Men's Basketball

Top basketball recruit Petty shows off team-first game, which he could bring to UK

J.O. Johnson High School’s John Petty earned a UK scholarship offer over the summer and has emerged as one of the Wildcats’ top recruiting targets for the class of 2017.
J.O. Johnson High School’s John Petty earned a UK scholarship offer over the summer and has emerged as one of the Wildcats’ top recruiting targets for the class of 2017. The Associated Press

There are usually a few rim-rattling dunks and other highlight-reel-worthy plays when John Petty is on the basketball court, but that flash is not what stands out about his game.

Petty — a 6-foot-6 wing from Huntsville, Ala. — is the type of player that makes those around him better. And that’s why college coaches want him so bad.

The UK recruiting target’s versatile skill set was on display Saturday at the Marshall County Hoop Fest, where he had 17 points, 14 rebounds and three assists to lead J.O. Johnson to a 69-63 victory over Hopkinsville, the No. 6-ranked team in Kentucky.

(Calipari) tells me he’ll have a lot of great talent coming in, so you have to fight for your position at Kentucky. And that’s no problem. I like to compete.

John Petty

Petty crashed the boards, rarely took a bad shot and made several nice passes. He’s also a dynamic athlete who shows great potential on the defensive end.

It was his improved ball handling — a point of emphasis for Petty over the summer — that most impressed Scout.com director of recruiting Evan Daniels.

“He seemed to have it more on a string,” Daniels said. “He was quicker with it. His crossovers were better. You could tell he was a lot more comfortable handling the basketball.

“He’s also a very good athlete. He’s a guy who will mix in jump shots, both mid-range and long range. He’s one of the best perimeter scorers in the class of 2017.”

Petty was the first player from the 2017 class to receive a confirmed scholarship offer from UK, and Coach John Calipari has visited him multiple times during the fall recruiting period. Someone from the Wildcats’ coaching staff is expected to see him Sunday at the Hoop Fest.

UK also hosted Petty for a visit to Big Blue Madness in October.

He said the early offer from Calipari was a validation of the time he’s put in the gym over the past year.

“It means that what I’ve been working on is paying off,” Petty said. “I work hard on my game. I like to work. I’m going to keep working to get better.”

Petty, who plays his summer ball on the Nike circuit, says he’s already built a great relationship with Calipari. He also acknowledged that his team-first mentality would make him a good fit for the type of star-studded recruiting class that UK has become accustomed to in recent years.

“He’s just honest,” Petty said of Calipari. “He tells me he’ll have a lot of great talent coming in, so you have to fight for your position at Kentucky. And that’s no problem. I like to compete. I’m a competitive person.

“I’m a team person. So if I went somewhere like that, I wouldn’t mind. ... I’m all about the team. It’s never just me. I wouldn’t mind going to a team with a lot of standout athletes.”

Petty, who is ranked by ESPN as the No. 5 junior in the country, has several scholarship offers, but he’s consistently listed Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and Kentucky as the four schools that are recruiting him the hardest.

Many recruiting analysts consider UK the early front-runner for Petty. He said Saturday that he’s nowhere close to a college decision and didn’t tip his hand to any favorite, but UK seems to be in as good a position as any school at the moment.

“I think there’s a long way to go in his process,” Daniels said. “I don’t think you can point to a leader. But there are a couple of schools that are making him a priority, and Kentucky is one of them.”

Ben Roberts: 859-231-3216, @NextCats

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