UK Men's Basketball

Players to watch: Several five-star recruits will play in Lexington this weekend

Team EZ Pass' DeAndre Ayton #0 in action against Team Doo Be Doo in the Under Armour Elite 24 game on Saturday, August 22, 2015 in Brooklyn, NY.
Team EZ Pass' DeAndre Ayton #0 in action against Team Doo Be Doo in the Under Armour Elite 24 game on Saturday, August 22, 2015 in Brooklyn, NY. AP

University of Kentucky signee Wenyen Gabriel will be one of several five-star basketball recruits in Lexington for this weekend’s Bluegrass Showcase at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School.

The showcase will feature two doubleheaders that include five top high school teams from across the country.

Victory Prep (Texas) plays Hillcrest Academy (Ariz.) in Saturday’s opener at 6:30 p.m., followed by Gabriel’s Wilbraham & Monson Academy (Mass.) vs. Athlete Institute (Ontario) at 8 p.m.

Victory Prep returns to play Word of God Academy (N.C.) on Sunday at 1:30 p.m., with Athlete Institute vs. Hillcrest Academy scheduled as the finale Sunday.

Tickets for each two-game session are $15 and can be purchased at Dunbar High School on the day of the games.

Players to watch

Wenyen Gabriel (Wilbraham & Monson): The UK signee entered the spring as an unranked national recruit and has since risen to the No. 10 spot in the Scout.com rankings for the class of 2016. A 6-foot-10 prospect, Gabriel was recruited as a perimeter player by John Calipari and is expected to play on the wing when he gets to Lexington next season. Gabriel has been stuffing the stat sheet through his first three games of the season — going for 27 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists and seven blocked shots in Wednesday night’s victory — and he’s likely due for another bump in the national rankings the next time they’re updated.

DeAndre Ayton (Hillcrest): Ayton — a 7-footer originally from the Bahamas — was ranked by Scout.com earlier this year as the No. 1 overall high school prospect in the country, regardless of class. He didn’t have the greatest summer, by his standards, and slipped a little in some of the national rankings, though he’s still considered the No. 1 recruit in the class of 2017 by both Scout.com and ESPN. Ayton is a highly skilled big man who can score from all over the court and has the tools to be a terrific defender. He mentioned UK and Duke prominently back in June but hasn’t said much about his recruitment in recent months.

Jarred Vanderbilt (Victory Prep): John Calipari has clearly made Vanderbilt — a bouncy, versatile 6-8 forward — one of his top recruiting priorities in the class of 2017. The No. 7 overall junior in the country, Vanderbilt hosted Calipari twice at his high school during the fall recruiting period and is a friend and former AAU teammate of UK signee De’Aaron Fox. Vanderbilt said last weekend that he is nowhere near a college decision and doesn’t plan to cut his list of schools until next summer.

Thon Maker (Athlete Institute): Maker — a 7-footer originally from Sudan and now playing in Canada — has been on the national recruiting radar for years and is considered one of the top 10 prospects in the class of 2016. He has a rare skill set for a big man and often plays away from the basket, showing off his ball handling and shooting prowess. Maker’s guardian told the Herald-Leader last weekend that he hasn’t heard from UK’s coaches in months. He listed Indiana, Kansas and Arizona State as the three schools recruiting Maker the hardest, though Notre Dame is also in the mix and Coach Mike Brey is expected to watch Maker play this weekend.

Rawle Alkins (Word of God): UK was recruiting Alkins over the summer, but no one from the Wildcats’ coaching staff visited him at his new school in North Carolina during the fall recruiting period. The 6-4 shooting guard from Brooklyn has had plenty of other suitors. North Carolina and North Carolina State have made gains in recent weeks, and Indiana, St. John’s and Kansas are among the other schools on his list. Rivals.com ranks Alkins as the No. 9 overall prospect in the class of 2016.

Ben Roberts: 859-231-3216, @NextCats

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