The McDonald’s All-American Game selection tour came to Lynchburg, Va., on Wednesday to honor Sacha Killeya-Jones, one of five high school seniors who have signed to play for the University of Kentucky next season.
There was a media event and a jersey presentation. Killeya-Jones’ family made the trip from his hometown of Chapel Hill, N.C., to be a part of the celebration.
Virginia Episcopal School head coach Curtis Staples, who was a McDonald’s All-American in 1994, was amazed at how much the game has changed.
“I was kind of shocked,” Staples said with a laugh. “When I played in it, I just got excused from class early to go to the office and they told me I was going to the game.
“But they did a great job. It was very nice for everybody. ... And it’s a testament to how hard he’s been working. To make that game you have to put in a lot of work. He’s done that, and it’s paying off for him.”
Three days after being honored for his hard work in high school, Killeya-Jones will get to play a basketball game in his future home state.
The 6-foot-11, 210-pound forward will lead Virginia Episcopal against Prolific Prep (Calif.) in the Thoroughbred Classic at Pulaski County High School on Saturday. The game is one of many featuring national recruits that night and is scheduled to tip off at 6 p.m.
FULL SCHEDULE: Thoroughbred Classic in Somerset
Killeya-Jones became UK’s first commitment for the class of 2016 when he announced his intention to sign with the Wildcats last August. He was coming off a solid showing on the AAU circuit at the time, and his game has continued to progress during his second and final season at Virginia Episcopal, where he’s averaging 22 points and 13 rebounds as a senior.
Player page: Check out Sacha Killeya-Jones’ game-by-game stats so far this season
The versatile post player has recorded double-doubles in each of his last 11 games.
“His game is evolving,” Staples said. “He can face the basket. He has three-point range. He can post up. He can handle the ball. He’s one of those kids that — if he keeps perfecting his craft — he’s going to be really hard to stop at any level.”
Killeya-Jones is clearly one of the most talented offensive post players in high school basketball. He has touch around the basket and a sweet jump shot for a big man. John Calipari also noted his shot-blocking skills and ability to play multiple positions when Killeya-Jones officially signed with Kentucky in November.
A lot of people ask me if I think he’s ready. And I’m like, ‘Have you seen him play?!’ You see him play one time and you’ll see that he’s ready for it.
Curtis Staples, Virginia Episcopal School basketball coach
Staples, who set the NCAA record for three-pointers during his stellar career at the University of Virginia, said there’s been a clear increase in his star player’s confidence over the past two seasons. During that time, he’s grown a few inches, put on about 40 pounds and rocketed up the recruiting rankings.
Now considered the No. 24 overall prospect in the class of 2016, according to his 247Sports composite ranking, Killeya-Jones is still the lowest-rated player in Calipari’s loaded No. 1 recruiting class for next season.
That designation has some wondering how much he’ll play as a freshman.
Staples, who played against some of the best college players in the country during his days at Virginia, has no doubt that Killeya-Jones will be able to contribute early for the Wildcats.
“He’s definitely ready,” Staples said. “A lot of people ask me if I think he’s ready. And I’m like, ‘Have you seen him play?!’ You see him play one time and you’ll see that he’s ready for it. So I think he’ll be fine. It’s just a matter of him learning Cal’s system and knowing what he wants. Once he gets that all down, he’ll be fine.”