UK Men's Basketball

McDonald’s Game preview: Marques Bolden’s recruitment, and four other things to watch this week

Marques Bolden (22) has narrowed his college choices to Kentucky, Duke and TCU.
Marques Bolden (22) has narrowed his college choices to Kentucky, Duke and TCU. Special to the Star-Telegram

The high school basketball season is finished, and the postseason all-star circuit begins Wednesday with the McDonald’s All-American Game in Chicago.

Some of the 24 players invited to play in the annual showcase started arriving Saturday, and the days leading up to the game are actually a better indicator of how far those prospects have come in recent months.

The Herald-Leader will provide on-site coverage of the event starting with Monday morning’s practice. Here’s a list of five things to watch throughout McDonald’s week.

What will Marques Bolden say?

Four players will go into McDonald’s All-American week uncommitted: Jarrett Allen, Marques Bolden, Terrance Ferguson and Josh Jackson.

Of those, Bolden seems the most likely to end up at Kentucky. John Calipari visited the 6-foot-10 center in Texas on Thursday, and he’s narrowed his choices to UK, Duke and Texas Christian, though it’s expected to be either the Wildcats or the Blue Devils. Bolden has said he wants to announce a decision before his birthday on April 17, and there’s been speculation it could come this week.

Even if Bolden does not reveal his college choice in Chicago, he’s likely to shed some light on the situation during interviews throughout the week.

De’Aaron Fox vs. Lonzo Ball

UK signee De’Aaron Fox came into the season with the reputation as the No. 1 point guard in the class. UCLA signee Lonzo Ball is pretty good, too, taking home Naismith player of the year honors and winning the Morgan Wootten national player of the year award.

The title of “No. 1 point guard” likely will be settled during the all-star circuit, and that competition begins in Chicago.

Fox and Ball are on opposite teams at the McDonald’s game, so they won’t get to practice together. But they will go up against each other in the always-competitive Tuesday scrimmage (and the less competitive game Wednesday). Scouts and recruiting analysts will be watching.

Killeya-Jones vs. top competition

It’s crazy to think the highly skilled, 6-11 power forward Sacha Killeya-Jones could be the lowest-ranked player in any team’s recruiting class, but that’s indeed the case and just another indicator of how talented UK’s incoming freshmen will be.

This week will be an opportunity for Killeya-Jones to prove himself against the best and show how ready he will be to contribute at UK next season.

In practice, he’ll go up against future teammate Edrice “Bam” Adebayo, Kansas commitment Udoka Azubuike and North Carolina signee Tony Bradley.

In the Tuesday scrimmage and Wednesday game, Killeya-Jones will face Marques Bolden, Jarrett Allen, UCLA signee T.J. Leaf and Gonzaga signee Zach Collins.

That’s quite the proving ground.

An end to UK’s dunk funk?

The McDonald’s dunk contest has been around since 1984, and a future Kentucky Wildcat has never walked away with the trophy.

Karl-Anthony Towns came close two years ago, throwing down a blindfolded dunk but finishing second to Duke’s Grayson Allen.

The list of participants likely won’t be released until Monday — the dunk contest is that night — but UK has a couple of prime contenders in Malik Monk and Bam Adebayo, who are known as two of the best dunkers in high school basketball.

For entertainment’s sake, here’s hoping they both enter this year’s contest.

Who’s No. 1?

High school all-star games often devolve into two-hour highlight reels with little flow and less defense, but the practices and scrimmages leading up to those games are usually highly competitive.

Those environments are also the final opportunities for recruiting analysts to observe high school seniors before they come up with their final rankings.

The No. 1 player in the Scout.com and ESPN rankings — Duke signee Harry Giles — missed his senior season due to a torn ACL, and therefore did not make the McDonald’s All-American Game.

The No. 1 player according to Rivals and 247Sports is the uncommitted Josh Jackson, who will be in Chicago.

Will anyone else step up this week as a possibility for the top spot?

Duke signee Jayson Tatum has held the honor before.

De’Aaron Fox — already ranked No. 2 by 247Sports — seems the most likely UK signee to compete for the title.

Ben Roberts: 859-231-3216, @NextCats

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