UK’s four McDonald’s All-Americans came into this week with lofty reputations and high expectations to meet on the basketball court.
So, how have they looked?
The McDonald’s Game coaches talked the Herald-Leader about each of the future Wildcats following the third day of practice Tuesday.
Coach Jack Doss — of J.O. Johnson High (Ala.) — heads up the East team, which includes Bam Adebayo, De’Aaron Fox and Sacha Killeya-Jones.
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Doss said he’s been impressed with the work ethic of Adebayo, who rebounded from a tough first practice and has been great since.
“The main thing about Bam is, he’s a man right now,” he said. “He’s physically ready to step into college and play. He didn’t have as good of a practice the first day, and after practice he said, ‘Coach, tomorrow I’ll have a better practice.’ So his attitude of getting better, that’s a great quality that he’s got. He’s going to be a good player because he wants to be a good player.”
Doss has also seen the leadership abilities in Fox that John Calipari has noticed.
“De’Aaron is so athletic and so confident,” he said. “He’s got that smile and charisma that a good point guard needs. He’s been fun to coach. … He’s been real receptive, and I’ve been really proud of him.”
And Doss said Killeya-Jones — a 6-foot-11 power forward — was happy to learn the coach wanted him to step out and play away from the basket this week.
“He’s really shot the ball well, so I’ve been pleased with him shooting some threes and having a little outside presence, too,” he said. “He’s got a lot of room for growth. It will be exciting to coach him.”
Pleasure Ridge Park Coach Dale Mabrey is here to lead the West team, and that squad features Malik Monk, who apparently has gained at least one more fan while in Chicago.
“He is so heady,” Mabrey said. “He just oozes with basketball knowledge. He’s a pure point guard, he knows where everybody is on the floor. He makes beautiful passes, beautiful decisions, and he can score the ball, too. He can play the point, he can play the two. He’s just a great basketball mind on the floor.
“You can always find a position for a person like that.”
Missing in action
The recruiting class of 2016 is one of the most talented in years, but some of its top players will be absent from Wednesday’s game.
Four of the top 10 prospects in the Scout.com rankings — No. 1 Harry Giles, No. 5 Thon Maker, No. 8 Dennis Smith Jr., and No. 10 Wenyen Gabriel — were not eligible to be McDonald’s All-Americans.
Giles (Duke) and Smith (North Carolina State) suffered serious knee injuries last year and did not get to play high school basketball this season. Smith enrolled as a student at N.C. State in January and is expected to be back next season.
Maker, who has not picked a school, attends high school in Canada.
Gabriel, who signed with Kentucky in November, is a fifth-year high schooler, which makes him ineligible for the game. He will play in next weekend’s Nike Hoop Summit in Portland, Ore.
What about me?
De’Aaron Fox was telling a reporter how much he would like to be teammates with uncommitted, five-star center Marques Bolden on Sunday night, going on about how long the two McDonald’s All-Americans have known each other — since fourth grade — and praising the big man’s post game.
“He’s one of the best bigs. I feel like he really has a nice back to the basket …”
Fox stopped talking. His future teammate, another five-star post player — Bam Adebayo — had been listening in, and he was now looking up from his phone and glaring at Fox.
“I said ‘one of,’ man,” Fox told him. “You the best big in the country, man.”
That seemed to placate Adebayo, who went back to looking at his phone.
UK has four men’s signees and one women’s signee (Lindsey Corsaro) in Chicago this week, and U of L is represented by VJ King and women’s signees Ciera Johnson and Kylee Shook, but there’s only one Kentuckian at the McDonald’s Game.
That’s Elizabethtown standout Erin Boley, who won Miss Basketball honors and was recently named the Gatorade national player of the year.
Boley will wear jersey No. 22 for the East team Wednesday night.