The announcement a few weeks ago that University of Kentucky basketball signee Bam Adebayo was withdrawing from the Nike Hoop Summit was interpreted in a worst-case-scenario way by some fans, who questioned if the five-star recruit was OK academically for next season.
All is fine in that department, Adebayo’s high school coach told the Herald-Leader.
Brandon Clifford, who coached the 6-foot-9 post player during his senior season at High Point Christian Academy, said Adebayo simply decided he didn’t want to be out of school for three weeks in a row to play in the McDonald’s All-American Game, Hoop Summit and Jordan Brand Classic.
Adebayo transferred to High Point Christian last year after previously playing for Northside High School near his hometown of Washington, N.C.
“Everything is good with Bam,” Clifford said. “He’s going to qualify. He has never had an issue (academically). He’s good. He’s got a couple of classes that he doesn’t even have to have for NCAA (eligibility), but they’re difficult classes. We didn’t let him come and take basket weaving. When you come to High Point Christian, you have to take real classes. And he wants to do well.
“He just said, ‘I don’t want to fall behind. I worked hard to do well in these classes and I want to finish strong.’ I think it was a hard decision for him, because he knew what an honor it was. But, at the same time, he’s a competitor and he wants to do well. He doesn’t want anybody to hand him a grade. He wants to earn it. I know he talked to the coaches up at Kentucky about it, and they supported it.”
The postseason all-star circuit can be grueling for high school players, who usually spend close to a week at each event, participating in practices and other activities leading up to the game. Players for this week’s McDonald’s Game in Chicago arrived in the city last Saturday, and most didn’t get home until Thursday evening. Next week’s Hoop Summit is in Portland, Ore., and the following week’s Jordan Classic is in Brooklyn.
That’s a lot of travel so late in the school year.
“I made that decision because I need to catch up on my schoolwork,” Adebayo said Wednesday night. “I’m more worried about education than basketball. I mean, basketball’s fun and all, but education is the key. You can take a basketball away from me, but you can’t take away education.”
It’s worth noting that Adebayo was recently named the North Carolina Gatorade player of the year, an award that takes academic and civic achievement into account, in addition to on-court accolades.
Adebayo maintains a B average in the classroom, and he has volunteered as a youth basketball instructor and on behalf of his church’s youth group. He was also one of the biggest personalities during McDonald’s week.
“Bam’s just a great kid,” Clifford said. “Kentucky’s getting a phenomenal young man. Obviously, he’s just an absolute monster on the basketball court, but he’s going to be a great addition to that community as well.”
Five-star center Marques Bolden remains the No. 1 recruiting target for the Wildcats, and he’s still grappling with a decision that is expected to come down to Kentucky vs. Duke.
Bolden told the Herald-Leader this week that his parents will be the biggest influences on his college choice. He also said it’s taken them a little while to get acquainted with the high-level recruiting process.
“They didn’t play any type of sports, so they never really went through anything like this,” he said. “So it’s really kind of hard to see where I’m coming from, but they’re just doing the best they can. And they’re really helping me to make the decision.”
Last summer, Bolden said that his AAU coach and basketball mentor Jeff Webster would also be influential in the final decision. Webster played the same role in Julius Randle’s recruitment and remains close to the UK coaching staff, particularly assistant coach Kenny Payne.
Bolden said this week that Webster isn’t really involved in the recruiting decision anymore.
“I talk to him every now and then, but it’s nothing serious like that,” he said.
Cal keeps it real
UK signee Sacha Killeya-Jones was asked at media day Tuesday if he thinks John Calipari is a “cool” guy.
“I think he’s a really genuine guy,” he said. “People think he kind of puts on a show for TV, and I used to think that, too, a couple of years ago. And then I met him and I’m like, ‘This dude’s really genuine.’ He doesn’t BS around or anything. He tells you how it is. He’s a cool dude. He’s cool to talk to.”
Killeya-Jones says not all coaches are that forthright during the recruiting process.
“I think a lot of coaches try to be fake with you and promise you a lot of stuff. ‘You come here, we’re going to give you this much playing time.’ Or, ‘We’ll draw up plays for you here.’ But he said you have to come in and fight for everything you’re going to get, and you have to earn everything.’
“I really like that. That was the biggest draw to me.”
Pleasure Ridge Park’s Dale Mabrey coached the victorious West team in Wednesday night’s McDonald’s All-American Game, and he said earlier in the week that getting a chance to take part in the event was like being in “basketball heaven.”
Coming into the week, Mabrey and his assistant coaches wondered if they would be able to command the attention of a bunch of five-star prospects, some of them already projected to be playing in the NBA by the end of next year.
“We were concerned about that coming in,” he said. “I mean, what are you going to tell guys that are All-Americans? But, you know, they’re very attentive. They still want to learn. I guess that’s what makes them the best of the best.”