UK Men's Basketball

Kentucky basketball recruiting notes: Cats’ top targets fare well on Nike circuit

Minnesota native Gary Trent Jr. was one of the leading scorers during the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League regular season, which ended Monday. Trent — a top shooting guard in the class of 2017 — is planning to attend Big Blue Madness in October.
Minnesota native Gary Trent Jr. was one of the leading scorers during the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League regular season, which ended Monday. Trent — a top shooting guard in the class of 2017 — is planning to attend Big Blue Madness in October.

This summer’s Nike Peach Jam finals will be loaded with University of Kentucky recruiting targets following the success of those players’ teams in the Elite Youth Basketball League regular season, which ended Monday.

Twelve of the 13 rising high school seniors with scholarship offers from UK helped lead their teams to automatic bids in the July showcase, which will feature 24 squads from around the country. The other class of 2017 prospect with a UK offer — Texas forward Jarred Vanderbilt — could still make the event if his Houston Hoops team is selected as one of the four wild cards in the field.

This year’s Peach Jam will be played July 6-10 in North Augusta, S.C., and the tournament serves as the championship of Nike’s summer travel season. UK Coach John Calipari has recruited most of his players from the Nike circuit since coming to UK, and every player from the 2017 class with a UK offer is playing Nike ball this summer.

Pass first

Class of 2017 point guard Quade Green is not on UK’s offer list yet, but he is being monitored by the Wildcats’ coaching staff, and for good reason.

Green — a 6-foot prospect from Philadelphia — averaged 14.1 points and 10.5 assists per game for the PSA Cardinals, winning the regular-season assist title by a large margin.

Kansas, Arizona, Maryland, Syracuse and Louisville are among the many schools that have extended scholarship offers to Green, who is expected to visit Kentucky this summer.

UK likely will need to add several backcourt players from the class of 2017 following next season. Seniors Dominique Hawkins and Mychal Mulder will exhaust their eligibility, and underclassmen Isaiah Briscoe, De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk are already projected as NBA Draft picks in 2017.

So far, Calipari has offered only two point guards in the 2017 class: Trae Young and Tremont Waters. Young finished second in assists during the Nike regular season with 7.1 per game. Waters was seventh in the league with 4.8 assists per game.

New scoring champ

UK target Gary Trent Jr. was the leading scorer on last year’s Nike circuit — even though he was a year younger than most of the top players — but he came up short in his bid to repeat as scoring champ this spring.

Trent — a 6-5 shooting guard from St. Paul, Minn. — averaged 22.2 points per game, which was good enough for third in the league behind Collin Sexton (31.7) and former UK target Michael Porter Jr. (22.8).

Noted for his outside shooting, Trent struggled in that area during this EYBL regular season, making 37 of 118 three-pointers (31.4 percent). He was a 40-percent three-point shooter last year.

Trent led the Howard Pulley Panthers to a 14-2 overall record, tied for the best in the EYBL. He is planning to attend Big Blue Madness for the second year in a row in October.

▪  Nike EYBL regular-season scoring champ Sexton — a 6-2 guard from the Atlanta area — has offers from Kansas, Arizona, Florida and Texas, among others, but has had no reported contact with UK. He was a 33.3 percent three-point shooter this spring, and his team did not earn one of the 20 automatic bids for Peach Jam.

Cats still in it?

For months, many in recruiting circles have been all but certain that elite post player Wendell Carter would ultimately commit to the Duke Blue Devils, despite continued interest from Kentucky, Harvard and others.

Carter — a 6-foot-10 player from Atlanta — told ZagsBlog over the weekend that UK is actually higher on his list than Duke.

“Kentucky would be higher for me,” Carter said. “They are known for getting players to the NBA, that’s what they do best.”

Carter got the best of fellow class of 2017 star DeAndre Ayton in their matchup Saturday and is expected threaten Ayton for the No. 1 ranking in the group moving forward. Carter, who averaged 17.9 points and 10.7 rebounds per game this spring, is also planning to visit UK for Big Blue Madness.

Bamba out

Top-five recruit and UK target Mohamed Bamba remained sidelined this past weekend after suffering a sprained ankle earlier this month.

Bamba — a 7-footer from Harlem, N.Y. — missed the final nine games of the EYBL regular season with the injury, but still ended up as the rebounding champ after averaging 13.9 boards through the first seven games. He also averaged 12.7 points and 3.1 blocks per game for PSA Cardinals, which finished with a 14-2 record.

The right fit

Top UK target John Petty joined Team Penny after a rough opening to the EYBL season with We All Can Go, and the change worked wonders.

Petty — a 6-6 wing from Alabama — averaged 14.2 points and shot 39.4 percent from three-point range in nine games with Team Penny. He averaged 11.1 points and was only a 27.9 percent outside shooter in six games with We All Can Go.

Team Penny went 9-0 after adding Petty, finishing the regular season at 14-2.

Fellow UK target P.J. Washington was also a standout for Team Penny this spring, averaging 17.4 points and 10.9 rebounds per game, making him one of only nine players on the circuit to average a double-double.

Petty and Washington both told the Herald-Leader last month that they are planning to be at Big Blue Madness in October.

Shooting woes

Hamidou Diallo is regarded as one of the best high school prospect nationally and is ranked by Scout.com as the No. 1 shooting guard in the class of 2017.

He’s a dynamic offensive player with the tools to be a tremendous perimeter defender in college, but Diallo has struggled with his outside shooting, and that continued this spring.

The 6-5 prospect from Queens, N.Y., made only eight of 48 three-point attempts (16.7 percent) during the regular season. Diallo averaged 18.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.

Other stats

Here’s a look at the final EYBL regular-season stats for the other class of 2017 recruits with UK scholarship offers:

▪  DeAndre Ayton averaged 19.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game, and he’s hoping to visit Kentucky.

▪  Kevin Knox — a 6-8 small forward from Tampa, Fla. — averaged 19.6 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.

▪  New Jersey big man Nick Richards averaged 11.9 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game for Expressions Elite. Teammate and fellow UK target Tremont Waters averaged 12.7 points, 4.8 assists and 2.4 steals per game. Waters was 87.8 percent on free throws and 38.2 percent on three-pointers.

▪  Jarred Vanderbilt — a 6-8 forward from Houston — averaged 13.5 points, 10.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game.

▪  Lonnie Walker — a 6-5 shooting guard from Reading, Pa. — averaged 16.7 points per game and was a 40.2-percent three-point shooter.

▪  Trae Young was fourth in the league with 21.3 points per game and second with 7.1 assists per game. He shot just 30.7 percent from three-point range, though he was 85.7 percent on free throws.

Newman’s moving on

Mississippi State announced Monday that highly touted guard Malik Newman will transfer after just one season with the school.

Newman — a 6-3 guard — averaged 11.6 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game in his freshman year with the Bulldogs. He went into the season projected as a possible top-10 pick in this year’s NBA Draft but had fallen to No. 52 on DraftExpress.com’s board by the time he decided to withdraw his name from consideration last week.

Kentucky was long seen as the favorite in Newman’s recruitment, though he’d be a long shot to end up at UK as a transfer. Mississippi State is unlikely to allow him to pick a new school from within the Southeastern Conference.

Kansas and North Carolina State were the only non-SEC schools on Newman’s list toward the end of his original recruitment.

Ben Roberts: 859-231-3216, @NextCats

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