A move in the middle of the AAU season worked wonders for one of UK’s biggest basketball targets, and John Petty is trying to carry that momentum over to Team USA U18 training camp this week.
Petty — a 6-foot-5 wing from Huntsville, Ala. — is one of 26 players vying for 12 spots on the Team USA squad. He looked solid through the first two sessions Monday and Tuesday, showing off his active floor game and knocking down outside shots while playing on the same practice squad as fellow UK targets Trae Young and P.J. Washington.
After a sluggish start to the Nike regular season, Petty switched teams — from We All Can Go to Team Penny — and his game has flourished ever since.
Petty averaged 16.7 points and shot 49.0 percent from three-point range in nine games with Team Penny, all victories for the squad that is coached by former NBA star Penny Hardaway and also features Washington as its top frontcourt player.
“It was a great move. Me and P.J. had been talking a lot, and the team I was playing with — it really wasn’t the type of environment I wanted to be in,” Petty said. “So, we just got together and moved, and ever since then we’ve been on a winning streak.”
Petty was 19-for-33 (57.6 percent) from three-point range during the final five-game session of the Nike regular season, and he’s a player that prides himself on team basketball: playing defense, finding open teammates and rebounding from the guard spot.
Those are the attributes UK Coach John Calipari noticed last year when he made Petty the first player from the class of 2017 to receive a scholarship offer from the Wildcats.
More than a dozen of his classmates have picked up UK offers since then, but Petty still feels like a priority.
“I really do,” he said. “I talk to them frequently. They call me a lot, so I feel like I’m still a high priority on their recruiting list.”
Petty said he talks to Calipari or UK assistant coach Kenny Payne every week or so. He’s also in frequent communication with Alabama’s coaching staff.
And that’s about it for his recruitment.
Petty spoke to Auburn’s coaches about a month ago, but UK and Alabama are the only schools staying in touch. He chalks that up to the popular narrative that he’s destined to pick one of those two programs: the home-state school or the national powerhouse he’s been following since he was 8 years old.
Though Petty likes both programs, he said Tuesday that he’s still interested in other schools. And he thinks he might be hearing from more of them after next month’s Nike Peach Jam.
“After they see the show Team Penny has coming, I think they’ll start coming back then,” he said.
Kevin Knox is one of the best high school prospects in America, and it just so happens that both of his parents are alumni of Florida State University.
His father, Kevin Sr., was a standout wide receiver on the Seminoles’ football team. His mother, Michelle, was on academic scholarship at the school.
Still, he doesn’t feel any pressure to follow in their FSU footsteps.
“My parents told me I don’t have to go to FSU just because they went there,” he said. “They basically told me that they’d go wherever I want to go, wherever we fit as a family, wherever I’m the most comfortable.”
Knox — a 6-8 forward from Tampa, Fla. — also has scholarship offers from Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina and a host of other schools. He’s been one of the top performers at the Team USA U17 training camp the past few days and is ranked by Scout.com as the No. 6 overall recruit in the class of 2017.
FSU’s message has basically been to start my own legacy. Go there, change the program around.
Kevin Knox, five-star basketball recruit
His parents aren’t pushing him toward the Seminoles, but FSU’s coaches sure have been putting on the full-court press. They extended a scholarship offer before his ninth-grade year, and they’ve been on him hard ever since.
“FSU’s message has basically been to start my own legacy,” Knox said. “Go there, change the program around. They say I’d probably be one of the best players in the basketball program’s history.”
It wasn’t long ago that FSU was recruiting another highly touted basketball prospect with ties to the school. Both of Andrew Wiggins’ parents were star athletes for the Seminoles, and they were one of the finalists in his recruitment.
Wiggins ultimately signed with Kansas.
This week’s Team USA training camps are not open to college coaches for recruiting purposes — the next evaluation period doesn’t start until next month — but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any college coaches here.
Shaka Smart (Texas), Mark Turgeon (Maryland) and Kevin Ollie (UConn) are coaching the Team USA U18 squad this summer, and they’ve been instructing the camp invitees in practice. Xavier’s Chris Mack is also coach (for the practice sessions only), and Team USA committee members Jim Boeheim (Syracuse), Lorenzo Romar (Washington), Matt Painter (Purdue) and Bob McKillop (Davidson) have been here observing and interacting with the players (most of them top recruits).