It’s been one month since five-star point guard Tyrese Maxey announced his commitment to the University of Kentucky, and things couldn’t be going much better for the future Wildcat.
One of the top players on the Nike circuit and the subject of continuous praise from national recruiting analysts, Maxey was also named this week to the USA Basketball U18 team, which will begin play Sunday night in the FIBA Americas tournament in Canada.
It’s been a pretty good spring for the Texas native, and it started with that UK pledge.
“I feel very relieved,” he said of his life as a Wildcats commitment. “Just being relieved and having the stress over — I played great. So it feels really good.
“I knew that’s where I wanted to be. I didn’t want to waste any other college coaches’ time. I know their job is very hard, and I didn’t want them to stay stuck with me even though I knew where I wanted to go. … I was peace with the decision, and I told my family I wanted to do it. And we’re here now.”
The “here” was the U.S. Olympic training complex in Colorado Springs, where Maxey ultimately became one of 12 players chosen from a group of 33 high school and college stars to represent the United States on the international stage.
The 6-foot-3 prospect started to separate himself from the pack once scrimmages began on the camp’s second night.
“He kind of started out a little slow. It happens at every USA Basketball camp,” Rivals.com analyst Corey Evans said. “But it’s always going to come out with him. This team needs an alpha dog, and I think the past few sessions — when the lights are the brightest and (college coaches) are watching — he’s been one of the top two or three standouts each time.
“There’s no massive gap in his game. If you want him to rebound the ball, he’ll rebound the ball. If you want him to score from each level, he’ll score. If you need him to pass the ball, defend, he’ll do it. I just appreciate his high energy. He’s willing to compete.”
Maxey is so willing to compete, in fact, that he seriously considered reclassifying to 2018 and joining UK’s team for this season. That would have put him on a squad that is expected to feature a trio of five-star players at his position: the returning Quade Green, the incoming Immanuel Quickley, and the (likely) reclassifying Ashton Hagans, who is currently in the 2019 class but is expected to join the Cats this summer.
At one point earlier this spring, Maxey looked like he’d reclassify, too. He took the necessary coursework to graduate early but ultimately decided to stay put.
Maxey, who doesn’t turn 18 years old until November, did leave some wiggle room in his post-commitment statements on reclassification — perhaps hinting that he’d change his mind later this summer — and that led to continued speculation that he could still end up on this season's team.
He told the Herald-Leader that he is 100 percent sticking in the 2019 class.
“I’m staying in 2019, and I’m going to finish out my senior year, have some fun with it, and get ready to go to college,” he said. “I just talked to my family and I wanted to stay a kid one more year. Just have the whole high school senior experience. Try to become a McDonald’s All-American — all that cool stuff.”
No one appeared to be having more fun at USA Basketball camp than Maxey, who — when not excelling on the court — was joking around with the other five-star participants and doing plenty of recruiting on UK’s behalf.
His ebullient nature was evident to anyone who watched him, and his camp teammates seemed to pick up on the positivity.
“He’s a leader,” Evans said. “He’s not too afraid of stepping on anyone’s toes. He’s all about winning. He’s a winner. And I think that goes a long way, and we really don’t value that as much. … But he has that intangible factor you can’t teach.”