UK Recruiting

‘He’s the best passer in high school basketball.’ And Kentucky is on his list.

Justus: Kentucky a place where you get better and play around great players

Kentucky basketball assistant Joel Justus offers a recruiting pitch of sorts, saying that Kentucky isn't just for the one-and-done type players.
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Kentucky basketball assistant Joel Justus offers a recruiting pitch of sorts, saying that Kentucky isn't just for the one-and-done type players.

The actual basketball being played at the annual NBPA Top 100 Camp often gets a little sloppy.

Dozens of the best high school prospects in the country are thrown together for a few days of games. Most have never played on the same team prior to this event, and rarely are these temporary teammates on the same page.

That’s what made the play of Daishen Nix — one of the nation’s top point guard recruits — all the more impressive these past few days.

From the opening game of the camp, while many others were driving into heavy traffic or jacking up outside shots, Nix was … actually playing basketball. He looked for open teammates, tried to control the pace, and played within his means.

After the first day, he ended up on 247Sports’ list of the top performers at the showcase.

“He’s the best passer in high school basketball. He’s the best one I’ve seen,” 247Sports national analyst Evan Daniels told the Herald-Leader. “And when you come into a setting like NBA camp, where it’s up and down, unfamiliar faces — most guys here aren’t playing the right way — and for him to just take the reins at the point guard position and just set guys up and show that passing ability and his creativity, it was really impressive.”

It wasn’t unexpected. Nix has emerged in this 2020 recruiting class as one of the nation’s very best long-term point guard prospects, and his unselfish, controlled style of play is a major reason the 6-foot-5 recruit has risen so high in the rankings.

247Sports moved him up to No. 10 overall — and No. 1 at the point guard position — in the recent update to its 2020 list.

“He has plus-size for the position, and he has tremendous vision — he’s really creative with the basketball,” Daniels said. “He’s a really good passer off the live dribble and can use either hand to make pinpoint passes. I think it’s also his mentality — he’s a facilitator at heart. And, the truth is, with the way the game has gone, there are very few primary ball handlers that are true set-up guys. And I’m not saying he can’t do more than that. But the strength of his game is the ability to play-make for others.”

Nix is still working to round out his scoring game. He did make some perimeter shots during the Top 100 Camp, but he looked to pass first. The bulk of his points come off the dribble.

“He’s very strong,” Daniels said. “And he uses change of pace and good ball handling to get by guys. Once he gets you on his hip, he’s so strong that he can kind of will his way to the basket. He plays well through contact. He’s pretty physical. His jump shot is an area that he’s going to need to continue to grow, but it’s not horrible by any means.”

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Earlier this spring, UK assistant coach Joel Justus made a surprise recruiting visit to meet with Nix, an Alaska native who has since moved to the Las Vegas area, where he plays his high school ball and also competes for a travel team that is independent from the major shoe company leagues.

This year marked the first time that college coaches were permitted to attend the Top 100 Camp, and for the 24-hour period that they were allowed in the gym, there was always at least one Kentucky coach — usually more — stationed on the court featuring Nix, who played on the same team as five-star shooting guard Brandon Boston, arguably the Wildcats’ top target at the event.

John Calipari watched Nix play multiple times during the short evaluation window.

“I really want to meet Coach Cal,” Nix said, noting that UK was one of his favorite schools to watch growing up.

He listed Maryland, Alabama, Washington, Arizona and Memphis as other schools that have been recruiting him hard. Daniels noted that Maryland was the first program to get him on campus for an official visit — that happened back in November — and mentioned Alabama and UCLA as two schools that have ramped up the process in recent weeks. Kansas is also a program that gets a lot of buzz behind the scenes in Nix’s recruitment.

Marquette was the only school Nix specifically mentioned as a probable visit destination in the near future. He said he hoped to line up more trips toward the end of the summer.

The current state of his 247Sports Crystal Ball page is a rarity for such a highly ranked prospect. There are currently zero predictions there. According to Nix, that’s an accurate reflection of his recruitment.

“Everything is still wide-open.”

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