UK Recruiting

Local basketball recruit goes from unranked to national Top 100. ‘He’s a tremendous prospect.’

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 spectacular summer of a local basketball recruit continued Wednesday with JJ Traynor’s inclusion in 247Sports’ Top 100 national rankings for the class of 2020.

Traynor — a 6-foot-8 power forward at Bardstown High School — caught the attention of college coaches and scouts over the past few weeks with his intriguing travel-circuit play for the Louisville Legends, and he has now gone from unranked to No. 76 nationally on 247Sports’ list.

To put that move in perspective: only three players rose from unranked to Top 100 status in this rankings update, and Traynor — the son of 1993 Mr. Basketball Jason Osborne — is the highest-rated of that trio.

247Sports national analyst Evan Daniels, who oversees the rankings process, saw Traynor at the end of the summer evaluation period and said this ranking is largely based on his considerable long-term potential.

JJ Traynor 247Sports

“It’s more what I think he can become. I think he’s a tremendous prospect,” Daniels told the Herald-Leader on Wednesday. “He’s 6-foot-8 with a 7-2 wingspan and nearly a year young for the class. He’s got good genes. His father was a McDonald’s All-American. And when I watched him, I was really impressed with his versatility. I was impressed, obviously, with the physical gifts. But then he had some flashes of skill that were really impressive. I thought his footwork around the basket was impressive. But then he was able to step out on the floor and make mid-range jump shots. He even hit a couple of threes.

“I just think there’s a lot of upside there, and he’s the type of guy that I wanted to take a gamble on.”

Traynor is now the top-rated high school senior in the state of Kentucky, and his standing at No. 76 is actually higher than where 2019 Mr. Basketball Dontaie Allen — a UK signee for this season — finished his recruitment. Allen, who missed the bulk of his senior season due to a torn ACL, was No. 97 in 247Sports’ final rankings for the 2019 class.

The top local programs have paid attention to Traynor’s ascent.

Louisville, his father’s alma mater, got involved earlier this year and could be close to extending a scholarship offer. Traynor’s high school coach is James “Boo” Brewer, who is also a former U of L standout, but there are Kentucky ties there, too.

Brewer was teammates at Louisville with UK assistant coach Kenny Payne, who started the Wildcats’ recruiting process with Traynor and has become the point man on UK’s pursuit of the rising local star. Kentucky coaches are expected to be at Bardstown sometime during the fall recruiting period, which begins in early September, to get a closer look at Traynor.

UK is also scheduled to host Traynor for an unofficial visit for Big Blue Madness on Oct. 11.

The Herald-Leader was recently told that the four schools with the best shot to land Traynor might be Cincinnati and Western Kentucky, which were among his early scholarship offers, as well as UK and U of L, the two in-state powers.

Daniels mentioned all four of those programs Wednesday, noting that Cincinnati will be the destination for Traynor’s first official visit, which is scheduled for next week. He also took an unofficial visit to Cincinnati this month and is set to be on U of L’s campus for an unofficial visit a few days from now.

“Cincinnati is really targeting him,” Daniels said. “They were the first high-major to offer. … This thing is really kind of just jump-starting. Western Kentucky was the first in there, and they did a really good job of evaluating him early on. And they’re certainly still involved, too.”

Traynor averaged 11.2 points and 8.6 rebounds per game for Bardstown as a junior last season, but his game has taken off even more since then, and he’ll be among the most-watched players in the state this season.

Whichever college that lands him will get a high-potential prospect. Whether or not he can make a major contribution right away remains to be seen.

“It’s a little early to tell,” Daniels said. “I think he’s going to need to develop his body and get stronger, but there’s a lot of upside. I don’t know that he’s an impact guy as a freshman, but if he keeps progressing the way he is now, you never know.”

Ben Roberts covers UK basketball, football and other sports for the Lexington Herald-Leader and has specialized in UK basketball recruiting for the past several years. He also maintains the Next Cats recruiting blog, which features the latest news on the Wildcats’ recruiting efforts.
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