Always on the lookout for their next great point guard recruit, the UK coaching staff is building an especially early relationship with one of the nation’s most promising young players at the position.
On the first day of the fall recruiting period last month — when most college coaches are focused on players in the rising senior class — UK assistant coach Joel Justus made a side trip to the Charlotte, N.C., area to see Jaden Bradley, who still has three more years of high school in front of him.
Bradley — a 6-foot-3 point guard in the 2022 class — is ranked No. 7 nationally by Rivals.com and was a MaxPreps.com first-team all-freshman All-American last season after averaging 23 points, seven rebounds and six assists per game.
Rivals.com national analyst Corey Evans used the word “fearless” to describe Bradley’s playing style.
“He has great quickness, and he just has such great size for a lead guard,” Evans told the Herald-Leader. “He’s a point-of-attack guard that just impacts the game on both ends of the floor. He has the work ethic, has the drive, has the IQ to fill those primary playmaking duties.”
Kentucky obviously sees great potential in the 16-year-old point guard. Justus has remained in close contact with Bradley’s father and his high school coach, and they’ll all be in Lexington on Friday night to see UK’s annual Blue-White Game.
“They came up to see me in the gym, and I feel like I should show them the same respect — come up and watch and visit campus,” Bradley said. “This will be my first time on campus. I’m just looking forward to seeing how great the environment is and just them competing against each other.”
Bradley, who spent this past weekend at the USA Basketball minicamp in Colorado Springs, Colo., said he’s already been on unofficial visits to Clemson, Tennessee and Wake Forest, and he added that Kentucky was one of his favorite teams to watch growing up, pointing to Tyler Ulis and Anthony Davis, specifically, as a couple of his favorite Wildcats in the recent past.
A native of Rochester, N.Y., Bradley and his family relocated to North Carolina a few years ago when his father got a job transfer — a move that he says has even further benefited his athletic and academic growth.
Bradley’s father, Nathan, who is also an assistant coach with his son’s Under Armour-affiliated travel team, called Jaden a “throwback” player at his position.
“He’s a pass-first point guard,” he said. “A lot of the point guards, you go under the screen, they’re trying to raise up and shoot that three. He’ll re-screen, get downhill, work a better shot, get into his pull-up game. I think he’s really good in the transition, open court. He passes the ball, sees the floor so well.”
Cannon School head coach Che’ Roth said his star player continues to grow as a point guard, and he’s already establishing himself as a floor leader at a young age.
“He’s a guy that just consistently makes everybody better,” Roth said. “He’s good with the ball in his hands — really good decision-maker. He plays with incredible poise, incredible feel. Most of the time, he’s the most competitive dude on the floor. He can play on the ball, can play off the ball. He can score. He just impacts the game on so many different levels.
Nathan Bradley said he appreciates UK’s early interest in his son, and the family is looking forward to seeing the “culture” around the Wildcats’ basketball program during this weekend’s unofficial visit.
By all accounts, Kentucky’s pursuit of the talented point guard is off to a good start.
“They’re just really consistent,” Roth said. “And, obviously, Kentucky is Kentucky. They recruit the elite of the elite. And I’ll commend Coach Justus a lot on building the relationship. They don’t throw stuff out there. They’re really invested in people, in the kid and the family and the coaches — they just do it the right way. And, with Jaden, he’s a super high-character kid. He’s a great student. So they’re recruiting a total student-athlete.
“It’s been great. And I know we’re looking forward to going and seeing it up close and in person.”