UK Recruiting

Recruits wow fans in public pickup game

Prospects in town for UK's Big Blue Madness stole the show at public pickup games involving Kentucky basketball players on Saturday morning in Memorial Coliseum.

Center prospect Daniel Orton commanded about 400 fans' full attention. Other prospects who played in the pickup games included Russell Byrd, Dakotah Euton, Dominique Ferguson, G.J. Vilarino, Jon Hood and Vinny Zollo.

Here's some observations:

■ Orton is the main focus of the fans. Fans applauded when veteran UK players appeared on the court for the pickup games. But Orton was the only one to rate a standing ovation.

He did not disappoint. Early on, he rebounded a Patrick Patterson miss, dribbled toward the left corner and swished a set shot. "He's a beast," one fan could be heard to say.

Later, Orton dunked over Euton and got into an interesting competitive exchange with transfer Matt Pilgrim. First, Orton posted up for a basket over Pilgrim, which drew cheers. Then Pilgrim answered with a rousing dunk. Then, Orton dunked on Pilgrim.

Advantage, Orton, who looked completely comfortable on the court with college players. Kentucky and Kansas head his list. He's scheduled to attend Kansas' Midnight Madness next weekend.

■ Byrd stood out, in part, because of his red hair, yellow T-shirt and black shorts. When he hit a three-pointer, a fan yelled, "Where's your blue at?"

Byrd, who is from Fort Wayne, Ind., has had being close to home a factor in his recruitment. But to hear his father on Wednesday night, Byrd will give UK serious consideration.

■ Ferguson fit in while not trying to impress. During warmups, I counted him making six of seven three-point shots (the Coliseum has the shorter women's line). In the games, he showed plenty of perimeter skills.

■ Vilarino is an intriguing player. The recruiting analysts are not high on him. Yet, he shows a competitive spirit and a point-guard mentality. He was strictly pass-first while also showing a willingness to be a scoring threat. He made a three-pointer off a nice in-and-out pass from Orton. He also gets up and down the court quickly.

■ Hood has a chance to be a fan favorite. He's got a nice rotation on his jump shot and gets a lot done on the court without forcing anything.

■ With his shaggy blond hair, Euton is easy to pick out of a crowd. He hit a three-pointer.

■ Of the players on UK's team, two stood out for me. Junior Ramon Harris seems to be emerging (at least in the pickup games) as a scrappy player who can provide more scoring. He hit a few threes and drove for a dunk that punctuated the morning. I wouldn't necessarily think of him as an all-conference player, but he's been noticeably productive in these pickup games.

Freshman Darius Miller looks more comfortable in each public workout. He drove the baseline for a reverse layup and scored on a putback of a Euton miss. He's been economical in his movement, but increasingly effective.

Jerry Tipton