UK Recruiting

UK recruit Poole looking forward to Derby Classic in 'hometown'

LOUISVILLE — Stacey Poole Jr., the first player in the high school class of 2010 to sign with Kentucky, considers the Derby Festival Basketball Classic on Saturday as something of a homecoming.

"In front of my hometown. It's going to be nice," he said.

Poole, who is from Jacksonville, Fla., tried to downplay any urge to show Kentucky fans what he can do in the game, which will be played in Freedom Hall.

"I'll just play my game," he said. "Let people see. Put on a little show (pause) maybe."

Poole acknowledged that he will bring a relatively modest profile to UK. He's not the kind of mega prospect like John Wall or DeMarcus Cousins.

And UK Coach John Calipari said after Poole committed that he told the player the program would pursue other guards.

"That's cool," Poole said of his modest profile. "I know what I can do. If you believe in yourself, that's all that matters."

Poole's father, Stacey, starred at Florida 20 years ago. The son is billed as a similar player: strong, athletic, questionable jump shot.

The younger Poole offered no objection except to balk at the suggestion that his jump shot needs work. "I think my perimeter game is much stronger than his was back in his day," he said.

When asked why his perimeter game was better, Poole said, "Because he told me that's what I needed. I needed a perimeter game. Something he didn't have."

Poole said he shot as many as 500 shots a day in an effort to become a better shooter.

Poole on Brandon Knight

Poole said he was "real good friends" with point guard Brandon Knight, a fellow Floridian (Ft. Lauderdale) and generally considered the best guard in the high school class of 2010.

Kentucky is on Knight's short list. He is expected to announce a college choice on Wednesday.

When asked if Knight would join him at UK, Poole smiled broadly and said, "I don't know."

Poole feigned no uncertainty when asked about Knight's ability.

"He's good," Poole said. "I like his game. How he sees the floor. His basketball I.Q. He makes other players around him better. ...

"It'd be a good combo: two Florida boys. That would be nice."

Leslie's presence

C.J. Leslie, a prospect believed to be high on Kentucky's recruiting wish list, will have a strong presence in the Derby Festival Basketball Classic even if he won't play in the game.

Leslie's coach at Raleigh, N.C.-based Word of God Academy, Erasto Hatchett, is one of the coaches.

And Hatchett's brother, Ryan Harrow, is one of the players in the game. Harrow is also one of Leslie's best friends.

Hatchett said Leslie tentatively planned to announce his college choice at the Jordan Brand Classic in New York City on April 17. Although the coach also noted that Leslie might announce the choice earlier than that or, perhaps, sometime after the game.

"He's just weighing his options," Hatchett said.

Leslie, a former high school teammate of John Wall, is considering Florida, Connecticut, Oregon and N.C. State as well as Kentucky.

According to recruiting circles, Leslie has made many unofficial visits to nearby N.C. State.

When asked what influence he might have on Leslie's decision, Harrow said, "He says he wants to play with me all the time. I guess that's as good an influence as you can get.

"But it's always up to C.J. We just want what's best for him."

Justice: No regrets

Kentucky Mr. Basketball Elisha Justice has no regrets about his decision to stick with a commitment to Louisville rather than entertain the possibility of joining the Kentucky team as either a walk-on or scholarship player.

Justice, who is playing in the Derby Festival Classic, laughed when a reporter facetiously asked him if the decision now filled him with regret.

"Oh no," he said. "I love it up at Louisville. I'm looking forward to going up there."

Justice, who led Shelby Valley to this year's state championship, said he had not received any negative reaction from Kentucky fans about the decision.

"I thought there would be," he said. "Back home everybody is hard-core Kentucky fans. But they pretty much said, you've got to do what makes you happy. They've been positive and they'll be rooting for me."

Tickets

With only one Kentucky player, Poole, in the game, Derby Festival officials want the word spread about ticket availability.

Tickets, which cost $17 and $12, are available at TicketMaster locations (or ticketmaster.com), the Freedom Hall ticket office or by calling 1-800-745-3000.

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