The Sweet Sixteen returns to Rupp Arena this week, and this year’s state tournament will feature at least a couple of players that will be playing for major college basketball programs next season.
Here’s a look at the top recruits to keep an eye on over the next few days:
The highest-ranked prospect in the state of Kentucky has led Louisville Trinity to yet another appearance in the Sweet Sixteen, and he’ll finish out his high school career in Rupp before playing out his college career for the hometown Cardinals.
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Johnson — a 6-foot-5 combo guard — was actually committed to U of L during the Rick Pitino era, backed off that pledge when Pitino was ousted from the program, and then re-committed and signed with the Cardinals under new head coach Chris Mack.
He leads the Shamrocks with 16.2 points and 7.2 rebounds per game while making 36.4 percent of his three-point attempts. 247Sports ranks Johnson as the No. 53 recruit nationally in the 2019 class, and he’s the No. 72 senior in the national composite rankings.
Johnson is also an important player for U of L’s future under Mack, who has put together a top five national recruiting class that features a total of five Top 100 prospects, including McDonald’s All-American forward Samuell Williamson.
Opening game: 1:30 p.m. Wednesday vs. Johnson Central
The very first session of this week’s Sweet Sixteen is the one to attend for folks looking to get a glimpse of major-college prospects. Before Johnson plays in Wednesday’s 1:30 p.m. game, it’ll be Walton-Verona big man Dieonte Miles taking the court in the state tournament opener.
Miles — a near-7-footer with a massive wingspan — was an under-the-radar recruit for much of his high school career before a breakout weekend alongside UK signee Dontaie Allen with the M.A.T.T.S. Mustangs travel team in July.
The interest from major colleges picked up from there — U of L hosted him for a recruiting visit a few weeks later — and he ultimately committed to Xavier, signing with the Musketeers in the fall. Before that, Northern Kentucky looked like a possible favorite in his recruitment.
Miles has averaged 14.8 points and 6.3 rebounds per game this season, and he’s a high-upside prospect that will be interesting to follow over the next few years. He’s the No. 238 overall recruit in the 247Sports composite rankings for 2019.
Opening game: Noon Wednesday vs. Knox Central
The top uncommitted senior to watch this week will be Scott County star Michael Moreno, who has been among the state’s best players for the bulk of his high school career.
Moreno — a 6-6 forward — told the Herald-Leader that Eastern Kentucky, Wofford, Evansville, Tennessee Tech, Iowa and Winthrop are the main schools he’s looking at during this late stage in his recruitment. He’s taken official visits to EKU and Winthrop and said he’s hoping to get to Wofford sometime after the state tournament.
Moreno is averaging 15.1 points and 8.6 rebounds — and he’s made 11 of 26 three-point attempts — but an injury sidelined him for about half of the season, and that slowed his recruitment. He’s the No. 196 overall recruit in the 247Sports composite rankings for 2019, and Kentucky’s Sweet Sixteen always attracts the interest of college head coaches, so there’s a chance Moreno could end up with some more schools on his list with a good showing this week.
Opening game: 1:30 p.m. Thursday vs. Covington Catholic
Others to watch
▪ The most interesting class of 2020 prospect in this Sweet Sixteen might be Madisonville forward Kenny White, who is ranked by Prep Hoops as the No. 3 junior in the state. White has already attracted mid-major recruiting attention, and he logged 27 points and 17 rebounds to lead Madisonville over University Heights — and Xavier signee KyKy Tandy — in the 2nd Region title game Saturday.
▪ One of the state’s top football prospects, Covington Catholic’s Michael Mayer, is a key player for the defending state champions. Mayer averages 9.9 points and a team-high 7.1 rebounds. 247Sports ranks him as Kentucky’s top football recruit in the 2020 class. He has scholarship offers from UK and Louisville, among many others, in that sport, but he’s already committed to play for Notre Dame.