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Takeaways from the McDonald’s All-American Game

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The 42nd McDonald’s All-American game was played last night in Atlanta. Kentucky is no stranger McDonald’s All-Americans, signing 33 since Calipari arrived in Lexington in 2009, the most of any school in that span. Last night’s game featured two more committed Wildcats, Tyrese Maxey and Khalil Whitney, and two UK targets, Jaden McDaniels and Matthew Hurt.

Let’s take a deeper look at one of the most enjoyable weeks in High School Basketball.

The Duo

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Thus far, Kentucky is the only school in the country with more than one five-star commitment, the Wildcats have three. Two of the commits were featured in last night’s game, Tyrese Maxey and Khalil Whitney.

Tyrese Maxey scored a team-high 13 points on 5 of 10 shooting, including 3 of 6 three-pointers to go along with a pair of steals in 19 minutes of action for the West. Whereas, Whitney, who also played for the West, didn’t have his strongest performance finishing with only two points on 1 of 5 shooting in 15 minutes.

Maxey turned heads all week, and according to 24/7 Sports’ Evan Daniels and Josh Gershon, was THE standout player.

“It’s been a good week for 6-foot-3 combination guard Tyrese Maxey. Maxey showed up at the McDonald’s festivities in arguably the best shape of his basketball career. He looks visibly quicker and showed a burst in the open court. He also impressed with his finishing ability going towards the goal. Maxey was effective using runners and floaters, and also used high glass finishes over bigger defenders at the rim. A versatile guard, Kentucky can use him on or off the ball, as he’s playmaker that’s equipped to score on handle on ball duties.”

Whitney has a “dog mentality” and is excited to be a Wildcat, calling Kentucky his “dream school”. Whitney brings elite level athleticism, power, agility and leaping ability and according to John Calipari, can be a “monster” on the defensive end.

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Tyrese Maxey and Khalil Whitney could be an electric De’aron Fox and Malik Monk like duo and I am ready for it.

Talking Trash

Tyrese Maxey and Khalil Whitney did their share of trash talking, particularly to Louisville commit, Samuell Williamson as he went on to say:

“Oh yeah, we’ve been going back and forth all week. I was telling them that we’re going to come into Rupp Arena next year and get a win, but Tyrese and Kahlil weren’t having that.”

They weren’t having that, Whitney went on to say “It’ll be a fun matchup going against those guys next year”, but when asked about who will win that matchup he said “Kentucky” with a grin.

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Maxey was asked the same question and was insulted that was even a question.

“What? What kind of question is that?” he said. “Big Blue Nation, man.”

Talking trash to “little brother” at the McDonald’s All-American game isn’t anything new. If you remember, the 2016 class that featured De’Aron Fox, Malik Monk, Bam Adebayo, and Sach Kileya-Jones took this infamous “L’s down” picture.

Recruiting

Kentucky needs to add some more depth to next year’s frontcourt, and last night there were two very worth UK targets that could fill that void, Jaden McDaniels and Matthew Hurt.

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Both have been very quiet about their recruitments thus far, but we found out earlier this week Hurt had set a decision date.

While Hurt and his family have been quiet, they aren’t afraid to talk about it.

Hurt will decide on April 19th between the four most successful progams in college basketball history in Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, and North Carolina. While things look bleak for the Cats, Hurt’s father said there is no current leader in his recruitment and that “they [Kentucky] haven’t wavered in that at all. At all”.

Contrary to Hurt, McDaniels wants to stay away from it and keep to himself, saying, “I just don’t like talking about it, it’s just something I don’t talk about”.

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It certainly doesn’t hurt that two Wildcat commits are making their pitches to the two in Atlanta, letting them know they can be a part of something special in Lexington.

Maxey and Whitney have tried to keep a balance of space and recruiting with the two and not to overbear them.

Maxey

“I know when someone has been annoying to me, so that’s why I only hit him up every now and then. Like if there’s a tweet that comes out or something that I see, when I see him in person, I’ll just tap him and say ‘Big Blue Nation’, I try not to be overly annoying because I wouldn’t like that.”

Whitney

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“I’m recruiting both Matthew Hurt and Jaden McDaniels. Those guys are pretty chill with their recruitments. But they’ll give me a couple chuckles, you know, I’ll tell them, ‘Hey, we can team up and win a national championship’ and stuff like that. But they definitely tell me that Kentucky is a top option and we’re just waiting to see their decision.”

McDaniels and Hurt are two very offensively skilled big men, and adding just one to next year’s class will definitely help make a case to put the 2019 class as one of Calipari’s best at Kentucky.

Check out this Rivals interview with both Tyrese Maxey and Khalil Whitney

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Karter Knox Has Decommitted From Kentucky

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© Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

Another player has decided to explore his options. Karter Knox, one of Kentucky’s six recruits in the class of 2024, has decided to reopen his recruitment following the departure of John Calipari, according to the Tampa Bay Times. He could reevaluate his decision depending on who Kentucky hires as the new head coach.

Knox had very good ties with Calipari, being the younger brother of former Wildcat Karter Knox. Whether he follows Calipari remains to be seen, but a mass exodus of players could be likely. A fringe 5-star forward on 247 Sports, Knox chose Kentucky over Louisville, USF, and a possible return to Overtime Elite.

A native from Florida, Knox’s older brother, Kobe, is currently playing at South Florida, making them a team to watch in his recruitment. As for Louisville, Knox has ties to Kenny Payne, but Payne is no longer the head coach of the Louisville program.

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Now, John Calipari and Arkansas could be in play for the 6-5 forward. Kentucky got what could potentially be the first of many decommittments after Calipari left Kentucky for Arkansas. Kentucky will need to make a hire soon, or there will be a lot more departures than what is expected. Many decisions are hinging on who Kentucky’s next head coach becomes.

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What Transfers Has Kentucky Reached Out To?

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The college basketball transfer portal is open and Kentucky has reached out to multiple targets, specifically guards.
IMAGN/USA Today

College basketball offseason his here for all but four teams, which means transfer portal season is here. While some teams reach out to everyone, others like Kentucky try to examine potential fit and feel for each player.

With a desire to get older and more physical, the Kentucky staff has reached out to more transfers than they have in the past at this time, especially in the backcourt which, as of now, is where the roster holes are.

Let’s see the transfers Kentucky has reached out to thus far.

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AJ Storr – Guard, Wisconsin

Physicals: 6-7, 205 lbs
Stats: 16.8 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 43.4% FG, 32% 3P
Ranking: 40th (Evan Miya), 2nd (247Sports)

Storr is one of the biggest names in the portal. An athletic, attacking guard who excels at getting to the rim. However is relatively inefficient with his usage and is an average rebounder for his size.

Kentucky did reach out, but Storr is hoping to get a good draft grade, and if he does return to college, has a big NIL ask. Illinois is the favorite if he returns to college.

BJ Freeman – Guard, Milwaukee

Physicals: 6-6, 200 lbs
Stats: 21.1 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 4.1 APG, 42.2% FG, 35.1% 3P
Ranking: 91st (Evan Miya), 44th (247Sports)

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Last week BJ Freeman sounded ready to commit to Kentucky, saying he is “willing to do whatever to win and put another banner up there at Kentucky“. As interested as he is, an offer has yet to be extended.

Freeman is a three-level scorer who made major improvements in rebounding in generating assists this past season. At 6-6, 200 lbs he has a good frame. With more talent around him, Freeman could raise his efficiency.

Sean Pedulla – Guard, Virginia Tech

Physicals: 6-1, 195 lbs
Stats: 16.4 PPG, 4.6 APG, 4.3 RPG, 42.4% FG, 32.5% 3P
Ranking: 4th (Evan Miya), 22nd (247Sports)

One of the best playmakers in the portal, Pedulla can create opportunities for himself and others. This would make him an instant-impact guy. A high-volume shooter and undersized, Pedulla could increase his efficiency playing alongside better talent in Lexington. Kentucky has extended an offer.

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Javian McCollum – Guard, Oklahoma

Physicals: 6-2, 160 lbs
Stats: 13.3 PPG, 3.4 APG, 40.4% FG, 31.4% 3P
Ranking: 118th (Evan Miya), 18th (247Sports)

McCollum is the latest name to enter this list, with Kentucky expressing interest on Friday. Starting his career at Sienna, McCollum transferred to Oklahoma last season and his game transferred well.

While his shooting percentages don’t look great, he was often forced to shoot difficult shots in the Oklahoma offense. Undersized, McCollum is another player who can create for himself or for his teammates.

Cliff Omoruyi – Center, Rutgers

Physicals: 6-11, 240 lbs
Stats: 10.4 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 51.2% FG
Ranking: 14th (Evan Miya), 5th (247Sports)

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Omoruyi was one of the first big names to enter the portal and as a four-year player and two-time Big Ten All-Defense selection, he has received a lot of interest. He is a traditional big who excels in rebounding and rim protection.

At this point, it seems there are about 4-5 schools still in the running, with Kentucky being one. Omoruyi has been told that he will have a key role and the minutes are available, should he choose Kentucky.

Cade Tyson – Guard, Belmont

Physicals: 6-7, 205 lbs
Stats: 16.2 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 49.3% FG, 46.5% 3P
Ranking: 74th (Evan Miya), 20th (247Sports)

Tyson was the Missouri Valley Conference Freshman of the Year last season and Second Team All-Conference this season after averaging 16.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.6 assists. He did that on 46.5% shooting from three.

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Tyson is one of the most sought-after players in the portal due to his efficient shooting, but Kentucky has thrown their hat in the ring. He enters the portal with two years of eligibility remaining.

Jalen Blackmon – Guard, Stetson

Physicals: 6-3, 180 lbs
Stats: 21.3 PPG, 1.9 APG, 42.8% 3P, 42.8% FG, 38% 3P
Ranking: 336th (Evan Miya), 50th (247Sports)

The son of former Kentucky star James Blackmon, Jalen is a standout guard for Stetson University, being named first-team all-conference the last two seasons.

He is participating in the draft process, but will almost certainly return to college. An off-ball scoring threat, Blackmon could be a replacement for Antonio Reeves, and the Kentucky connection is there.

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Jordan Ivy-Curry – Guard, UTSA

Physicals: 6-3, 175 lbs
Stats: 17.1 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 3.0 APG, 40.1% FG, 38.7% 3P
Ranking: 226th (Evan Miya), 194th (247Sports)

Jordan Ivy-Curry was a ball-dominant guard at UTSA, but as a transfer, it would be better for him to go somewhere where he can play as more of a two-guard/combo guard. He still has the handles and ability to create for himself, but is in the 98th percentile in catch-and-shoot situations.

Tyler Nickel – Guard, Virginia Tech

Physicals: 6-7, 220 lbs
Stats: 8.8 PPG, 39.9% 3P
Ranking: 105th (Evan Miya), 162nd (247Sports)

At 6-7, 220 Tyler Nickel is one of the bigger guards in the portal, and he shoots 40 percent from three at the Power Six level. Even at that, he can run the floor well in transition and make the right passing reads.

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Nickel can be a really good supporting type piece on a contender.

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Kentucky’s Incoming Freshmen Show Promise In McDonald’s All-American Game

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Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

This week, Kentucky was well represented in this year’s McDonald’s All-American Game, with three incoming players participating, the most of any school. Those three were Boogie Fland, Jayden Quaintance, and Karter Knox, who all played well.

With most all-star/exhibition games you don’t know what to expect. However, this game has been competitive in recent history and this year was no different, with Fland and Quaintance on the East team escaping with an 88-86 win over Knox and the West.

Quaintance and Fland were both very active on the defensive end, while Knox showed his improvements on offense, shooting more consistently. Fland took control at the end of the first half, heating up offensively, with a good second half also. He showed off his creativity too, creating his shots and making some beautiful passes. He was certainly the biggest talk out of Kentucky’s commits.

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Fland finished with 17 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists for the East team, with Quaintance pouring in 7 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 4 steals for the East. Knox had 9 points and a rebound for the West team in the loss.

A lot of the true evaluation comes from the practices rather than the game itself, so let’s take a look at how the Kentucky guys did throughout the week.

Boogie Fland

A guard who is a really skilled shooter. Fland showed that in his practice evaluations this week, getting to his spots and creating his own. He gets his teammates involved and is really good on the offensive end. His ability to create for himself and others will allow him to be dangerous in the pick-and-roll game. His length and competitiveness help carry him through on the defensive end.

Take a look at some of what he showcased this week.

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Jayden Quaintance

Despite being just 16 years old, the top-10 prospect is known for being one of the more physical players in the class, as he was very active on the defensive end. He was named standout from Day 2 practice.

“He is an explosive player around the basket, showing a lot of explosive burst,” On3 said. “The upside with Quaintance is big. He has some physical traits that simply cannot be taught.” Currently improving on his footwork, the big man has a very high ceiling. Not eligible for the NBA Draft until 2026, Quaintance is a player whom Kentucky hopes to stay for two years.

Karter Knox

A top-20 forward in the class, and brother of former Wildcat Kevin Knox, Karter is a very efficient shot-maker and excels at mid-range. He is a three-level scorer who can make plays when you need him to. There are questions about his ceiling, but he’s getting more efficient and confident by the day. His game has improved a lot in recent months.

Along with Quaintance, Knox was named a standout from Day 2 practice.

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“Knox got into the mid-range for a couple of pull-up jumpers, but he also knocked down some catch-and-shoot threes,” On3 said. “He looked like a plug-and-play type at the next level who can finish plays on the offensive end with low volume and get out in transition to for some easy buckets. There is wonder about the high-end upside for him, but his floor continues to rise.”


There is a lot to like about what Kentucky has with its recruiting class. Now it’s about adding the right pieces around them.

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