Kentucky Basketball Recruiting: Grades from 2014 McDonald's All-American Game
It's funny how almost every one of college basketball's blue-blood programs actually competes in a blue uniform. Anything to make it easier to follow the game, right?
When the McDonald's All-American Game went down Wednesday night from (Marv Albert voice) The House That Jordan Built, United Center in Chicago, Illinois (end Marv Albert voice), the uniforms were black and red, but next season, most of them will be in blue.
Duke, Carolina, Kansas, UCLA, you know the deal. And among the truest of the blue bloods is the Kentucky Wildcats, who had a tied-for-a-game-high four commits suiting up in the Windy City.
Those commits—Devin Booker, Trey Lyles, Karl Towns and Tyler Ulis—are not the sort of five-star, can't-miss, once-in-a-generation paragons who get everyone all hot and bothered every so often. But they're still doggone good, and they'll surely help anchor another top-flight squad come this fall.
Here's how they performed at the game. Information capsules, national rankings and performance grades all included.
All player rankings courtesy of 247sports.com.
Position: Power forward
High school: Arsenal Tech (Indiana)
National overall player ranking: 8
National position ranking: 2
Stat line from game: 8 points (3-of-7 FG), 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 turnovers, 2 steals
If we're being brutally honest up front, none of the Kentucky commits did a great deal to distinguish himself Wednesday night.
Lyles, the highest-ranked recruit of the bunch, sort of embodied the theme for Team Calipari: He looked solid, he had some nice moments, but didn't really stand out among the nation's top high school talent.
Lyles is lauded for his win-first attitude, but that can feel like platitude. Maybe it's not in this case; he does have some of that old-school hustle about him.
About halfway through the second half, Lyles dove for a loose ball, in an exhibition game, mind you, which got the broadcast team swooning. He also showed a solid fundamental game throughout, though that might be a nice way of saying he didn't distinguish himself with any notable playmaking.
High school: Saint Joseph (New Jersey)
National overall player ranking: 9
National position ranking: 3
Stat line from game: 6 points (3-of-6 FG), 5 rebounds, 2 blocks
You can't judge these guys on one exhibition game played among a bunch of 18-year-olds, but there are tea leaves to be read nonetheless.
Towns has plenty of promise, but he spent much of the game figuratively looking up at a guy with even more promise: Duke prospect and game MVP Jahlil Okafor, who consistently spun around and through Towns' best attempts to body him up.
Towns did have some nice moments; that vicious full-palm swatting of Rashad Vaughn in the first half comes to mind, as does some nice off-the-ball defense. He definitely moves extremely well for a big guy and can get the ball in the hole, even if he doesn't always seem to demand or even want the rock.
On the whole, it wasn't exactly a performance for the ages. Some people think Towns needs a harder edge to compete in the big-time college paint. His effort against Okafor won't help him dispel that perception. He needs to get bigger, stronger and tougher if he wants to convert all that potential energy into kinetic.
Position: Shooting guard
High school: Moss Point (Missouri)
National overall player ranking: 23
National position ranking: 8
Stat line from the game: 8 points (3-of-8 FG), 2-of-3 3-point FG, 1 assist, 3 PFs
Plenty of guys were thinking Booker could have a big night. At 6'5" and with a sick jumper at all ranges, he seemed like a tough matchup on paper.
And yeah, he hit two of his three attempts from deep. But that's about it, at least in this game. He didn't flash a lot of handle, passing ability or an ability to consistently finish around the rim.
He didn't seem to want much contact at either end, which might explain his contentment to fire away from deep.
His three personal fouls also speak to his defensive sloppiness. He often found himself out of position, seemingly looking toward his next chance to spot up rather than close out. He's an athletic finesse player, but his all-around game wasn't there in Chicago.
Position: Point guard
High school: Marian Catholic (Illinois)
National overall player ranking: 29
National position ranking: 4
Stat line from the game: 5 points (2-of-5 FG), 3 assists, 3 rebounds, 1 turnover, 1 steal
Ulis is only 5'9", and as such, was the shortest player in the game. He was also the lowest-ranked among the Kentucky recruits in the game. Despite those two facts, Ulis may have stood tallest.
Ulis entered the highlight-reel radar with a couple of nice dimes, and his quickness and handle were still very much evident, even against top guys like Duke's Tyus Jones. He also showed off his shooting stroke, splashing a nice baseline three early in the proceedings.
He hung relatively tough on defense, too, sacrificing himself in hopes of a charge in the paint against Duke commit and forward Justise Winslow, who only had 11 inches and 70 pounds on him.
Like the other 'Cat recruits, his stats from the game don't exactly grab you by the lapels. None of the four managed to reach double figures in any major statistic, and only Lyles cracked the top three for any one category (his eight rebounds were good for third overall in the game).
But of the four, Ulis made the biggest impression while he was on the floor. He was a court general out there, clearly held his own with the best and will be an important (if undersized) piece of the Kentucky puzzle next season.