Each year in mid-April fans gather in Freedom Hall to watch some of the nation’s top high school players battle it out in the Kentucky Derby Festival Basketball Classic, specifically rooting for big games for those committed to their favorite school.
This year will be no different as four future Louisville signees, one Kentucky Signee and an Indiana Signee will take the floor together for the first time. Outside of the local schools there will be some big name talent represented on both the Thunder and Lightning squads, and the Future Night of Stars skill competitions will be incredible to watch. Here are the three things that stand out to me when looking at the rosters.
1. First opportunity to see all four Louisville signees on the floor together
The Kentucky Derby Festival Basketball Classic will be the first opportunity Louisville fans will get to see all four of the Class of 2017 signees on the court together. Five star F/C Malik Williams, and four star guard Darius Perry, forward Jordan Nwora and forward Lance Thomas will play for the Black Team (Thunder) next weekend. Joining them will be Lexington guard Taveion Hollingsworth who is currently committed to play for Rick Stansbury at Western Kentucky next season. It will be a unique atmosphere in Freedom Hall as it’s the first time that four Louisville signees will play together since 2015 when Donovan Mitchell, Deng Adel, Ray Spalding & Ryan McMahon joined forces. While it’s highly unlikely that we’ll see all four signees on the court together for Coach Rick Pitino in 2017-18, expect all four guys to play get one another involved as they begin to build team chemistry. We also will likely see several Cardinal players & coaches in the building watching their future teammates. Malik Williams is my pick to win the KDF Classic MVP & the Dunk Contest at the Night of Future Stars while Jordan Nwora could win the 3-Point Shootout.
2. Deepest talent pool potentially in recent history
Over the years we’ve become accustomed to seeing some four-star and three-star players playing in the Kentucky Derby Classic game. However this year each roster is LOADED with talent. Kris Wilkes (UCLA) and Malik Williams (Louisville) will be the highest rated guys in on the floor but the game also features future college stars including Paul Scruggs (Xavier), Chuma Okeke and Davion Mitchell (Auburn), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Kentucky), Lindell Wigginton (Iowa State) and many more. I expect this game to be very high tempo, with a lot of three point shooting and several highlight reel dunks. The players will give the fans their money’s worth that’s for sure.
3. One & Done Players
As I mentioned before this year’s game has potentially the best rosters of all time from top to bottom. There will be several guys that you may or may not know who will put on a show for the fans.
This year could also feature the first one-and-done player since 2013 (Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis). Kris Wilkes of Indianapolis, who is currently the 17th ranked player in the Rivals 150 for 2017, will have big shoes to fill at UCLA as they work to replace freshman stars Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf. I think he has the potential to be a star from the beginning for Head Coach Steve Alford, and could be a lottery pick in the 2018 Draft. Other guys who could potentially be one and done players in 2017-18 include Paul Scruggs, who is Xavier’s highest committed recruit of all time, as well as Kentucky’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Chuma Okeke of Auburn.
Thunder (Black Squad)
Savion Flagg 6-8 SF Alvin, TX Texas A&M
Taveion Hollingsworth 6-2 PG Lexington, KY Western Kentucky
Davion Mitchell 6-3 SG Hinesville, GA Auburn
Jordan Nwora 6-7 SF Saxtons River, VT Louisville
Chuma Okeke 6-7 PF Atlanta, GA Auburn
Darius Perry 6-2 PG Marietta, GA Louisville
Jordan Poole 6-5 SG La Porte, IN Michigan
Devontae Shuler 6-3 SG Mouth of Wilson, VA Ole Miss
Lance Thomas 6-9 PF Norcross, GA Louisville
Lindell Wigginton 6-2 SG Mouth of Wilson, VA Iowa State
Malik Williams 6-11 C Fort Wayne, IN Louisville
Lightning (White Squad)
Ty-Shon Alexander 6-4 SG Mouth of Wilson, VA Creighton
Aljami Durham 6-4 PG Lilburn, GA Uncommitted
Jacob Epperson 6-11 C La Porte, IN Creighton
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander 6-5 PG Chattanooga, TN Kentucky
D.J. Harvey 6-6 SF Hyattsville MD Notre Dame
Abu Kigab 6-7 SF Napa, CA Oregon
Naji Marshall 6-7 SF Greenbelt, VA Xavier
Paul Scruggs 6-4 PG Indianapolis, IN Xavier
Justin Smith 6-7 SF Lincolnshire, IL Indiana
Mark Smith 6-5 PG Edwardsville, IL Uncommitted
Kris Wilkes 6-8 SF Indianapolis, IN UCLA