NEWSSTAND (7/14): Recruiting bonanza now through the weekend

Justin Rowland, Publisher
Cats Illustrated

It's a basketball and football recruiting bonanza this weekend with CatsIllustrated.com covering basketball and football recruiting events.

You'll get that plus the other top content on Kentucky from around the internet in today's Newsstand.

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YOUTH SERVED

It was clear that five-star phenom Zion Williamson was drained before his second game of the day even started.

Just hours before the 6-foot-6, 230-pound forward from Spartanburg tipped off against five-star UK targets in the class of 2019, Ashton Hagans and Christian Brown, Williamson led his team to an epic come-from-behind win in front of his home crowd.

Williams' SC Supreme was down eight with just a few minutes to go before he took over, finishing with 31 points. But that epic performance in the first round of the adidas Gauntlet Finale left him worn out for his second round game.

But despite being on his last wheel, Williamson exploded for 32 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks. However, it wasn't enough to slow down Hagans and Brown.

LINK: 2019 five-stars outduel Zion Williamson

Zion Williamson hinted he might not wait until after the season to announce his college choice.

Williamson, the No. 2 recruit for the Class of 2018, said making a decision was high on his to-do list as he entered his senior season at Spartanburg Day.

“I just want to win another championship and hopefully pick my college before the season starts so I can get that out of the way,” Williamson said after scoring 31 points at the Adidas Gauntlet AAU event on Thursday. “Right now, I’m looking at a lot of schools. I’m probably not going to make a list. I’m going to pick a school when it feels right.”

LINK: Williamson's choice might come earlier than expected

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QUICKLEY TALKS UK

Five-star guard Immanuel Quickley rated himself a D or a C after his second round loss in the adidas Gauntlet Finale on Thursday afternoon.

Quickley appears to be a harsh critic of his performance because he finished with 16 points, a game-tying high of eight rebounds and three assists. He had just one turnover.

He spoke with Cats Illustrated after the loss.

LINK: Quickley talks UK and final decision

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WHO COACHES WERE WATCHING

The July basketball recruiting periods are underway, and droves of college coaches are accordingly traversing throughout the nation, scouring the landscape for future stars. Here in Spartanburg, some of the top high school prospects are on display at the Adidas Gauntlet Finale. Below, we examine which college head coaches were in attendance to observe some of their top recruiting targets.

LINK: Adidas Gauntlet Finale: Who coaches were watching

They call it an evaluation period, but in July it is just as much about the top prospects seeing a coach as it is a coach seeing the top prospects. Wednesday and Thursday featured plenty of head coaches at the Under Armour Finals, and National Basketball Analyst Eric Bossi kept tabs on the nearly 30 head coaches he saw as he moved around the gym.

LINK: Under Armour Finals: Who the head coaches were watching

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LATEST ON REDDISH

Kentucky target Cameron Reddish, a top-5 prospect in the 2018 class, is looking to cut his list to five or six schools in the next week.

Reddish didn’t make his updated list clear after a Peach Invitational game on Thursday afternoon, but Kentucky, Duke, Villanova, Arizona, Maryland, UCONN and UCLA were the schools he mentioned.

LINK: 5-star Cameron Reddish says time with John Calipari helped: ‘I’m not gonna say I’m over the edge’

Check out all of KSTV's video and content right here

EARLY OBSERVATIONS

The Adidas Gauntlet Finale kicked off Wednesday evening as the first of three July evaluation periods opened. A number of college coaches were spotted as they are getting their first chance to see some of their top prospects since the last live period on April 28. While there were only three games on the docket, there were a few observations worth noting.

LINK: Five observations from adidas on Wednesday

WILLIAMS, UK AND DUKE

“They actually just started texting me like yesterday," Williams said. "I’d love to get an offer from them. It would be a blessing to get an offer from Kentucky. I look up to those guys. My former teammate Kevin Knox goes there. It’s a great school. I always wanted to get an offer from Kentucky and have a chance to go there.” (Read more)

LINK: Emmitt Williams talks UK but does Duke lead?

LATEST ON BAGLEY

Marvin Bagley III knows the numerical ranking next to his name on recruiting websites means he’s going to get everybody’s best shot.

Bagley — a 6-foot-11 power forward — has been the consensus No. 1 player in the class of 2018 for as long as reputable recruiting services have had rankings for that group.

On Wednesday — the opening night of the Nike Peach Jam finals — five-star forward Emmitt Williams caused a stir by managing a couple of highlight-reel dunks against Bagley. On Thursday afternoon, fans were standing three deep to get a glimpse at the No. 1 recruit going up against celebrated Missouri commitment Jontay Porter.

LINK: No. 1 basketball recruit Bagley has college visits set, but still seems ‘pretty open’

FOUR-STAR HAS FAVORITES

On Thursday around midday one of the nation's top defensive backs released a top five that includes Kentucky.

Kwantel Raines has been listing Kentucky for a while now, with Steven Clinkscale as his recruiter, but now there's reason to believe the Cats are more of a player for the Rivals250 prospect than it previously seemed.

LINK: Rivals250 DB lists favorites, one being Kentucky

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DAY ONE

There was plenty to take in day one at the Nike EYBL Finals at Peach Jam.

The event this year isn't as loaded with Kentucky targets as years past, but there is still star power at the top and plenty of 2019 names to keep an eye on moving forward. Kentucky's was represented by assistant coaches Joel Justus and Kenny Payne, who split up and didn't watch the same games on the first night.

Here are five takeaways from the first day of Peach Jam.

LINK: Day One at Peach Jam

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WEST'S SUPPORTERS

Perhaps no one is more excited to have Darius West back at full-strength than fellow defensive back Mike Edwards.

“Having him on the field makes me play better,” Edwards said. “You might not think so, but it actually does. The chemistry we have together is great.”

West missed the 2016 season after suffering a patella tendon injury in his knee. It was West’s second major injury at UK, as he broke his right tibia prior to his freshman season. But West returned to the field for spring practice and enters the season as the starter at free safety.

LINK: Teammates thrilled to have Darius West healthy

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WHAT WE LEARNED

One of the more curious aspects of media day was how Stoops made it through the whole event without really talking about how Kentucky replaces the explosiveness that departed with Boom Williams' draft decision and Jeff Badet's transfer. He might not have given much detail even if he had been pressed on it, but the topic just didn't seem to really come up.

LINK: 10 things we learned (or didn't learn) at Media Days

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ELITES EXPECTED

CatsIllustrated.com has a list of the top prospects and targets expected in Lexington over the next few days.

We'll be blowing out the coverage of Kentucky's Friday Night Lights, Big Man Camp and passing tournament on Friday and Saturday, so stay tuned at the House of Blue.

Keep in mind, this is an unofficial list that's subject to change.

LINK: Elite talent expected at UK this weekend

NO HARD FEELINGS

Plenty of fans, and no doubt some rival coaches, wondered whether it would be an advantage to Kentucky’s John Calipari — who lately hasn’t needed one — to serve as coach of USA Basketball’s entry in the FIBA U19 World Championships.

It didn’t seem like much of an edge, though, when 7-2 center Bol Bol was cut from the team.

LINK: Bol Bol won't hold grudge against John Calipari, Kentucky despite national team omission

A TIME TO IMPROVE

Perfect posture, slight smile, straightforward answers to sometimes convoluted questions.

Even with a horde of reporters around him at Southeastern Conference Media Days, Kentucky’s Stephen Johnson was the picture of everything his head coach had just said about him.

“Calm” and “poised” was how Mark Stoops described the senior, one of three UK player representatives at the annual kickoff event.

LINK: It's been a summer of betterment for UK quarterback

BIG BLUE BREAKTHROUGH?

Last football season, Mark Stoops coached Kentucky to its first winning season since 2009 and first bowl trip since 2010.

There were at least two other Big Blue breakthroughs, however, that did not garner enough attention.

UK won three games against SEC East foes in 2016.

Since the SEC went to football divisions in 1992, no Kentucky team had ever done that before.

LINK: How Stoops can produce a Big Blue Breakthrough in 2017

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OFFER COMING?

Louis King went to Egypt with two goals: win a gold medal with Team USA in the FIBA U19 World Cup and impress coach John Calipari enough to earn a Kentucky scholarship offer. He and the Americans fell short of the first, but King might yet achieve the second.

LINK: 5-star prospect Louis King believes that Kentucky offer from John Calipari is just around the corner

MORE WATCH LISTS

University of Kentucky junior linebacker Jordan Jones has been named to the 2017 Bronko Nagurski Trophy preseason watch list, it was announced Thursday. The award is annually given to the National Defensive Player of the Year by the Charlotte Touchdown Club and the Football Writers Association of America.

Jones, a native of Youngstown, Ohio, led the Southeastern Conference and ranked 16th nationally in solo tackles per game last season with 5.7 per game and ranked third in total tackles per game with 8.4. He totaled a team-high 109 tackles and led the Wildcats with 15.5 tackles for loss. He has earned preseason All-America honors by Athlon (third team) and preseason first-team All-SEC honors by Athlon Sports and Southern Pigskin.

The award recognizes the nation’s top defensive player, with five finalists announced on Nov. 16. The Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner will be selected by the FWAA All-America Committee after All-America teams are announced. The annual Bronko Nagurski Trophy Banquet, presented by CAN, will be held on Dec. 4 at the Charlotte Convention Center.

(UK Athletics Press Release)

University of Kentucky senior kicker Austin MacGinnis has been named to the 2017 Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker Award preseason watch list, it was announced Wednesday.

MacGinnis is one of the nation’s top returning kickers and connected on a pair of game-winning field goals in 2016. His 47-yard field goal with 12 seconds left at No. 11 Louisville marked his second game-winning kick of the season after he also made a 51-yard field goal as time expired for a 40-38 win over Mississippi State.

The 5-foot-10, 185-pounder from Wedowee, Alabama, hit 16-of-19 field goal attempts in 2016 and he enters the 2017 season with a streak of seven straight made field goals, which is just four short of his own school record of 11 straight. He is just the second player in school history to hit at least 50 career field goals (57, Joey Worley, 1984-1987) and his 257 career points ranks No. 2 on UK's all-time scoring list. He needs just 48 more to tie Lones Seiber (2006-09) as the top scorer.

(UK Athletics Press Release)

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