Despite injuring his ankle in a pool play win over Puerto Rico, Kentucky commit Tyrese Maxey certainly made a big impression with his play for Team USA in the FIBA Americas Championship.
Maxey admitted playing with so many talented players was fun and enabled him to expand his game in various ways. However, he said he would have no trouble going back to Texas to play his senior season at South Garland High School.
“It doesn’t make it hard to go back at all. I like playing with my friends on the high school team,” Maxey said. “My senior season is going to be fun and I’m excited about it.”
Maxey averaged 22.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.3 steals and 1.1 blocked shots per game last season while leading South Garland High School to its first state tournament berth. In his three-year prep career of 75 games, he’s averaged 21.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.4 blocks per game.
At one time he had talked about reclassifying to the 2018 recruiting class but insists that no longer is his plan even though he could easily pass classes in time to make it happen.
“I don't think he'll reclassify. This class coming in (at Kentucky) is pretty guard heavy and it just wouldn't make sense to have him forgo his senior year and head to Kentucky when there isn't an immediate need for him on the team,” Rivals.com recruiting writer Krysten Peek said. “I’ve talked to other players as well and the general consensus is he'll stay and finish his senior year.
“Tyrese is an excellent shooter and I know that was an area where Kentucky was hurting last year. If you had him and Tyler Herro on the court at the same time that would be a huge offensive threat with both players being almost automatic from the 3-point range.”
Herro is one of the freshmen guards already on campus. Another one is Georgia point guard Ashton Hagans, who reclassified from the 2019 class to the 2018 after graduating last week.
“Tyrese is a pure shooting guard. He's one of those players that can pull up for a 3 in transition and knock it down with confidence. He's also explosive in the lane and can surprise people with his dunking. If you have Maxey and Hagans on the court at the same time, the defense can't really help that much on Hagans since they'll have to stay home on Maxey because he's a shooter. That's a great offensive scenario to have if you're coach Cal.”
That’s a scenario Calipari likely will have in the 2019-20 season unless Hagans goes from high school junior to a one-and-done college player. It could happen, but doesn’t seem likely.
Maxey may have trouble finding challenges during his high school season. Most recruiting analysts believe his game is ready now to play for a major college team.
“When you look at high level guards like Maxey, there isn't much that needs improvement but I would say he needs to get a little stronger and tighten up his ball handling,” Peek said. “Tyrese has such a quick release in his jump shot, it's very hard to guard him already.
“Since he's such a good shooter he can knock down a few 3’s and then get his defender up in the air with a fake and drive right by them the next time down the court. I love his intensity on defense and how quick he pushes the ball up the court after a turnover or in transition.”
Maxey admits his verbal commitment to Kentucky generated a lot of social media interest for him from UK fans.
“It is cool, I enjoy it,” Maxey said. “I don’t pay that much attention to it. I am happy with my decision and commitment.”
What if his team had an opportunity to play in a showcase event in Kentucky next season like the Marshall County Hoop Fest or McCracken County Mustang Madness?
“I don’t feel like it would put any pressure on my team,” Maxey said. “We could just go down and compete and have fun. One thing we do, we like to have fun on our team. I would love for that to happen and for all the Kentucky fans to get a chance to see me play. It would be cool to watch them and for them to watch my team.”
Peek said that attitude is why Kentucky fans are going to like Maxey so much when he does get to Lexington and why he will be the perfect fit for UK on and off the court.
“Tyrese is a great kid. He loves the game of basketball and he puts so much work into his own game. He has a great attitude and is easy to talk to,” Peek said. “I think he’ll be very popular in Kentucky.”
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During a radio appearance on WJOX-FM in Birmingham last week Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said he expects outside linebacker to not only be one of the best at his position in the SEC but also one of the best in the country.
“He’s a difference maker. He’s a guy that does a lot of things well,” Stoops said. “He’s good on his feet, he has good instincts and drops and leverage, playing pass defense but he’s also a dynamic pass rusher. He’s good in the run game. Josh really is the whole package.”
Allen is already projected as a first-round pick in the 2019 NFL draft and is on numerous preseason all-SEC teams. But Stoops also believes senior safety Mike Edwards is capable of a special season, too.
“Mike Edwards has been around a long time, played a lot of football and he came back as well,” he said. “Physically he is in great shape.”
Smith said on the show that UK’s defense need to “make a big jump” but he believes he has the players to do that this year.
“We have some experience. We are getting some decent depth, so I feel like defensively we need to make a big jump as far as being more consistent. We’ve shown flashes and done good things at times but across the board, I’d like to see consistency there,” he said.
On offense, he said he’s counting on fifth-year receiver Dorian Baker, who missed last year with a knee injury, to supplement what running back Benny Snell can do.
“Hopefully, he’ll give us some playmaking ability at wide receiver because we need that,” Stoops said.
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Matthew Hurt, a five-star prospect out of Minnesota, got in-home visits from Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas, Indiana, UCLA and Memphis earlier this spring. He said Kansas told him he would be used as a guard and Kentucky told him it needed players that could shoot well from outside, a new point of emphasis for John Calipari in recruiting.
Kentucky expects a major recruiting battle with Memphis over James Wiseman, one of the nation’s top 2019 prospects, but Hurt is enamored with Memphis and new coach Penny Hardaway because of a prior relationship he had with new Memphis assistant coach Mike Miller.
Hurt, who hopes to make a college choice in the fall after taking his official visits, likes the way both Kentucky and Duke develop players for the NBA
He says he works daily on his shot and also has been faithful about lifting weeks three to four days per week in the offseason to add strength.
“Getting recruited like I am motivates me personally to work even harder,” Hurt, who played with UK commit Tyrese Maxey on the USA under 18 team, said. “I see these colleges on TV and that’s where I want to be. I think about that and it helps me get up and work out. Recruiting doesn’t go to my head. It’s not like coaches call and text every day. But recruiting does motivate me.”
What about Calipari stands out to him?
“Just the way he recruits is great, the way he develops players over one year or a couple of years,” Hurt said. “Every player gets better and he has countless players in the NBA playing really well and so more going there this year.”
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Brooks Downing, founder/president of bd Global Sports, believes Kentucky basketball fans are going to thoroughly enjoy having a chance to go to Las Vegas in December of 2019 when the Cats play two games in T-Mobile Arena. Kentucky will play Utah Dec. 18, 2019, and three days later take on Ohio State in the CBS Sports Classic.
“T-Mobile is a great, new arena. It hosts concerts, hockey. It has every bell and whistle you can imagine,” Downing said. “It’s right in the middle of the (Vegas) strip.”
Downing helps book numerous Division I college basketball games annually and has worked with John Calipari and UK assistant athletics director DeWayne Peevy, UK’s deputy director of athletics, to set up non-conference games to meet what the coach wants for his team each year.
“You are seeing the migration away from neutral site games to more destination locations where fans can have a great experience combined with a couple of premium games,” Downing said. “We believe the Las Vegas games are going to be quite an event. There is so much to do on and off the strip. Hoover Dam, Grand Canyon, great weather.”
Kentucky has played exhibition games in the Bahamas and will again this August. Kentucky has also played a regular-season game in the Bahamas. However, Downing admits prices there are out of range for some fans.
“MGM alone has 11 resorts in Las Vegas. There will be multiple locations for fans to stay,” Downing said. “You can stay at an average property to the latest and fanciest property and pay more. You have options and that’s good because the UK fan base comes from every demographic. This creates a trip that can meet budgets for families and we hope this start something new every other year that fans will really like.”
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Quote of the Week: “They listen and ask questions all the time. That’s one thing I like about them. They listen and they are hard workers and I don’t mind answering questions for them at all,” Kentucky sophomore guard Quade Green on John Calipari’s freshmen players who are now on campus.
Quote of the Week 2: “He has been by himself for his whole career, so he doesn’t need somebody else there. For him to kind of allow me to come in and be a small part of the show has been so much fun. We have really become good friends, which is I have enjoyed,” SEC Network analyst Laura Rutledge on being on air with Paul Finnebaum.
Quote of the Week 3: “I played the piano in elementary school but that didn’t stick. I really was not a fan of the piano. There were too many things my fingers had to do at one time. I didn’t like to sit still, either,” Kentucky senior gymnast Sidney Dukes on her musical ability.
Tyrese Maxey may have been the best player on Team USA before he hurt his ankle. He says he would love for his Texas high school team to play in Kentucky next season. (USA Basketball Photo)