ATLANTA – Kentucky men’s basketball’s future is bright. That much was clear after Wednesday’s annual showcase of high school basketball talent.
In a game usually defined by highlight-reel dunks and offense, UK signees Keldon Johnson and Immanuel Quickley showed they can impact the game in other areas. Johnson still had a couple of rim-rattling dunks, but it was his defense down the stretch that made the difference in the West’s 131-128 comeback victory over the East.
Johnson locked down on defense in the closing minutes, coming up with a key charge – yes, in an all-star game – and a block on R.J. Barrett, the top-ranked player in the class, in the closing minutes. Meanwhile, Quickley showed a propensity to get others involved with five first-half assists, often bypassing shots to get his teammates easier buckets.
The numbers don’t tell the full story, but Johnson finished with eight points, three rebounds, two blocks and a steal in 20 minutes. Quickely only scored three points on just two shots but tallied eight assists –third most in the game – and four rebounds in 17 minutes for the East.
Reports out of Atlanta in McDonald’s All American Game practices this week praised Johnson for his competitiveness and intensity. Those traits, two of John Calipari’s favorites, were on full display in Wednesday’s all-star matchup. In a game where defense is often optional, Johnson never took a play off and was among the leading reasons the West stormed back.
Quickely showed off elite vision in Wednesday’s game, just two nights after tying for first place in the Powerade Jam Fest 3-Point Contest. Former UK men’s basketball players Malik Monk (2016) and Kyle Wiltjer (2011) previously won the contest.
Johnson gave a sneak peek of his dunking prowess in Monday’s in Slam Dunk Contest when he threw down one of the best dunks of the night – a 360-degree windmill – in the second round.
The UK duo mark the 31st and 32nd players in the John Calipari era to earn selection in the event, more than any other high school in the country during that time period. Multiple players from each signing class have been tabbed McDonald’s All Americans during the Calipari era, including five in the 2013 and 2017 classes.
Quickley, a 6-foot-4 guard out of the John Carroll School in Bel Air, Maryland, is a consensus five-star prospect. Considered a consensus top-three player at his position, he’s ranked as high as No. 15 by 247Sports and No. 17 by ESPN. Quickley has battled some injuries during his senior season but led his school to a conference championship while averaging 20 points, six rebounds and six assists per game.
Quickley scored 30 or more in five games, 20 or more in 14 games and finished with eight double-doubles in his junior season. He also averaged 25.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and shot 42.1 percent from 3-point range in the Adidas Summer Championships in July. He was a member of the 2017 USA Men’s U19 World Cup Team that competed in Cairo. Playing under Calipari, Quickley averaged 6.7 points and 2.4 assists in 18.3 minutes per game. He was named the Baltimore Sun Metro Player of the Year in 2016.
A 6-6 shooting guard out of Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia, Johnson is a consensus five-star player and one of the best in the class of 2018. A native of South Hill, Virginia, he previously played for Huntington Prep in Huntington, West Virginia, before transferring to Oak Hill for the 2017-18 season. Johnson is ranked as high as the No. 6 overall prospect by ESPN. 247Sports ranks him as the nation’s No. 13 overall player while Rivals has him at No. 14.
Johnson led his Boo Williams (Va.) AAU team to the semifinals of the Peach Jam after averaging 20.7 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists during the Nike regular season. Johnson took home MVP honors at the NBPA Top 100 Camp in June. Johnson averaged 22.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists for powerhouse Oak Hill this season and was one of 54 players selected for the USA Basketball Junior National Team minicamp in October. He was tabbed to the Naismith Trophy High School All-America Second Team earlier in the month.
Joining Quickley and Johnson in the 2018 signing class is Tyler Herro. Although he didn’t make the McDonald’s All American Game, he enjoyed one of the best seasons in the country among all high school players nationally. Herro, out of Whitnall High School in Greenfield, Wisconsin, averaged 32.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 3.3 steals per game this past season.
A 6-5 shooting guard, Herro connected on better than 50 percent from the floor and 43.5 percent from behind the arc. He scored 40 or more points in eight games this season. The top-ranked player out of Wisconsin, Herro is tabbed No. 25 overall by ESPN, No. 32 by 247 Sports and No. 35 by Rivals. Like Johnson, he was one of 54 players selected for the USA Basketball Junior National Team minicamp in October.