By LARRY VAUGHT
Five-star guard Montaque Gill-Caesar plays in some of the nation’s premier events against some of the nation’s elite talent. Yet the Huntington (W.Va.) Prep junior, who recently scored 56 points and grabbed nine rebounds in a win, says he’s especially excited about playing in the Marshall County Hoop Fest this weekend.
“Just the atmosphere is crazy,” Gill-Caesar said. “It’s one of the most fun tournaments and games we play in. I am definitely looking forward to it. The crowd really gets into it.”
That was certainly true last year when the pro-Kentucky crowd watched UK target Andrew Wiggins playing for Huntington Prep. Gill-Caesar remembers that well and now he could be the fan favorite since he’s a potential UK target in the 2015 class, or 2014 if he does reclassify as expected.
“It will be fun if that happen with the fans, but I can’t let that distract me, and it won’t,” Gill-Caesar said. “I will just focus on the game and do what it takes for us to get a win.”
UK assistant coach Orlando Antigua watched Gill-Caesar play in Hazard last month, and the 6-6 forward took an unofficial visit to see a Kentucky game in November. Huntington Prep will play Atlanta Sports Academy at 6:30 EST Friday and then take on UK-signee Trey Lyles and Indianapolis Arsenal Tech Saturday at 7:30 p.m. EST.
Gill-Caesar says UK has “not formally offered” him a scholarship, but it’s clear one would be available if he wants it.
“They have basically made it clear the opportunity to recruit me is there,” Gill-Caesar said. “I know a lot of people are already saying I am going there, but I am still wide open and I am not sure where I am going. I like them and their winning tradition.”
He likes “how real” Kentucky coach John Calipari is with players.
“He doesn’t sugar-coast anything,” Gill-Caesar said. “He tells you what you need to hear and not what you want to hear. As a player, that helps you grow. You need to hear what you need to improve on rather than just what you are good at. He’s a funny guy, too. Even in drills, he can be funny.
He says his “ultimate goal” is to make the NBA and he likes how Calipari puts players into the league.
“I think you can get to the NBA from anywhere, but his track record getting people to the league is impressive,” Gill-Caesar said.
Michigan State, Kansas, Ohio State, West Virginia and several other top schools are recruiting Gill-Caesar.
He said it was nice to have Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, who has his Spartans No. 1 thanks to a win over Kentucky, watching him play recently.
“Just having him in the gym made me work harder and stay focused on what I need to do,” Gill-Caesar said.
The Huntington Prep junior, who is from Canada, said it will be a “spontaneous thing” when he decides about his future.
“There is no set time at all. It will just be a feeling,” Gill-Caesar said.
He says he already has all the credits he needs to graduate this year since he went to high school in Canada two years before he came to Huntington Prep. But he says it’s still not certain he will reclassify to the 2014 recruiting class.
“It will just depend on the school and it will have to be a fit where I know I will excel and make an immediate impact,” Gill-Caesar said. “That’s the reason I will wait until spring to decide probably unless something just feels really right before then.”