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By LARRY VAUGHT
The Marshall County Hoop Fest can boast that it had two members of the gold-medal USA basketball team — Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony — participate in its event. It has also add current NBA star Derrick Rose, who would have been on the Olympic team if not for a knee injury.
Now the event Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in western Kentucky could have its next future star — Andrew Wiggins. He’ll play both days in the event with his Huntington (W.Va.) teammates and based on the way high school and college recruiting analysts rave about his talent, he could be the next NBA player to have been at the Marshall County Hoop Fest.
Wiggins is a huge Kentucky recruiting target. Currently he’s in the 2014 class, but the 6-8 Wiggins is considering reclassifying to 2013. Either way, he’s the nation’s top-ranked high school player.
However, he won’t be the only big-time talent in the field. Memphis Briarcrest Christian has 6-8 forward Austin Nichols, who has offers from Duke, Tennessee, Auburn, Butler, Cincinnati, Clemson, Kansas, Louisville, Memphis, North Carolina, Ohio State, Texas and Vanderbilt. He runs the floor well for a big man and is a solid rebounder.
Memphis Southwind will be bringing 6-8 Jonathan Williams, another big-time prospect,and 6-4 guard Jajuan Johnson, who is being pursued by Miami, Alabama and Texas. He’s also received interest from Louisville.
Wiggins’ teammate, Xavier Rathan-Mayes, has a scholarship offer from Kentucky and numerous other schools.
Bullitt East will bring 6-9 Derek Willis, a UK commit, to the tourney. Oak Hill Academy, annually one of the nation’s top prep teams, will play both days in the event.
Other Kentucky teams scheduled to play include Madison Central, Ballard, Hopkinsville, Warren Central, Calloway County and host Marshall.
But the biggest draw for the Hoop Fest could be the team from Richmond, Texas, that features two of the nations’ best players — twins Aaron and Andrew Harrison. Both are rated as top 10 players, and both have UK on their list of four schools that they will choose from to make a decision in late October.
“The plan is for us to play two games,” said Travis High School coach Craig Brownson. “We have to get the paper work finalized, but that’s the plan. It’s a great opportunity. Andrew and Aaron will be playing in front of big crowds in college, and most likely the NBA. This won’t be unfamiliar for them, but for our other kids to experience this is one big reason we want to do things like this. Last year we played in front of 13,000 or 14,000 in the state tourney. Playing in front of big crowds could be valuable when we get in a big playoff game. They won’t be as nervous. They will have been there and done that.”
If the Harrison commit to Kentucky as most recruiting analysts seem to think, Kentucky fans will swarm to Marshall County even if UK plays at Notre Dame Nov. 29 and hosts Baylor Dec. 1. Fans who can’t get to those games will find a way to Benton, Ky., to see the Harrisons, Wiggins and the other stars. And why not? Great basketball in a facility that has been deemed one of the 10 best venues nationally for high school basketball.
And don’t be stunned if the Marshall County Hoop Fest adds Chicago center Cliff Alexander, one of the top players in the 2014 recruiting class and another big-time UK target.
It has all the makings of one of the nation’s premier in-season high school basketball events and one that UK fans likely will not want to miss.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky fans should get a chance to see Huntington Prep — and UK target Andrew Wiggins — play several times this season.
Coach Rob Fulford is working on scheduling games against two teams from Canada on consecutive nights in Lexington and Louisville possibly at places like Bellarmine College and Lexington Christian Academy. His team not only has Wiggins, but also 6-3 Xavier Rathan-Mayes, currently a UK target, and 6-9 Moses Kingsley, a Louisville target.
“We just don’t get the turnout here for games that we could get in Louisville and Lexington,” Fulford said. “I am a pretty savvy business guy and know sellouts in Lexington and Louisville would make us more money.”
His team will also be playing in the Flying to the Hoop in Dayton, Ohio, in January and the Marshall County Hoopfest. He says several top prep teams — Oak Hill Academy and Findlay Prep — have turned down his requests to play Huntington in those tournaments.
“Our problem is just getting people to play us,” Fulford said. “The big boys are dodging us. But we are going to the City of Palms in Florida. We are everywhere this year just to get games.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Huntington (W.Va.) Prep shooting guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes did not make an unofficial visit to Kentucky Friday as he originally planned because of a long delay at the Canada-U.S. border when he was returning to school from his home in Canada..
“He got stuck at the border crossing for several hour and did not get to Huntington to almost midnight Friday,” said Huntington Prep coach Rob Fulford. “Saturday he had to get situated with his housing and all that stuff. His mom was here to help him get his room set up.
“To be honest, I am not sure they were planning to make a special trip out of it to UK but were just going as part of the trip back. I am sure he will get back down there if need be.”
The 6-3 Rathan-Mayes, a top 25 prospect in the ESPN 100, has scholarship offers from Alabama, Baylor, Connecticut, Florida State, Illinois, Kansas, Memphis, Texas, UCLA and more.
His decision about Kentucky will be impacted by what Texas twin guards Aaron and Andrew Harrison decide since they are all similar players.
“Xavier can play but right now it is just wait and see. He is not going there (UK) if the Harrison twins do. He’s not going there to be a four (power forward),” Fulford said. “Coaches always want things done and finished in a hurry, but I do not anticipate him doing anything soon.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
No one has been busier covering college basketball recruiting than Adam Zagoria — and that means he’s seen plenty of the recruiting targets Kentucky coach John Calipari has in the 2013 and 2014 classes. Like most recruiting analysts, he sees the potential for a “monster” 2013 recruiting class for Kentucky.
“It’s like a best case-worst case scenario,” said Zagoria of ZAGSBLOG.com. “At best, it will be an embarrassment of riches. The worst case scenario for Kentucky fans would be Julius Randle goes to North Carolina or Duke, Andrew Wiggins stays in the 2014 class and the Harrison twins (Aaron and Andrew) pick Maryland. All that is possible, but not likely. Kentucky is going to get players. It is Kentucky and they are the defending national champion. They will get players.
“I thought last year if Shabazz Muhammad had picked Kentucky, it would have been the best class ever. Some think Nerlens Noel is a better shot blocker than Anthony Davis. I think Shabazz is just going to kill it at UCLA. If Kentucky had him to go with Noel and the others, it would have been the best class. But who knows? It may fall into place that Calipari’s 2013 class will be.
“As good as Calipari’s recruiting has been at Kentucky with No. 1 recruiting classes every year, this next class has the potential to be the best ever. Whether it turns out that way, we’ll have to wait and see. To me, the key is Andrew Wiggins.”
Wiggins, who seems to have UK and Florida State where his father played as his clear top college choices, is a phenomenal wing player who attends school at Huntington (W.Va.) Prep. During Canada’s junior national practice in June, Canada’s team coaches measured Wiggins’ vertical jump at 44 inches. There seems to be no weaknesses in his game and that’s why many are speculating he may now reclassify from the 2014 recruiting class to 2013 — a move that incoming UK freshman Nerlens Noel made to get to college a year earlier.
“He’s keeping his cards close to his vest. If he reclassifies and goes to Kentucky and then Kentucky adds whoever whether it is the Harrison twins, Randle, (James) Young, that is a special class. But a lot still has to happen,” Zagoria cautioned. “I think he will reclassify, but like Nerlens we may not know until spring. He is going to sit down with his parents and make that decision about whether he wants to be in the NBA in 2014 or 2015.
“It is clear to everyone that he is going to be in the NBA. It’s just a question of when. He’s always been a quiet, reserved kid who likes playing (basketball) with his friends and going to high school. So it’s not a given that he will reclassify.”
One of those friends is 6-4 Xavier Rathan-Mayes, a Huntington Prep teammate who is now on UK’s recruiting radar. Mayes is a prolific outside shooter. Rathan-Mayes has offers from Florida State, Florida, Illinois, Connecticut, Baylor, Kansas, Alabama and UCLA.
“I think he is a very good player on his own. I have watched that team (with Wiggins and Rathan-Mayes) six to eight times in the last few weeks,” Zagoria said. “Xavier is one of the best players on the team. He is a great shooter. He can score in a variety of ways. He’s also close to Wiggins, so that probably doesn’t hurt (in recruiting). I know Calipari called and has watched him.
“But Xavier wants to play and if Kentucky gets the Harrisons and a bunch of other players, he may not play as much there as he would want. If I am a guy like (Maryland coach) Mark Turgeon, I am going to the Harrisons and saying Wiggins may reclassify and how would that impact you guys. That’s the one dilemma Calipari does have.”
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Follow Zagoria at www.zagsblog.com or on Twitter at @AdamZagoria. Coming next his thoughts on other UK recruiting targets.