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By LARRY VAUGHT

The Marshall County Hoop Fest featured some of the nation’s best high school talent last year and Hoop Fest director Dan Hudson is already putting together another star-laden even for Dec. 5-6-7 in Benton.

“We really think we could have a special event again,” said Hudson.

Kentucky recruiting target Cliff Alexander of Chicago Curry will be back to play in the event for the second straight season. The 6-9, 240-pound Alexander is ranked as the nation’s second best center and No. 5 overall prospect by Scout.com. He has Kentucky, Michigan State and Illinois at the top of his college list.

Also scheduled to play is point guard Emmanuel Mudiay of Dallas Prime Prep Academy. He is ranked as the No. 2 overall prospect by Rivals.com. He currently has Kentucky, Baylor, Arizona, Oklahoma State, Louisville, North Carolina, State, St. John’s, Kansas, Texas and SMU as his top college choices. He is a prototypical combo-guard with the ability to finish at the rim with either hand and speed some have speculated is comparable to former UK standout John Wall.

The 6-4 Mudiay also has a solid mid-range game as well as the ability to score off alley-oop plays in a set offense.

One of Mudiay’s teammates is 6-9 Elijah Thomas, who already has offers from California, Illinois, North Carolina State and Texas A&M. He’s been contacted by Kentucky and is ranked as one of the nation’s top juniors.

Two other traditional powers, Oak Hill Academy and Huntington (W.VA.) Prep will be back at the tourney and both always have several high Division I players on the roster. Five-star prospect Jalen Lindsey has already decided to transfer to Huntington and Minnesota’s Rashad Vaughn, another five-star prospect and UK target, is contemplating the same move. Huntington will also have junior guard Montaque Gill-Ceasar, who is also on UK’s radar.

Also scheduled to be back at the Hoop Fest will be Louisville Ballard and Louisville commit Quentin Snider, the likely leading candidate for Mr. Basketball honors going into next season.

“An all-session pass for 17 total games costs only $40,” Hudson said. “We will have presale information out soon for those wanting tickets as well as information on other players and teams that will be participating.”

Mudiay, Thomas, Lindsey and their teammates will also be back in Kentucky for the Jan. 9-10-11 McCracken County Mustang Shootout, a new event.

“With only 3,500 seats, tickets for this will be harder to get,” Hudson said.

Those wanting to pre-order tickets now can do so by contacting Kris Garrett at 270-538-4054.

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