Few players in recent Wildcat history have captivated the attention of the Big Blue Nation in the off-season like DeAndre Liggins of Chicago. Unfortunately, it wasn't because of Liggins' stellar play, but rather because of concern for his eligibility to enroll at UK and the the lack of a proven, SEC-quality point guard on Kentucky's 2008-2009 team. As Ken posted yesterday via Matt at KSR, and I have been hearing for many days now, it appears that Liggins will be able to enroll and play this year. There is still no official word from anywhere that this is so, but the rumors that have leaked out of the athletic department have been universally positive.
So who is DeAndre Liggins? Well, DeAndre burst onto the college basketball radar back during the 2005 AAU season with his highly intelligent play and excellent fundamentals. DeAndre is said to possess a solid midrange game. Liggins is not an explosive athlete, and is said to play more below than above the rim, but he understands the concept of basketball as a team game, and is known much more for his passing and excellent handle than his shooting. Liggins can go either left or right equally well, has great court vision, and is always in motion, a la Richard Hamilton of the Detroit Pistons.
The courtship of DeAndre
Liggins played out of Washington High in Chicago where he played against former Memphis standout Derrick Rose, played AAU ball for Indiana Elite and was a teammate of Tyler Zeller (UNC) and Emanuel Negedu (Tennessee). Liggins was never much of a scorer with Indiana Elite, but it seems like he would come up with eight or nine assists and seven or eight rebounds every game. That action began to draw the attention of Division I coaches around the country. Liggins began to receive many high-D1 offers, including Memphis, Arkansas, Illinois, Georgia Tech, Arizona, Virginia, Texas and Kansas.
Within a couple of weeks of being hired at UK in May of 2007, Gillispie offered a scholarship to DeAndre Liggins and was was at the King James tournament in 2007 when Kentucky began to pop up:
Since helping his Indiana Elite/Team Indiana squad win the Kingwood Classic, Dandre Liggins has picked up offers from Texas and Kentucky, he said, joining Memphis, Illinois, Purdue and Kansas in the race. Liggins said Memphis, Kentucky and Kansas are on him the hardest and could be attending Memphis's elite camp in June. [Emphasis mine]
In May of 2007, Liggins was named one of the new Rivals 5-star players, moving up from #90 to #18. Jerry Meyers of Rivals had this to say about Liggins' game:
Jerry Meyer on Liggins: "It's not often that you find a 6-foot-5 point guard who can make all the passes and break his man down on the dribble. On top of that, Liggins is an outstanding rebounder – so he can also play small forward. He has the length, speed and strength to guard most anyone on the perimeter."
In mid May of 2007, Liggins developed a stress fracture (Oh, no, where have we heard that before!) in his foot. He played on it during an AAU tournament and aggravated the injury, resulting in his missing most of the AAU late season in 2007.
In early June of 2007, Liggins trimmed his list to four schools: Kansas, Illinois, Memphis and Kentucky. On June 27th, Liggins announced to The Cats Pause (subscription) that Kentucky had become the leader for his services. It is interesting to note that, up until that article, there had been virtually nothing from TCP about Liggins -- virtually all the reporting had been previously done by the Kansas and Illinois Rivals sites.
That same day, Liggins' mother told Jeff Drummond of The Cats Pause (subscription) that DeAndre had decided to become a Wildcat, and just a few hours later, DeAndre told Jerry Meyer of Rivals (subscription) that he had verballed to Kentucky.
Findlay Prep and beyond
In August of 2007, Liggins decided to leave Chicago Washington and play his final year at Findlay Prep in Las Vegas, which is owned by the same guy who sponsors the Las Vegas Invitational that Kentucky will be playing in this season.
For Findlay Prep, Liggins averaged 13.6 points/49% FG/37% 3PFG/71% FT/1 ORB/7.5 RB/5.6 A/3.6 TO (1.6 A/TO)/1.6 STL. Not a bad line, particularly the shooting percentages. Liggins team was runner up in the National Prep Invitational in Lowell, MA in which Liggins was a big reason why.
When Findlay Prep was in town to play in the Lexington Christian Classic in January of this year, teammate Clarence Trent had this to say about DeAndre Liggins:
Trent said he was "thrown for a loop" when he realized that Liggins wasn’t worried about his scoring average. "In our first or second game, he had about 10 assists and not many points, and it shocked me," Trent said. "Most high-profile players, all they think about is scoring, and it’s all about them. Not DeAndre."
So now we come full circle, and the Big Blue Nation is anxiously awaiting DeAndre Liggins' debut on the floor in hallowed Rupp Arena. Liggins is Gillispie's most highly-touted recruit so far, and he has the kind of game that is all about making everyone around him better. That's good news for Patrick Patterson and Jodie Meeks, and even though Liggins is yet to be tested defensively against the SEC's quick guards, he has the length and basketball smarts to be an effective, and even outstanding defender. Combined with his rebounding and passing skills, expect Liggins to make an immediate positive impact at Kentucky this year.