The 2014 McDonald's All American game is in the books. The Kentucky Wildcats showcased four committed players, tying Duke with the most in the game. The contest itself was fast-paced and actually well played for a high school all-star game. There were plenty of standouts on the court, Jalil Okafor-the game MVP-, Justin Jackson, and Stanley Johnson, just to name a few. But the focus here is on the young men that will suit up for the Wildcats beginning next season.
This year's game felt a little different compared to last year. The 2013 game was a welcome light at the end of the tunnel after Big Blue Nation suffered through a tough season. Julius Randle, Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, James Young, Marcus Lee and Dakari Johnson gave us a glimpse of what we could expect from them and they have delivered on that potential as Kentucky is heading towards a Final Four game against the Wisconsin Badgers on Saturday.
While Kentucky fans are still focused on the business in Dallas, the McDonald's game is a welcome distraction, a game that may be a little more enjoyable than last season.
Trey Lyles, Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker represented the West and Karl Towns represented the East. Here are some quick thoughts on how they performed and the box score for the game.
Trey Lyles: 8 points, 8 rebounds, 17 minutes of play
Lyles was the only Kentucky player to start in the game. He isn't the same type of power forward as Julius Randle as far as style is concerned. He is big and strong but he isn't a bruiser down low. He has great skill and is crafty inside with the ball. Even though I wouldn't call him overly physical, I like the way he rebounds and battles around the rim. He has a nice outside stroke and showcased the ability to take defenders off of the dribble. His biggest highlight didn't come on a score or a rebound, but when he dove on the floor after a loose ball and called a timeout to retain possession. There aren't many players, amateur or professional, that would go after a loose ball like that during an all-star game.
Tyler Ulis: 5 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 16 minutes of play
In my opinion, he was the biggest surprise of the game. Ulis is undersized but he is absolutely fearless. He wasn't afraid to rebound down low or to drive the ball inside amongst the big boys. He has excellent ball handling skills and has a knack for finding the open man. He has great court vision and looks at passing as option number one. He is very quick and disruptive on defense, getting steals with his quick hands. He had only one turnover and showcased long range ability going one for two from beyond the arc. In many ways he played better than Tyus Jones, the conseus number one point gaurd in the class. He attempted to take a charge from Kansas' Cliff Alexander, who checks in at 6'9", 240 pounds. Somehow he was called for a block. Ulis is going to be a multi-year player, but he is every bit as dynamic as any point guard to put on a uniform under John Calipari. He is a five star talent with a four star ranking due to his 5'9" height.
Devin Booker: 8 points, 1 assist, 2 for 3 from three point, 16 minutes of play
Booker is indeed a knock down three point shooter. He wasn't as involved in the game as his other future teammates, one can see why he was so highly recruited. His stroke is effortless and he runs the court very well. I would have liked to see him show the ability to drive a little more as that is intricate in the way John Calipari runs his offense, but he will have plenty of time to work on that particular skill.
Karl Towns, Jr.: 6 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks, 19 minutes of play
Once he adds muscle, this kid is going to be special. Towns can do a little bit of everything and he can do it all well. He showed a nice outside shot as well and the ability to finish around the rim. He was a shot blocker, a passer, a defender and a facilitator during his time on the court. I did notice at times that he lacked aggressiveness whereas Jalil Okafor and Myles Turner exuded it and begged for contact down low. Towns does have more refined skills thanthe rest of the big men of the class, but he needs to add some post moves to go with them.
The future of Kentucky basketball is as bright now as it has been at any time during John Calipari's tenure. Hopefully the current 'Cats have two more games left to play before we can start piecing together where the future 'Cats may fit in 2015. Depending on who stays and who goes, next year could be just as exciting as what we are experiencing at the moment.