UK fans got their first real glimpse of the immediate future Saturday when signees Jodie Meeks (Ga.), Derrick Jasper (Ca.) and Perry Stevenson (La.) suited up for the White Team in a 118-106 victory over the Louisville-infused Black team in the Derby Classic at Freedom Hall.
Meeks provided the UK moment of the night, sinking two free throws to tie the game and send it to overtime, where he and his teammates dominated to grab the win. As far as All-Star games go, it was by all accounts a special one (especially if you like your uniformed prospects in Blue).
Jasper contributed the sort of all-around floor game UK fans hope to see both in the near-and far-terms, with five points, seven assists and eight rebounds (and seven turnovers). Billed as a tall (6'5"), rebounding point man, Jasper lived up to advance hype.
Jasper has expressed to media outlets previously that he was confident (and was apparently recruited with this in mind) that Rajon Rondo would probably head to the pros after this season. His jump opens up playing time in a crowded backcourt, and Jasper may have the defensive prowess, length and talent to step in and provide Ramel Bradley with some competition for the point guard spot. Jasper should have been a McDonald's All-American from the West Coast -- he's that good.
The third Kentucky signee in the game -- Louisiana native Stevenson -- had a solid, if unspectacular 10 points on mostly dunks. He added a nice 6 boards as well.
All in all, a nice showing for the future Cats against some top flight competition -- Duke's Gerald Henderson, Tennessee's Duke Crews and Ga. Tech's Jarvis Crittenton among others.
All in all, a nice showing for the Kentucky faithful. Unlike this past season, all three of the new Cats are facing the possiblity of real playing time and the opportunity to contribute next season. The graduation of Patrick Sparks, Ravi Moss and Brandon Stockton creates big chances for bench help. If Rekalin Sims takes off, which is looking more and more likely, Stevenson could find himself asked to spell Sheray Thomas and Randolph Morris in the frontcourt.
The Cats' real success next season could be predicated on just how ready these young guys are to play at this level.