Kentucky fans love in-state guys as much as they love the five-star recruits John Calipari brings in each and every year.
However, while the five-star recruits will always be aplenty, true in-state talent is not — at least in the basketball world.
But there’s a prospect in the state of Kentucky who presents a bit of a different case for Coach Cal. His name is JJ Traynor.
Now, if you try to search Traynor’s name to find a recruiting profile, you’ll find one on 247 Sports. That page gives the Bardstown product no star rating, or even as much as a national ranking. And you won’t even find him on ESPN or Rivals.
But that’s going to change for the 6-8, 195-pound forward.
“Honestly, I thought he was maybe the biggest sleeper I’ve seen all spring and summer,” 247Sports director of basketball recruiting Evan Daniels told the Courier Journal this week. “I think there’s immense upside and potential. He’s really impressive physically with that size, that length, but he’s also fluid and mobile. He’s a good athlete. I was really impressed with his footwork... I was extremely impressed with him.”
Why was Traynor so easily overlooked before now?
Well, he hasn’t exactly turned heads throughout his high school career — before this year anyway. As a junior at Bardstown High School, Traynor averaged 11.2 points and 8.6 rebounds per game and he did so predominately as an old school big man, as he went 0-2 from three-point land.
Moreover, Traynor never played on the AAU circuit — until this summer — but the exposure finally helped schools see just how talented he is. His first Division-I scholarship offer came in May from Coach Rick Stansbury and the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. Two months later at the start of the July evaluation period, he received offers from the Ball State Cardinals, Northern Kentucky Norse, and Akron Zips.
And then, Traynor took his game to a whole new level with the Louisville Legends in July at an Under Armour event in Atlanta. With a 6-foot-8 frame and a 7-foot-2 wingspan, Traynor began to catch some high-level programs’ attention with his elite athleticism and a body similar to PJ Washington.
He has some good genes as well, as his father, Jason Osborne, was a McDonald’s All-American, the 1993 Mr. Kentucky Basketball, and played two years for the Louisville Cardinals.
Traynor has hit a major growth spurt over the last couple years, and in doing so, he has refined his game, improving his versatility as a three-four hybrid.
The Murray State Racers and Evansville Purple Aces offered scholarships later in July. Then, Traynor took an unofficial visit to the Cincinnati Bearcats earlier this week. Meanwhile, the Texas Longhorns, Missouri Tigers, and Ole Miss Rebels are all beginning to show interest.
And according to his coach and former Louisville player James “Boo” Brewer, the plan is to host former Louisville teammate and UK assistant coach Kenny Payne at Bardstown High School in September to watch Traynor work out.
“Their thing is they want to see how he progresses from now until the season,” Brewer said of Kentucky. “… Kenny, he’s going to be honest with me. He’s watched him play and he’s heard a lot about him, but he’s looking forward to getting to know him better.”
However, the Louisville native consistently goes to Cards’ games and plans to continue doing so. And he’s recently been hearing more from Chris Mack as well.
“This kid just loves the game of basketball,” Brewer said. “He watches as much as he can. He studies it. He’s a late bloomer, but I always knew he’d be special. He’s always liked Louisville, he likes watching Kentucky, and this year he’s watched a lot of Murray State games because of Ja Morant.
”When he had a chance to go watch Louisville he hears a lot about his dad. He really doesn’t say much about it because everybody is telling him how good his dad is. ... He wants to make his own name, but he knows his dad was a phenomenal player.”
When 247 Sports updates its rankings in the coming weeks, Traynor will receive a star rating and national ranking for the first time. And he’ll be pushing Auburn Tigers commit Justin Powell for the top ranking in the state.
And if he continues to improve, Daniels thinks he can explode into a top prospect in the same way New Orleans Pelicans first-round pick Jaxson Hayes did. Hayes was relatively unheard of, jumped to three-star status out of the blue, and received a Kentucky offer.
It’s not often three-star recruits get an offer from the Cats, but Calipari saw what Hayes was becoming. Hopefully Traynor follows that same track, except he ends up in Lexington instead of in Austin, or Louisville.