The headlines across the country during this past high school basketball season may have featured the sons of one of the most exciting 1-2 punches in the history of the NBA when it came to Sierra Canyon basketball, but it didn’t take long to see who was really conducting the show.
Bronny James and Zaire Wade, the sons of future hall-of-famers LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, brought an even bigger spotlight to one of the most prominent high school hoop programs in the present day this past year, but when the cameras were on, it was Brandon Boston and Ziaire Williams’ (after transferring to SC) show.
Boston, the most noteworthy and distinguished signee for Kentucky’s No. 1 recruiting class that’s pending this season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, was widely regarded as one of the best scorers across the nation. When you actually sit down and watch him, it’s easy to see how he can be Kentucky’s go-to man for a bucket and a projected high lottery pick come next summer, unless the season is completely altered for virus reasons of course.
Kentucky hasn’t had a No. 1 overall pick since Karl-Anthony Towns in 2014-15 and a top-5 pick since De’Aaron Fox in 2017, but Boston has real potential to end the short slide for John Calipari’s prospects, specifically on the latter part because former Kentucky target Cade Cunningham probably doesn’t even need to play a college game to be the No. 1 pick in 2021.
At around 6-foot-7 with a long frame that he’s still growing into, Boston is a threat from anywhere on the floor. Sierra Canyon was one of the most exciting teams at the high school level not just for the talent they possessed, but because of the way they played with Boston and Williams as their catalysts. They shared the ball wonderfully — especially in frequent transition opportunities off turnovers forced by their ferocious pressing defense — and even when there wasn’t a lot in an offensive possession, Boston provided quite a few bailouts with tough shots and makes, like below here.
The most common trait you’ll hear about when it comes to Boston’s game is his scoring ability. If Tyler Herro certified himself as a bucket, Boston is a boatload of buckets and that’s no slight at how fun Herro was during his one season in Lexington. Boston’s just a bigger and different dude that can go for 30 from everywhere.
And when I say everywhere, I mean everywhere. Even deep in the lane while posting up, too.
Boston will play against more guys his size, but being able to show other elements of his scoring ability is important for Kentucky, especially if Calipari needs to go ‘small’ at points in the season. Having a 6-foot-7 wing that can handle the ball, create his own shot and use his length to be a post scorer on occasion is such a nice asset to have.
He’ll also put it on your head if you don’t get off the runway in time.
The great thing about Boston’s scoring punch is that he’s not shy. You won’t have to worry about him not trying to get his, especially when his team needs it.
Sure, Calipari’s big pitch to his prospects is always if you want to score 25 a night, please go play elsewhere. But sometimes, getting 25 from your guys that can go for 25 is needed. Just watch Immanuel Quickley this past season again.
Here’s what I mean:
This shot will probably get Boston pinned to the bench for a bit by Calipari, but it’s hilarious because the kid’s confidence is never lacking, which is quite clear when you watch him and Sierra Canyon play. They play frantically, free and fast, which, hey, that sounds like some team we know sometimes, right?
And here’s the thing: he can make these shots.
When you hear commentators, draft analysts and scouts say, “He has NBA range”, it’s because he does.
It’s not just Boston’s shooting and scoring that makes him dangerous offensively. His defense can help Kentucky flash one of their stronger elements on a yearly basis and that’s their transition offense.
Sierra Canyon were a nightmare to score against at times because not only do they constantly press you off their own makes, their length can disrupt your rhythm offensively by registering a ton of deflections and steals, and Boston was a big reason why that was. This is just an absurd sequence to jump a passing lane, go behind the back and back around the defender and then fire a perfect look-ahead pass for a score.
Boston didn’t complete the process of the play in this sequence (not to make him sound like such a future NFL wideout), but his reach against most guys that were smaller than him paid dividends for him (more on this in a second).
This is good defense and a great reaction to run out off the block by seeing his teammate would grab the swat while also making the right play to make that last pass. It just needed to be a better one is all, like this one below.
One of my favorite smaller plays in the games I went back and watched of Boston’s was this recovery contest he had in a big conference win.
At this level and with SC’s talent, you can get away with some extra ball-watching as a defender. Notice how all five defenders have their eyes on the ball, including Boston in the left corner. He probably was a little too aggressive in playing the passing line on the baseline here, but with his length and athleticism, you have a second to spare and recover to contest the shot like he did here.
The big thing for Calipari and a lot of coaches at the college level is not giving up a ton of clean looks. Cal’s best teams contested everything and were hard-working dobermans defensively. Boston isn’t Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s clone on that end of the floor, but using his size to be a pest like he was in high school will be one of the smaller, yet important bullet points for Kentucky’s ceiling because the better they defend, the higher their ceiling goes and it’s already fairly high despite some doubts of Olivier Sarr’s eventual transfer appeal result.
Another thing that was encouraging about Boston’s game was that although he and Williams dominated the shot count for SC once Williams got settled in after his sit-out transfer period ended, he still showed flashes of his ability to get others involved.
This is glimpse into Boston’s future at the pro level. He’s not just a shooter. He’s a capable ball-handler that can initiate the offense and not just look for his own shot. Although he wasn’t asked to distribute the ball in SC’s system because of their ability to basically blitz teams with pressure-filled defense plus his and Williams’ scoring abilities, he could still do it when opportunities presented themselves.
Even when those opportunities looked bad at first, he sometimes got another chance to redeem himself and look good doing it.
Bronny's fun, man.— Michael Whitlow (@couldbelikemike) July 16, 2020
He'll be just a sophomore next season, so expectations still need to be realistic, but getting solid minutes on this year's team is good for his development.
(Also, a bad pass and then a great dish from Boston in the same sequence.) pic.twitter.com/giDWf2iybP
When you mention the likes of Immanuel Quickley, Malik Monk and Jamal Murray during their time at Kentucky, it’s not crazy to assume Boston will be joining them as some of the best and most exciting scorers that Calipari and his staff have coached.
In terms of individual ceilings, nobody’s is higher than Boston’s at the current moment in my opinion on this Kentucky roster, although Terrence Clarke could certainly have something to say about that with his own skill package and explosive abilities, which makes for a great situation for Calipari’s staff if these two can play off each other and become a lethal 1-2 punch a la Monk and De’Aaron Fox if there’s actually a season to be played.