Derby Classic Basketball Summary
So I went to the Derby Classic All-Star Game last night and came away very impressed. I've been to this game five or six times and the UofL fans always easily outnumber the UK contingency, but this time there really seemed to be more Cats fans in the house. The PA announcer was outstanding, and during player introductions he really singled out the UK targets, and called for the Big Blue Nation to show them some love. You could tell the players were really into the whole thing, and hopefully it ends out being a great recruiting tool that ends out landing some guys.
Ater Majok looked very impressive, especially offensively. In the first five minutes, he hit a free throw line jumper, a three, a driving bank shot from about twelve feet, and had a dunk. He also had two tip slams that were waved off because of offensive goal tending (he probably plays with international rules, so he's not used to having to acknowledge the cylinder). It was still nice to see how springy he is and one of the goal tends waved off a sure basket by Tyler Zeller, so that was pretty much okay with everyone. He did get pushed around when he tried to get rebounding position, and I can see why he wants to play the 3 if possible: he's no banger. In fairness, the refs let UofL signee Terrence Jennings just grab jerseys and foul everyone the whole time without any repercussions. Majok's arms are incredibly long, and he blocked several shots, one of them was an impressive two-handed block where the shooter got him in the air, but he still was able to get back off the ground and deflect the ball. This guy looked way better than I thought he would, and he could bring some immediate scoring help to UK. They should do everything they can to land him. I'm also really hoping he has an Australian accent. How great would that be? He could wear a Crocodile Dundee hat on the bench and everything. It's a good thing Ramel has used up his eligibility though, we know how he'd feel about adding an Aussie.
Maurice Sutton was the surprise of the game. I think he ended out with 19 points. Obviously mostly on unguarded layups, but he hit a nice jumper, knocked down his free throws, and he had a great catch and dunk in transition where most big man would have bobbled the pass. He's very skinny, and there is some accuracy to the Perry Stevenson comparisons, however, when you see him in person, you can tell that he has a much bigger frame than Perry, and the ability to put on more weight is there. He also played his ass off, diving for loose balls and going hard for rebounds. He really endeared himself to the UK fans in attendance, and looks like a guy that would need a year or two, but could end out being very good. It would be a dream scenario to land Majok for the short-term and Sutton for the long-term.
Paul McCoy looked fast, but I really didn't see too much from him that was all that impressive. He took one jumper, and he was pretty far off. In his defense, he looked definitely looked competitive with all the other PGs in the game, but if Deandre Liggins qualifies for UK, then I don't think there is much of a need to spend a scholarship on McCoy too.
Speaking of Liggins, he looked pretty solid. He's a great passer, and he looks a little more comfortable on offense than Jasper. He definitely likes to distribute, but he'll look for his shot from time to time. Not a pretty jumper, but it's not like a Wayne Turner J either. For a big point guard he keeps his dribble pretty low, which should make it harder for guys to get the ball away from him (that always bothers me about Jasper, he dribbles high, and just uses his length as separation when he's being guarded). Comparing Liggins to Jasper is really a pretty solid comparison, but Jasper has that amazing ability to always keep his head up and look for teammates, even when he's in traffic. Because traffic requires defense, there was no way to tell how Liggins does in those situations from last night's game.
For anyone disappointed in Darius Miller's splits (I think he finished with six points) , don't worry. An All-Star game doesn't suit his abilities. He's unselfish to a fault, an Gillispie will need to tease that aggressiveness out of him, but he was every bit as talented as any other player there. He just didn't demand the ball or cherry pick down the court.
Terrence Jennings, the UofL signee that UK recruited, looked really good too. He's explosive around the basket and very coordinated for a young big guy. He also seems to know that his place is near the basket and doesn't want to be a 6'10" small forward (take notes, Majok). I'll qualify that with my personal opinion (because the rest of this write-up has been strictly factual) that the refs let Jennings push guys, grab their jerseys, and do whatever he felt like without calling anything on him. He also coincidentally probably shot more free throws than any other player too, so the home-cooking was nice for Terrence. He kissed the cardinal bird when he was introduced, but he actually kissed it on the mouth, right on its cardinal bird teeth. That was a little unsettling, and I think everyone in attendance felt uncomfortable. Jared Swopshire didn't do anything too terribly impressive, but he has some nice corn rows and he can certainly jump. Because they are going to be playing for UofL, they need to get some cool, original nicknames ASAP. Let's get crazy and go with T-Jenn and J-Swop. The dunk contest was one of the most pathetic things I've ever seen, as the judges continued to give Jennings and Swopshire the same score, forcing an unprecedented double overtime dunk contest. Jennings eventually won, and wouldn't you know it, he escaped the pursuing Swopshire by a mere one point!
Chris Singleton looked very impressive. He's got a chance to win a couple of Most Outstanding Player awards at the NIT during what is sure to be an illustrious career as a Seminole. The Reliford kid who is heading to Kansas looked really good too. He's another high-scoring guard that looked athletic, and he should fit in Bill Self's system from day one.
I've been a big Josh Harrellson guy for a while, but after seeing Sutton and Majok, I hope the Cats are able to land both of those guys, even if it means that the big white St. Louisian takes his game elsewhere.