Kentuckiana will be the headquarters of the college basketball recruiting world this weekend.
Sessions of the elite shoe company-sponsored travel circuits will take place in Louisville, Lexington and Indianapolis as part of the NCAA’s second April live evaluation period from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon.
Hundreds of the country’s best college prospects will be playing in those events, and hundreds of the nation’s coaches, including Louisville’s Rick Pitino, Kentucky’s John Calipari and their assistants, are sure to be on the sidelines watching.
Local fans who follow recruiting would be advised not to miss a chance to see so many great players competing against each other.
The Under Armour Association, which features the nation’s No. 1 junior, small forward Josh Jackson among many stars, will hold its 17-and-under division games at MidAmerica Sports Center, 1906 Watterson Trail.
The Nike Elite Youth Basketball League, with high-profile juniors and UK targets Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum and Malik Monk, will have 17U games at Lexington’s Kentucky Basketball Academy.
And the Adidas Gauntlet series, which boasts five-star point guard Dennis Smith and top U of L target Maverick Rowan, will be at Best Choice Fieldhouse in Fishers, Ind.
All three circuits, with teams from across the country, are run like leagues with standings and stats kept and an summer-ending playoff championship awarded.
Nick Blatchford, director of grassroots and college basketball at Under Armour, said Louisville fit all the criteria for hosting a circuit stop. MidAmerican will have five courts in constant use for 17U, 16U and 15U games. Waggener High School will also host 16U and 15U games.
“When you think about the great, passionate fan bases around college basketball, and (places) where the universities are really like the pro teams, the city of Louisville and the state of Kentucky are right at the height of the game,” he said. “And at the high school level, too, the passion for the game is great as well.”
In addition to Jackson, who plays for the Michigan-based 1 Nation club, the UA games at MidAmerican will feature top U of L target Terrance Ferguson (MWA Elite club), who’s ranked No. 5 in 2016 by Rivals, and the country’s best sophomore, San Diego center DeAndre Ayton (Supreme Court).
The UA Association produced 2015 U of L signee Donovan Mitchell.
Tickets are $10 each day at MidAmerican.
Nike EYBL in Lexington
The Nike event at KBA – 273 Ruccio Way in Lexington – will also be loaded with top players and college coaches watching.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for our state,” said Tom Bower, KBA senior sports director. “Parents coming out, players coming out they’ll see the highest level of basketball, and if they want to play on the highest level, they’ll see how far they need to go.”
Given Calipari’s recent recruiting history, there’s a good chance at least one future Cat will be in the gym.
Since 2011, 18 of UK’s 23 high school signees have spent at least one season playing in the EYBL, including all three 2015 UK signees – Skal Labissiere, Isaiah Briscoe and Charles Matthews.
Among the top 2016 players on display this weekend will be, with Rivals.com ranking, No. 2 Giles of the North Carolina-based CP3 team, No. 3 Tatum of the St. Louis Eagles and No. 7 Monk of the Arkansas Wings. (UPDATE: UK target Jamal Murray tweeted Thursday night that the won’t be playing this weekend in Lexington.)
Five-star New Jersey wing Tyus Battle (Team Final), five-star Tennessee center Abdulhakim Ado (Georgia Stars) and four-star Georgia guard Alterique Gilbert (CP3), who just got a U of L offer, are targets of the Cards.
The EYBL’s Lexington-based Kentucky Travelers, who have many of the state’s best players, will be playing home games this weekend.
Landing the EYBL event was quite a coup for KBA.
Last July, Bower said he went “basically on a cold call” to the EYBL playoffs at the Peach Jam in North Augusta, S.C., to try to convince officials that Lexington would be worthy of hosting an EYBL session.
As it turned out, he met and had a quick conversation with Nike grassroots administrator Carlton Dubose, who was interested and followed up with Bower.
“I told him about the passion of fans in Kentucky in general and how big of a deal it would be, and the atmosphere,” Bower said. “The buzz would be incredible, and that’s what we sold them on.”
It’s all come to fruition, and Bowen expects the crowd to be packed “shoulder to shoulder” this weekend. Fans have been calling since Tuesday asking about tickets, which cost $5 on Friday and $10 on Saturday and Sunday.
The HOOPS gym in Louisville is expected to non-17U EYBL games, although HOOPS was not aware of Nike’s schedule as of Thursday afternoon.
Adidas Gauntlet in Fishers, Ind.
Rowan, who plays for the Ohio Basketball Club, is also contemplating reclassifying from 2016 to 2015, and Louisville is in hot pursuit, so the Cards’ coaches figure to be watching.
U of L’s staff will also surely keep an eye on the Kentucky-based Hoop Dreams club, which has the state’s three best 2016 players, Quentin Goodin of Taylor County, Aric Holman of Owensboro and Eli Wright of Apollo.
Recent UK offer recipients Kobi Simmons and Josh Langford, as well as U of L target Braxton Blackwell are teammates on the Atlanta Celtics.
Exact ticket prices were unavailable Thursday, but they are expected to be about $10 per day.
Under Armour Association
MidAmerican Sports Center, Louisville
Tickets: $10 each day
Notable players: Josh Jackson, Terrance Ferguson, DeAndre Ayton, Eric Hester
Schedule and info at http://www.uaassociation.com/
Kentucky Basketball Academy, Lexington
Tickets: $5 Friday, $10 Saturday and Sunday
Notable players: Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, Jamal Murray, Malik Monk, Abdulhakim Ado
Schedule and info at http://www.d1circuit.com
Best Choice Fieldhouse, Fisher, Ind.
Notable players: Maverick Rowan, Dennis Smith, Kobi Simmons, Josh Langford, Braxton Blackwell
Schedule and info at http://adidasuprising.com/adidas-grassroots-mens-events/
Under Armour Association