CHICAGO – Word spread quickly Tuesday around the United Center, site of the McDonald’s All American Game media day, that Arizona signee Kobi Simmons was talking some trash that Kentucky’s pledges probably wanted to hear.
“We’re gonna have the best backcourt in the country,” said Simmons, who is rated the No. 18 overall player and sixth-best point guard in the Class of 2016 by Scout.com. He’ll be joined in Tucson by Rawle Alkins, rated No. 20 overall and the third-best shooting guard nationally.
So what did UK signees De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk, both top-10 overall prospects and the No. 1 point guard and shooting guard in the country, respectively, have to say about that?
They laughed at Simmons.
“Ohhhhhh,” Monk said. “How? We’re the fastest guards in the country, the best guards in the country. The best playmakers, the best scorers. So I think we’re going to have the best.”
Later, when they were all in the same room together, Simmons tried to explain his logic to Fox and Monk. They cracked up again, and Simmons playfully but quickly exited the conversation.
“Because he can’t win this argument,” Fox said. “That’s not even an argument. But if we match up, we’ll see.”
Evan Daniels, national recruiting analyst at Scout, tends to agree. Simmons and Alkins are terrific players, he said, “but if I was picking between them, I’d take Fox and Monk.”
Now, there is a real debate to be had, but it’s not about the best incoming backcourt. Instead, the question is whether there will be a drop-off between Fox and Monk and the two guys they are likely replacing in Lexington: All-American guards Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray. Both are expected to declare for the NBA draft, although that is not yet official.
“I think we’re losing the best backcourt in America, but we’re also bringing in the best backcourt in America,” said forward Sacha Killeya-Jones, one of UK’s four McDonald’s All Americans here this week. “Kentucky fans don’t have anything to worry about with these two. They’ll step in and fill the gap right away.”
But these are large shoes to fill. Ulis broke John Wall’s single-season school record for assists, and Murray set new UK freshman marks for scoring and made 3-pointers. Both are projected first-round picks.
“It should be pressure,” Fox said, “but I don’t feel any pressure.”