Two weeks after its Midnight Madness event, Kentucky hosted the Blue-White scrimmage, with the Blue squad earning a 99-71 victory over the Red team. In front of a crowd of 15,305 fans, UK’s No. 1 recruiting class used the stage to showcase their development in John Calipari’s system. Here is a breakdown of the top performers from last night:
SF James Young – 6’6” 215 Pounds
Stat Line: 25 Points, 7 Steals, 3 Rebounds, 3 Assists
A dynamic athlete and an explosive leaper, James Young was easily the most impressive prospect in the Blue-White scrimmage, and was able to raise his Draft stock in a single night. He has a tight handle that allows him to get into the lane, where he displays great body control around the rim, uses his aggressiveness to initiate contact, and possesses the athleticism to finish over defenders. Young’s versatility is his most impressive asset, as he is able to defend multiple positions due to his length and athleticism. The progression of Young will be a major storyline this year. If he can consistently play lockdown D and impact every facet of the game with his aggressiveness and elite athleticism, Young can team with Randle to lead UK on a deep run into March.
NBA Draft Projection: Mid/Late First Round
PF Julius Randle – 6’9” 250 Pounds
Stat Line: 21 Points, 8 Rebounds
Julius Randle is a uniquely talented big man, utilizing his impressive strength, solid handle and highlight-worthy athleticism to dominate both play at both ends of the floor. Randle’s motor is truly limitless, and his 6’11” wingspan makes him a beast on the boards. Offensively, he can handle the ball at the top of the key, and has continued to develop his off-hand. He has a reliable mid-range game, and can knock down shots out to 15-feet. The major question mark surrounding Randle’s freshman year at UK is his efficiency at the charity stripe. He converted on all 8 of his attempts last night, and with the amount of fouls he is sure to draw this season, Randle’s free throw shooting will be key. It will be interesting to see if Randle can usurp Andrew Wiggins as the No. 1 overall Draft prospect. If he can guide Kentucky to the Final Four, become a nightly double-double threat, and knock down free throws at a respectable mark, Randle can all but assure himself as a top pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.
NBA Draft Projection: Top Three
SG Aaron Harrison – 6’6” 218 Pounds
Stat Line: 19 Points, 6 Assists, 4 Steals
In NBA circles, Aaron Harrison is considered to be the lesser of the two Harrison twins, however, he put on a show last night, and can firmly place himself in the lottery discussion by continuing to shoot the lights out from downtown. Aaron took full advantage of Andrew being limited to 10 minutes of playing time due to a nagging knee injury, spotting up on the wing and flashing his impressive floor vision, dishing out 6 assists, while only turning the ball over just 2 times. The key to Harrison’s Draft stock will be his accuracy from the perimeter. If he can linger around a 37 percent clip, Aaron has the combination of prototypical size, natural scoring ability and all-around game to be a lottery pick.
NBA Draft Projection: Late Lottery/Mid-First Round
C Willie Cauley-Stein – 7’0” 244 Pounds
Stat Line: 15 Points, 7 Rebounds
After passing on an opportunity to be a First Round pick in last year’s Draft, Willie Cauley-Stein has redefined his body, adding muscle to his frame and getting in the best shape of his life. He is a 7-footer with excellent touch around the basket, and an underrated mid-range game. Cauley-Stein had his breakout moment last season when Nerlens Noel tore his ACL last season, and will continue to boost his Draft stock by protecting the rim by displaying an expanded arsenal of low-post moves.
NBA Draft Projection: Late Lottery/Mid-First Round
C Dakari Johnson – 7’0” 260 Pounds
Stat Line: 15 Points, 9 Rebounds
What Dakari Johnson lacks in athleticism, he makes up for it with his remarkable skill-set as a low-post scorer. Johnson sports an imposing frame that allows him to clean the glass, as well as the ability to convert hook shots with either hand. The only obstacle standing between Johnson and a mid-First Round grade is his conditioning. While he still managed to impress last night, Johnson appeared to struggle getting up and down the court. Much like Cauley-Stein played second-fiddle to Nerlens Noel last year, Johnson will provide depth in the frontcourt. He would be smart to return to school for another year, as he will have the chance to work with the UK strength and conditioning coach during the offseason and enter the starting five if/when Cauley-Stein leaves for the NBA.
NBA Draft Projection: Late First Round
PF Derek Willis – 6’9” 205 Pounds
Stat Line: 21 Points
The most underrated piece of Calipari’s 2013 recruiting haul, Derek Willis is a skilled big with a quick, consistent stroke from beyond the arc. Last season, Kentucky’s biggest weakness was its inability to knock down threes, which Calipari has rectified by bringing in Aaron Harrison and Willis. His ability to stretch the floor will earn him valuable minutes as a stretch-4, especially after the Wildcats lost Kyle Wiltjer this offseason. A potential NBA Draft prospect down the road, Willis has the potential to develop into a go-to-scorer as he continues to add strength and improve his all-around game.
NBA Draft Projection: Returning to School
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