Known for the ridiculously intense passion of their fan base, the state of Kentucky is one of the few places in the country that can hold a high school event without a team in its own state participating. Despite the fact that we live in a YouTube generation in which virtually every top player has a handful of mixtapes online, the UK and UofL faithful The Bluegrass Sports Commission kicked off its 2014-15 season with the Joe B. Hall and Denny Crum Bluegrass Showcase and there was no shortage of talent that could potentially be playing in state.
Thon Maker, Josh Jackson, Caleb Swanigan, Traci Carter, Miles Bridges, Terrance Ferguson, and Thomas Bryant were amongst the players that either UK or U of L was recruiting. In fact, many of the aforementioned guys were being fought after by both programs. The two day event brought players from coast to coast with countless countries of origin. College coaches lined the sidelines to be seen by players they were recruiting and even though it was early in the season, competition was just as tough as you’d see with most squads late in the year after gelling as a unit.
It was the underclassmen who straight up stole the show at the 2014 Bluegrass Showcase and here are a few that caught our eye:
Josh Jackson, 6-7, SF, Prolific Prep (CA), 2016
In my first time in seeing him in nearly a year, Josh Jackson definitely lived up to his billing as the best wing in the junior glass. He had a few moves that looked like they straight up came out of a video game, including a double behind the back move (didn’t convert the layup), a ridiculous poster dunk, and many more blocks than you’d expect out of your average swingman. The Detroit product showed off a more consistent J and some serious clamps on D, too. Many questioned Jackson’s move to Napa Valley, but one thing that you can’t question is the strides that he’s made in his game.
Miles Bridges, 6-6, SF/PF, Huntington Prep (WV), 2016
A guy who has been working diligently over the years to shed the label of ‘undersized power forward’, Miles Bridges has now taken his game to the point that he is a serious threat from either forward slot. The lefty shot it well from deep, used his length to defend three different positions, and was an explosive straight line driver. He’s a straight beast on the glass and is always a threat to put someone on a poster, making it easy to see why he is one of the elite players in the junior class.
Jamal Murray, 6-4, PG/SG, Orangeville Prep (CAN), 2016
Ever since bursting onto the scene as MVP of the Jordan Brand Classic International Game a few years back, Murray has had quite the rep here in the States. Transitioning from the two to the one, he is still a work in progress as a playmaker, but is making strides in the right direction. He is a super confident kid who seems as if he has ice water running through his veins at all times. Jamal is still gaining experience running the show full time and there will be some bumps, but he has all of the makings of a talented scoring guard down the road.
DeShawn Corprew, 6-5, SF, Quality Education Academy (NC), 2016
As tough of a kid as you’ll find, Deshawn Corprew was essential in QEA’s two upset wins over Prime Prep and Orangeville Prep. He was fearless attacking the rim, exceptional rebounding the ball from the perimeter, and continued to show growth on his outside J. Simply tougher than most opponents he faces, people are still sleeping on DeShawn, but expect to see him land at a BCS school by the time that it’s all said and done.
Mark Vital, 6-6, SF, Prime Prep, 2016
The most explosive athlete that we saw all weekend, Mark Vital nearly shut the house down with what would have been the dunk of the year. He looked to rip the rim off every time he touched the rock, was an absolute beast in Prime Prep’s legendary press, and showed the grit to defend either forward spot. The Baylor recruit is still going to have to work on his perimeter skill level, but has the potential that you’d love to see out of an athlete of his caliber.