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 showed up in force. 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.
Here are a few of the top seniors that we saw from the 2014 Bluegrass Showcase:
Thomas Bryant, 6-10, PF/C, Huntington Prep (WV)
While there were a lot of guys who put up bigger numbers, not many had a bigger impact on the game than Thomas Bryant. Earning an offer from Kentucky with his play throughout the weekend, Bryant proved to be the type of crazy high motor guy that every coach dreams of. He ran the floor to finish with dunks, rebounded the ball outside of his area, and was the vocal leader that got everyone hyped. Bryant will be one of the hottest names left in the class of 2015 by the time he announces his college choice this spring.
Caleb Swanigan, 6-9, PF/C, Homestead HS (IN)
One of the nation’s truly elite big men, Caleb Swanigan lived up to his rep in Lexington. Despite being faced with constant double teams, he summed up his weekend showing with a 39 point, 21 rebound, 6 assist game against White Station. Rocking a svelte 250 pound frame, his improved body translated into much quicker moves on the block and better explosiveness vertically. Swanigan proved that he is one of the very best rebounders in the country, which is why virtually every college in the country is fighting for his services.
Kyle Alexander, 6-9, PF/C, Orangeville Prep (CAN)
Orangeville Prep rocks a roster that is full of high major players, so naturally, not everyone is going to get the shots or burn that they’d usually see if they were playing with their local school. That’s just the price you pay for playing for a national (or in this case International) power. Blessed with a massive wingspan and ideal frame, Alexander is the type of developmental big man that college coaches dream of in the late signing period. He can shoot it a little facing up, rebounds his area well, and offers a formidable presence defensively. Still wide open in the process, Alexander is a surety to blow up.
Nate Grimes, 6-8, PF, Quality Education Academy (NC)
There was no one better in QEA’s two upset wins than Nate Grimes. Topping Arlington Country Day and Orangeville Prep, Grimes led the team in scoring and rebounding with his versatile play. The Vegas product was named MVP of QEA’s first game due to his ability to shoot the mid-range jumper, explosive dunks, and impact that he made on the game defensively. Already committed to Fresno State, Grimes is the type of high upside guy that you certainly may be hearing a lot from in the future.
Kyle Leufroy, 6-2, PG/SG, Prolific Prep (CA)
Not a guy who is going to blow you away in any particular facet of the game, Kyle Leufroy came up with some key plays throughout Prolific Prep’s two W’s over the weekend. He was a constant penetrator, always head his head up to find the open man, and made sound decisions with the rock in his hands. Lehigh made it a point to lock up Leufroy early and he will look to follow in CJ McCollum’s foot steps as the school’s next star combo guard.