The latest stop in The Grind Session took the circuit to Lexington, Kentucky. Pairing the event with a UK home game against emerging Arizona State, this leg of the series brought the Big Blue Nation a glimpse of the future. With perhaps the most insane fan base of any nationally, the event promoters brought future UK recruits along with ones that are being highly sought after to let fans see what their potential roster may look like.
Though there were just four games, the competition was fierce. Every single game had two five star recruits going head to head, with the grand finale being the much anticipated matchup of 7-footers Thon Maker and DeAndre Ayton. Viewing no less than 30 D-1 players over the course of the weekend, one can imagine the high level of basketball that took part at The Grind Session Bluegrass Showcase.
Here are a few of the top players who stood out:
Rawle Alkins, 6-4, SG, Word of God (NC), 2016
In what was simply the most dominant showing of the weekend, Rawle Alkins turned up to the tune of 51 points against Victory Prep. He bombed NBA threes, punched out sick dunks on the break, and used his linebacker frame to straight punish guys. Louisville and Indiana were in the building courtside to make their best attempts of landing one of the nation’s finest at the two.
DeAndre Ayton, 7-0, PF/C, Hillcrest Academy (AZ), 2017
After straight killing it at the Houston stop, DeAndre Ayton came strong again in Lexington. In hyped matchups with Thon Maker and Jarred Vanderbilt, he did more than hold his own. Over the course of two games, the 7-footer stepped out and hit 8 three pointers, including 5 against Thon. He showed off improved moves on the block, made great passes out of the high post, and was a rim protector on the defensive side. The 24 points and 17 rebounds that he had against Thon served as yet another reminder why many NBA scouts already have him pegged as the top pick in the 2018 Draft.
Thon Maker, 7-0, PF, Athlete Institute (CAN), 2016
While we’ve seen Thon Maker since he first arrived in the US as a seventh grader at John Lucas Camp, this was right up there with the best that we’ve ever seen the Australian import play. The immensely talented 7-footer spent a few years trying his best to emulate Kevin Durant on the perimeter, but seems to understand that he is most deadly playing both inside and out. He dropped dimes from the high post, hit countless mid-range jumpers, and even made a nameless defender stumble with his step back. Arizona State and Indiana were sitting courtside to see Maker, a player who could immediately make an impact at either program.
Wenyen Gabriel, 6-9, PF, Wilbraham & Monson (MA), 2016
Playing in front of the Big Blue Nation, more UK fans pumped through the doors to see Gabriel than anyone else. The future Wildcat started the game off slow, but then flicked the switch in the final ten minutes of the game. Scoring 11 straight points via a flurry of moves from the perimeter and in the paint, Wenyen brought WMA back for a come from behind dub against Athlete Institute. While he didn’t show everything in his arsenal, the 6-foot-9 forward already seems to be a bit of a UK fan favorite because of his non stop motor.
Chris Childs, 6-0, PG, Wilbraham & Monson (MA), 2018
It was our first time checking out Childs, but he definitely showed that he could hold his own against some of the nation’s best. With no shortage of confidence, the shifty lead guard hit countless tough shots, stroked it from deep, and had no problem leading as a young point guard. Not ranked by anyone right now, it wouldn’t surprise us at all if he started popping up on top 100 lists soon if he keeps this level of play up.
Channel Banks, 6-2, SG, Hillcrest Academy (AZ), 2016
It was my first time seeing Channel Banks, but the performance that he showed left me simply floored why no one has locked him up yet. TheVegas native got to the tin with ease, hit deep J’s when he was open, and was a threat to score the rock every time he touched it. Given the confidence that he has, he’s going to be a nice boost both on the hardwood and in the locker room to whatever school he lands at.
Brandon Huffman, 6-8, PF/C, Word of God (NC), 2016
Making the serious journey from Alaska to North Carolina, Brandon Huffman proved that he could square up with some of the nation’s best at Grind Session. While he is not a crazy athlete, Huffman uses his massive wingspan and nice timing to control the paint on the defensive end. While he didn’t get a ton of touches offensively, his ability to finish at the rack and provide an interior presence on D has made him a priority for countless D-1 programs looking for a big late in the game.