LEXINGTON — The second live evaluation period tipped off on Friday night as college coaches swarmed the Kentucky Basketball Academy to see some of America’s best college basketball prospects.
A matchup of Midwest five-star wings was the spotlight matchup on Friday night, but a pair of Houston Hoops standouts stole the show during the opening night.
Jayson Tatum vs. Michael Porter Jr.
The headlining matchup of Friday night was a 9:30 p.m. local tip between the St. Louis Eagles and Mokan Elite. The Missouri grassroots programs feature a pair of top-five wings in different classes as Class of 2016 wing Jayson Tatum faced Class of 2017 top-five wing Michael Porter Jr.
The highly-anticipated matchup between elite prospects drew a bevy of high-major (and other) college coaches, but it also drew a ton of local Kentucky fans and quite a few members of the 2014-15 Wildcat team. Former Mokan center Willie Cauley-Stein was in the front row for the contest while Devin Booker, Marcus Lee and Alex Poythress were among other players spotted in the stands at the event.
Kentucky fans treated the matchup as if they were watching their own, as some fans would clap and cheer on Tatum when he made plays. The 6-foot-8, highly-skilled wing is down to Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina and St. Louis in the recruiting process, so the Wildcat faithful wanted to make a strong impression on a potential future player.
As for the game, Class of 2017 guard Trae Young from Mokan stole the show with 29 points, five rebounds and three steals, but Tatum and Porter had plenty of ridiculous moves and showed why they’re likely future pros.
Tatum continued to show his tremendous mid-range game and overall skill level as he finished with 20 points, eight rebounds and three steals on 8-for-16 shooting. Porter also made some tough three-pointers as he tallied 20 points (7-for-13 from the field) with four rebounds.
The St. Louis Eagles won the contest, 73-70, and hopefully, we’ll get to see Tatum and Porter play against each other again soon.
De’Aaron Fox and Jarred Vanderbilt have a ridiculous outing
The Houston Hoops duo of five-star Class of 2016 guard De’Aaron Fox and Class of 2017 wing Jarred Vanderbilt is one of the best tandems in all of grassroots basketball. One of the major reasons why is their ability on the defensive end.
Fox and Vanderbilt were dominant in a Friday night win over E1T1 as Fox had 20 points, seven assists and six steals, while Vanderbilt hit a new level in the second half to achieve 26 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and five steals.
Assigned with defending elite Class of 2016 scorer Maverick Rowan, Fox took pride in the challenge and did the best job he could of denying him the ball. At 6-foot-8, Vanderbilt can switch on any player on the defensive end and is already tremendous as an apex rebounder, often snaring balls at rim level that nobody else can get to.
When you throw in that both of these guys have continually improving offensive games — both of them are pretty good passers as well — and Houston Hoops looks like a strong challenger for the EYBL crown early in the spring.
They stand 5-0 on the young season and it’s going to be tough for any team to stop Fox and Vanderbilt.
CJ Walker steps up his play
Spiece Indy Heat point guard CJ Walker recently opened up his recruitment after previously being committed to Purdue. With a large amount of head coaches present for his Friday night game against the Mac Irvin Fire, Walker had a solid outing.
The 6-foot-0 lefty guard has a power game attacking the rack and he doesn’t try to do too much on the offensive end. Walker often plays in control and has an ability to fire passes to teammates using both hands.
Walker finished with 17 points on 5-for-8 shooting while dishing out four assists in a win for Spiece. Spiece coach Brad Johnstin told NBCSports.com that Walker currently holds scholarship offers from Butler, Penn State, Purdue, Texas A&M, Wichita State and Xavier.