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Georgia lands 2019 guard Jaykwon Walton

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It’s been a busy August for Jaykwon Walton.

Nine days after committing to Mississippi State and seven days after de-committing from the Bulldogs, the four-star guard in the class of 2019 committed to Georgia and first-year coach Tom Crean on Monday.

Walton currently lives in Montgomery, Ala., but spent much of his life in Columbus, Ga. He committed to Ben Howland’s program on Aug. 11, but backed off that decision just two days later. Now, just a week later, he’s slated to join Crean’s Bulldogs instead.

The 6-foot-6 guard is a consensus top-75 player in his class. He averaged 19.1 points, 7.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists last year as a junior at Carver-Montgomery High School.

“He is a tremendous player and a tremendous kid,” Carver coach James Jackson previously told 247 Sports. “I told him today that he’s been all over the world this year and has really played well. He always does what is asked of him and is a great kid in the classroom, too. He is an amazing athlete that is really humble and is a very grounded kid.

“When you watch him, it is like looking at a mirror of (former NBA player and current Memphis coach) Penny Hardaway in his younger days. Jaykwon can play any position on the court and can defend any position on the court. He has tremendous ability to create and can handle the ball well. He rebounds well and being 6-6, 6-7, he has that range that you want. He’s a great kid to coach and a kid that does everything well.”

Walton is Crean’s first commitment in the 2019 class.

Alabama adds four-star guard Kira Lewis for next season

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Alabama added late to its Class of 2018 recruiting haul on Friday as four-star, in-state guard Kira Lewis pledged to the Crimson Tide with a tweeted announcement.

The 6-foot-3 Lewis was one of this summer’s breakout players, as he is reclassifying up from the Class of 2019. An elite athlete when it comes to end-to-end speed and quickness, Lewis is able to play a bit of both guard spots as he nearly elevated into a five-star prospect in his former class.

Showing that he belongs in the elite discussion with some strong moments at the USA Basketball U18 trials in June, Lewis added to that momentum with a positive July showing. This spring and summer with the Georgia Stars, Lewis put up 20.1 points, 3.7 assists and 2.8 rebounds per game in 22 contests as he shot 46 percent from the field and 32 percent from three-point range.

With the loss of point guard Collin Sexton to the 2018 NBA Draft, Alabama now has some options to help replace its lottery pick as Lewis will join another potential lead guard recruit in four-star guard Jared Butler. Three-star off-guard Diante Wood and three-star center Javian Fleming round out Alabama’s Class of 2018 recruiting haul.

If Alabama is able to help offset the loss of Sexton (a difficult task), then they should return some intriguing weapons for next season as veterans Dazon Ingram, John Petty and Riley Norris are all back.

Kentucky wins foreign exhibition opener as perimeter shooting struggles emerge

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Kentucky opened its foreign exhibition tour by cruising past the Bahamas National Team with an 85-61 victory on Wednesday night.

The Wildcats, making their first foreign trip since the 2015 Final Four team that started 38-0, looked impressive in transition situations as they raced out to an early lead and never looked back. But, despite the solid double-digit win, Kentucky also has something to watch for going forward, as last season’s perimeter shooting woes continued to begin the 2018-19 campaign.

After shooting 35 percent as a team from three-point range last season, Kentucky started its foreign trip with an abysmal 2-for-20 performance from distance as they couldn’t seem to get anything going. It should be noted that there could be some first-game jitters. It’s only an exhibition. New teammates are playing together for the first time. Shooting standout Jemeral Baker also sat out Wednesday’s game as he continues to deal with injury.

Despite all of those factors, the questionable perimeter shooting is still a troubling sign for a Kentucky team that desperately needs some floor spacing around its talented frontcourt players. Sophomore point guard Quade Green, in particular, struggled to a 1-for-11 shooting night and an 0-for-6 night from three-point range as he’ll likely fare much better going forward.

On the positive side (of which there is much, much more), sophomore big man Nick Richards looks like he’s improved a lot since last season as he played with much more assertiveness on the offensive end. Richards finished with a team-high 19 points and two blocks while frontcourt running mates P.J. Washington (10 points) and Reid Travis (four points, 14 rebounds) also contributed. Travis looked a bit disjointed at times, but he still crashed the glass and looked effective doing the little things.

Freshmen Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson also looked solid scorers for Kentucky as they tallied 16 and 11 points, respectively, on some smooth-looking plays. Guard Ashton Hagans, another freshman, earned some solid praise for his defensive efforts, as he should be a key energy guy for the Wildcats this season.

Kentucky still has three more exhibition games to go on this tour as perimeter shooting is going to be the key development to watch for — besides for individual growth among specific players. If the Wildcats can’t generate consistent perimeter offense, then it’s going to be tough to get guys like Richards, Travis and Washington opportunities on the interior.

Kentucky lands five-star 2019 wing Kahlil Whitney

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Kentucky added to its Class of 2019 recruiting haul on Wednesday afternoon, as five-star wing Kahlil Whitney pledged to the Wildcats.

The 6-foot-6 Whitney ascended into five-star status this summer as he became a national recruit after playing in the Nike EYBL with the Mac Irvin Fire. A natural three-level scorer with very good lift and natural athleticism, Whitney is regarded as the No. 23 overall prospect in the latest Rivals.com national rankings. After some strong performances in July, Whitney’s ranking could rise even more as he’s a potential McDonald’s All-American.

Whitney averaged 21.1 points and 7.2 rebounds per game in 20 Nike EYBL/Peach Invitational games this spring and summer as he shot 48 percent from the field and 38 percent from three-point range. The son of former Seton Hall standout Kelly Whitney, Kahlil will have to improve his consistency while limiting turnovers if he wants to maximize his potential at the next level.

A great grab for Kentucky’s 2019 recruiting haul, Whitney’s commitment helps offset the loss of four-star wing D.J. Jeffries — who reopened his recruitment last week. The Wildcats now have three players in the fold for 2019 as Whitney joins five-star guard Tyrese Maxey and four-star in-state forward Dontaie Allen.

While there is still a long time to go in the 2019 recruiting cycle, Kentucky, once again, looks like it will be in position to compete for the No. 1 overall recruiting class. Although the Wildcats will face stiff recruiting competition from heavyweights like Duke and North Carolina, and potentially newcomers like Memphis and USC, head coach John Calipari and his staff have already reeled in three high-quality players for the future as they’re off to a great start.

Kentucky participates in Samaritan’s Feet program during Bahamas trip

Samaritan's Feet
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Per NCAA rules college basketball teams can take an offseason trip once every four years. While much of the focus tends to be on players being in game situations and the team being able to bond off the court, there’s also the opportunity to do for others.

Kentucky, which is currently in the Bahamas, took some time to give to those who are less fortunate. In connection with Samaritan’s Feet, John Calipari and his team took time to bathe the feet of some children and fit them with new shoes.

“The act of washing someone else’s feet and to put shoes on the feet of kids who don’t have any is the ultimate act of servant leadership, which we talk to our guys about all the time,” Calipari said via Samaritan’s Feet. “They’ve been blessed to be put in a position where they can have influence on other people. What creates joy is when you impact others and see it influence them in a really positive way. To be able to teach them that while serving the Samaritan’s Feet mission brings incredible joy for me, and I want to thank Manny Ohonme for working with us again.”

The Kentucky players are learning some key lessons in this; not only the value that comes in doing for others but also understanding the platform that they have and how they can use it for good.

What happens in the scrimmages the Wildcats play in the Bahamas, and how it could potentially help a team with national championship aspirations, will certainly be a focus between now and when the team returns to Lexington. But the participation in the Samaritan’s Feet program is something that will likely stick with them for much longer.

Photo credit: Samaritan’s Feet

Stanford transfer Travis ready to lead young Kentucky squad

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky’s most experienced men’s basketball player faces the same learning curve when it comes to mastering coach John Calipari’s system as his younger teammates.

However, Reid Travis has the added responsibility of leading the Wildcat underclassmen, many of whom could join him in next summer’s NBA draft. The Stanford graduate transfer has demonstrated the ability of excelling as a leader: he was a three-year Cardinal captain and twice earned All-Pac-12 first team honors.

Travis also picked up pointers this spring working out for several NBA clubs. He plans to hone his game while helping Kentucky chase a ninth national championship.

“I kind of feel like a freshman all over again in my own right as far as being here and fresh and still going through the system,” the 6-foot-8, 245-pound forward said. “Little tidbits that I can give them here and there, I’m definitely going to do that and try and mold myself into that role.”

Travis averaged 19.5 points and 8.7 rebounds per game last season with Stanford before graduating this spring with a degree in science, technology and society. He left as one of three players in program history with at least 1,400 points and 700 rebounds in fewer than 100 career games.

The Minneapolis native is now with a Kentucky team that returns sophomore forward PJ Washington (10.3 points, 5.7 rebounds), guard Quade Green (9.3 points, 91 assists) and 6-11 Nick Richards. Calipari is also breaking in another highly ranked recruiting class, one the coach said has already shown Travis how much size matters.

“There are times when he’s struggled to get the ball in,” Calipari said of Travis last week. “I said, ‘You know, of all the tape I watched, I never saw you miss a shot like that. Tell the guys why you’re missing some of those.’

“He said, ‘Length.’ Like, all of the sudden you’re out there and everybody is really long and big. So I said it’s the best thing for him.”

At the same time, Calipari said Travis has used his size against 6-10 freshman E.J. Montgomery in practice. During a recent open workout, Travis showed the quickness and positioning his coach expects on both ends of the floor.

Those kind of challenges are why Travis chose to play his final season at Kentucky, where Calipari has developed 19 lottery picks and 26 first-rounders among 35 NBA draft selections.

“I tested the waters this spring and worked out for five teams, and the feedback I got was great,” said Travis, who’s working on his perimeter game. “The things I needed to work on, I felt like coming here was the best place for me to showcase that with the work day in and day out to put myself in a better position for the draft next year.”

Travis and the Wildcats will get their first chance to play together Wednesday against the Bahamas national team in one of four exhibition games over eight days in the islands. Kentucky returns to the Bahamas for the first time since 2014, where the Wildcats developed chemistry and a platoon system that keyed a remarkable 38-0 start before a Final Four loss to Wisconsin.

Expecting similar dominance is asking a lot given this roster’s varied experience. That doesn’t change the usual expectation of winning the national championship, and Travis’ size, success and seasoning provides a good starting point for the Wildcats.

Washington for one is eager to see how they’ll work together.

“I feel like our games complement each other, we do a lot of the same stuff,” the 6-8 sophomore said. “A lot of teams can’t double us down low because if you double him, he’s just going to pass it to me, or the other way around. Just being able to play with him should be good.”